Building good APIs is hard, and anyone who had the chance to do so can relate to this. A project can easily grow to become a mess. One can keep trying to adopt an approach to make it more enjoyable, like trying a documentation-first workflow, but something always feels clumsy.
I was trying out Postman lately, a tool we’ve briefly covered before, and I discovered that they’re doing a great job by providing an integrated environment for different components of an API, like authorization, testing, documentation, versioning, etc.
In this article, we’re going to walk through the different features that Postman provides and how we can organize them to make our API workflow less painful.
The first step to discovering Postman is making a simple API request and seeing the response.
From the screenshot above we can see that the view incorporates different elements. The top bar contains the request method (in this case
GET), and right next to it we specify the endpoint to make the request to. If the request has some params we can specify them by clicking the Params button, which will open a table for entering them. When ready, we can click the send button to initiate the request.
The next section contains five tabs:
- Authorization: Specifies how to authorize the request. Like
- Headers: Any header that should be sent with the request. Like
- Body: Request body for request types like
- Pre-request Script: JS code to be executed before performing the request. (More about this later)
- Tests: JS code to validate the response payload.
The bottom section contains all the details about the response (
size). The four tabs are self explanatory, except for
Tests which contains the tests result if we have any (more about this later).
Postman supports all types of authorization, as we saw above. We’re going to focus on token authorization set via header. You can read more about authorization here.
The header format that Postman will use is:
Authorization: Bearer <TOKEN>
Now, we’ll go ahead and get a token we can use for our future requests. I’m testing on an in-development application of mine, but you can use any application you have lying around, or set one up quickly with Laravel as described here.
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At this point, we have a token to be used for querying data from the API as an authenticated user. However, copying and pasting the token for every request is tedious!
This nice feature alleviates the pain of copy/paste and groups our variables in one place. An environment is an execution context: we may have a local environment, testing, staging, etc.
Postman has different scopes for variables:
The global variables are available everywhere, separately from the selected environment. You can read more in the documentation.
We need at least three variables for now:
domain: current active subdomain
url: our app URL.
token: Token for future authentication.
Now we can update our login endpoint to use our new environment, but first we need to select our environment from the top right selection box.
We can use our variables inside the URL, parameters, tests, etc. But how are we going to use our token now?
Well, we have two choices. The first is to copy the token and paste it as a value for the token variable (this is what we’re trying to avoid).
The second method is to set this via code executed after the request is done. This is where tests come into play, let’s find out what they are!
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