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Posted 23 Apr 2004

MemoryStream Compression

, 20 Jun 2004
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MemoryStream based compression based on SharpZipLib.


Hello, this is my first article on CodeProject. I have been a long time reader, and the CodeProject resource has been an endless supply of answers to many questions. After searching CodeProject, I found that the .NET section lacked any articles on compression, so I thought I would write this article.

SharpZipLib from ICSharpCode

First of all, this article depends on the SharpZipLib which is 100% free to use, in any sort of projects. Details on the license and download links are available here.


A friend asked me to teach him C#.NET, and as a project to teach him, I decided to start writing a revision control system utilizing both server and client, we've both had our share of pitfalls with CVS. One of the features he wanted involved compression, so I sought out this library, but its documentation is sketchy unless you use it purely for an API reference. Also, the documentation only shows examples of file based compression. However, in our project, we wanted the ability to work in memory (with custom diff-type patches). Originally, I found this library on a forum that said this wasn't possible, but after digging into the library documentation, I found some Stream-oriented classes that looked promising. An hour or so of playing around, and this simple and short code was the result. Since the code is relatively short, I have not included any source or demo files to download. I hope someone finds this useful!


For convenience sake, we localize the namespaces IO, Text, and SharpZipLib:

using System;
using System.IO;
using System.Text;
using ICSharpCode.SharpZipLib.BZip2;

First of all, we'll start with compression. Since we're using MemoryStreams, let's create a new one:

MemoryStream msCompressed = new MemoryStream();

Simple enough, right? For this example, I will use BZip2. You can use Zip, or Tar, however, they require implementing a dummy FileEntry, which is extra overhead that is not needed. My choice of BZip2 over GZip comes from the experience that larger data can be compressed smaller, at the cost of a slightly larger header (discussed below).

Next, we create a BZip2 output stream, passing in our MemoryStream.

BZip2OutputStream zosCompressed = new BZip2OutputStream(msCompressed);

Pretty easy... Now however, is a good time to address the header overhead I mentioned above. In my practical tests, compressing a 1 byte string, rendered a 28 byte overhead from the headers alone when using GZip, plus the additional byte that could not be compressed any further. The same test with BZip2 rendered a 36 byte overhead from the headers alone. In practice, compressing a source file from a test project of 12892 bytes was compressed to 2563 bytes, about a 75% compression rate give or take my bad math, using BZip2. Similarly, another test revealed 730 bytes compressed to 429 bytes. And a final test, a 174 bytes compressed to 161 bytes.

Obviously, with any compression, the more data is available, the better the algorithm can compress patterns.

So with that little bit of theory out of the way, back to the code... From here, we start writing data to the BZip2OutputStream:

string sBuffer = "This represents some data being compressed.";

byte[] bytesBuffer = Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(sBuffer);
zosCompressed.Write(bytesBuffer, 0, bytesBuffer.Length);

Pretty easy. As with most IO and stream methods, byte arrays are used instead of strings. So we encode our output as a byte array, then write it to the compression stream, which in turn compresses the data and writes it to the inner stream, which is our MemoryStream.

bytesBuffer = msCompressed.ToArray();
string sCompressed = Encoding.ASCII.GetString(bytesBuffer);

So now, the MemoryStream contains the compressed data, so we pull it out as a byte array and convert it back to a string. Note that this string is NOT readable, attempting to put this string into a textbox will render strange results. If you want to view the data, the way I did it was to convert it into a Base64 string, but this increases the size, anyone has any suggestions to that are welcome to comment. The result of running this specific code renders the 43 byte uncompressed data as 74 byte compressed data, and when encoded as a base 64 string, the final result is 100 characters as follows:


Obviously, these are not desirable results. However, I believe the speed of which the library compresses short strings of data could be extended into a method which returns either a compressed or uncompressed string with a flag indicating which was more efficient.


Now of course, to test our code above, we need some uncompression code. I will put all the code together, since it's pretty much the same, just using a BZip2InputStream instead of a BZip2OutputStream, and Read instead of Write:

MemoryStream msUncompressed = 
    new MemoryStream(Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(sCompressed));
BZip2InputStream zisUncompressed = new BZip2InputStream(msUncompressed);
bytesBuffer = new byte[zisUncompressed.Length];
zisUncompressed.Read(bytesBuffer, 0, bytesBuffer.Length);
string sUncompressed = Encoding.ASCII.GetString(bytesBuffer);

Now, a quick check on sUncompressed should reveal the original string intact... No files involved, however, if you wanted to load a file, there are a few ways you can do it, and I leave it to your imagination.


Special thanks to the developers at ICSharpCode.Net for providing this awesome library free to the public which makes this article possible. I have no affiliation with ICSharpCode.Net, so I hope I have not breached anything in posting this article.

I hope you all find this as useful as I have!


