When are you supposed to use escape instead of encodeURI / encodeURIComponent?

When encoding a query string to be sent to a web server - when do you use escape() and when do you use encodeURI() or encodeURIComponent():

Use escape:

escape("% +&=");

OR

use encodeURI() / encodeURIComponent()

encodeURI("http://www.google.com?var1=value1&var2=value2");

encodeURIComponent("var1=value1&var2=value2");

Answers:

Answer

escape()

Don't use it! escape() is defined in section B.2.1.2 escape and the introduction text of Annex B says:

... All of the language features and behaviours specified in this annex have one or more undesirable characteristics and in the absence of legacy usage would be removed from this specification. ...
... Programmers should not use or assume the existence of these features and behaviours when writing new ECMAScript code....

Behaviour:

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/JavaScript/Reference/Global_Objects/escape

Special characters are encoded with the exception of: @*_+-./

The hexadecimal form for characters, whose code unit value is 0xFF or less, is a two-digit escape sequence: %xx.

For characters with a greater code unit, the four-digit format %uxxxx is used. This is not allowed within a query string (as defined in RFC3986):

query       = *( pchar / "/" / "?" )
pchar         = unreserved / pct-encoded / sub-delims / ":" / "@"
unreserved    = ALPHA / DIGIT / "-" / "." / "_" / "~"
pct-encoded   = "%" HEXDIG HEXDIG
sub-delims    = "!" / "$" / "&" / "'" / "(" / ")"
              / "*" / "+" / "," / ";" / "="

A percent sign is only allowed if it is directly followed by two hexdigits, percent followed by u is not allowed.

encodeURI()

Use encodeURI when you want a working URL. Make this call:

encodeURI("http://www.example.org/a file with spaces.html")

to get:

http://www.example.org/a%20file%20with%20spaces.html

Don't call encodeURIComponent since it would destroy the URL and return

http%3A%2F%2Fwww.example.org%2Fa%20file%20with%20spaces.html

encodeURIComponent()

Use encodeURIComponent when you want to encode the value of a URL parameter.

var p1 = encodeURIComponent("http://example.org/?a=12&b=55")

Then you may create the URL you need:

var url = "http://example.net/?param1=" + p1 + "&param2=99";

And you will get this complete URL:

http://example.net/?param1=http%3A%2F%2Fexample.org%2F%Ffa%3D12%26b%3D55&param2=99

Note that encodeURIComponent does not escape the ' character. A common bug is to use it to create html attributes such as href='MyUrl', which could suffer an injection bug. If you are constructing html from strings, either use " instead of ' for attribute quotes, or add an extra layer of encoding (' can be encoded as %27).

For more information on this type of encoding you can check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percent-encoding

Answer

The difference between encodeURI() and encodeURIComponent() are exactly 11 characters encoded by encodeURIComponent but not by encodeURI:

Table with the ten differences between encodeURI and encodeURIComponent

I generated this table easily with console.table in Google Chrome with this code:

var arr = [];
for(var i=0;i<256;i++) {
  var char=String.fromCharCode(i);
  if(encodeURI(char)!==encodeURIComponent(char)) {
    arr.push({
      character:char,
      encodeURI:encodeURI(char),
      encodeURIComponent:encodeURIComponent(char)
    });
  }
}
console.table(arr);

Answer

I found this article enlightening : Javascript Madness: Query String Parsing

I found it when I was trying to undersand why decodeURIComponent was not decoding '+' correctly. Here is an extract:

String:                         "A + B"
Expected Query String Encoding: "A+%2B+B"
escape("A + B") =               "A%20+%20B"     Wrong!
encodeURI("A + B") =            "A%20+%20B"     Wrong!
encodeURIComponent("A + B") =   "A%20%2B%20B"   Acceptable, but strange

Encoded String:                 "A+%2B+B"
Expected Decoding:              "A + B"
unescape("A+%2B+B") =           "A+++B"       Wrong!
decodeURI("A+%2B+B") =          "A+++B"       Wrong!
decodeURIComponent("A+%2B+B") = "A+++B"       Wrong!
Answer

encodeURIComponent doesn't encode -_.!~*'(), causing problem in posting data to php in xml string.

