What's the use of Blob object in JavaScript?

Amit Merchant · April 8, 2020 ·

I was working on polishing my Notepad app this fine quarantine afternoon. One feature that I was planning to add was an ability to download the content of the notes/text as a text file when user click the specified download button.

Just to give you a gist about this Notepad app, it basically uses a Textarea which acts as a writing pad to the user. Once the user types in the textarea, it gets saved it the LocalStorage so that it can be accesible next time when user comes back to the application.

Now, as I said earlier, I wanted to add an ability to download those Textarea content as a plain text file. And I wanted to do this just using JavaScript as the application doesn’t have a backend.

So, I looked up to the holy internet and found this handy little function which magically allows me to do what I wanted to do. This is how the function looks like.

function saveTextAsFile(textToWrite, fileNameToSaveAs)
{
	var textFileAsBlob = new Blob([textToWrite], {type:'text/plain'}); 
	var downloadLink = document.createElement("a");
	downloadLink.download = fileNameToSaveAs;
	downloadLink.innerHTML = "Download File";

	if (window.webkitURL != null) {
		// Chrome allows the link to be clicked
		// without actually adding it to the DOM.
		downloadLink.href = window.webkitURL.createObjectURL(textFileAsBlob);
	} else {
		// Firefox requires the link to be added to the DOM
		// before it can be clicked.
		downloadLink.href = window.URL.createObjectURL(textFileAsBlob);
		downloadLink.onclick = destroyClickedElement;
		downloadLink.style.display = "none";
		document.body.appendChild(downloadLink);
	}

	downloadLink.click();
}

And the function can be assigned to the onclick event of the link like so.

<a onclick="saveTextAsFile(note.value,'download.txt')">
    Download File
</a>

Let’s breakdown the saveTextAsFile function bit-by-bit.

The function is quite simple if you look it closely. It accepts two parameters:

  • textToWrite - The Textarea content that we want to save as a file
  • fileNameToSaveAs - The name using which we want to save the file

Now comes the interesting part. The function is using the Blob object.

From the official MDN web docs,

The Blob object represents a blob, which is a file-like object of immutable, raw data; they can be read as text or binary data, or converted into a ReadableStream so its methods can be used for processing the data.

Blobs can represent data that isn’t necessarily in a JavaScript-native format. The File interface is based on Blob, inheriting blob functionality and expanding it to support files on the user’s system.

The primary function of the Blob is to create file-like object of the textarea content which can then be used to download as file because we can’t use the text alone to generate a file.

The Blob object’s constructor accepts two parameters.

  • blobPart - From which the blob is going to be created
  • blobType - The type of file used to create from the blob

In our case, blobPart is textarea content (passed as an array object) and blobType is text/plain type because we want to download a plain text file.

var textFileAsBlob = new Blob([textToWrite], {type:'text/plain'});

The next three lines in the function is used to create a virtual hyperlink which will have URL created from the blob object that we’ve created previously using this piece of code.

downloadLink.href = window.webkitURL.createObjectURL(textFileAsBlob);

Basically, createObjectURL of the URL interface creates a DOMString containing a URL representing the object given in the parameter. The URL lifetime is tied to the document in the window on which it was created. The new object URL represents the specified File object or Blob object. The URL is downloadable by the browser.

In our case, we’ve provided the textFileAsBlob to the createObjectURL() method which creates a URL for the target file and assigned to the virtual link’s href attribute.

It’s almost done!

All we need to do it click the generated link using downloadLink.click() and bam! we’ve nice text file for the textarea downloaded to our system!

You can see this feature in action here at Notepad.

In Closing

Phew… That was long! I hope you’ll like the article as much as I loved writing it. If you’ve any questions related to anything, please leave a comment below.

Until next time!

Hi there! I'm Amit. I write articles about all things web development. If you like what I write, buy me a coffee. I'd highly appreciate that. Cheers!

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