Local file access with javascript


Is there any local file manipulation that's been done with JavaScript? I'm looking for a solution that can be accomplished with no install footprint like requiring AIR.

Specifically, I'd like to read the contents from a file and write those contents to another file. At this point I'm not worried about gaining permissions, just assuming I already have full permissions to these files.

If the user selects a file via <input type="file">, you can read and process that file using the File API.

Reading or writing arbitrary files is not allowed by design. It's a violation of the sandbox. From Wikipedia -> Javascript -> Security:

JavaScript and the DOM provide the potential for malicious authors to deliver scripts to run on a client computer via the web. Browser authors contain this risk using two restrictions. First, scripts run in a sandbox in which they can only perform web-related actions, not general-purpose programming tasks like creating files.

2016 UPDATE: Accessing the filesystem directly is possible via the Filesystem API, which is only supported by Chrome and Opera and may end up not being implemented by other browsers (with the exception of Edge). For details see Kevin's answer.


Just an update of the HTML5 features is in http://www.html5rocks.com/en/tutorials/file/dndfiles/. This excellent article will explain in detail the local file access in JavaScript. Summary from the mentioned article:

The specification provides several interfaces for accessing files from a 'local' filesystem:

  1. File - an individual file; provides readonly information such as name, file size, MIME type, and a reference to the file handle.
  2. FileList - an array-like sequence of File objects. (Think <input type="file" multiple> or dragging a directory of files from the desktop).
  3. Blob - Allows for slicing a file into byte ranges.

See Paul D. Waite's comment below.


UPDATE This feature is removed since Firefox 17 (see https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=546848).


On Firefox you (the programmer) can do this from within a JavaScript file:

netscape.security.PrivilegeManager.enablePrivilege("UniversalBrowserRead");
netscape.security.PrivilegeManager.enablePrivilege("UniversalBrowserWrite");

and you (the browser user) will be prompted to allow access. (for Firefox you just need to do this once every time the browser is started)

If the browser user is someone else, they have to grant permission.


As previously mentioned, the FileSystem and File APIs, along with the FileWriter API, can be used to read and write files from the context of a browser tab/window to a client machine.

There are several things pertaining to the FileSystem and FileWriter APIs which you should be aware of, some of which were mentioned, but are worth repeating:

  • Implementations of the APIs currently exist only in Chromium-based browsers (Chrome & Opera)
  • Both of the APIs were taken off of the W3C standards track on April 24, 2014, and as of now are proprietary
  • Removal of the (now proprietary) APIs from implementing browsers in the future is a possibility
  • A sandbox (a location on disk outside of which files can produce no effect) is used to store the files created with the APIs
  • A virtual file system (a directory structure which does not necessarily exist on disk in the same form that it does when accessed from within the browser) is used represent the files created with the APIs

Here are simple examples of how the APIs are used, directly and indirectly, in tandem to do these things:

BakedGoods*

Write file:

bakedGoods.set({
    data: [{key: "testFile", value: "Hello world!", dataFormat: "text/plain"}],
    storageTypes: ["fileSystem"],
    options: {fileSystem:{storageType: Window.PERSISTENT}},
    complete: function(byStorageTypeStoredItemRangeDataObj, byStorageTypeErrorObj){}
});

Read file:

bakedGoods.get({
        data: ["testFile"],
        storageTypes: ["fileSystem"],
        options: {fileSystem:{storageType: Window.PERSISTENT}},
        complete: function(resultDataObj, byStorageTypeErrorObj){}
});

Using the raw File, FileWriter, and FileSystem APIs

Write file:

function onQuotaRequestSuccess(grantedQuota)
{

    function saveFile(directoryEntry)
    {

        function createFileWriter(fileEntry)
        {

            function write(fileWriter)
            {
                var dataBlob = new Blob(["Hello world!"], {type: "text/plain"});
                fileWriter.write(dataBlob);              
            }

            fileEntry.createWriter(write);
        }

        directoryEntry.getFile(
            "testFile", 
            {create: true, exclusive: true},
            createFileWriter
        );
    }

    requestFileSystem(Window.PERSISTENT, grantedQuota, saveFile);
}

var desiredQuota = 1024 * 1024 * 1024;
var quotaManagementObj = navigator.webkitPersistentStorage;
quotaManagementObj.requestQuota(desiredQuota, onQuotaRequestSuccess);