For example:
<xml><text x="100" y="150" value="It's a value with single quote" /> </xml>

General escape with encodeURI
%3Cxml%3E%3Ctext%20x=%22100%22%20y=%22150%22%20value=%22It's%20a%20value%20with%20single%20quote%22%20/%3E%20%3C/xml%3E

You can see, single quote is not encoded. To resolve issue I created two functions to solve issue in my project, for Encoding URL:

function encodeData(s:String):String{
    return encodeURIComponent(s).replace(/\-/g, "%2D").replace(/\_/g, "%5F").replace(/\./g, "%2E").replace(/\!/g, "%21").replace(/\~/g, "%7E").replace(/\*/g, "%2A").replace(/\'/g, "%27").replace(/\(/g, "%28").replace(/\)/g, "%29");
}

For Decoding URL:

function decodeData(s:String):String{
    try{
        return decodeURIComponent(s.replace(/\%2D/g, "-").replace(/\%5F/g, "_").replace(/\%2E/g, ".").replace(/\%21/g, "!").replace(/\%7E/g, "~").replace(/\%2A/g, "*").replace(/\%27/g, "'").replace(/\%28/g, "(").replace(/\%29/g, ")"));
    }catch (e:Error) {
    }
    return "";
}
Answer

encodeURI() - the escape() function is for javascript escaping, not HTTP.

Answer

Small comparison table Java vs. JavaScript vs. PHP.

1. Java URLEncoder.encode (using UTF8 charset)
2. JavaScript encodeURIComponent
3. JavaScript escape
4. PHP urlencode
5. PHP rawurlencode

char   JAVA JavaScript --PHP---
[ ]     +    %20  %20  +    %20
[!]     %21  !    %21  %21  %21
[*]     *    *    *    %2A  %2A
[']     %27  '    %27  %27  %27 
[(]     %28  (    %28  %28  %28
[)]     %29  )    %29  %29  %29
[;]     %3B  %3B  %3B  %3B  %3B
[:]     %3A  %3A  %3A  %3A  %3A
[@]     %40  %40  @    %40  %40
[&]     %26  %26  %26  %26  %26
[=]     %3D  %3D  %3D  %3D  %3D
[+]     %2B  %2B  +    %2B  %2B
[$]     %24  %24  %24  %24  %24
[,]     %2C  %2C  %2C  %2C  %2C
[/]     %2F  %2F  /    %2F  %2F
[?]     %3F  %3F  %3F  %3F  %3F
[#]     %23  %23  %23  %23  %23
[[]     %5B  %5B  %5B  %5B  %5B
[]]     %5D  %5D  %5D  %5D  %5D
----------------------------------------
[~]     %7E  ~    %7E  %7E  ~
[-]     -    -    -    -    -
[_]     _    _    _    _    _
[%]     %25  %25  %25  %25  %25
[\]     %5C  %5C  %5C  %5C  %5C
----------------------------------------
char  -JAVA-  --JavaScript--  -----PHP------
[ä]   %C3%A4  %C3%A4  %E4     %C3%A4  %C3%A4
[?]   %D1%84  %D1%84  %u0444  %D1%84  %D1%84
Answer

I recommend not to use one of those methods as is. Write your own function which does the right thing.

MDN has given a good example on url encoding shown below.

var fileName = 'my file(2).txt';
var header = "Content-Disposition: attachment; filename*=UTF-8''" + encodeRFC5987ValueChars(fileName);

console.log(header); 
// logs "Content-Disposition: attachment; filename*=UTF-8''my%20file%282%29.txt"


function encodeRFC5987ValueChars (str) {
    return encodeURIComponent(str).
        // Note that although RFC3986 reserves "!", RFC5987 does not,
        // so we do not need to escape it
        replace(/['()]/g, escape). // i.e., %27 %28 %29
        replace(/\*/g, '%2A').
            // The following are not required for percent-encoding per RFC5987, 
            //  so we can allow for a little better readability over the wire: |`^
            replace(/%(?:7C|60|5E)/g, unescape);
}

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/JavaScript/Reference/Global_Objects/encodeURIComponent

Answer

Also remember that they all encode different sets of characters, and select the one you need appropriately. encodeURI() encodes fewer characters than encodeURIComponent(), which encodes fewer (and also different, to dannyp's point) characters than escape().

Answer

For the purpose of encoding javascript has given three inbuilt functions -

  1. escape() - does not encode @*/+ This method is deprecated after the ECMA 3 so it should be avoided.

