This is the continuation of the last post; now the decoder for the base64 format is presented. It is pretty much straight forward, since the decoder generally reverses the encoding algorithm.

I will just show the code, since I have explained how base64 works in the last post. Please forgive me for not having formatted the long strings properly, I am just to lazy and I am sitting in the Munich subway after spending a working day in neovim terminal windows.

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdint.h>

void base64_decode(char *s, size_t len) {
    // (1)
	static const char decoding[] = {62,0,0,0,63,52,53,54,55,56,57,58,59,60,61,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,0,0,0,0,0,0,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51};

	for (size_t i = 0; i < len; i += 4) {
		uint32_t val = 0;

		for (size_t j = 0; j < 4; j++) {  // (2)
			val |= (decoding[s[i+j]-'+'] & 0x3f) << ((3-j) * 6);

		for (size_t j = 0; j < 3; j++) {  // (3)
			char dec_byte = (val >> ((2-j) * 8)) & 0xff;
			printf("%c", dec_byte);

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
	char *input = "TWFuIGlzIGRpc3Rpbmd1aXNoZWQsIG5vdCBvbmx5IGJ5IGhpcyByZWFzb24sIGJ1dCBieSB0aGlz\

	base64_decode(input, strlen(input));

  1. Again we have some lookup table. This somehow the lookup table from the encoder but …​ the other way round. To be honest it is a bit more. It works like the following: We map base64 chars [a-zA-Z\/=+] to the relevant sextet. The key for the table lookup is the ascii value of the base64 char minus the offset of the character ''. The indexes are just extracted from the ascii table. All characters below `` have been omitted because of being not relevant for the base64 alphabet. A call like decoding['a'-'+'] means, please give the sextet that maps to the base64 character a. Since not all characters from the ascii table are relevant, there are some 0 in the lookup table.

  2. Lookup the sextes from the lookup table and combine 4 of them to a 3 byte value. That is the reverse of the last step in the encoder.

  3. Extract three single bytes and print them. The = char gets decoded to a zero byte and is thus not printed visibly.

In order to decode binary data which has been base64 encoded correctly, this code has to be extended. I am aware of that problem, but since I do this series to learn as much as possible and the main focus is understanding the principle of algorithms, I am fine with this. :)