Compressing and Decompressing Data with Buffer Compression

Compress a string, write it to the file system, and decompress the same file using buffer compression.


In this article, you'll learn how to compress and decompress a String instance.

Create the Source Data

Typically, your app would dynamically generate the source data that it compresses, but for this example, the source data is a hard-coded string:

let sourceString = """
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit mi
    nibh ornare proin blandit diam ridiculus, faucibus mus
    dui eu vehicula nam donec dictumst sed vivamus bibendum
    aliquet efficitur. Felis imperdiet sodales dictum morbi
    vivamus augue dis duis aliquet velit ullamcorper porttitor,
    lobortis dapibus hac purus aliquam natoque iaculis blandit
    montes nunc pretium.

var sourceBuffer = Array(sourceString.utf8)

On return, sourceBuffer is an array of UInt8 values containing the UTF-8 representation of the source string.

Create the Destination Buffer

Create an UnsafeMutablePointer structure and allocate it with a capacity of the source string's count to receive the encoded data:

let destinationBuffer = UnsafeMutablePointer<UInt8>.allocate(capacity: sourceString.count)

Select a Compression Algorithm

If speed and compression ratio are important, use COMPRESSION_LZFSE:

let algorithm = COMPRESSION_LZFSE

If you require interoperability with non-Apple devices, use COMPRESSION_ZLIB instead. For more information about other compression algorithms, see compression_algorithm.

Compress the Data

The compression_encode_buffer(_:_:_:_:_:_:) function compresses the data, writing the result to the destination buffer and returning the size of the encoded data:

let compressedSize = compression_encode_buffer(destinationBuffer, sourceString.count,
                                               &sourceBuffer, sourceString.count,

When working with small files, the compression may fail and compression_encode_buffer(_:_:_:_:_:_:) returns 0:

if compressedSize == 0 {
    fatalError("Encoding failed.")

You may elect to handle this situation differently, for example, by displaying a warning to the user that the compression failed.

Write the Encoded Data to a File

The following code writes the encoded data to a file in the the app's temporary directory on macOS:

let encodedFileName = "stringEncoded.LZFSE"

let tempDirURL = NSURL(fileURLWithPath: NSTemporaryDirectory())

    let encodedFileURL = tempDirURL.appendingPathComponent(encodedFileName) else {

FileManager.default.createFile(atPath: encodedFileURL.path,
                               contents: nil,
                               attributes: nil)

guard let destinationFileHandle = try? FileHandle(forWritingTo: encodedFileURL) else {
    print("destinationFileHandle fail.")

let encodedData = NSData(bytesNoCopy: destinationBuffer,
                         length: compressedSize)

destinationFileHandle.write(encodedData as Data)

Read the Encoded Data from a File

To read the encoded file, create a file handle for reading for the encoded file's URL:

    let encodedFileHandle = try? FileHandle(forReadingFrom: encodedFileURL) else {
        print("encodedFileHandle fail.")

Use the file handle to read the entire encoded data and populate encodedSourceData:

let encodedSourceData = encodedFileHandle.readDataToEndOfFile()

Decompress the Data

Allocate memory to contain the decoded data. Typically, the encoded payload would be part of a larger structure containing additional metadata such as the uncompressed size, and you'd use that to define the buffer capacity. However, for this example, allocate 8 MB:

let decodedCapacity = 8_000_000
let decodedDestinationBuffer = UnsafeMutablePointer<UInt8>.allocate(capacity: decodedCapacity)

Use compression_decode_buffer(_:_:_:_:_:_:) to decode the raw bytes of the encoded source data, writing the result to decodedDestinationBuffer. You can create a string from the destination buffer using the init(cString:) initializer:

let decodedString = encodedSourceData.withUnsafeBytes {
    (encodedSourceBuffer: UnsafePointer<UInt8>) -> String in
    let decodedCharCount = compression_decode_buffer(decodedDestinationBuffer,
    if decodedCharCount == 0 {
        fatalError("Decoding failed.")
    return String(cString: decodedDestinationBuffer)

The compression_decode_buffer(_:_:_:_:_:_:) function returns the size of the decoded data. If the decompression fails, the size returned is zero. This may indicate that the memory allocated to the destination buffer is insufficient and you should switch to the stream API or retry with a larger buffer.

See Also

Single-Step Compression

func compression_encode_scratch_buffer_size(compression_algorithm) -> Int

Returns the required compression scratch buffer size for the selected algorithm.

func compression_decode_scratch_buffer_size(compression_algorithm) -> Int

Returns the required decompression scratch buffer size for the selected algorithm.