4.3 Writing Reader Plug-Ins

A minimal reader plug-in consists of an ImageReaderSpi subclass, and an ImageReader subclass. Optionally, it may contain implementations of the IIOMetadata interface representing the stream and image metadata, and an IIOMetadataFormat object describing the structure of the metadata.

In the following sections, we will sketch out the implementation of a simple reader plug-in for a hypothetical format called "MyFormat". It will consist of the classes MyFormatImageReaderSpi, MyFormatImageReader, and MyFormatMetadata.

The format itself is defined to begin with the characters `myformat\n', followed by two four-byte integers representing the width, height, and a single byte indicating the color type of the image, which may be either gray or RGB. Next, after a newline character, metadata values may stored as alternating lines containing a keyword and a value, terminated by the special keyword `END'. The string values are stored using UTF8 encoding followed by a newline. Finally, the image samples are stored in left-to-right, top-to-bottom order as either byte grayscale values, or three bytes representing red, green, and blue.

MyFormatImageReaderSpi The MyFormatImageReaderSpi class provides information about the plug-in, including the vendor name, plug-in version string and description, format name, file suffixes associated with the format, MIME types associated with the format, input source classes that the plug-in can handle, and the ImageWriterSpis of plug-ins that are able to interoperate specially with the reader. It also must provide an implementation of the canDecodeInput method, which is used to locate plug-ins based on the contents of a source image file.

The ImageReaderSpi class provides implementations of most of its methods. These methods mainly return the value of various protected instance variables, which the MyFormatImageReaderSpi may set directly or via the superclass constructor, as in the example below:

package com.mycompany.imageio;

import java.util.Locale;
import javax.imageio.ImageReader;
import javax.imageio.spi.ImageReaderSpi;

public class MyFormatImageReaderSpi extends ImageReaderSpi {

        static final String vendorName = "My Company";
        static final String version = "1.0_beta33_build9467";
        static final String readerClassName =
        static final String[] names = { "myformat" };
        static final String[] suffixes = { "myf" };
        static final String[] MIMETypes = {
                "image/x-myformat" };
        static final String[] writerSpiNames = {
                "com.mycompany.imageio.MyFormatImageWriterSpi" };

        // Metadata formats, more information below
        static final boolean supportsStandardStreamMetadataFormat = false;
        static final String nativeStreamMetadataFormatName = null
        static final String nativeStreamMetadataFormatClassName = null;
        static final String[] extraStreamMetadataFormatNames = null;
        static final String[] extraStreamMetadataFormatClassNames = null;
        static final boolean supportsStandardImageMetadataFormat = false;
        static final String nativeImageMetadataFormatName =
        static final String nativeImageMetadataFormatClassName =
        static final String[] extraImageMetadataFormatNames = null;
        static final String[] extraImageMetadataFormatClassNames = null;

        public MyFormatImageReaderSpi() {
                super(vendorName, version,
                      names, suffixes, MIMETypes,
                      STANDARD_INPUT_TYPE, // Accept ImageInputStreams

                public String getDescription(Locale locale) {
                        // Localize as appropriate
                        return "Description goes here";

                public boolean canDecodeInput(Object input)
                        throws IOException {
                        // see below

            public ImageReader createReaderInstance(Object extension) {
                return new MyFormatImageReader(this);

Most plug-ins need read only from ImageInputStream sources, since it is possible to "wrap" most other types of input with an appropriate ImageInputStream. However, it is possible for a plug-in to work directly with other Objects, for example an Object that provides an interface to a digital camera or scanner. This interface need not provide a "stream" view of the device at all. Rather, a plug-in that is aware of the interface may use it to drive the device directly.

The plug-in advertises which input classes it can handle via its getInputTypes method, which returns an array of Class objects. An implementation of getInputTypes is provided in the superclass, which returns the value of the inputTypes instance variable, which in turn is set by the seventh argument to the superclass constructor. The value used in the example above, STANDARD_INPUT_TYPE, is shorthand for an array containing the single element, indicating that the plug-in accepts only ImageInputStreams.

