Node.js Buffers

What is Buffers ?


Buffer is an object property on Node’s global object, which is heavily used in Node to deal with streams of binary data. As it is globally available, there is no need to require it in our code.

Buffer is actually a chunk of memory allocated outside of the V8 heap. V8 is the default JavaScript engine which powers Node and Google Chrome. In Node, buffers are implemented using a JavaScript typedArray (Uint8Array), but that does not mean the memory allocated to buffer is inside of the V8 heap. It is still explicitly allocated outside the V8 heap.

So we can think of buffer as some kind of array which is a lower-level data structure to represent a sequence of binary data, but there is one major difference: Unlike arrays, once a buffer is allocated, it cannot be resized.


Pure JavaScript is Unicode friendly, but it is not so for binary data. While dealing with TCP streams or the file system, it's necessary to handle octet streams. Node provides Buffer class which provides instances to store raw data similar to an array of integers but corresponds to a raw memory allocation outside the V8 heap.

Buffer class is a global class that can be accessed in an application without importing the buffer module.



Creating Buffers


There are three most used ways to create buffers:

  1. Buffer.from()

  2. Buffer.alloc()

  3. Buffer.allocUnsafe()


Method 1:

Following is the syntax to create an uninitiated Buffer of 10 octets:

var buf = new Buffer(10);


Method 2:

Following is the syntax to create a Buffer from a given array:

var buf = new Buffer([10, 20, 30, 40, 50]);


Method 3:

Following is the syntax to create a Buffer from a given string and optionally encoding type:

var buf = new Buffer("Simply Easy Learning", "utf-8");



Writing to Buffers


Syntax:

Following is the syntax of the method to write into a Node Buffer:

buf.write(string[, offset][, length][, encoding])

Parameters:

Here is the description of the parameters used:

  • string: This is the string data to be written to buffer.

  • offset: This is the index of the buffer to start writing at. Default value is 0.

  • length: This is the number of bytes to write. Defaults to buffer.length.

  • encoding: Encoding to use. 'utf8' is the default encoding.



Return Value


This method returns the number of octets written. If there is not enough space in the buffer to fit the entire string, it will write a part of the string.


Example:

buf = new Buffer(256);
len = buf.write("Simply Learning");

console.log("Octets written : "+  len);

When the above program is executed, it produces the following result:

Octets written : 20



Reading from Buffers


Syntax:

Following is the syntax of the method to read data from a Node Buffer:

buf.toString([encoding][, start][, end])

Parameters:

Here is the description of the parameters used:

  • encoding: Encoding to use. 'utf8' is the default encoding.

  • start: Beginning index to start reading, defaults to 0.

  • end: End index to end reading, defaults is complete buffer.


Return Value:

This method decodes and returns a string from buffer data encoded using the specified character set encoding.


Example:

buf = new Buffer(26);
for (var i = 0 ; i < 26 ; i++) {
  buf[i] = i + 97;
}

console.log( buf.toString('ascii'));       
console.log( buf.toString('ascii',0,5));  
console.log( buf.toString('utf8',0,5));    
console.log( buf.toString(undefined,0,5)); 

When the above program is executed, it produces the following result:

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
abcde
abcde
abcde



Convert Buffer to JSON


Syntax:


Following is the syntax of the method to convert a Node Buffer into JSON object:

buf.toJSON()


Return Value:

This method returns a JSON-representation of the Buffer instance.


Example:

var buf = new Buffer('Simply Learning');
var json = buf.toJSON(buf);

console.log(json);

When the above program is executed, it produces the following result:

{ type: 'Buffer',
   data: 
   [ 
      83,
      105,
      109,
      112,
      108,
      121,
      32,
      69,
      97,
      115,
      121,
      32,
      76,
      101,
      97,
      114,
      110,
      105,
      110,
      103 
   ]
}



Concatenate Buffers


Syntax:

Following is the syntax of the method to concatenate Node buffers to a single Node Buffer:

Buffer.concat(list[, totalLength])


Parameters:

Here is the description of the parameters used:

  • list: Array List of Buffer objects to be concatenated.

  • totalLength: This is the total length of the buffers when concatenated.


Return Value:

This method returns a Buffer instance.



Compare Buffers


Syntax:

Following is the syntax of the method to compare two Node buffers:

buf.compare(otherBuffer);

Parameters:

Here is the description of the parameters used −

  • otherBuffer: This is the other buffer which will be compared with buf


Return Value:

Returns a number indicating whether it comes before or after or is the same as the otherBuffer in sort order.


Example:

var buffer1 = new Buffer('ABC');
var buffer2 = new Buffer('ABCD');
var result = buffer1.compare(buffer2);

if(result < 0) {
   console.log(buffer1 +" comes before " + buffer2);
} else if(result === 0) {
   console.log(buffer1 +" is same as " + buffer2);
} else {
   console.log(buffer1 +" comes after " + buffer2);
}

When the above program is executed, it produces the following result:

ABC comes before ABCD



Copy Buffer


Syntax:

Following is the syntax of the method to copy a node buffer:

buf.copy(targetBuffer[, targetStart][, sourceStart][, sourceEnd])


Parameters:

Here is the description of the parameters used:

  • targetBuffer: Buffer object where buffer will be copied.

  • targetStart: Number, Optional, Default: 0

  • sourceStart: Number, Optional, Default: 0

  • sourceEnd: Number, Optional, Default: buffer.length


Return Value:

No return value. Copies data from a region of this buffer to a region in the target buffer even if the target memory region overlaps with the source. If undefined, the targetStart and sourceStart parameters default to 0, while sourceEnd defaults to buffer.length.


Example:

var buffer1 = new Buffer('ABC');

//copy a buffer
var buffer2 = new Buffer(3);
buffer1.copy(buffer2);
console.log("buffer2 content: " + buffer2.toString());

When the above program is executed, it produces the following result:

buffer2 content: ABC



Slice Buffer


Syntax:

Following is the syntax of the method to get a sub-buffer of a node buffer:

buf.slice([start][, end])

Parameters:

Here is the description of the parameters used:

  • start: Number, Optional, Default: 0

  • end: Number, Optional, Default: buffer.length


Return Value:

Returns a new buffer which references the same memory as the old one, but offset and cropped by the start (defaults to 0) and end (defaults to buffer.length) indexes. Negative indexes start from the end of the buffer.

Buffer Length


Syntax:

Following is the syntax of the method to get a size of a node buffer in bytes −

buf.length;

Return Value:

Returns the size of a buffer in bytes.


Class Methods


Following are the methods with its descriptions:

  1. Buffer.isEncoding(encoding): Returns true if the encoding is a valid encoding argument, false otherwise.

  2. Buffer.isBuffer(obj): Tests if obj is a Buffer.

  3. Buffer.byteLength(string[, encoding]): Gives the actual byte length of a string. encoding defaults to 'utf8'. It is not the same as String.prototype.length, since String.prototype.length returns the number of characters in a string.

  4. Buffer.concat(list[, totalLength]): Returns a buffer which is the result of concatenating all the buffers in the list together.

  5. Buffer.compare(buf1, buf2): The same as buf1.compare(buf2). Useful for sorting an array of buffers.





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