Javascript – Handle file download from ajax post

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I have a javascript app that sends ajax POST requests to a certain URL. Response might be a JSON string or it might be a file (as an attachment). I can easily detect Content-Type and Content-Disposition in my ajax call, but once I detect that the response contains a file, how do I offer the client to download it? I've read a number of similar threads here but none of them provide the answer I'm looking for.

Please, please, please do not post answers suggesting that I shouldn't use ajax for this or that I should redirect the browser, because none of this is an option. Using a plain HTML form is also not an option. What I do need is to show a download dialog to the client. Can this be done and how?

Best Solution

Don't give up so quickly, because this can be done (in modern browsers) using parts of the FileAPI:

var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
xhr.open('POST', url, true);
xhr.responseType = 'blob';
xhr.onload = function () {
    if (this.status === 200) {
        var blob = this.response;
        var filename = "";
        var disposition = xhr.getResponseHeader('Content-Disposition');
        if (disposition && disposition.indexOf('attachment') !== -1) {
            var filenameRegex = /filename[^;=\n]*=((['"]).*?\2|[^;\n]*)/;
            var matches = filenameRegex.exec(disposition);
            if (matches != null && matches[1]) filename = matches[1].replace(/['"]/g, '');
        }

        if (typeof window.navigator.msSaveBlob !== 'undefined') {
            // IE workaround for "HTML7007: One or more blob URLs were revoked by closing the blob for which they were created. These URLs will no longer resolve as the data backing the URL has been freed."
            window.navigator.msSaveBlob(blob, filename);
        } else {
            var URL = window.URL || window.webkitURL;
            var downloadUrl = URL.createObjectURL(blob);

            if (filename) {
                // use HTML5 a[download] attribute to specify filename
                var a = document.createElement("a");
                // safari doesn't support this yet
                if (typeof a.download === 'undefined') {
                    window.location.href = downloadUrl;
                } else {
                    a.href = downloadUrl;
                    a.download = filename;
                    document.body.appendChild(a);
                    a.click();
                }
            } else {
                window.location.href = downloadUrl;
            }

            setTimeout(function () { URL.revokeObjectURL(downloadUrl); }, 100); // cleanup
        }
    }
};
xhr.setRequestHeader('Content-type', 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded');
xhr.send($.param(params, true));

Or if using jQuery.ajax:

$.ajax({
    type: "POST",
    url: url,
    data: params,
    xhrFields: {
        responseType: 'blob' // to avoid binary data being mangled on charset conversion
    },
    success: function(blob, status, xhr) {
        // check for a filename
        var filename = "";
        var disposition = xhr.getResponseHeader('Content-Disposition');
        if (disposition && disposition.indexOf('attachment') !== -1) {
            var filenameRegex = /filename[^;=\n]*=((['"]).*?\2|[^;\n]*)/;
            var matches = filenameRegex.exec(disposition);
            if (matches != null && matches[1]) filename = matches[1].replace(/['"]/g, '');
        }

        if (typeof window.navigator.msSaveBlob !== 'undefined') {
            // IE workaround for "HTML7007: One or more blob URLs were revoked by closing the blob for which they were created. These URLs will no longer resolve as the data backing the URL has been freed."
            window.navigator.msSaveBlob(blob, filename);
        } else {
            var URL = window.URL || window.webkitURL;
            var downloadUrl = URL.createObjectURL(blob);

            if (filename) {
                // use HTML5 a[download] attribute to specify filename
                var a = document.createElement("a");
                // safari doesn't support this yet
                if (typeof a.download === 'undefined') {
                    window.location.href = downloadUrl;
                } else {
                    a.href = downloadUrl;
                    a.download = filename;
                    document.body.appendChild(a);
                    a.click();
                }
            } else {
                window.location.href = downloadUrl;
            }

            setTimeout(function () { URL.revokeObjectURL(downloadUrl); }, 100); // cleanup
        }
    }
});