Working with Multipart

aiohttp supports a full featured multipart reader and writer. Both are designed with steaming processing in mind to avoid unwanted footprint which may be significant if you’re dealing with large payloads, but this also means that most I/O operation are only possible to be executed a single time.

Reading Multipart Responses

Assume you made a request, as usual, and want to process the response multipart data:

async with aiohttp.request(...) as resp:
    pass

First, you need to wrap the response with a MultipartReader.from_response(). This needs to keep the implementation of MultipartReader separated from the response and the connection routines which makes it more portable:

reader = aiohttp.MultipartReader.from_response(resp)

Let’s assume with this response you’d received some JSON document and multiple files for it, but you don’t need all of them, just a specific one.

So first you need to enter into a loop where the multipart body will be processed:

metadata = None
filedata = None
while True:
    part = await reader.next()

The returned type depends on what the next part is: if it’s a simple body part then you’ll get BodyPartReader instance here, otherwise, it will be another MultipartReader instance for the nested multipart. Remember, that multipart format is recursive and supports multiple levels of nested body parts. When there are no more parts left to fetch, None value will be returned - that’s the signal to break the loop:

if part is None:
    break

Both BodyPartReader and MultipartReader provides access to body part headers: this allows you to filter parts by their attributes:

if part.headers[aiohttp.hdrs.CONTENT_TYPE] == 'application/json':
    metadata = await part.json()
    continue

Nor BodyPartReader or MultipartReader instances does not read the whole body part data without explicitly asking for. BodyPartReader provides a set of helpers methods to fetch popular content types in friendly way:

  • BodyPartReader.text() for plain text data;
  • BodyPartReader.json() for JSON;
  • BodyPartReader.form() for application/www-urlform-encode

Each of these methods automatically recognizes if content is compressed by using gzip and deflate encoding (while it respects identity one), or if transfer encoding is base64 or quoted-printable - in each case the result will get automatically decoded. But in case you need to access to raw binary data as it is, there are BodyPartReader.read() and BodyPartReader.read_chunk() coroutine methods as well to read raw binary data as it is all-in-single-shot or by chunks respectively.

When you have to deal with multipart files, the BodyPartReader.filename property comes to help. It’s a very smart helper which handles Content-Disposition handler right and extracts the right filename attribute from it:

if part.filename != 'secret.txt':
    continue

If current body part does not matches your expectation and you want to skip it - just continue a loop to start a next iteration of it. Here is where magic happens. Before fetching the next body part await reader.next() it ensures that the previous one was read completely. If it was not, all its content sends to the void in term to fetch the next part. So you don’t have to care about cleanup routines while you’re within a loop.

Once you’d found a part for the file you’d searched for, just read it. Let’s handle it as it is without applying any decoding magic:

filedata = await part.read(decode=False)

Later you may decide to decode the data. It’s still simple and possible to do:

filedata = part.decode(filedata)

Once you are done with multipart processing, just break a loop:

break

Sending Multipart Requests

MultipartWriter provides an interface to build multipart payload from the Python data and serialize it into chunked binary stream. Since multipart format is recursive and supports deeply nesting, you can use with statement to design your multipart data closer to how it will be:

with aiohttp.MultipartWriter('mixed') as mpwriter:
    ...
    with aiohttp.MultipartWriter('related') as subwriter:
        ...
    mpwriter.append(subwriter)

    with aiohttp.MultipartWriter('related') as subwriter:
        ...
        with aiohttp.MultipartWriter('related') as subsubwriter:
            ...
        subwriter.append(subsubwriter)
    mpwriter.append(subwriter)

    with aiohttp.MultipartWriter('related') as subwriter:
        ...
    mpwriter.append(subwriter)

The MultipartWriter.append() is used to join new body parts into a single stream. It accepts various inputs and determines what default headers should be used for.

