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1. Overview

In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at various strategies for getting MIME types of a file. We’ll look at ways to extend the MIME types available to the strategies, wherever applicable.

We’ll also point out where we should favor one strategy over the other.

2. Using Java 7

Let’s start with Java 7 – which provides the method Files.probeContentType(path) for resolving the MIME type:

public void whenUsingJava7_thenSuccess() {
    Path path = new File("product.png").toPath();
    String mimeType = Files.probeContentType(path);
    assertEquals(mimeType, "image/png");

This method makes use of the installed FileTypeDetector implementations to probe the MIME type. It invokes the probeContentType of each implementation to resolve the type.

Now, if the file is recognized by any of the implementations, the content type is returned. However, if that doesn’t happen, a system-default file type detector is invoked.

However, the default implementations are OS specific and might fail depending on the OS that we are using.

In addition to that, it’s also important to note that the strategy will fail if the file isn’t present in the filesystem. Furthermore, if the file doesn’t have an extension, it will result in failure.

 3. Using URLConnection

URLConnection provides several APIs for detecting MIME types of a file. Let’s briefly explore each of them.

3.1. Using getContentType()

We can use getContentType() method of URLConnection to retrieve a file’s MIME type:

public void whenUsingGetContentType_thenSuccess(){
    File file = new File("product.png");
    URLConnection connection = file.toURL().openConnection();
    String mimeType = connection.getContentType();
    assertEquals(mimeType, "image/png");

However, a major drawback of this approach is that it’s very slow.

3.2. Using guessContentTypeFromName()

Next, let’s see how we can make use of the guessContentTypeFromName() for the purpose:

public void whenUsingGuessContentTypeFromName_thenSuccess(){
    File file = new File("product.png");
    String mimeType = URLConnection.guessContentTypeFromName(file.getName());
    assertEquals(mimeType, "image/png");

This method makes use of the internal FileNameMap to resolve the MIME type from the extension.

We also have the option of using guessContentTypeFromStream() instead, which uses the first few characters of the input stream, to determine the type.

3.3. Using getFileNameMap()

A faster way to obtain the MIME type using URLConnection is using the getFileNameMap() method:

public void whenUsingGetFileNameMap_thenSuccess(){
    File file = new File("product.png");
    FileNameMap fileNameMap = URLConnection.getFileNameMap();
    String mimeType = fileNameMap.getContentTypeFor(file.getName());
    assertEquals(mimeType, "image/png");

The method returns the table of MIME types used by all instances of URLConnection. This table is then used to resolve the input file type.

The built-in table of MIME types is very limited when it comes to URLConnection.

By default, the class uses file in JRE_HOME/lib. We can, however, extend it, by specifying a user-specific table using the content.types.user.table property:


4. Using MimeTypesFileTypeMap

MimeTypesFileTypeMap resolves MIME types by using file’s extension. This class came with Java 6, and hence comes very handy when we’re working with JDK 1.6.

Now let’s see how to use it:

public void whenUsingMimeTypesFileTypeMap_thenSuccess() {
    File file = new File("product.png");
    MimetypesFileTypeMap fileTypeMap = new MimetypesFileTypeMap();
    String mimeType = fileTypeMap.getContentType(file.getName());
    assertEquals(mimeType, "image/png");

Here, we can either pass the name of the file or the File instance itself as the parameter to the function. However, the function with File instance as the parameter internally calls the overloaded method that accepts the filename as the parameter.

Internally, this method looks up a file called mime.types for the type resolution. It’s very important to note that the method searches for the file in a specific order:

  1. Programmatically added entries to the MimetypesFileTypeMap instance
  2. .mime.types in the user’s home directory
  3. <java.home>/lib/mime.types
  4. resources named META-INF/mime.types
  5. resource named META-INF/mimetypes.default (usually found only in the activation.jar file)

However, if no file is found, it will return application/octet-stream as the response.

5. Using jMimeMagic

jMimeMagic is a restrictively licensed library that we can use to obtain the MIME type of a file.

Let’s start by configuring the Maven dependency:


We can find the latest version of this library on Maven Central.

Next, we’ll explore how to work with the library:

public void whenUsingJmimeMagic_thenSuccess() {
    File file = new File("product.png");
    Magic magic = new Magic();
    MagicMatch match = magic.getMagicMatch(file, false);
    assertEquals(match.getMimeType(), "image/png");

This library can work with a stream of data and hence doesn’t require the file to be present in the file system.

6. Using Apache Tika

Apache Tika is a toolset that detects and extracts metadata and text from a variety of files. It has a rich and powerful API and comes with tika-core which we can make use of, for detecting MIME type of a file.

Let’s begin by configuring the Maven dependency:


Next, we’ll make use of the detect() method to resolve the type:

public void whenUsingTika_thenSuccess() {
    File file = new File("product.png");
    Tika tika = new Tika();
    String mimeType = tika.detect(file);
    assertEquals(mimeType, "image/png");

The library relies on magic markers in the stream prefix, for type resolution.

7. Conclusion

In this article, we’ve looked at the various strategies of obtaining the MIME type of a file. Furthermore, we have also analyzed the tradeoffs of the approaches. We have also pointed out the scenarios where we should favor one strategy over the other.

The full source code that is used in this article is available over at GitHub, as always.

Course – LS (cat=Java)

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