The canDecodeInput method is responsible for determining two things: first, whether the input parameter is an instance of a class that the plug-in can understand, and second, whether the file contents appear to be in the format handled by the plug-in. It must leave its input in the same state as it was when it was passed in. For an ImageInputStream input source, the mark and reset methods may be used. For example, since files in the "MyFormat" format all begin with the characters `myformat', canDecodeInput may be implemented as:

public boolean canDecodeInput(Object input) {
        if (!(input instanceof ImageInputStream)) {
                return false;

        ImageInputStream stream = (ImageInputStream)input;
        byte[] b = new byte[8];
        try {
        } catch (IOException e) {
                return false;

        // Cast unsigned character constants prior to comparison
        return (b[0] == (byte)'m' && b[1] == (byte)'y' &&
                b[2] == (byte)'f' && b[3] == (byte)'o' &&
                b[4] == (byte)'r' && b[5] == (byte)'m' &&               
                b[6] == (byte)'a' && b[7] == (byte)'t');
MyFormatImageReader The heart of a reader plug-in is its extension of the ImageReader class. This class is responsible for responding to queries about the images actually stored in an input file or stream, as well as the actual reading of images, thumbnails, and metadata. For simplicity, we will ignore thumbnail images in this example.

A sketch of some of the methods of a hypothetical MyFormatImageReader class is shown below:

package com.mycompany.imageio;

public class MyFormatImageReader extends ImageReader {

        ImageInputStream stream = null;
        int width, height;
        int colorType;
        // Constants enumerating the values of colorType
        static final int COLOR_TYPE_GRAY = 0;
        static final int COLOR_TYPE_RGB = 1;

        boolean gotHeader = false;

        public MyFormatImageReader(ImageReaderSpi originatingProvider) {

        public void setInput(Object input, boolean isStreamable) {
                super.setInput(input, isStreamable);
                if (input == null) {
               = null;
                if (input instanceof ImageInputStream) {
               = (ImageInputStream)input;
                } else {
                        throw new IllegalArgumentException("bad input");

        public int getNumImages(boolean allowSearch)
                throws IIOException {
                return 1; // format can only encode a single image

        private void checkIndex(int imageIndex) {
                if (imageIndex != 0) {
                        throw new IndexOutOfBoundsException("bad index");

        public int getWidth(int imageIndex)
                throws IIOException {
                checkIndex(imageIndex); // must throw an exception if != 0
                return width;

        public int getHeight(int imageIndex)
                throws IIOException {
                return height;
The getImageTypes Method The reader is responsible for indicating what sorts of images may be used to hold the decoded output. The ImageTypeSpecifier class is used to hold a SampleModel and ColorModel indicating a legal image layout. The getImageTypes method returns an Iterator of ImageTypeSpecifiers:
        public Iterator getImageTypes(int imageIndex)
                throws IIOException {

                ImageTypeSpecifier imageType = null;
                int datatype = DataBuffer.TYPE_BYTE;
                java.util.List l = new ArrayList();
                switch (colorType) {
                case COLOR_TYPE_GRAY:
                        imageType = ImageTypeSpecifier.createGrayscale(8,

                case COLOR_TYPE_RGB:
                        ColorSpace rgb =
                        int[] bandOffsets = new int[3];
                        bandOffsets[0] = 0;
                        bandOffsets[1] = 1;
                        bandOffsets[2] = 2;
                        imageType =
                return l.iterator();

Parsing the Image Header Several of the methods above depend on a readHeader method, which is responsible for reading enough of the input stream to determine the width, height, and layout of the image. readHeader is defined so it is safe to be called multiple times (note that we are not concerned with multi-threaded access):
        public void readHeader() {
                if (gotHeader) {
                gotHeader = true;

                if (stream == null) {
                        throw new IllegalStateException("No input stream");

