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Base64 Encoding in Java 8

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Base64 Encoding in Java 8

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The lack of Base64 encoding API in Java is, in my opinion, by far one of the most annoying holes in the libraries. Finally Java 8 includes a decent API for it in the java.util package. Here is a short introduction of this new API (apparently it has a little more than the regular encode/decode API). 

The java.util.Base64 Utility Class

The entry point to Java 8's Base64 support is the java.util.Base64 class. It provides a set of static factory methods used to obtain one of the three Base64 encodes and decoders: 

  • Basic
  • URL
  • MIME

Basic Encoding

The standard encoding we all think about when we deal with Base64: no line feeds are added to the output and the output is mapped to characters in the Base64 Alphabet: A-Za-z0-9+/ (we see in a minute why is it important). Here is a sample usage:

// Encode 
String asB64 = Base64.getEncoder().encodeToString("some string".getBytes("utf-8"));
System.out.println(asB64); // Output will be: c29tZSBzdHJpbmc=

// Decode
byte[] asBytes = Base64.getDecoder().decode("c29tZSBzdHJpbmc=");
System.out.println(new String(asBytes, "utf-8")); // And the output is: some string

It can't get simpler than that and, unlike in earlier versions of Java, there is any need for external dependencies (commons-codec), Sun classes (sun.misc.BASE64Decoder) or JAXB's DatatypeConverter (Java 6 and above). However it gets even better.

URL Encoding

Most of us are used to get annoyed when we have to encode something to be later included in a URL or as a filename - the problem is that the Base64 Alphabet contains meaningful characters in both URIs and filesystems (most specifically the forward slash (/)). The second type of encoder uses the alternative "URL and Filename safe" Alphabet which includes -_ (minus and underline) instead of +/. See the following example:

String basicEncoded = Base64.getEncoder().encodeToString("subjects?abcd".getBytes("utf-8"));
System.out.println("Using Basic Alphabet: " + basicEncoded);

String urlEncoded = Base64.getUrlEncoder().encodeToString("subjects?abcd".getBytes("utf-8"));
System.out.println("Using URL Alphabet: " + urlEncoded);
The output will be:
Using Basic Alphabet: c3ViamVjdHM/YWJjZA==
Using URL Alphabet: c3ViamVjdHM_YWJjZA==

The sample above illustrates some content which if encoded using a basic encoder will result in a string containing a forward slash while when using a URL safe encoder the output will include an underscore instead (URL Safe encoding is described in clause 5 of the RFC)

MIME Encoding

The MIME encoder generates a Base64 encoded output using the Basic Alphabet but in a MIME friendly format: each line of the output is no longer than 76 characters and ends with a carriage return followed by a linefeed (\r\n). The following example generates a block of text (this is needed just to make sure we have enough 'body' to encode into more than 76 characters) and encodes it using the MIME encoder:

StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
for (int t = 0; t < 10; ++t) {

byte[] toEncode = sb.toString().getBytes("utf-8");
String mimeEncoded = Base64.getMimeEncoder().encodeToString(toEncode);
The output:


All encoders and decoders created by the java.util.Base64 class support streams wrapping - this is a very elegant construct - both coding and efficiency wise (since no redundant buffering are needed) - to stream in and out buffers via encoders and decoders. The sample bellow illustrates how a FileOutputStream can be wrapped with an encoder and a FileInputStream is wrapped with a decoder - in both cases there is no need to buffer the content:

 public void wrapping() throws IOException {

   String src = "This is the content of any resource read from somewhere" +
   " into a stream. This can be text, image, video or any other stream.";

   // An encoder wraps an OutputStream. The content of /tmp/buff-base64.txt will be the
   // Base64 encoded form of src.
   try (OutputStream os = Base64.getEncoder().wrap(new FileOutputStream("/tmp/buff-base64.txt"))) {

   // The section bellow illustrates a wrapping of an InputStream and decoding it as the stream
   // is being consumed. There is no need to buffer the content of the file just for decoding it.
   try (InputStream is = Base64.getDecoder().wrap(new FileInputStream("/tmp/buff-base64.txt"))) {
     int len;
     byte[] bytes = new byte[100];
     while ((len = is.read(bytes)) != -1) {
       System.out.print(new String(bytes, 0, len, "utf-8"));

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