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Posted 27 Sep 2013

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Download of file with open/save dialog box

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1 Oct 2013CPOL
In this article I will explain how to automate the process of downloading files with the open/save dialog box, protected by authentication.


In this article I will explain how to automate the process of downloading files with the open/save dialog box, protected by authentication creating a Windows application. To illustrate this process I have created a web application that generates a protected site. I have included an authentication page. Within this site I have developed a page that requires a user name and a button that generates an on-the-fly file which includes the name typed in the text field. Then I created a Windows application using the WebBrowser control that connects to the site, enters the credentials, and downloads the file with the HttpWebRequest object, bypassing the dialog box.


Sometimes we have to interact with a file download dialog box Open /Save dialog box. This happens because in the header of the file it is specified as Content-Disposition: attachment. This interaction becomes problematic when you have to write a program that automates the process of downloading files from a site (for example, a scheduled task). If the file exists in the web server you can use a WebClient object and simply download the file, but if the file is created on-the-fly, you have to simulate user navigation and user click.

The problem is greater if the site is protected by login and password, so before you can get to the page that generates the files on the fly you must first be accredited in the login page and maintain the authentication status. To navigate the site I used a WebBrowser control that allowed me to easily log in and keep the session, but when I tried to download the file, simulating the user's click, the program loses control on the file generated. The alternative is to use the HttWebRequest object to download the file, but being a protected site, the problem is to pass the authentication status of the WebBrowser control to access the HttWebRequest object then recreate the request, and send all the values of the post. My purpose is to automate this process by passing the file download dialog and saving the file directly to a local drive.

Image 1

Using the code

In my application I use WebBrowser control and Timer control. The WebBrowser control allows developers to build Web browsing capability within Windows Forms applications. The Timer control is useful if the session is not initialized for some reason or if the site changes page and the program tries to connect to pages that no longer exist. To pass the cookies to the HttpWebRequest object (that takes care of downloading the files) I used InternetGetCookieEx, this method retrieves data stored in cookies associated with a specified URL. I suggest reading (which also explains why it sometimes does not work with direct transfer of cookies between WebBrowser and HttpWebRequest Request.CookieContainer.SetCookies(Url, webBrowser1.Document.Cookie) and By default, the cookies returned from this function will not include any HTTPOnly cookies; to retrieve HTTPOnly cookies, you have to pass the INTERNET_COOKIE_HTTPONLY flag.

[DllImport("wininet.dll", CharSet = CharSet.Auto, SetLastError = true)]
static extern bool InternetGetCookieEx(string pchURL, string pchCookieName, 
  StringBuilder pchCookieData, ref uint pcchCookieData, int dwFlags, IntPtr lpReserved);
const int INTERNET_COOKIE_HTTPONLY = 0x00002000;

private string GetGlobalCookies(string uri)
    uint uiDataSize = 2048;
    StringBuilder sbCookieData = new StringBuilder((int)uiDataSize);
    if (InternetGetCookieEx(uri, null, sbCookieData, ref uiDataSize, 
        INTERNET_COOKIE_HTTPONLY, IntPtr.Zero) && sbCookieData.Length > 0)
           return sbCookieData.ToString().Replace(";", ",");
           return null;

The WebBrowser.DocumentCompleted event occurs when the WebBrowser control finishes loading a document. When this occurs the new document is loaded, which means you can access it. In order to access the form element, I use the getElementById method, so it is simple to set the login and password and then invoke click on the button to send input values.

private void webBrowser1_DocumentCompleted(object sender, WebBrowserDocumentCompletedEventArgs e)
   //login page
   if ((bFirstTime == true) && 
         (e.Url.ToString().Contains(sPageLogin))) //only first time
         bFirstTime = false;
         HtmlElement heElement;
         heElement = (HtmlElement)webBrowser1.Document.GetElementById("UserEmail");
         heElement.InnerText = "name";
         heElement = (HtmlElement)webBrowser1.Document.GetElementById("UserPass");
         heElement.InnerText = "pass";
         heElement = (HtmlElement)webBrowser1.Document.GetElementById("Submit1");
         webBrowser1.Navigate(sWebPath + sPageDw);

In my example I use a Web Application created with ASP.NET to test the Windows application. By default, the ASP.NET page framework uses viewstate to preserve control values between round trips and usually the state is inserted inside a hidden field. In a similar way, Event Validation ensures that events raised on the client originate from the controls rendered in the page and also this value is inserted in a hidden field. When the page is posted back to the server, the ASP.NET page framework re-computes the hash value of the viewState and event validation and compares it with the value stored in the view state. For this reason it is important to read the page twice, first time for reading and saving the value of these particular input fields, and second time to send them back to the server with the other value (in this example, the name typed). I use Live HTTP Headers (add-ons for Firefox – Mozilla) to see the HTTP requests and responses; it was very useful for me to be able to display the browser request and to try to recreate it with the HttpWebRequest object.

