TextDecoder and TextEncoder

What if the binary data is actually a string? For instance, we received a file with textual data.

The build-in TextDecoder object allows to read the value into an an actual Javascript string, given the buffer and the encoding.

We first need to create it:

let decoder = new TextDecoder([label], [options]);
  • label – the encoding, utf-8 by default, but big5, windows-1251 and many other are also supported.
  • options – optional object:
    • fatal – boolean, if true then throw an exception for invalid (non-decodable) characters, otherwise (default) replace them with character \uFFFD.
    • ignoreBOM – boolean, if true then ignore BOM (an optional byte-order unicode mark), rarely needed.

…And then decode:

let str = decoder.decode([input], [options]);
  • inputBufferSource to decode.
  • options – optional object:
    • stream – true for decoding streams, when decoder is called repeatedly with incoming chunks of data. In that case a multi-byte character may occasionally split between chunks. This options tells TextDecoder to memorize “unfinished” characters and decode them when the next chunk comes.

For instance:

let uint8Array = new Uint8Array([72, 101, 108, 108, 111]);

alert( new TextDecoder().decode(uint8Array) ); // Hello
let uint8Array = new Uint8Array([228, 189, 160, 229, 165, 189]);

alert( new TextDecoder().decode(uint8Array) ); // 你好

We can decode a part of the buffer by creating a subarray view for it:

let uint8Array = new Uint8Array([0, 72, 101, 108, 108, 111, 0]);

// the string is in the middle
// create a new view over it, without copying anything
let binaryString = uint8Array.subarray(1, -1);

alert( new TextDecoder().decode(binaryString) ); // Hello


TextEncoder does the reverse thing – converts a string into bytes.

The syntax is:

let encoder = new TextEncoder();

The only encoding it supports is “utf-8”.

It has two methods:

  • encode(str) – returns Uint8Array from a string.
  • encodeInto(str, destination) – encodes str into destination that must be Uint8Array.
let encoder = new TextEncoder();

let uint8Array = encoder.encode("Hello");
alert(uint8Array); // 72,101,108,108,111
Tutorial map


read this before commenting…
  • You're welcome to post additions, questions to the articles and answers to them.
  • To insert a few words of code, use the <code> tag, for several lines – use <pre>, for more than 10 lines – use a sandbox (plnkr, JSBin, codepen…)
  • If you can't understand something in the article – please elaborate.