4.5 Performing Base64 Encoding

4.5.1 Problem

You want to represent binary data in as compact a textual representation as is reasonable, but the data must be easy to encode and decode, and it must use printable text characters.

4.5.2 Solution

Base64 encoding encodes six bits of data at a time, meaning that every six bits of input map to one character of output. The characters in the output will be a numeric digit, a letter (uppercase or lowercase), a forward slash, a plus, or the equal sign (which is a special padding character).

Note that four output characters map exactly to three input characters. As a result, if the input string isn't a multiple of three characters, you'll need to do some padding (explained in Section 4.5.3).

4.5.3 Discussion

The base64 alphabet takes 6-bit binary values representing numbers from 0 to 63 and maps them to a set of printable ASCII characters. The values 0 through 25 map to the uppercase letters in order. The values 26 through 51 map to the lowercase letters. Then come the decimal digits from 0 to 9, and finally + and /.

If the length of the input string isn't a multiple of three bytes, the leftover bits are padded to a multiple of six with zeros; then the last character is encoded. If only one byte would have been needed in the input to make it a multiple of three, the pad character (=) is added to the end of the string. Otherwise, two pad characters are added.

#include <stdlib.h>
   
static char b64table[64] = "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ"
                           "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz"
                           "0123456789+/";
   
/* Accepts a binary buffer with an associated size.
 * Returns a base64 encoded, NULL-terminated string.
 */
unsigned char *spc_base64_encode(unsigned char *input, size_t len, int wrap) {
  unsigned char *output, *p;
  size_t        i = 0, mod = len % 3, toalloc;
   
  toalloc = (len / 3) * 4 + (3 - mod) % 3 + 1;
  if (wrap) {
    toalloc += len / 57;
    if (len % 57) toalloc++;    
  }
  
  p = output = (unsigned char *)malloc(((len / 3) + (mod ? 1 : 0)) * 4 + 1);
  if (!p) return 0;
   
  while (i < len - mod) {
    *p++ = b64table[input[i++] >> 2];
    *p++ = b64table[((input[i - 1] << 4) | (input[i] >> 4)) & 0x3f];
    *p++ = b64table[((input[i] << 2) | (input[i + 1] >> 6)) & 0x3f];
    *p++ = b64table[input[i + 1] & 0x3f];
    i += 2;
    if (wrap && !(i % 57)) *p++ = '\n';
  }
  if (!mod) {
    if (wrap && i % 57) *p++ = '\n';
    *p = 0;
    return output;
  } else {
    *p++ = b64table[input[i++] >> 2];
    *p++ = b64table[((input[i - 1] << 4) | (input[i] >> 4)) & 0x3f];
    if (mod =  = 1) {
      *p++ = '=';
      *p++ = '=';
      if (wrap) *p++ = '\n';
      *p = 0;
      return output;
    } else {
      *p++ = b64table[(input[i] << 2) & 0x3f];
      *p++ = '=';
      if (wrap) *p++ = '\n';
      *p = 0;
      return output;
    }
  }
}

The public interface to the above code is the following:

unsigned char *spc base64_encode(unsigned char *input, size_t len, int wrap);

The result is a NULL-terminated string allocated internally via malloc( ). Some protocols may expect you to "wrap" base64-encoded data so that, when printed, it takes up less than 80 columns. If such behavior is necessary, you can pass in a non-zero value for the final parameter, which will cause this code to insert newlines once every 76 characters. In that case, the string will always end with a newline (followed by the expected NULL-terminator).

If the call to malloc( ) fails because there is no memory, this function returns 0.

4.5.4 See Also

Recipe 4.6