jDataView provides a standard way to read binary files in all the browsers. It follows the DataView Specification and even extends it for a more practical use.


There are three ways to read a binary file from the browser.

  • The first one is to download the file through XHR with charset=x-user-defined. You get the file as a String, and you have to rewrite all the decoding functions (getUint16, getFloat32, ...). All the browsers support this.
  • Then browsers that implemented WebGL also added ArrayBuffers. It is a plain buffer that can be read with views called TypedArrays (Int32Array, Float64Array, ...). You can use them to decode the file but this is not very handy. It has big drawback, it can't read non-aligned data. It is supported by Firefox 4 and Chrome 7.
  • A new revision of the specification added DataViews. It is a view around your buffer that can read arbitrary data types directly through functions: getUint32, getFloat64 ... Only Chrome 9 supports it.

jDataView provides the DataView API for all the browsers using the best available option between Strings, TypedArrays and DataViews.


See the specification for a detailed API. http://www.khronos.org/registry/webgl/doc/spec/TypedArray-spec.html#6. Any code written for DataView will work with jDataView (except if it writes something).


  • new jDataView(buffer, offset, length). buffer can be either a String or an ArrayBuffer

Specification API

The wrapper satisfies all the specification getters.

  • getInt8(byteOffset)
  • getUint8(byteOffset)
  • getInt16(byteOffset, littleEndian)
  • getUint16(byteOffset, littleEndian)
  • getInt32(byteOffset, littleEndian)
  • getUint32(byteOffset, littleEndian)
  • getFloat32(byteOffset, littleEndian)
  • getFloat64(byteOffset, littleEndian)

Extended Specification

The byteOffset parameter is now optional. If you omit it, it will read right after the latest read offset. You can interact with the internal pointer with those two functions.

  • seek(byteOffset): Moves the internal pointer to the position
  • tell(): Returns the current position

Addition of getChar and getString utilities.

  • getChar(byteOffset)
  • getString(length, byteOffset)

Addition of createBuffer, a utility to easily create buffers with the latest available storage type (String or ArrayBuffer).

  • createBuffer(byte1, byte2, ...)


  • Only the Read API is being wrapped, jDataView does not provide any set method.
  • The Float64 implementation on strings does not have full precision.


First we need a file. Either you get it through XHR or use the createBuffer utility.

var file = jDataView.createBuffer(
	0x10, 0x01, 0x00, 0x00, // Int32 - 272
	0x90, 0xcf, 0x1b, 0x47, // Float32 - 39887.5625
	0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, // 8 blank bytes
	0x4d, 0x44, 0x32, 0x30, // String - MD20
	0x61                    // Char - a

Now we use the DataView as defined in the specification, the only thing that changes is the c before jDataView.

var view = new jDataView(file);
var version = view.getInt32(0); // 272
var float = view.getFloat32(4); // 39887.5625

The wrapper extends the specification to make the DataView easier to use.

var view = new jDataView(file);
// A position counter is managed. Remove the argument to read right after the last read.
version = view.getInt32(); // 272
float = view.getFloat32(); // 39887.5625
// You can move around with tell() and seek()
view.seek(view.tell() + 8);
// Two helpers: getChar and getString will make your life easier
var tag = view.getString(4); // MD20
var char = view.getChar(); // a


I'm working on a World of Warcraft Model Viewer. It uses jDataView to read the binary file and then WebGL to display it. Stay tuned for more infos about it 🙂

If you liked this article, you might be interested in my Twitter feed as well.
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  • Joe Hocking

    (I'm trying in IE because submitting my comment wasn't working in Firefox.)

    Thanks for this very useful code. There may be something wrong with getUint32() because it's giving me a negative number and I can't tell if I'm doing something wrong or if there's a bug in your code. getUint16() works correctly.

  • Joe Hocking

    aand I just figured out how to fix that bug. I added >>> 0 to the return statement for _getUint32. The second answer on this page explains http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1240408/reading-bytes-from-javascript-string

  • I cannot seem to reproduce the issue. Do you happen to have a test case?


  • Thanks,

    The issue is that b < < 24, if b > 127, will make the first bit at 1 and be considered as an 32bit signed int.

    Instead I do b * Math.pow(2, 24), therefore it is considered as a double and there is no ambiguity.

    I am not so sure about the >>> 0 trick, it might no be working the same on all the browsers.

  • Well I just tested and got the same result on IE 8, Firefox 4, Chrome 13, Safari 5, and Opera 11. I guess it's possible other test data will give incorrect results though.

    (incidentally, reading binary data on IE doesn't work like other browsers and I had to write a little VBScript, typical)

  • ethan

    I wanted to skip a block of data of the stream.
    So I used
    view.seek(view.tell() + blockLen);

    But if the data to skip is at the end of file,
    seek() throws the error INDEX_SIZE_ERR
    In that case I am forced to do a check on view.length and use getString(blockLen) instead (and waste some runtime memory and time for the temporary string).

    Does it make sense to allow seek() to land on end of file position

  • I did not think about this case. But you are right, it should not throw an error when trying to seek at the end of file.

    I made a patch to fix the issue, thanks 🙂

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  • LZMA Decompression using jDataView

    See my post on decoding a compressed file.

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  • ferenc

    This is great stuff here. Thanks for sharing. I am not sure if it's intentional, but for me getInt16 fails and it seems from the code that the corresponding function doesn't have the endianness argument thus _getUint16 will get undefined for the littleEndian parameter resulting bigendian. Adding that extra littleEndian argument and the parameter for the this._getUint16 fixed for me.

  • You are totally right, I forgot to add this one. I've updated the github repo ( https://github.com/vjeux/jsDataView/commit/47b885a03609db3c57b96b87d9b13217697aee8f ). Thanks 🙂

  • Donahcoo

    newbie here... I'd like to use this code to inspect a file and get its magic number. I've tired several things, but I'm stuff. For example files with ID3 tags have a magic number of ID3 in ascii or 49 44 33 in hex. I can't seem to convert the output of any of the functions to the string ID3 or the hex numbers. I would actually prefer hex, I think.

  • Here's a little demo: http://fooo.fr/~vjeux/github/jsDataView/demo/id3/id3.html

    Use .charCodeAt and .toString to convert between string and hex value:

    	var tag = view.getString(3);
    	console.log('TAG:', tag);
    		'0x' + tag.charCodeAt(0).toString(16),
    		'0x' + tag.charCodeAt(1).toString(16),
    		'0x' + tag.charCodeAt(2).toString(16));
  • sathish

    This code is support for IE9?

  • Yes

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  • Michael Stieler

    Hi, great approach! Could it be that you fixed the endianess in code and thus the example in this article became wrong?

  • marc

    it's very interesting, but i've still a problem in reading a binary-ajax-response when i use internet explorer... could you help me?

  • Jas

    Hi - I have loaded 24k of binary data into a variable and try to do this var view = new jDataView(data); but it throws a typeerror: undefined is not a function at: this.buffer = buffer = jDataView.wrapBuffer(buffer); in the jviewdata.js file. Am I missing something? Thanks

  • Thanks! #useful


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