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Web Developer
Canada Canada
Short and simple, I'm a self contracted programmer, my strongest programming skills are in C/C++ and C#/.NET. I have a nack for porting C algorithms to C#.

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralRe: Bad uncompression example Try This Pin
mindphaser2k518-Jul-08 14:21
membermindphaser2k518-Jul-08 14:21 
QuestionHow to Zip more than one file Pin
Edilberto11-Jun-04 13:06
sussEdilberto11-Jun-04 13:06 
AnswerRe: How to Zip more than one file Pin
changcn21-Jun-04 14:46
memberchangcn21-Jun-04 14:46 
AnswerRe: How to Zip more than one file Pin
MunkieFish26-Dec-06 7:39
memberMunkieFish26-Dec-06 7:39 
GeneralSecurity Exeception Pin
Eric Coll8-Jun-04 9:20
memberEric Coll8-Jun-04 9:20 
GeneralRe: Security Exeception Pin
Astaelan10-Jun-04 9:36
memberAstaelan10-Jun-04 9:36 
GeneralRe: Security Exeception Pin
Eric Coll10-Jun-04 9:58
memberEric Coll10-Jun-04 9:58 
GeneralRe: Security Exeception Pin
Astaelan10-Jun-04 10:26
memberAstaelan10-Jun-04 10:26 
Ahha, nice catch Eric. It never even occured to me that at a global level, they may reserve files, or open them strictly for the purpose of throwing the exception.
In my opinion, this is kinda strange, since the library works fine using MemoryStreams, there should not be a dependancy on any files.
Upon searching for a little more information now, I see that there is more information on this subject popping up. See here for something by someone else:

Again, his code relies back on ICSharpZip library.

As far as the terms on the ICSharpZip library, here is something from their website:

"Linking this library statically or dynamically with other modules is making a combined work based on this library. Thus, the terms and conditions of the GNU General Public License cover the whole combination."

"As a special exception, the copyright holders of this library give you permission to link this library with independent modules to produce an executable, regardless of the license terms of these independent modules, and to copy and distribute the resulting executable under terms of your choice, provided that you also meet, for each linked independent module, the terms and conditions of the license of that module. An independent module is a module which is not derived from or based on this library. If you modify this library, you may extend this exception to your version of the library, but you are not obligated to do so. If you do not wish to do so, delete this exception statement from your version."

In simplest terms, this means you can link the library as-is in commercial projects. If you choose to strip out functionality from the library to support what you require, then your project must be liscensed under the same work as ICSharpZip itself, which is the GNU GPL.

After reading the terms closer, I think you can modify their code, strip out what you need, and still use it in commercial projects. To be exact: "If you modify this library, you may extend this exception to your version of the library, but you are not obligated to do so."
In that case, you're well within your rights to strip out the troublesome file IO, cut back to only the compression/decompression routines you require and probably gain a little speed dropping the excessive IO. You said it works, great job, sounds like a worthwhile effort to strip out and profile those routines and redistribute the library under the same liscense.

If your work is a commercial project, in this specific case, I would contact the author of ICSharpZip, explain the situation, and offer a slimmed down, memory-only/efficient version that they may be willing to release as a DLL which can be linked in commercial projects. If it were me, I'd happily do it, because they have crippled their own library and not realized it because they probably don't use remote IE hosted controls.

Kudo's on finding the problem in their library. And thanks for also confirming the code otherwise works for you. A lot of people have experienced some strange problems that I haven't been able to replicate.

I have been thinking of writing a completely opensource public domain compression library. If you are interested in getting involved, I would appreciate someone with your experience on the matter. Feel free to email me.

GeneralSomething is wrong Pin
dorutzu14-May-04 3:42
memberdorutzu14-May-04 3:42 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong Pin
Astaelan14-May-04 9:35
memberAstaelan14-May-04 9:35 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong Pin
dorutzu14-May-04 11:47
memberdorutzu14-May-04 11:47 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong Pin
OferBB2-Jun-04 0:24
memberOferBB2-Jun-04 0:24 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong Pin
dorutzu2-Jun-04 7:55
memberdorutzu2-Jun-04 7:55 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong Pin
Astaelan10-Jun-04 10:44
memberAstaelan10-Jun-04 10:44 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong Pin
OferBB15-Jun-04 6:33
memberOferBB15-Jun-04 6:33 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong Pin
OferBB23-Jun-04 3:31
memberOferBB23-Jun-04 3:31 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong - Solution Pin
TLangFromCodeProject24-Jun-04 11:33
memberTLangFromCodeProject24-Jun-04 11:33 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong - Solution Pin
Astaelan25-Jun-04 2:07
memberAstaelan25-Jun-04 2:07 
GeneralRe: Something is wrong Pin
RandyY10-Nov-04 19:01
memberRandyY10-Nov-04 19:01 

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