                // Read `myformat\n' from the stream
                byte[] signature = new byte[9];
                try {
                } catch (IOException e) {
                        throw new IIOException("Error reading signature", e);
                if (signature[0] != (byte)'m' || ...) { // etc.
                        throw new IIOException("Bad file signature!");
                // Read width, height, color type, newline
                try {
                        this.width = stream.readInt();
                        this.height = stream.readInt();
                        this.colorType = stream.readUnsignedByte();
                        stream.readUnsignedByte(); // skip newline character
                } catch (IOException e) {
                        throw new IIOException("Error reading header", e)
The actual reading of the image is handled by the read method:
        public BufferedImage read(int imageIndex, ImageReadParam param)
                throws IIOException {
                readMetadata(); // Stream is positioned at start of image data

Handling the ImageReadParam The first section of the method is concerned with using a supplied ImageReadParam object to determine what region of the source image is to be read, what sort of subsampling is to be applied, the selection and rearrangement of bands, and the offset in the destination:
        // Compute initial source region, clip against destination later
        Rectangle sourceRegion = getSourceRegion(param, width, height);
        // Set everything to default values
        int sourceXSubsampling = 1;
        int sourceYSubsampling = 1;
        int[] sourceBands = null;
        int[] destinationBands = null;
        Point destinationOffset = new Point(0, 0);

        // Get values from the ImageReadParam, if any
        if (param != null) {
                sourceXSubsampling = param.getSourceXSubsampling();
                sourceYSubsampling = param.getSourceYSubsampling();
                sourceBands = param.getSourceBands();
                destinationBands = param.getDestinationBands();
                destinationOffset = param.getDestinationOffset();

At this point, the region of interest, subsampling, band selection, and destination offset have been initialized. The next step is to create a suitable destination image. The ImageReader.getDestination method will return any image that was specified using ImageReadParam.setDestination, or else will create a suitable destination image using a supplied ImageTypeSpecifier, in this case determined by calling getImageTypes(0):
        // Get the specified detination image or create a new one
        BufferedImage dst = getDestination(param,
                                           width, height);
        // Enure band settings from param are compatible with images
        int inputBands = (colorType == COLOR_TYPE_RGB) ? 3 : 1;
        checkReadParamBandSettings(param, inputBands,

To reduce the amount of code we have to write, we create a Raster to hold a row's worth of data, and copy the pixels from that Raster into the actual image. In this way, band selection and the details of pixel formatting are taken care of, at the expense of an additional copy.
        int[] bandOffsets = new int[inputBands];
        for (int i = 0; i < inputBands; i++) {
                bandOffsets[i] = i;
        int bytesPerRow = width*inputBands;
        DataBufferByte rowDB = new DataBufferByte(bytesPerRow);
        WritableRaster rowRas =
                                               width, 1, bytesPerRow,
                                               inputBands, bandOffsets,
                                               new Point(0, 0));
        byte[] rowBuf = rowDB.getData();

        // Create an int[] that can a single pixel
        int[] pixel = rowRas.getPixel(0, 0, (int[])null);

Now we have a byte array, rowBuf, which can be filled in from the input data, and which is also the source of pixel data for the Raster rowRaster. We extract the (single) tile of the destination image, and determine its extent. Then we create child rasters of both the source and destination that select and order their bands according to the settings previously extracted from the ImageReadParam:
        WritableRaster imRas = dst.getWritableTile(0, 0);
        int dstMinX = imRas.getMinX();
        int dstMaxX = dstMinX + imRas.getWidth() - 1;
        int dstMinY = imRas.getMinY();
        int dstMaxY = dstMinY + imRas.getHeight() - 1;

        // Create a child raster exposing only the desired source bands
        if (sourceBands != null) {
                rowRas = rowRas.createWritableChild(0, 0,
                                                    width, 1,
                                                    0, 0,

