Reading file contents on the client-side in javascript in various browsers


I'm attempting to provide a script-only solution for reading the contents of a file on a client machine through a browser.

I have a solution that works with Firefox and Internet Explorer. It's not pretty, but I'm only trying things at the moment:

function getFileContents() {
    var fileForUpload = document.forms[0].fileForUpload;
    var fileName = fileForUpload.value;

    if (fileForUpload.files) {
        var fileContents = fileForUpload.files.item(0).getAsBinary();
        document.forms[0].fileContents.innerHTML = fileContents;
    } else {
        // try the IE method
        var fileContents = ieReadFile(fileName);
        document.forms[0].fileContents.innerHTML = fileContents;
    }
}       

function ieReadFile(filename) 
{
    try
    {
        var fso  = new ActiveXObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject"); 
        var fh = fso.OpenTextFile(filename, 1); 
        var contents = fh.ReadAll(); 
        fh.Close();
        return contents;
    }
    catch (Exception)
    {
        return "Cannot open file :(";
    }
}

I can call getFileContents() and it will write the contents into the fileContents text area.

Is there a way to do this in other browsers?

I'm most concerned with Safari and Chrome at the moment, but I'm open to suggestions for any other browser.

Edit: In response to the question, "Why do you want to do this?":

Basically, I want to hash the file contents together with a one-time-password on the client side so I can send this information back as a verification.

Edited to add information about the File API

Since I originally wrote this answer, the File API has been proposed as a standard and implemented in most browsers (as of IE 10, which added support for FileReader API described here, though not yet the File API). The API is a bit more complicated than the older Mozilla API, as it is designed to support asynchronous reading of files, better support for binary files and decoding of different text encodings. There is some documentation available on the Mozilla Developer Network as well as various examples online. You would use it as follows:

var file = document.getElementById("fileForUpload").files[0];
if (file) {
    var reader = new FileReader();
    reader.readAsText(file, "UTF-8");
    reader.onload = function (evt) {
        document.getElementById("fileContents").innerHTML = evt.target.result;
    }
    reader.onerror = function (evt) {
        document.getElementById("fileContents").innerHTML = "error reading file";
    }
}

Original answer

There does not appear to be a way to do this in WebKit (thus, Safari and Chrome). The only keys that a File object has are fileName and fileSize. According to the commit message for the File and FileList support, these are inspired by Mozilla's File object, but they appear to support only a subset of the features.

If you would like to change this, you could always send a patch to the WebKit project. Another possibility would be to propose the Mozilla API for inclusion in HTML 5; the WHATWG mailing list is probably the best place to do that. If you do that, then it is much more likely that there will be a cross-browser way to do this, at least in a couple years time. Of course, submitting either a patch or a proposal for inclusion to HTML 5 does mean some work defending the idea, but the fact that Firefox already implements it gives you something to start with.


In order to read a file chosen by the user, using a file open dialog, you can use the <input type="file"> tag. You can find information on it from MSDN. When the file is chosen you can use the FileReader API to read the contents.

function onFileLoad(elementId, event) {
    document.getElementById(elementId).innerText = event.target.result;
}

function onChooseFile(event, onLoadFileHandler) {
    if (typeof window.FileReader !== 'function')
        throw ("The file API isn't supported on this browser.");
    let input = event.target;
    if (!input)
        throw ("The browser does not properly implement the event object");
    if (!input.files)
        throw ("This browser does not support the `files` property of the file input.");
    if (!input.files[0])
        return undefined;
    let file = input.files[0];
    let fr = new FileReader();
    fr.onload = onLoadFileHandler;
    fr.readAsText(file);
}
<input type='file' onchange='onChooseFile(event, onFileLoad.bind(this, "contents"))' />
<p id="contents"></p>


Happy coding!
If you get an error on Internet Explorer, Change the security settings to allow ActiveX

var CallBackFunction = function(content)
{
    alert(content);
}
ReadFileAllBrowsers(document.getElementById("file_upload"), CallBackFunction); 

//Tested in Mozilla Firefox browser, Chrome
function ReadFileAllBrowsers(FileElement, CallBackFunction)
{
try
{
    var file = FileElement.files[0];
    var contents_ = "";

     if (file) {
        var reader = new FileReader();
        reader.readAsText(file, "UTF-8");
        reader.onload = function(evt)
        {
            CallBackFunction(evt.target.result);
        }
        reader.onerror = function (evt) {
            alert("Error reading file");
        }
    }
}
catch (Exception)
 {
    var fall_back =  ieReadFile(FileElement.value);
    if(fall_back != false)
    {
        CallBackFunction(fall_back);
    }
 }
}

///Reading files with Internet Explorer
function ieReadFile(filename)
{
 try
 {
    var fso  = new ActiveXObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject");
    var fh = fso.OpenTextFile(filename, 1);
    var contents = fh.ReadAll();
    fh.Close();
    return contents;
 }
 catch (Exception)
  {
    alert(Exception);
    return false;
  }
 }