Read file:

function onQuotaRequestSuccess(grantedQuota)
{

    function getfile(directoryEntry)
    {

        function readFile(fileEntry)
        {

            function read(file)
            {
                var fileReader = new FileReader();

                fileReader.onload = function(){var fileData = fileReader.result};
                fileReader.readAsText(file);             
            }

            fileEntry.file(read);
        }

        directoryEntry.getFile(
            "testFile", 
            {create: false},
            readFile
        );
    }

    requestFileSystem(Window.PERSISTENT, grantedQuota, getFile);
}

var desiredQuota = 1024 * 1024 * 1024;
var quotaManagementObj = navigator.webkitPersistentStorage;
quotaManagementObj.requestQuota(desiredQuota, onQuotaRequestSuccess);

Though the FileSystem and FileWriter APIs are no longer on the standards track, their use can be justified in some cases, in my opinion, because:

  • Renewed interest from the un-implementing browser vendors may place them right back on it
  • Market penetration of implementing (Chromium-based) browsers is high
  • Google (the main contributer to Chromium) has not given and end-of-life date to the APIs

Whether "some cases" encompasses your own, however, is for you to decide.

*BakedGoods is maintained by none other than this guy right here :)


NW.js allows you to create desktop applications using Javascript without all the security restrictions usually placed on the browser. So you can run executables with a function, or create/edit/read/write/delete files. You can access the hardware, such as current CPU usage or total ram in use, etc.

You can create a windows, linux, or mac desktop application with it that doesn't require any installation.

Here is a framework for NW.js, the Universal GUI:


If you're deploying on Windows, the Windows Script Host offers a very useful JScript API to the file system and other local resources. Incorporating WSH scripts into a local web application may not be as elegant as you might wish, however.


If you have input field like

<input type="file" id="file" name="file" onchange="add(event)"/>

You can get to file content in BLOB format:

function add(event){
  var userFile = document.getElementById('file');
  userFile.src = URL.createObjectURL(event.target.files[0]);
  var data = userFile.src;
}

FSO.js wraps the new HTML5 FileSystem API that's being standardized by the W3C and provides an extremely easy way to read from, write to, or traverse a local sandboxed file system. It's asynchronous, so file I/O will not interfere with user experience. :)


If you need access to the entire file system on the client, read/write files, watch folders for changes, start applications, encrypt or sign documents, etc. please have a look at JSFS.

It allows secure and unlimited access from your web page to computer resources on the client without using a browser plugin technology like AcitveX or Java Applet. However, a peace of software has to be installed too.

In order to work with JSFS you should have basic knowledge in Java and Java EE development (Servlets).

Please find JSFS here: https://github.com/jsfsproject/jsfs. It's free and licensed under GPL


Assuming that any file that JavaScript code might need, should be allowed directly by the user. Creators of famous browsers do not let JavaScript access files generally.

The main idea of the solution is: the JavaScript code cannot access the file by having its local URL. But it can use the file by having its DataURL: so if the user browses a file and opens it, JavaScript should get the "DataURL" directly from HTML instead of getting "URL".

Then it turns the DataURL into a file, using the readAsDataURL function and FileReader object. Source and a more complete guide with a nice example are in:

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/FileReader?redirectlocale=en-US&redirectslug=DOM%2FFileReader


There is a (commercial) product, "localFS" which can be used to read and write entire file-system on client computer.

Small Windows app must be installed and tiny .js file included in your page.

As a security feature, file-system access can be limited to one folder and protected with a secret-key.

https://www.fathsoft.com/localfs


if you are using angularjs & aspnet/mvc, to retrieve json files, you have to allow mime type at web config

<staticContent>
    <remove fileExtension=".json" />
    <mimeMap fileExtension=".json" mimeType="application/json" />
  </staticContent>

I am only mentioning this as no one mentioned this. There's no programming language I am aware of which allows manipulation of the underlying filesystem. All programming languages rely on OS interrupts to actually get these things done. JavaScript that runs in the browser only has browser "interrupts" to work with which generally does not grant filesystem access unless the browser has been implemented to support such interrupts.

This being said the obvious way to have file system access using JavaScript is to use Node.js which does have the capability of interacting with the underlying OS directly.