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Download Excel file via AJAX MVC

Posted by: admin November 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Questions:

I have a large(ish) form in MVC.

I need to be able to generate an excel file containing data from a subset of that form.

The tricky bit is that this shouldn’t affect the rest of the form and so I want to do it via AJAX. I’ve come across a few questions on SO that seem to be related, but I can’t quite work out what the answers mean.

This one seems the closest to what I’m after: asp-net-mvc-downloading-excel – but I’m not sure I understand the response, and it is a couple years old now. I also came across another article (can’t find it anymore) about using an iframe to handle the file download, but I’m not sure how to get this working with MVC.

My excel file returns fine if I’m doing a full post back but I can’t get it working with AJAX in mvc.

Answers:

You can’t directly return a file for download via an AJAX call so, an alternative approach is to to use an AJAX call to post the related data to your server. You can then use server side code to create the Excel File (I would recommend using EPPlus or NPOI for this although it sounds as if you have this part working).

UPDATE September 2016

My original answer (below) was over 3 years old, so I thought I would update as I no longer create files on the server when downloading files via AJAX however, I have left the original answer as it may be of some use still depending on your specific requirements.

A common scenario in my MVC applications is reporting via a web page that has some user configured report parameters (Date Ranges, Filters etc.). When the user has specified the parameters they post them to the server, the report is generated (say for example an Excel file as output) and then I store the resulting file as a byte array in the TempData bucket with a unique reference. This reference is passed back as a Json Result to my AJAX function that subsequently redirects to separate controller action to extract the data from TempData and download to the end users browser.

To give this more detail, assuming you have a MVC View that has a form bound to a Model class, lets call the Model ReportVM.

First, a controller action is required to receive the posted model, an example would be:

public ActionResult PostReportPartial(ReportVM model){

   // Validate the Model is correct and contains valid data
   // Generate your report output based on the model parameters
   // This can be an Excel, PDF, Word file - whatever you need.

   // As an example lets assume we've generated an EPPlus ExcelPackage

   ExcelPackage workbook = new ExcelPackage();
   // Do something to populate your workbook

   // Generate a new unique identifier against which the file can be stored
   string handle = Guid.NewGuid().ToString();

   using(MemoryStream memoryStream = new MemoryStream()){
        workbook.SaveAs(memoryStream);
        memoryStream.Position = 0;
        TempData[handle] = memoryStream.ToArray();
   }      

   // Note we are returning a filename as well as the handle
   return new JsonResult() { 
         Data = new { FileGuid = handle, FileName = "TestReportOutput.xlsx" }
   };

}

The AJAX call that posts my MVC form to the above controller and receives the response looks like this:

$ajax({
    cache: false,
    url: '/Report/PostReportPartial',
    data: _form.serialize(), 
    success: function (data){
         var response = JSON.parse(data);
         window.location = '/Report/Download?fileGuid=' + response.FileGuid 
                           + '&filename=' + response.FileName;
    }
})

The controller action to handle the downloading of the file:

[HttpGet]
public virtual ActionResult Download(string fileGuid, string fileName)
{   
   if(TempData[fileGuid] != null){
        byte[] data = TempData[fileGuid] as byte[];
        return File(data, "application/vnd.ms-excel", fileName);
   }   
   else{
        // Problem - Log the error, generate a blank file,
        //           redirect to another controller action - whatever fits with your application
        return new EmptyResult();
   }
}

One other change that could easily be accommodated if required is to pass the MIME Type of the file as a third parameter so that the one Controller action could correctly serve a variety of output file formats.

This removes any need for any physical files to created and stored on the server, so no housekeeping routines required and once again this is seamless to the end user.

Note, the advantage of using TempData rather than Session is that once TempData is read the data is cleared so it will be more efficient in terms of memory usage if you have a high volume of file requests. See TempData Best Practice.

ORIGINAL Answer

You can’t directly return a file for download via an AJAX call so, an alternative approach is to to use an AJAX call to post the related data to your server. You can then use server side code to create the Excel File (I would recommend using EPPlus or NPOI for this although it sounds as if you have this part working).

Once the file has been created on the server pass back the path to the file (or just the filename) as the return value to your AJAX call and then set the JavaScript window.location to this URL which will prompt the browser to download the file.

From the end users perspective, the file download operation is seamless as they never leave the page on which the request originates.

Below is a simple contrived example of an ajax call to achieve this:

$.ajax({
    type: 'POST',
    url: '/Reports/ExportMyData', 
    data: '{ "dataprop1": "test", "dataprop2" : "test2" }',
    contentType: 'application/json; charset=utf-8',
    dataType: 'json',
    success: function (returnValue) {
        window.location = '/Reports/Download?file=' + returnValue;
    }
});
  • url parameter is the Controller/Action method where your code will create the Excel file.
  • data parameter contains the json data that would be extracted from the form.
  • returnValue would be the file name of your newly created Excel file.
  • The window.location command redirects to the Controller/Action method that actually returns your file for download.