        // Create a child raster exposing only the desired dest bands
        if (destinationBands != null) {
                imRas = imRas.createWritableChild(0, 0,
                                                  0, 0,
Reading the Pixel Data Now we are ready to begin read pixel data from the image. We will read whole rows, and perform subsampling and destination clipping as we proceed. The horizontal clipping is complicated by the need to take subsampling into account. Here we perform per-pixel clipping; a more sophisticated reader could perform horizontal clipping once:
        for (int srcY = 0; srcY < height; srcY++) {
                // Read the row
                try {
                } catch (IOException e) {
                        throw new IIOException("Error reading line " + srcY, e);
                // Reject rows that lie outside the source region,
                // or which aren't part of the subsampling
                if ((srcY < sourceRegion.y) ||
                    (srcY >= sourceRegion.y + sourceRegion.height) ||
                    (((srcY - sourceRegion.y) %
                      sourceYSubsampling) != 0)) {

                // Determine where the row will go in the destination
                int dstY = destinationOffset.y +
                        (srcY - sourceRegion.y)/sourceYSubsampling;
                if (dstY < dstMinY) {
                        continue; // The row is above imRas
                if (dstY > dstMaxY) {
                        break; // We're done with the image

                // Copy each (subsampled) source pixel into imRas
                for (int srcX = sourceRegion.x;
                     srcX < sourceRegion.x + sourceRegion.width;
                     srcX++) {
                        if (((srcX - sourceRegion.x) % sourceXSubsampling) != 0) {
                        int dstX = destinationOffset.x +
                                (srcX - sourceRegion.x)/sourceXSubsampling;
                        if (dstX < dstMinX) {
                                continue;  // The pixel is to the left of imRas
                        if (dstX > dstMaxX) {
                                break; // We're done with the row

                        // Copy the pixel, sub-banding is done automatically
                        rowRas.getPixel(srcX, 0, pixel);
                        imRas.setPixel(dstX, dstY, pixel);
        return dst;
For performance, the case where sourceXSubsampling is equal to 1 may be broken out separately, since it is possible to copy multiple pixels at once:
        // Create an int[] that can hold a row's worth of pixels
        int[] pixels = rowRas.getPixels(0, 0, width, 1, (int[])null);

        // Clip against the left and right edges of the destination image
        int srcMinX =
                     dstMinX - destinationOffset.x + sourceRegion.x);
      int srcMaxX =
                Math.min(sourceRegion.x + sourceRegion.width - 1,
                         dstMaxX - destinationOffset.x + sourceRegion.x);
        int dstX = destinationOffset.x + (srcMinX - sourceRegion.x);
        int w = srcMaxX - srcMinX + 1;
        rowRas.getPixels(srcMinX, 0, w, 1, pixels);
        imRas.setPixels(dstX, dstY, w, 1, pixels);
There are several additional features that readers should implement, namely informing listeners of the progress of the read, and allowing the read process to be aborted from another thread. Listeners There are three types of listeners that may be attached to a reader: IIOReadProgressListener, IIOReadUpdateListener, and IIOReadWarningListener. Any number of each type may be attached to a reader by means of various add and remove methods that are implemented in the ImageReader superclass. ImageReader also contains various process methods that broadcast information to all of the attached listeners of a given type. For example, when the image read begins, the method processImageStarted(imageIndex) should be called to inform all attached IIOReadProgressListeners of the event.

A reader plug-in is normally responsible for calling processImageStarted and processImageComplete at the beginning and end of its read method, respectively. processImageProgress should be called at least every few scanlines with an estimate of the percentage completion of the read. It is important that this percentage never decrease during the read of a single image. If the reader supports thumbnails, the corresponsing thumbnail progress methods should be called as well. The processSequenceStarted and processSequenceComplete methods of IIOReadProgressListener only need to be called if the plug-in overrides the superclass implementation of readAll.

