HTTP/1.1 defines the Content-Disposition response header field, but points out that it is not part of the HTTP/1.1 Standard. This specification takes over the definition and registration of Content-Disposition, as used in HTTP, and clarifies internationalization aspects.
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This specification is expected to replace the definition of Content-Disposition in the HTTP/1.1 specification, as currently revised by the IETF HTTPbis working group. See also <http://www3.tools.ietf.org/wg/httpbis/trac/ticket/123>.
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Content-Disposition is not part of the HTTP standard, but since it is widely implemented, we are documenting its use and risks for implementors.
This specification takes over the definition and registration of Content-Disposition, as used in HTTP. Based on interoperability testing with existing User Agents, it fully defines a profile of the features defined in the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) variant ([RFC2183]) of the header field, and also clarifies internationalization aspects.¶
The Content-Disposition response header field is used to convey additional information about how to process the response payload, and also can be used to attach additional metadata, such as the filename.¶
content-disposition = "Content-Disposition" ":" disposition-type *( ";" disposition-parm ) disposition-type = "inline" | "attachment" | disp-ext-type ; case-insensitive disp-ext-type = token disposition-parm = filename-parm | disp-ext-parm filename-parm = "filename" "=" value | "filename*" "=" ext-value disp-ext-parm = token "=" value | ext-token "=" ext-value ext-token = <the characters in token, followed by "*">
Defined in [RFC2616]:
token = <token, defined in [RFC2616], Section 2.2> value = <value, defined in [RFC2616], Section 3.6>
If the disposition type matches "attachment" (case-insensitively), this indicates that the user agent should not display the response, but directly enter a "save as..." dialog.¶
On the other hand, if it matches "inline" (case-insensitively), this implies default processing.¶
The parameters "filename" and "filename*", to be matched case-insensitively, provide information on how to construct a filename for storing the message payload.¶
Depending on the disposition type, this information might be used right away (in the "save as..." interaction caused for the "attachment" disposition type), or later on (for instance, when the user decides to save the contents of the current page being displayed).¶
"filename" and "filename*" behave the same, except that "filename*" uses the encoding defined in [RFC5987], allowing the use of characters not present in the ISO-8859-1 character set ([ISO-8859-1]). When both "filename" and "filename*" are present, a recipient SHOULD pick "filename*" and ignore "filename" - this will make it possible to send the same header value to clients that do not support "filename*".¶
It is essential that user agents treat the specified filename as advisory only, thus be very careful in extracting the desired information. In particular: ¶
When the value contains path separator characters, all but the last segment SHOULD be ignored. This prevents unintentional overwriting of well-known file system location (such as "/etc/passwd").
Many platforms do not use Internet Media Types ([RFC2046]) to hold type information in the file system, but rely on filename extensions instead. Trusting the server-provided file extension could introduce a privilege escalation when later on the file is opened locally (consider ".exe"). Thus, recipients need to ensure that a file extension is used that is safe, optimally matching the media type of the received payload.
Other aspects recipients need to be aware of are names that have a special meaning in the filesystem or in shell commands, such as "." and "..", "~", "|", and also device names.
Direct UA to show "save as" dialog, with a filename of "foo.html":
Content-Disposition: Attachment; filename=foo.html
Direct UA to behave as if the Content-Disposition header field wasn't present, but to remember the filename "foo.html" for a subsequent save operation:
Content-Disposition: INLINE; FILENAME= "foo.html"
Direct UA to show "save as" dialog, with a filename of "an example":
Content-Disposition: Attachment; Filename*=UTF-8'en'an%20example
Note that this example uses the extended encoding defined in [RFC5987] to specify that the natural language of the filename is English, and also to encode the space character which is not allowed in the token production.
Direct UA to show "save as" dialog, with a filename containing the Unicode character U+20AC (EURO SIGN):
Content-Disposition: attachment; filename*= UTF-8''%e2%82%ac%20rates
Here, the encoding defined in [RFC5987] is also used to encode the non-ISO-8859-1 character.
Same as above, but adding the "filename" parameter for compatibility with user agents not implementing RFC 5987:
Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="EURO rates"; filename*=utf-8''%e2%82%ac%20rates
Note: as of August 2010, many user agents unfortunately did not properly handle unexpected parameters, and some that implement RFC 5987 did not pick the extended parameter when both were present.
The "filename*" parameter (Section 3.3), using the encoding defined in [RFC5987], allows the server to transmit characters outside the ISO-8859-1 character set, and also to optionally specify the language in use.¶
Future parameters might also require internationalization, in which case the same encoding can be used.¶
Thanks to Rolf Eike Beer, Alfred Hoenes, and Roar Lauritzsen for their valuable feedback.¶
By default, HTTP header field parameters cannot carry characters outside the ISO-8859-1 ([ISO-8859-1]) character encoding (see [RFC2616], Section 2.2). For the "filename" parameter, this of course is an unacceptable restriction.¶
Unfortunately, user agent implementers have not managed to come up with an interoperable approach, although the IETF Standards Track specifies exactly one solution ([RFC2231], clarified and profiled for HTTP in [RFC5987]).¶
For completeness, the sections below describe the various approaches that have been tried, and explains how they are inferior to the RFC 5987 encoding used in this specification.¶
An 'encoded-word' MUST NOT appear within a 'quoted-string'.
An 'encoded-word' MUST NOT be used in parameter of a MIME Content-Type or Content-Disposition field, or in any structured field body except within a 'comment' or 'phrase'.
In practice, some user agents implement the encoding, some do not (exposing the encoded string to the user), and some get confused by it.¶
In practice, this is hard to use because those user agents that do not support it will display the escaped character sequence to the user.¶
Furthermore, the first user agent to implement this did choose the encoding based on local settings; thus making it very hard to use in multi-lingual environments.¶
Some user agents inspect the value (which defaults to ISO-8859-1) and switch to UTF-8 when it seems to be more likely to be the correct interpretation.¶
As with the approaches above, this is not interoperable and furthermore risks misinterpreting the actual value.¶
Unfortunately, as of August 2010, neither the encoding defined in RFCs 2231 and 5789, nor any of the alternate approaches discussed above was implemented interoperably. Thus, this specification recommends the approach defined in RFC 5987, which at least has the advantage of actually being specified properly.¶
|User Agent||RFC 2231/5987||RFC 2047||Percent Encoding||Encoding Sniffing|
(*) Does not implement the fallback behavior to "filename" described in Section 3.3.
Adjust terminology ("header" -> "header field"). Update rfc2231-in-http reference.¶
Update rfc2231-in-http reference. Actually define the "filename" parameter. Add internationalization considerations. Add examples using the RFC 5987 encoding. Add overview over other approaches, plus a table reporting implementation status. Add and resolve issue "nodep2183". Add issues "asciivsiso", "deplboth", "quoted", and "registry".¶
Add and close issue "docfallback". Close issues "asciivsiso", "deplboth", "quoted", and "registry".¶