I have a PDF which is retrieved via web services calls. The PDF is sent over in a base64 encoded string. I would like to be able to visit a page and output the result of this request. Currently I am converting the encoded base64 string in to a binary blob (It doesn't seem apex supports byte arrays? strange..). Is there a way for me to output this to the screen for the user? I would like to not have to save this; just output it.

Currently, I am using this:


Blob PDFOutputBOL =  EncodingUtil.base64Decode(match1);


<apex:page controller="DownloadPDF" sidebar="false" showHeader="false" contentType="application/pdf">

Checking my HTTP response, I get the following:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2013 14:18:36 GMT X-Powered-By: Salesforce.com ApexPages P3P: CP="CUR OTR STA" Cache-Control: no-cache, must-revalidate, max-age=0, no-store, private Pragma: no-cache Expires: Tue, 15 Jan 2013 14:18:36 GMT Content-Type: application/pdf; charset=UTF-8 Content-Length: 40


What can I do to just print the PDF?

1 Answer 1


You can embed a PDF in a Visualforce (or any other HTML) page via a data URI. Using your example, the code would be something like:

<apex:page controller="DownloadPDF" sidebar="false" showHeader="false" contentType="application/pdf">
        window.location.href = "data:application/pdf;base64,{!match1}";

Note that you need the base64 encoded data - in your example, match1, rather than PDFOutputBOL.

Caveat: I don't know how widely this is supported. Results of some informal testing:

Works on:

  • Mac OS X 10.6.8
    • Chrome 23.0.1271.101
    • Safari 5.1.7
  • Windows 7 SP1
    • Chrome 24.0.1312.52
    • Safari 5.1.7

Doesn't work on:

  • Mac OS X 10.6.8
    • Firefox 17.0.1
  • Windows 7 SP1
    • IE 9.0.8112.16421
    • Firefox 18.0

You may be able to get it to work on those browsers with the appropriate plugin.

  • 1
    Hi, I appreciate the help but I don't think this is going to work. Surely there has to be a way to get the byte stream from base64. This is one line of code in every single programming language. Why it seems to be disabled in Apex is beyond me. I was able to get one pdf to load by doing the blob.toString() method, but as soon as I loaded a more complex error, it began to complain it wasn't utf-8 encoded. Does anyone else have any experience with this?
    – Kyle
    Jan 15, 2013 at 18:44
  • Did you try it? This approach works for me consistently on Chrome and Safari. You are correct - the Blob class is lacking several methods that would make it much more useful. We are working on adding them in a future release.
    – metadaddy
    Jan 15, 2013 at 18:48
  • Thanks again for the response. I think we're going to have to settle with this as a solution. I was looking for something that would support more traditional browsers (IE; ie, firefox). Talking to the users though, they are using Chrome as is so this will be considered closed. If you're a developer for Salesforce (notice the 'we' thing there.), for the sake of my (and others like me) sanity, is there any intention to include byte-types, or more preferably, an array of them? They are listed as a type on the salesforce website but appear to be disabled. Anywho, thanks again.
    – Kyle
    Jan 16, 2013 at 15:29
  • I'm a developer evangelist at Salesforce, so this is part of what I do. Look for a better Blob class over the next few releases #safeharbor
    – metadaddy
    Jan 17, 2013 at 3:45
  • @metadaddy, any updates on this? The post is more than 3 years old but we see no changes to "blob class" Aug 31, 2016 at 15:13

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