More advanced readers that process incoming data in multiple passes may choose to support IIOReadUpdateListeners, which receive more detauled information about which pixels have been read so far. Applications may use this information to perform selective updates of an on-screen image, for example, or to re-encode image data in a streaming fashion.

Aborting the Read Process While one thread performs an image read, another thread may call the reader's abort method asynchronously. The reading thread should poll the reader's status periodically using the abortRequested method, and attempt to cut the decoding short. The partially decoded image should still be returned, although the reader need not make any guarantees about its contents. For example, it could contain compressed or encrypted data in its DataBuffer that does not make sense visually. IIOReadProgressListener Example A typical set of IIOReadProgressListener calls might look like this:

public BufferedImage read(int imageIndex, ImageReadParam param)
        throws IOException {
        // Clear any previous abort request
        boolean aborted = false;

        // Inform IIOReadProgressListeners of the start of the image

        // Compute xMin, yMin, xSkip, ySkip from the ImageReadParam
        // ...

        // Create a suitable image
        BufferedImage theImage = new BufferedImage(...);

        // Compute factors for use in reporting percentages
        int pixelsPerRow = (width - xMin + xSkip - 1)/xSkip;
        int rows = (height - yMin + ySkip - 1)/ySkip;
        long pixelsDecoded = 0L;
        long totalPixels = rows*pixelsPerRow;

        for (int y = yMin; y < height; y += yskip) {
                // Decode a (subsampled) scanline of the image
                // ...

                // Update the percentage estimate
                // This may be done only every few rows if desired
                pixelsDecoded += pixelsPerRow;

                // Check for an asynchronous abort request
                if (abortRequested()) {
                        aborted = true;

        // Handle the end of decoding
        if (aborted) {
        } else {

        // If the read was aborted, we still return a partially decoded image
        return theImage;
Metadata The next set of methods in MyFormatImageReader deal with metadata. Because our hypothetical format only encodes a single image, we may ignore the concept of "stream" metadata, and use "image" metadata only:
        MyFormatMetadata metadata = null; // class defined below

        public IIOMetadata getStreamMetadata()
                throws IIOException {
                return null;

        public IIOMetadata getImageMetadata(int imageIndex)
                throws IIOException {
                if (imageIndex != 0) {
                        throw new IndexOutOfBoundsException("imageIndex != 0!");
                return metadata;

The actual work is done by a format-specific method readMetadata, which for this format fills in the keyword/value pairs of the metadata object,
        public void readMetadata() throws IIOException {
                if (metadata != null) {
                this.metadata = new MyFormatMetadata();
                try {
                        while (true) {
                                String keyword = stream.readUTF();
                                if (keyword.equals("END")) {
                                String value = stream.readUTF();

                        } catch (IIOException e) {
                                throw new IIOException("Exception reading metadata",

MyFormatMetadata Finally, the various interfaces for extracting and editing metadata must be defined. We define a class called MyFormatMetadata that extends the IIOMetadata class, and additionally can store the keyword/value pairs that are allowed in the file format:
package com.mycompany.imageio;

import org.w3c.dom.*;
import javax.xml.parsers.*; // Package name may change in J2SDK 1.4

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.Iterator;
import java.util.List;
import javax.imageio.metadata.IIOInvalidTreeException;
import javax.imageio.metadata.IIOMetadata;
import javax.imageio.metadata.IIOMetadataFormat;
import javax.imageio.metadata.IIOMetadataNode;

public class MyFormatMetadata extends IIOMetadata {

        static final boolean standardMetadataFormatSupported = false;
        static final String nativeMetadataFormatName =
        static final String nativeMetadataFormatClassName =
        static final String[] extraMetadataFormatNames = null;
        static final String[] extraMetadataFormatClassNames = null;
        // Keyword/value pairs
        List keywords = new ArrayList();
        List values = new ArrayList();
The first set of methods are common to most IIOMetadata implementations:
        public MyFormatMetadata() {

        public IIOMetadataFormat getMetadataFormat(String formatName) {
                if (!formatName.equals(nativeMetadataFormatName)) {
                        throw new IllegalArgumentException("Bad format name!");
                return MyFormatMetadataFormat.getDefaultInstance();

