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Version: v20 BETA


A BLOB (Binary Large OBject) field, variable or expression is a contiguous series of bytes that can be treated as one whole object, or whose bytes can be addressed individually.

A blob is loaded into memory in its entirety. A blob variable is held and exists in memory only. A blob field is loaded into memory from the disk, like the rest of the record to which it belongs.

Like other field types that can retain a large amount of data (such as the Picture field type), Blob fields are not duplicated in memory when you modify a record. Consequently, the result returned by the Old and Modified commands is not significant when applied to a Blob field.

Blob Types

Using the 4D language, there are two ways to handle a blob:

  • as a scalar value: a blob can be stored in a Blob variable or field and altered.
  • as an object (4D.Blob): a 4D.Blob is a blob object. You can encapsulate a blob or part of it in a 4D.Blob without altering the original blob. This method is called boxing. For more info on how to instantiate a 4D.Blob, see Blob Class.

Each blob type has its advantages. Use the following table to determine which one suits your needs:

Shareable in objects and collectionsNoYes
Passed by reference*NoYes
Performance when accessing bytes+-
Maximum size2GBMemory

*Unlike the 4D commands designed to take a scalar blob as a parameter, passing a scalar blob to a method duplicates it in memory. When working with methods, using blob objects (4D.Blob) is more efficient, as they are passed by reference.

By default, 4D sets the maximum size of scalar blobs to 2GB, but this size limit may be lower depending on your OS and how much space is available.

You cannot use operators on blobs.

Checking if a variable holds a scalar blob or a 4D.Blob

Use the Value type command to determine if a value is of type Blob or Object. To check that an object is a blob object (4D.Blob), use OB instance of:

var $myBlob: Blob
var $myBlobObject: 4D.Blob

$type:= Value type($myblobObject) // 38 (object)
$is4DBlob:= OB Instance of($myblobObject; 4D.Blob) //True

Passing blobs as parameters

Scalar blobs and blob objects can be passed as parameters to 4D commands or plug-in routines that expect blob parameters.

Passing blobs and blob objects to 4D commands

You can pass a scalar blob or a 4D.Blob to any 4D command that takes a blob as a parameter:

var $myBlob: 4D.Blob
CONVERT FROM TEXT("Hello, World!"; "UTF-8"; $myBlob)
$myText:= BLOB to text( $myBlob ; UTF8 text without length )

Some 4D commands alter the original blob, and thus do not support the 4D.Blob type:

Passing blobs and blob objects to methods

You can pass blobs and blob objects (4D.Blob) to methods. Keep in mind that unlike blob objects, which are passed by reference, scalar blobs are duplicated in memory when passed to methods.

Passing a scalar blob by reference using a pointer

To pass a scalar blob to your own methods without duplicating it in memory, define a pointer to the variable that stores it and pass the pointer as a parameter.


// Declare a variable of type Blob
var $myBlobVar: Blob
// Pass the blob as parameter to a 4D command
SET BLOB SIZE($myBlobVar;1024*1024)
// Pass the blob as parameter to an external routine
$errCode:=Do Something With This blob($myBlobVar)
// Pass the blob as a parameter to a method that returns a blob
var $retrieveBlob: Blob
// Pass a pointer to the blob as a parameter to your own method,
COMPUTE BLOB(->$myBlobVar)

Note for Plug-in developers: A BLOB parameter is declared as “&O” (the letter “O”, not the digit “0”).

Assigning a blob variable to another

You can assign a Blob variable to another:


// Declare two variables of type Blob
var $vBlobA; $vBlobB : Blob
// Set the size of the first blob to 10K
SET BLOB SIZE($vBlobA;10*1024)
// Assign the first blob to the second one

Automatic conversion of blob type

4D automatically converts scalar blobs to blob objects, and vice versa, when they're assigned to each other. For example:

// Create a variable of type Blob and an object variable
var $myBlob: Blob
var $myObject : Object

// Assign that blob to a property of $myObject named "blob"
$myObject:=New object("blob"; $myBlob)

// The blob stored in $myBlob is automatically converted to a 4D.Blob
$type:= OB Instance of($myObject.blob; 4D.Blob) //True

// Conversion from 4D.Blob to Blob
$myBlob:= $myObject.blob
$type:= Value type($myBlob) // Blob

When converting a 4D.Blob to a scalar blob, if the size of the 4D.Blob exceeds the maximum size for scalar blobs, the resulting scalar blob is empty. For example, when the maximum size for scalar blobs is 2GB, if you convert a 4D.Blob of 2.5GB to a scalar blob, you obtain an empty blob.

Modifying a scalar blob

Unlike blob objects, scalar blobs can be altered. For example:

var $myBlob : Blob
SET BLOB SIZE ($myBlob ; 16*1024)

Individually accessing bytes in a blob

Accessing a scalar blob's bytes

You can access individual bytes of a scalar blob using curly brackets {}. Within a blob, bytes are numbered from 0 to N-1, where N is the size of the BLOB:

  // Declare a variable of type Blob
var $vBlob : Blob
// Set the size of the blob to 256 bytes
SET BLOB SIZE($vBlob;256)
// The following code loops through the blob to set each byte to zero
For(vByte;0;BLOB size($vBlob)-1)
End for

Since you can address all the bytes of a blob individually, you can store whatever you want in a Blob variable or field.

Accessing a 4D.Blob's bytes

Use square brackets [] to directly access a specific byte in a 4D.Blob

var $myBlob: 4D.Blob
CONVERT FROM TEXT("Hello, World!"; "UTF-8"; $myBlob)
$myText:= BLOB to text ( $myBlob ; UTF8 text without length )

Since a 4D.Blob cannot be altered, you can read the bytes of a 4D.Blob using this syntax, but not modify them.