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API Clients

An API client handles the underlying details of how network requests are made and how responses are decoded. They present the developer with an application interface to work against, rather than working directly with the network interface.

The API clients documented here are not restricted to APIs built with Django REST framework.

They can be used with any API that exposes a supported schema format.

For example, the Heroku platform API exposes a schema in the JSON Hyperschema format. As a result, the Core API command line client and Python client library can be used to interact with the Heroku API.

Client-side Core API

Core API is a document specification that can be used to describe APIs. It can be used either server-side, as is done with REST framework’s schema generation, or used client-side, as described here.

When used client-side, Core API allows for dynamically driven client libraries that can interact with any API that exposes a supported schema or hypermedia format.

Using a dynamically driven client has a number of advantages over interacting with an API by building HTTP requests directly.

More meaningful interaction

API interactions are presented in a more meaningful way. You’re working at the application interface layer, rather than the network interface layer.

Resilience & evolvability

The client determines what endpoints are available, what parameters exist against each particular endpoint, and how HTTP requests are formed.

This also allows for a degree of API evolvability. URLs can be modified without breaking existing clients, or more efficient encodings can be used on-the-wire, with clients transparently upgrading.

Self-descriptive APIs

A dynamically driven client is able to present documentation on the API to the end user. This documentation allows the user to discover the available endpoints and parameters, and better understand the API they are working with.

Because this documentation is driven by the API schema it will always be fully up to date with the most recently deployed version of the service.


Command line client

The command line client allows you to inspect and interact with any API that exposes a supported schema format.

Getting started

To install the Core API command line client, use pip.

Note that the command-line client is a separate package to the python client library. Make sure to install coreapi-cli.

$ pip install coreapi-cli

To start inspecting and interacting with an API the schema must first be loaded from the network.

$ coreapi get http://api.example.org/
<Pastebin API "http://127.0.0.1:8000/">
snippets: {
    create(code, [title], [linenos], [language], [style])
    destroy(pk)
    highlight(pk)
    list([page])
    partial_update(pk, [title], [code], [linenos], [language], [style])
    retrieve(pk)
    update(pk, code, [title], [linenos], [language], [style])
}
users: {
    list([page])
    retrieve(pk)
}

This will then load the schema, displaying the resulting Document. This Document includes all the available interactions that may be made against the API.

To interact with the API, use the action command. This command requires a list of keys that are used to index into the link.

$ coreapi action users list
[
    {
        "url": "http://127.0.0.1:8000/users/2/",
        "id": 2,
        "username": "aziz",
        "snippets": []
    },
    ...
]

To inspect the underlying HTTP request and response, use the --debug flag.

$ coreapi action users list --debug
> GET /users/ HTTP/1.1
> Accept: application/vnd.coreapi+json, */*
> Authorization: Basic bWF4Om1heA==
> Host: 127.0.0.1
> User-Agent: coreapi
< 200 OK
< Allow: GET, HEAD, OPTIONS
< Content-Type: application/json
< Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2016 10:51:46 GMT
< Server: WSGIServer/0.1 Python/2.7.10
< Vary: Accept, Cookie
<
< [{"url":"http://127.0.0.1/users/2/","id":2,"username":"aziz","snippets":[]},{"url":"http://127.0.0.1/users/3/","id":3,"username":"amy","snippets":["http://127.0.0.1/snippets/3/"]},{"url":"http://127.0.0.1/users/4/","id":4,"username":"max","snippets":["http://127.0.0.1/snippets/4/","http://127.0.0.1/snippets/5/","http://127.0.0.1/snippets/6/","http://127.0.0.1/snippets/7/"]},{"url":"http://127.0.0.1/users/5/","id":5,"username":"jose","snippets":[]},{"url":"http://127.0.0.1/users/6/","id":6,"username":"admin","snippets":["http://127.0.0.1/snippets/1/","http://127.0.0.1/snippets/2/"]}]

[
    ...
]

Some actions may include optional or required parameters.

$ coreapi action users create --param username=example

When using --param, the type of the input will be determined automatically.

If you want to be more explicit about the parameter type then use --data for any null, numeric, boolean, list, or object inputs, and use --string for string inputs.

$ coreapi action users edit --string username=tomchristie --data is_admin=true

Authentication & headers

The credentials command is used to manage the request Authentication: header. Any credentials added are always linked to a particular domain, so as to ensure that credentials are not leaked across differing APIs.

The format for adding a new credential is:

$ coreapi credentials add <domain> <credentials string>

For instance:

$ coreapi credentials add api.example.org "Token 9944b09199c62bcf9418ad846dd0e4bbdfc6ee4b"

The optional --auth flag also allows you to add specific types of authentication, handling the encoding for you. Currently only "basic" is supported as an option here. For example:

$ coreapi credentials add api.example.org tomchristie:foobar --auth basic

You can also add specific request headers, using the headers command:

$ coreapi headers add api.example.org x-api-version 2

For more information and a listing of the available subcommands use coreapi credentials --help or coreapi headers --help.

Codecs

By default the command line client only includes support for reading Core JSON schemas, however it includes a plugin system for installing additional codecs.

$ pip install openapi-codec jsonhyperschema-codec hal-codec
$ coreapi codecs show
Codecs
corejson        application/vnd.coreapi+json encoding, decoding
hal             application/hal+json         encoding, decoding
openapi         application/openapi+json     encoding, decoding
jsonhyperschema application/schema+json      decoding
json            application/json             data
text            text/*                       data

Utilities

The command line client includes functionality for bookmarking API URLs under a memorable name. For example, you can add a bookmark for the existing API, like so…

$ coreapi bookmarks add accountmanagement

There is also functionality for navigating forward or backward through the history of which API URLs have been accessed.