///get cookie 
string sTmpCookieString =GetGlobalCookies(webBrowser1.Url.AbsoluteUri);//call InternetGetCookieEx

//first request to extract __VIEWSTATE and __EVENTVALIDATION use get
string sPageData;
string PathRemote = sWebPath + sPageDw;
HttpWebRequest fstRequest = (HttpWebRequest)WebRequest.Create(PathRemote);
fstRequest.Method = "GET";
fstRequest.CookieContainer = new System.Net.CookieContainer();
fstRequest.CookieContainer.SetCookies(webBrowser1.Document.Url, sTmpCookieString);//pass cookie
HttpWebResponse fstResponse = (HttpWebResponse)fstRequest.GetResponse();
StreamReader sr = new StreamReader(fstResponse.GetResponseStream());
sPageData = sr.ReadToEnd();

//extract and save value of viewstate and eventValidation from input hidden
string sViewState = ExtractInputHidden(sPageData, "__VIEWSTATE");
string sEventValidation = this.ExtractInputHidden(sPageData, "__EVENTVALIDATION");
//second request post all values and save generated file
string sUrl = sWebPath + sPageDw;
HttpWebRequest hwrRequest = (HttpWebRequest)WebRequest.Create(sUrl);
hwrRequest.Method = "POST";
hwrRequest.CookieContainer = new System.Net.CookieContainer();
  sViewState + "&__EVENTVALIDATION=" + sEventValidation + 
  "&Name=" + sMyName + "&Button1=Button";
byte[] bByteArray = Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(sPostData);
hwrRequest.ContentType = "application/x-www-form-urlencoded";
hwrRequest.CookieContainer.SetCookies(webBrowser1.Document.Url, sTmpCookieString);//pass cookie
hwrRequest.ContentLength = bByteArray.Length;
Stream sDataStream = hwrRequest.GetRequestStream();
sDataStream.Write(bByteArray, 0, bByteArray.Length);
using (WebResponse response = hwrRequest.GetResponse())
     using (sDataStream = response.GetResponseStream())
          StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(sDataStream);
               //get original file name
               string sHeader = response.Headers["Content-Disposition"];
               int iFileNameStartIndex = sHeader.IndexOf("filename=") + 
               int iFileNameLength = sHeader.Length - iFileNameStartIndex;
               string sFileName = sHeader.Substring(iFileNameStartIndex, iFileNameLength); 
               string sResponseFromServer = reader.ReadToEnd();
	           //save the file
               FileStream fs = File.Open(sLocalPath + sFileName, 
                                FileMode.OpenOrCreate, FileAccess.Write);
               Byte[] info = new System.Text.UTF8Encoding(true).GetBytes(sResponseFromServer);
               fs.Write(info, 0, info.Length); 

If the session is lost or there are other problems, I close the program and write the error in the log file when the timer generates the event tick.

Points of interest

The most interesting part of the project is to pass authentication from the WebBrowser control to the HttpWebRequest object. In this way it is possible to bypass the problem of the dialog box, always keeping the control within the application.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Erika Chinchio
Web Developer E-Group s.r.l.
Italy Italy
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

Questionphp page download Pin
Member 1217702521-Mar-17 9:26
MemberMember 1217702521-Mar-17 9:26 
QuestionDownload of file with open/save dialog box Pin
Member 823898313-Dec-16 5:30
MemberMember 823898313-Dec-16 5:30 
QuestionHelp me with a link .aspx? Pin
Member 1128128110-Jan-15 10:03
MemberMember 1128128110-Jan-15 10:03 
AnswerRe: Help me with a link .aspx? Pin
Erika Chinchio11-Jan-15 8:56
MemberErika Chinchio11-Jan-15 8:56 
GeneralMessage Closed Pin
11-Jan-15 11:04
MemberMember 1128128111-Jan-15 11:04 
GeneralRe: Help me with a link .aspx? Pin
Erika Chinchio13-Jan-15 6:35
MemberErika Chinchio13-Jan-15 6:35 
Questionlog me out Pin
Mayur Rajai4-Jul-14 2:12
MemberMayur Rajai4-Jul-14 2:12 
AnswerRe: log me out Pin
Erika Chinchio6-Jul-14 2:33
MemberErika Chinchio6-Jul-14 2:33 
Questionvery helpful article Pin
jkb425-Apr-14 6:18
Memberjkb425-Apr-14 6:18 
AnswerRe: very helpful article Pin
Erika Chinchio3-Jun-14 0:05
MemberErika Chinchio3-Jun-14 0:05 
Questionnice work :) i was looking for a way to do this :) Pin
dontumindit18-Nov-13 6:32
Memberdontumindit18-Nov-13 6:32 
AnswerRe: nice work :) i was looking for a way to do this :) Pin
Erika Chinchio18-Nov-13 9:52
MemberErika Chinchio18-Nov-13 9:52 
GeneralRe: nice work :) i was looking for a way to do this :) Pin
dontumindit19-Nov-13 1:45
Memberdontumindit19-Nov-13 1:45 
GeneralRe: nice work :) i was looking for a way to do this :) Pin
Erika Chinchio19-Nov-13 9:44
MemberErika Chinchio19-Nov-13 9:44 
QuestionGreat work madam. Pin
Ashok-Rangu2-Oct-13 18:19
professionalAshok-Rangu2-Oct-13 18:19 
AnswerRe: Great work madam. Pin
Erika Chinchio2-Oct-13 20:38
MemberErika Chinchio2-Oct-13 20:38 
GeneralRe: Great work madam. Pin
Er. Abhinav Kumar Singh7-Oct-13 23:20
professionalEr. Abhinav Kumar Singh7-Oct-13 23:20 
SuggestionHello Mam , A great Effort but you may express it in more efficient manner. Pin
Er. Abhinav Kumar Singh29-Sep-13 23:06
professionalEr. Abhinav Kumar Singh29-Sep-13 23:06 
GeneralRe: Hello Mam , A great Effort but you may express it in more efficient manner. Pin
Erika Chinchio30-Sep-13 0:34
MemberErika Chinchio30-Sep-13 0:34 

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