The most important method for reader plug-ins is getAsTree:
        public Node getAsTree(String formatName) {
                if (!formatName.equals(nativeMetadataFormatName)) {
                        throw new IllegalArgumentException("Bad format name!");

                // Create a root node
                IIOMetadataNode root =
                        new IIOMetadataNode(nativeMetadataFormatName);

                // Add a child to the root node for each keyword/value pair
                Iterator keywordIter = keywords.iterator();
                Iterator valueIter = values.iterator();
                while (keywordIter.hasNext()) {
                        IIOMetadataNode node =
                                new IIOMetadataNode("KeywordValuePair");
                        node.setAttribute("keyword", (String);
                        node.setAttribute("value", (String);

                return root;
For writer plug-ins, the ability to edit metadata values is obtained by implementing the isReadOnly, reset, and mergeTree methods:
        public boolean isReadOnly() {
            return false;

        public void reset() {
            this.keywords = new ArrayList();
            this.values = new ArrayList();

        public void mergeTree(String formatName, Node root)
                throws IIOInvalidTreeException {
                if (!formatName.equals(nativeMetadataFormatName)) {
                        throw new IllegalArgumentException("Bad format name!");

                Node node = root;
                if (!node.getNodeName().equals(nativeMetadataFormatName)) {
                        fatal(node, "Root must be " + nativeMetadataFormatName);
                node = node.getFirstChild();
                while (node != null) {
                        if (!node.getNodeName().equals("KeywordValuePair")) {
                                fatal(node, "Node name not KeywordValuePair!");
                        NamedNodeMap attributes = node.getAttributes();
                        Node keywordNode = attributes.getNamedItem("keyword");
                        Node valueNode = attributes.getNamedItem("value");
                        if (keywordNode == null || valueNode == null) {
                                fatal(node, "Keyword or value missing!");

                        // Store keyword and value

                        // Move to the next sibling
                        node = node.getNextSibling();

        private void fatal(Node node, String reason)
                throws IIOInvalidTreeException {
                throw new IIOInvalidTreeException(reason, node);
MyFormatMetadataFormat The tree structure of the metadata may be described using the IIOMetadataFormat interface. An implementation class, IIOMetadataFormatImpl, takes care of maintaining the "database" of information about elements, their attributes, and the parent-child relationships between them:
package com.mycompany.imageio;

import javax.imageio.ImageTypeSpecifier;
import javax.imageio.metadata.IIOMetadataFormatImpl;

public class MyFormatMetadataFormat extends IIOMetadataFormatImpl {

        // Create a single instance of this class (singleton pattern)
        private static MyFormatMetadataFormat defaultInstance =
                new MyFormatMetadataFormat();

        // Make constructor private to enforce the singleton pattern
        private MyFormatMetadataFormat() {
                // Set the name of the root node
                // The root node has a single child node type that may repeat

                // Set up the "KeywordValuePair" node, which has no children

                // Set up attribute "keyword" which is a String that is required
                // and has no default value
                addAttribute("KeywordValuePair", "keyword", DATATYPE_STRING,
                             true, null);
                // Set up attribute "value" which is a String that is required
                // and has no default value
                addAttribute("KeywordValuePair", "value", DATATYPE_STRING,
                             true, null);

        // Check for legal element name
        public boolean canNodeAppear(String elementName,
                                     ImageTypeSpecifier imageType) {
                return elementName.equals("KeywordValuePair");

        // Return the singleton instance
        public static MyFormatMetadataFormat getDefaultInstance() {
                return defaultInstance;


Copyright © 1993, 2018, Oracle and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.