A sample controller method for the Download action would be:

[HttpGet]
public virtual ActionResult Download(string file)
{   
  string fullPath = Path.Combine(Server.MapPath("~/MyFiles"), file);
  return File(fullPath, "application/vnd.ms-excel", file);
}

Questions:
Answers:

My 2 cents – you don’t need to store the excel as a physical file on the server – instead, store it in the (Session) Cache. Use a uniquely generated name for your Cache variable (that stores that excel file) – this will be the return of your (initial) ajax call. This way you don’t have to deal with file access issues, managing (deleting) the files when no needed, etc. and, having the file in the Cache, is faster to retrieve it.

Questions:
Answers:

I was recently able to accomplish this in MVC (although there was no need to use AJAX) without creating a physical file and thought I’d share my code:

Super simple JavaScript function (datatables.net button click triggers this):

function getWinnersExcel(drawingId) {
    window.location = "/drawing/drawingwinnersexcel?drawingid=" + drawingId;
}

C# Controller code:

    public FileResult DrawingWinnersExcel(int drawingId)
    {
        MemoryStream stream = new MemoryStream(); // cleaned up automatically by MVC
        List<DrawingWinner> winnerList = DrawingDataAccess.GetWinners(drawingId); // simple entity framework-based data retrieval
        ExportHelper.GetWinnersAsExcelMemoryStream(stream, winnerList, drawingId);

        string suggestedFilename = string.Format("Drawing_{0}_Winners.xlsx", drawingId);
        return File(stream, "application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet.main+xml", suggestedFilename);
    }

In the ExportHelper class I do use a 3rd party tool (GemBox.Spreadsheet) to generate the Excel file and it has a Save to Stream option. That being said, there are a number of ways to create Excel files that can easily be written to a memory stream.

public static class ExportHelper
{
    internal static void GetWinnersAsExcelMemoryStream(MemoryStream stream, List<DrawingWinner> winnerList, int drawingId)
    {

        ExcelFile ef = new ExcelFile();

        // lots of excel worksheet building/formatting code here ...

        ef.SaveXlsx(stream);
        stream.Position = 0; // reset for future read

     }
}

In IE, Chrome, and Firefox, the browser prompts to download the file and no actual navigation occurs.

Questions:
Answers:

I used the solution posted by CSL but I would recommend you dont store the file data in Session during the whole session. By using TempData the file data is automatically removed after the next request (which is the GET request for the file). You could also manage removal of the file data in Session in download action.

Session could consume much memory/space depending on SessionState storage and how many files are exported during the session and if you have many users.

I’ve updated the serer side code from CSL to use TempData instead.

public ActionResult PostReportPartial(ReportVM model){

   // Validate the Model is correct and contains valid data
   // Generate your report output based on the model parameters
   // This can be an Excel, PDF, Word file - whatever you need.

   // As an example lets assume we've generated an EPPlus ExcelPackage

   ExcelPackage workbook = new ExcelPackage();
   // Do something to populate your workbook

   // Generate a new unique identifier against which the file can be stored
   string handle = Guid.NewGuid().ToString()

   using(MemoryStream memoryStream = new MemoryStream()){
        workbook.SaveAs(memoryStream);
        memoryStream.Position = 0;
        TempData[handle] = memoryStream.ToArray();
   }      

   // Note we are returning a filename as well as the handle
   return new JsonResult() { 
         Data = new { FileGuid = handle, FileName = "TestReportOutput.xlsx" }
   };

}

[HttpGet]
public virtual ActionResult Download(string fileGuid, string fileName)
{   
   if(TempData[fileGuid] != null){
        byte[] data = TempData[fileGuid] as byte[];
        return File(data, "application/vnd.ms-excel", fileName);
   }   
   else{
        // Problem - Log the error, generate a blank file,
        //           redirect to another controller action - whatever fits with your application
        return new EmptyResult();
   }
}

Questions:
Answers:

First Create the controller action that will create the Excel File

[HttpPost]
public JsonResult ExportExcel()
{
    DataTable dt = DataService.GetData();
    var fileName = "Excel_" + DateTime.Now.ToString("yyyyMMddHHmm") + ".xls";

    //save the file to server temp folder
    string fullPath = Path.Combine(Server.MapPath("~/temp"), fileName);

    using (var exportData = new MemoryStream())
    {
        //I don't show the detail how to create the Excel, this is not the point of this article,
        //I just use the NPOI for Excel handler
        Utility.WriteDataTableToExcel(dt, ".xls", exportData);

        FileStream file = new FileStream(fullPath, FileMode.Create, FileAccess.Write);
        exportData.WriteTo(file);
        file.Close();
    }

    var errorMessage = "you can return the errors in here!";

    //return the Excel file name
    return Json(new { fileName = fileName, errorMessage = "" });
}

then create the Download action

[HttpGet]
[DeleteFileAttribute] //Action Filter, it will auto delete the file after download, 
                      //I will explain it later
public ActionResult Download(string file)
{
    //get the temp folder and file path in server
    string fullPath = Path.Combine(Server.MapPath("~/temp"), file);