  2. encodeURI() - does not encode [email protected]#$&*()=:/,;?+' It assumes that the URI is a complete URI, so does not encode reserved characters that have special meaning in the URI. This method is used when the intent is to convert the complete URL instead of some special segment of URL. Example - encodeURI('http://stackoverflow.com'); will give - http://stackoverflow.com

  3. encodeURIComponent() -does not encode - _ . ! ~ * ' ( ) This function encodes a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) component by replacing each instance of certain characters by one, two, three, or four escape sequences representing the UTF-8 encoding of the character. This method should be used to convert a component of URL. For instance some user input needs to be appended Example - encodeURI('http://stackoverflow.com'); will give - http%3A%2F%2Fstackoverflow.com

All this encoding is performed in UTF 8 i.e the characters will be converted in UTF-8 format.

encodeURIComponent differ from encodeURI in that it encode reserved characters and Number sign # of encodeURI

Answer

I've found that experimenting with the various methods is a good sanity check even after having a good handle of what their various uses and capabilities are.

Towards that end I have found this website extremely useful to confirm my suspicions that I am doing something appropriately. It has also proven useful for decoding an encodeURIComponent'ed string which can be rather challenging to interpret. A great bookmark to have:

http://www.the-art-of-web.com/javascript/escape/

Answer

The accepted answer is good. To extend on the last part:

Note that encodeURIComponent does not escape the ' character. A common bug is to use it to create html attributes such as href='MyUrl', which could suffer an injection bug. If you are constructing html from strings, either use " instead of ' for attribute quotes, or add an extra layer of encoding (' can be encoded as %27).

If you want to be on the safe side, percent encoding unreserved characters should be encoded as well.

You can use this method to escape them (source Mozilla)

function fixedEncodeURIComponent(str) {
  return encodeURIComponent(str).replace(/[!'()*]/g, function(c) {
    return '%' + c.charCodeAt(0).toString(16);
  });
}

// fixedEncodeURIComponent("'") --> "%27"
Answer

Inspired by Johann's table, I've decided to extend the table. I wanted to see which ASCII characters get encoded.

screenshot of console.table

var ascii = " !\"#$%&'()*+,-./0123456789:;<=>[email protected][\\]^_`abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz{|}~";

var encoded = [];

ascii.split("").forEach(function (char) {
    var obj = { char };
    if (char != encodeURI(char))
        obj.encodeURI = encodeURI(char);
    if (char != encodeURIComponent(char))
        obj.encodeURIComponent = encodeURIComponent(char);
    if (obj.encodeURI || obj.encodeURIComponent)
        encoded.push(obj);
});

console.table(encoded);

Table shows only the encoded characters. Empty cells mean that the original and the encoded characters are the same.


Just to be extra, I'm adding another table for urlencode() vs rawurlencode(). The only difference seems to be the encoding of space character.

screenshot of console.table

<script>
<?php
$ascii = str_split(" !\"#$%&'()*+,-./0123456789:;<=>[email protected][\\]^_`abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz{|}~", 1);
$encoded = [];
foreach ($ascii as $char) {
    $obj = ["char" => $char];
    if ($char != urlencode($char))
        $obj["urlencode"] = urlencode($char);
    if ($char != rawurlencode($char))
        $obj["rawurlencode"] = rawurlencode($char);
    if (isset($obj["rawurlencode"]) || isset($obj["rawurlencode"]))
        $encoded[] = $obj;
}
echo "var encoded = " . json_encode($encoded) . ";";
?>
console.table(encoded);
</script>
Answer

I have this function...

var escapeURIparam = function(url) {
    if (encodeURIComponent) url = encodeURIComponent(url);
    else if (encodeURI) url = encodeURI(url);
    else url = escape(url);
    url = url.replace(/\+/g, '%2B'); // Force the replacement of "+"
    return url;
};
Answer

Modern rewrite of @johann-echavarria's answer:

console.log(
    Array(256)
        .fill()
        .map((ignore, i) => String.fromCharCode(i))
        .filter(
            (char) =>
                encodeURI(char) !== encodeURIComponent(char)
                    ? {
                          character: char,
                          encodeURI: encodeURI(char),
                          encodeURIComponent: encodeURIComponent(char)
                      }
                    : false
        )
)

Or if you can use a table, replace console.log with console.table (for the prettier output).

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