Uploading Photos to Chatter Files with HTML5

Is it possible to use the PhoneGap APIs to capture image data in Salesforce1? No, but you CAN achieve the same end with the HTML5 File API and create a page that will work pretty much anywhere...

Yesterday, a valued member of the Force.com developer community asked me, “Does Chatter Mobile 4.2 Salesforce1 include the necessary bits to let a Visualforce tab use PhoneGap to hook up the camera?”. The short answer is ‘no’, but it is possible for JavaScript on a Visualforce tab in Salesforce1 to use HTML5 to achieve the same end.

Today, I rewrote the ELEVATE Mobile Workshop ‘Mobile Inventory’ sample page to demonstrate the approach. The previous version of the page, designed for use in a Salesforce Mobile SDK ‘hybrid remote’ app, used PhoneGap’s navigator.camera API to retrieve a photo from the camera or photo library. With the advent of iOS 6.0 last year, it became possible to use the HTML <input> element to do the same job, resulting in a page that will work pretty much anywhere – I’ve tested it in a hybrid mobile app, Safari on iOS, Chrome on Android, Chrome on the desktop and, yes, Salesforce1.

The complete source code is available in this gist; in the remainder of this post, I’ll cover the highlights of HTML5 file handling.

The HTML <input> element allows users to supply data, typically in an HTML form. We’ve all been using it for years. From iOS 6.0 on, the following HTML will allow the user to upload an image:

<input type="file" accept="image/*"/>

The main drawback with the default HTML file input element, particularly in a mobile app, is that you can’t style it to match the remainder of your page. The solution is to hide it, have the user click another, more attractive element, and wire up the clicks in JavaScript. My page has the following HTML to implement the button:

<!-- File input control - we hide this when the page inits -->
<input class="photoFile" type="file" id="file{!product.Id}" accept="image/*"/>
<!-- Photo upload button - we wire this to the file input control -->
<a href="#" data-role="button" class="photoButton" data-theme="b">
    Upload Photo

Because this is a jQuery Mobile (jQM) page, we can’t just style the <input> element  to be invisible, since jQM inserts its own elements in the DOM at runtime. Instead, in the $(document).on(‘pageinit’) handler, we hide the parent jQM element:


Now we need to wire the controls together, so that clicking on our visible button will actually activate the invisible <input>. We can navigate from the button to the <input> via an HTML5 data attribute:

$(".photoButton").click(function() {
    var id = $(this).parent().attr('data-id');

When the user selects a file, the <input> element will fire a change event, so we need to provide a handler.


The handlePhoto() function is where the real magic happens:

function handlePhoto(evt) {
    var file = evt.target.files[0];
    var reader = new FileReader();
    reader.onload = (function(theFile) {
        return function(e) {
            // Extract raw base64 data from data URL
            var imageData = e.target.result.split(',')[1];
            // Upload the image data to Chatter files
            forcetkClient.create('ContentVersion', {
                "Origin": "H",
                "PathOnClient": file.name,
                "VersionData": imageData
            }, function(data) {
                makeContentVersionPublic(data.id, function(){
                    alert('Success! Created ContentVersion ' + data.id);
                }, onErrorSfdc); 
            }, onErrorSfdc);

The function receives an event parameter containing an array of HTML5 File objects. Since we’re only dealing with a single file, we take the first entry in the array and use an HTML5 FileReader to read the image file’s content into memory as a data URL. The data URL contains a prefix containing the media type, a comma, then the base64-encoded content of the file. In this example, we’re uploading the image data to a Chatter File (represented in the API by ContentVersion), which, handily, accepts base64 data, so it’s a snap to split the dataURL on the comma and create the ContentVersion record. FileReader also implements readAsArrayBuffer(), readAsText() and readAsBinaryString(), so it’s possible to get the file content pretty much any way you want it.

As I mentioned above, the big advantage of this approach is that it has no dependency on PhoneGap, so you can use it pretty much anywhere that HTML5 is supported. If you’re working on a Dreamforce Hackathon entry that’s capturing image files from a mobile device, this is a pretty handy hack to have up your sleeve…

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Uploading Photos to Chatter Files with HTML5