For text data default Content-Type is text/plain; charset=utf-8:

mpwriter.append('hello')

For binary data application/octet-stream is used:

mpwriter.append(b'aiohttp')

You can always override these default by passing your own headers with the second argument:

mpwriter.append(io.BytesIO(b'GIF89a...'),
                {'CONTENT-TYPE': 'image/gif'})

For file objects Content-Type will be determined by using Python’s mimetypes module and additionally Content-Disposition header will include the file’s basename:

part = root.append(open(__file__, 'rb'))

If you want to send a file with a different name, just handle the BodyPartWriter instance which MultipartWriter.append() will always return and set Content-Disposition explicitly by using the BodyPartWriter.set_content_disposition() helper:

part.set_content_disposition('attachment', filename='secret.txt')

Additionally, you may want to set other headers here:

part.headers[aiohttp.hdrs.CONTENT_ID] = 'X-12345'

If you’d set Content-Encoding, it will be automatically applied to the data on serialization (see below):

part.headers[aiohttp.hdrs.CONTENT_ENCODING] = 'gzip'

There are also MultipartWriter.append_json() and MultipartWriter.append_form() helpers which are useful to work with JSON and form urlencoded data, so you don’t have to encode it every time manually:

mpwriter.append_json({'test': 'passed'})
mpwriter.append_form([('key', 'value')])

When it’s done, to make a request just pass a root MultipartWriter instance as aiohttp.client.request() data argument:

await aiohttp.post('http://example.com', data=mpwriter)

Behind the scenes MultipartWriter.serialize() will yield chunks of every part and if body part has Content-Encoding or Content-Transfer-Encoding they will be applied on streaming content.

Please note, that on MultipartWriter.serialize() all the file objects will be read until the end and there is no way to repeat a request without rewinding their pointers to the start.

Hacking Multipart

The Internet is full of terror and sometimes you may find a server which implements multipart support in strange ways when an oblivious solution does not work.

For instance, is server used cgi.FieldStorage then you have to ensure that no body part contains a Content-Length header:

for part in mpwriter:
    part.headers.pop(aiohttp.hdrs.CONTENT_LENGTH, None)

On the other hand, some server may require to specify Content-Length for the whole multipart request. aiohttp does not do that since it sends multipart using chunked transfer encoding by default. To overcome this issue, you have to serialize a MultipartWriter by our own in the way to calculate its size:

body = b''.join(mpwriter.serialize())
await aiohttp.post('http://example.com',
                   data=body, headers=mpwriter.headers)

Sometimes the server response may not be well formed: it may or may not contains nested parts. For instance, we request a resource which returns JSON documents with the files attached to it. If the document has any attachments, they are returned as a nested multipart. If it has not it responds as plain body parts:

CONTENT-TYPE: multipart/mixed; boundary=--:

--:
CONTENT-TYPE: application/json

{"_id": "foo"}
--:
CONTENT-TYPE: multipart/related; boundary=----:

----:
CONTENT-TYPE: application/json

{"_id": "bar"}
----:
CONTENT-TYPE: text/plain
CONTENT-DISPOSITION: attachment; filename=bar.txt

bar! bar! bar!
----:--
--:
CONTENT-TYPE: application/json

{"_id": "boo"}
--:
CONTENT-TYPE: multipart/related; boundary=----:

----:
CONTENT-TYPE: application/json

{"_id": "baz"}
----:
CONTENT-TYPE: text/plain
CONTENT-DISPOSITION: attachment; filename=baz.txt

baz! baz! baz!
----:--
--:--

Reading such kind of data in single stream is possible, but is not clean at all:

result = []
while True:
    part = await reader.next()

    if part is None:
        break

    if isinstance(part, aiohttp.MultipartReader):
        # Fetching files
        while True:
            filepart = await part.next()
            if filepart is None:
                break
            result[-1].append((await filepart.read()))

    else:
        # Fetching document
        result.append([(await part.json())])

Let’s hack a reader in the way to return pairs of document and reader of the related files on each iteration:

class PairsMultipartReader(aiohttp.MultipartReader):

    # keep reference on the original reader
    multipart_reader_cls = aiohttp.MultipartReader

    async def next(self):
        """Emits a tuple of document object (:class:`dict`) and multipart
        reader of the followed attachments (if any).

        :rtype: tuple
        """
        reader = await super().next()

        if self._at_eof:
            return None, None

        if isinstance(reader, self.multipart_reader_cls):
            part = await reader.next()
            doc = await part.json()
        else:
            doc = await reader.json()

        return doc, reader

And this gives us a more cleaner solution:

reader = PairsMultipartReader.from_response(resp)
result = []
while True:
    doc, files_reader = await reader.next()

    if doc is None:
        break

    files = []
    while True:
        filepart = await files_reader.next()
        if file.part is None:
            break
        files.append((await filepart.read()))

    result.append((doc, files))

See also

Multipart API in Helpers API section.