    //return the file for download, this is an Excel 
    //so I set the file content type to "application/vnd.ms-excel"
    return File(fullPath, "application/vnd.ms-excel", file);
}

if you want to delete the file after downloaded create this

public class DeleteFileAttribute : ActionFilterAttribute
{
    public override void OnResultExecuted(ResultExecutedContext filterContext)
    {
        filterContext.HttpContext.Response.Flush();

        //convert the current filter context to file and get the file path
        string filePath = (filterContext.Result as FilePathResult).FileName;

        //delete the file after download
        System.IO.File.Delete(filePath);
    }
}

and finally ajax call from you MVC Razor view

//I use blockUI for loading...
$.blockUI({ message: '<h3>Please wait a moment...</h3>' });    
$.ajax({
    type: "POST",
    url: '@Url.Action("ExportExcel","YourController")', //call your controller and action
    contentType: "application/json; charset=utf-8",
    dataType: "json",
}).done(function (data) {
    //console.log(data.result);
    $.unblockUI();

    //get the file name for download
    if (data.fileName != "") {
        //use window.location.href for redirect to download action for download the file
        window.location.href = "@Url.RouteUrl(new 
            { Controller = "YourController", Action = "Download"})/?file=" + data.fileName;
    }
});

Questions:
Answers:

This thread helped me create my own solution that I will share here. I was using a GET ajax request at first without issues but it got to a point where the request URL length was exceeded so I had to swith to a POST.

The javascript uses JQuery file download plugin and consists of 2 succeeding calls. One POST (To send params) and one GET to retreive the file.

 function download(result) {
        $.fileDownload(uri + "?guid=" + result,
        {
            successCallback: onSuccess.bind(this),
            failCallback: onFail.bind(this)
        });
    }

    var uri = BASE_EXPORT_METADATA_URL;
    var data = createExportationData.call(this);

    $.ajax({
        url: uri,
        type: 'POST',
        contentType: 'application/json',
        data: JSON.stringify(data),
        success: download.bind(this),
        fail: onFail.bind(this)
    });

Server side

    [HttpPost]
    public string MassExportDocuments(MassExportDocumentsInput input)
    {
        // Save query for file download use
        var guid = Guid.NewGuid();
        HttpContext.Current.Cache.Insert(guid.ToString(), input, null, DateTime.Now.AddMinutes(5), Cache.NoSlidingExpiration);
        return guid.ToString();
    }

   [HttpGet]
    public async Task<HttpResponseMessage> MassExportDocuments([FromUri] Guid guid)
    {
        //Get params from cache, generate and return
        var model = (MassExportDocumentsInput)HttpContext.Current.Cache[guid.ToString()];
          ..... // Document generation

        // to determine when file is downloaded
        HttpContext.Current
                   .Response
                   .SetCookie(new HttpCookie("fileDownload", "true") { Path = "/" });

        return FileResult(memoryStream, "documents.zip", "application/zip");
    }

Questions:
Answers:

I am using Asp.Net WebForm and just I wanna to download a file from server side. There is a lot article but I cannot find just basic answer.
Now, I tried a basic way and got it.

That’s my problem.

I have to create a lot of input button dynamically on runtime. And I want to add each button to download button with giving an unique fileNumber.

I create each button like this:

fragment += "<div><input type=\"button\" value=\"Create Excel\" onclick=\"CreateExcelFile(" + fileNumber + ");\" /></div>";

Each button call this ajax method.

$.ajax({
    type: 'POST',
    url: 'index.aspx/CreateExcelFile',
    data: jsonData,
    contentType: 'application/json; charset=utf-8',
    dataType: 'json',
    success: function (returnValue) {
      window.location = '/Reports/Downloads/' + returnValue.d;
    }
});

Then I wrote a basic simple method.

[WebMethod]
public static string CreateExcelFile2(string fileNumber)
{
    string filePath = string.Format(@"Form_{0}.xlsx", fileNumber);
    return filePath;
}

I am generating this Form_1, Form_2, Form_3…. And I am going to delete this old files with another program. But if there is a way to just sending byte array to download file like using Response. I wanna to use it.

I hope this will be usefull for anyone.

Questions:
Answers:

On Submit form

public ActionResult ExportXls()
{   
 var filePath="";
  CommonHelper.WriteXls(filePath, "Text.xls");
}

 public static void WriteXls(string filePath, string targetFileName)
    {
        if (!String.IsNullOrEmpty(filePath))
        {
            HttpResponse response = HttpContext.Current.Response;
            response.Clear();
            response.Charset = "utf-8";
            response.ContentType = "text/xls";
            response.AddHeader("content-disposition", string.Format("attachment; filename={0}", targetFileName));
            response.BinaryWrite(File.ReadAllBytes(filePath));
            response.End();
        }
    }