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1. Overview

In this tutorial we'll look at how to convert an InputStream to a String, using Guava, the Apache Commons IO library, and plain Java.

This article is part of the “Java – Back to Basic” series here on Baeldung.

2. Converting With Guava

Let’s start with a Guava example – leveraging the ByteSource functionality:

@Test
public void givenUsingGuava_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToAString_thenCorrect() 
  throws IOException {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(8);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());

    ByteSource byteSource = new ByteSource() {
        @Override
        public InputStream openStream() throws IOException {
            return inputStream;
        }
    };

    String text = byteSource.asCharSource(Charsets.UTF_8).read();

    assertThat(text, equalTo(originalString));
}

Let’s go over the steps:

  • first – we wrap our InputStream a ByteSource – and as far as I’m aware, this is the easiest way to do so
  • then – we view our ByteSource as a CharSource with a UTF8 charset.
  • finally – we use the CharSource to read it as a String.

A simpler way of doing the conversion with Guava, but the stream needs to be explicitly closed; luckily, we can simply use the try-with-resources syntax to take care of that:

@Test
public void givenUsingGuavaAndJava7_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToAString_thenCorrect() 
  throws IOException {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(8);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());
 
    String text = null;
    try (Reader reader = new InputStreamReader(inputStream)) {
        text = CharStreams.toString(reader);
    }
 
    assertThat(text, equalTo(originalString));
}

3. Converting With Apache Commons IO

Let's now look at how to do this with the Commons IO library.

An important caveat here is that – as opposed to Guava – neither of these examples will close the InputStream – which is why I personally prefer the Guava solution.

@Test
public void givenUsingCommonsIo_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToAString_thenCorrect() 
  throws IOException {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(8);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());

    String text = IOUtils.toString(inputStream, StandardCharsets.UTF_8.name());
    assertThat(text, equalTo(originalString));
}

We can also use a StringWriter to do the conversion:

@Test
public void givenUsingCommonsIoWithCopy_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToAString_thenCorrect() 
  throws IOException {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(8);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());

    StringWriter writer = new StringWriter();
    String encoding = StandardCharsets.UTF_8.name();
    IOUtils.copy(inputStream, writer, encoding);

    assertThat(writer.toString(), equalTo(originalString));
}

4. Converting With Java – InputStream

Let's look now at a lower level approach using plain Java – an InputStream and a simple StringBuilder:

@Test
public void givenUsingJava5_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToAString_thenCorrect() 
  throws IOException {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(DEFAULT_SIZE);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());

    StringBuilder textBuilder = new StringBuilder();
    try (Reader reader = new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader
      (inputStream, Charset.forName(StandardCharsets.UTF_8.name())))) {
        int c = 0;
        while ((c = reader.read()) != -1) {
            textBuilder.append((char) c);
        }
    }
    assertEquals(textBuilder.toString(), originalString);
}

4.1. Using Java 8

Java 8 brings a new lines() method to the BufferedReader. Let's see how we can make use of it to convert an InputStream to a String:

@Test
public void givenUsingJava8_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToAString_thenCorrect() {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(DEFAULT_SIZE);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());

    String text = new BufferedReader(
      new InputStreamReader(inputStream, StandardCharsets.UTF_8)))
        .lines()
        .collect(Collectors.joining("\n"));

    assertThat(text, equalTo(originalString));
}

It's important to mention that lines() uses the readLine() method under the hood. readLine() assumes that a line is terminated by any one of a line feed (“\n”), a carriage return (“\r”), or a carriage return followed immediately by a linefeed. In other words, it supports all the common End Of Line styles – Unix, Windows, and even old Mac OS.

On the other hand, when we use Collectors.joining(), we need to explicitly decide which type of EOL we want to use for the created String.

We could also use the Collectors.joining(System.lineSeparator()), in which case the output depends on the system settings.

5. Converting With Java and a Scanner

Next – let's look at a plain Java example – using a standard text Scanner:

@Test
public void givenUsingJava7_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToAString_thenCorrect() 
  throws IOException {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(8);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());

    String text = null;
    try (Scanner scanner = new Scanner(inputStream, StandardCharsets.UTF_8.name())) {
        text = scanner.useDelimiter("\\A").next();
    }

    assertThat(text, equalTo(originalString));
}

Note that the InputStream is going to be closed by the closing of the Scanner.

It's also worth clarifying what useDelimiter(“\\A”) does. Here, we passed the ‘\A' which is a boundary marker regex that denotes the beginning of the input. Essentially, this means that the next() call reads the entire input stream. This is known as the Stupid Scanner trick.

The only reason this is a Java 7 example, and not a Java 5 one is the use of the try-with-resources statement – turning that into a standard try-finally block will compile just fine with Java 5.

6. Converting Using ByteArrayOutputStream

Finally, let's look at another plain Java example, this time using the ByteArrayOutputStream class:

@Test
public void givenUsingPlainJava_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToString_thenCorrect()
  throws IOException {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(8);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());

    ByteArrayOutputStream buffer = new ByteArrayOutputStream();
    int nRead;
    byte[] data = new byte[1024];
    while ((nRead = inputStream.read(data, 0, data.length)) != -1) {
        buffer.write(data, 0, nRead);
    }

    buffer.flush();
    byte[] byteArray = buffer.toByteArray();
        
    String text = new String(byteArray, StandardCharsets.UTF_8);
    assertThat(text, equalTo(originalString));
}

In this example, first, the InputStream is converted to a ByteArrayOutputStream by reading and writing byte blocks, then the OutputStream is transformed to a byte array, which is used to create a String.

7. Converting With java.nio

Another solution is to copy the content of the InputStream to a file, then convert this to a String:

@Test
public void givenUsingTempFile_whenConvertingAnInputStreamToAString_thenCorrect() 
  throws IOException {
    String originalString = randomAlphabetic(DEFAULT_SIZE);
    InputStream inputStream = new ByteArrayInputStream(originalString.getBytes());

    Path tempFile = 
      Files.createTempDirectory("").resolve(UUID.randomUUID().toString() + ".tmp");
    Files.copy(inputStream, tempFile, StandardCopyOption.REPLACE_EXISTING);
    String result = new String(Files.readAllBytes(tempFile));

    assertThat(result, equalTo(originalString));
}

Here, we're using the java.nio.file.Files class to create a temporary file, as well as copy the content of the InputStream to the file. Then, the same class is used to convert the file content to a String with the readAllBytes() method.

8. Conclusion

After compiling the best way to do the simple conversion – InputStream to String – in a correct and readable way – and after seeing so many wildly different answers and solutions – I think that a clear and concise best practice for this is called for.

The implementation of all these examples and code snippets can be found on GitHub – this is a Maven-based project, so it should be easy to import and run as it is.

Java bottom

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4 Comments
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preslavrachev
5 years ago

:disqus All the examples are very good. I am usually in favor of code that relies as much as possible on functionalities coming straight from the Java standard library. Pointing out about try-with-resources is also nice. I don’t think that many developers are fully aware of it, and perhaps, it’s worth giving it attention in another “back to basics” post. Keep up the good work!

Eugen Paraschiv
5 years ago
Reply to  preslavrachev

That’s certainly a good topic to explore – thanks for the suggestion. Adding it to my content calendar. Cheers,
Eugen.

Leon Roy
Leon Roy
3 years ago

Indeed, I wasn’t aware of it but here’s a useful article on the subject: https://docs.oracle.com/javase/tutorial/essential/exceptions/tryResourceClose.html

Manoj
Manoj
4 years ago

I’ll use ByteArrayOutputStream and write blocks to it, then create string from byte array. It’s the fastest method I know.

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