$ coreapi history show
$ coreapi history back

For more information and a listing of the available subcommands use coreapi bookmarks --help or coreapi history --help.

Other commands

To display the current Document:

$ coreapi show

To reload the current Document from the network:

$ coreapi reload

To load a schema file from disk:

$ coreapi load my-api-schema.json --format corejson

To dump the current document to console in a given format:

$ coreapi dump --format openapi

To remove the current document, along with all currently saved history, credentials, headers and bookmarks:

$ coreapi clear

Python client library

The coreapi Python package allows you to programmatically interact with any API that exposes a supported schema format.

Getting started

You’ll need to install the coreapi package using pip before you can get started.

$ pip install coreapi

In order to start working with an API, we first need a Client instance. The client holds any configuration around which codecs and transports are supported when interacting with an API, which allows you to provide for more advanced kinds of behaviour.

import coreapi
client = coreapi.Client()

Once we have a Client instance, we can fetch an API schema from the network.

schema = client.get('https://api.example.org/')

The object returned from this call will be a Document instance, which is a representation of the API schema.

Authentication

Typically you’ll also want to provide some authentication credentials when instantiating the client.

Token authentication

The TokenAuthentication class can be used to support REST framework’s built-in TokenAuthentication, as well as OAuth and JWT schemes.

auth = coreapi.auth.TokenAuthentication(
    scheme='JWT',
    token='<token>'
)
client = coreapi.Client(auth=auth)

When using TokenAuthentication you’ll probably need to implement a login flow using the CoreAPI client.

A suggested pattern for this would be to initially make an unauthenticated client request to an “obtain token” endpoint

For example, using the “Django REST framework JWT” package

client = coreapi.Client()
schema = client.get('https://api.example.org/')

action = ['api-token-auth', 'create']
params = {"username": "example", "password": "secret"}
result = client.action(schema, action, params)

auth = coreapi.auth.TokenAuthentication(
    scheme='JWT',
    token=result['token']
)
client = coreapi.Client(auth=auth)

Basic authentication

The BasicAuthentication class can be used to support HTTP Basic Authentication.

auth = coreapi.auth.BasicAuthentication(
    username='<username>',
    password='<password>'
)
client = coreapi.Client(auth=auth)

Interacting with the API

Now that we have a client and have fetched our schema Document, we can now start to interact with the API:

users = client.action(schema, ['users', 'list'])

Some endpoints may include named parameters, which might be either optional or required:

new_user = client.action(schema, ['users', 'create'], params={"username": "max"})

Codecs

Codecs are responsible for encoding or decoding Documents.

The decoding process is used by a client to take a bytestring of an API schema definition, and returning the Core API Document that represents that interface.

A codec should be associated with a particular media type, such as 'application/coreapi+json'.

This media type is used by the server in the response Content-Type header, in order to indicate what kind of data is being returned in the response.

Configuring codecs

The codecs that are available can be configured when instantiating a client. The keyword argument used here is decoders, because in the context of a client the codecs are only for decoding responses.

In the following example we’ll configure a client to only accept Core JSON and JSON responses. This will allow us to receive and decode a Core JSON schema, and subsequently to receive JSON responses made against the API.

from coreapi import codecs, Client

decoders = [codecs.CoreJSONCodec(), codecs.JSONCodec()]
client = Client(decoders=decoders)

Loading and saving schemas

You can use a codec directly, in order to load an existing schema definition, and return the resulting Document.

input_file = open('my-api-schema.json', 'rb')
schema_definition = input_file.read()
codec = codecs.CoreJSONCodec()
schema = codec.load(schema_definition)

You can also use a codec directly to generate a schema definition given a Document instance:

schema_definition = codec.dump(schema)
output_file = open('my-api-schema.json', 'rb')
output_file.write(schema_definition)

Transports

Transports are responsible for making network requests. The set of transports that a client has installed determines which network protocols it is able to support.

Currently the coreapi library only includes an HTTP/HTTPS transport, but other protocols can also be supported.

Configuring transports

The behavior of the network layer can be customized by configuring the transports that the client is instantiated with.

import requests
from coreapi import transports, Client

credentials = {'api.example.org': 'Token 3bd44a009d16ff'}
transports = transports.HTTPTransport(credentials=credentials)
client = Client(transports=transports)

More complex customizations can also be achieved, for example modifying the underlying requests.Session instance to attach transport adaptors that modify the outgoing requests.


JavaScript Client Library

The JavaScript client library allows you to interact with your API either from a browser, or using node.

Installing the JavaScript client

There are two separate JavaScript resources that you need to include in your HTML pages in order to use the JavaScript client library. These are a static coreapi.js file, which contains the code for the dynamic client library, and a templated schema.js resource, which exposes your API schema.

First, install the API documentation views. These will include the schema resource that’ll allow you to load the schema directly from an HTML page, without having to make an asynchronous AJAX call.

from rest_framework.documentation import include_docs_urls

urlpatterns = [
    ...
    path('docs/', include_docs_urls(title='My API service'), name='api-docs'),
]

Once the API documentation URLs are installed, you’ll be able to include both the required JavaScript resources. Note that the ordering of these two lines is important, as the schema loading requires CoreAPI to already be installed.

<!--
    Load the CoreAPI library and the API schema.

    /static/rest_framework/js/coreapi-0.1.1.js
    /docs/schema.js
-->
{% load static %}
<script src="{% static 'rest_framework/js/coreapi-0.1.1.js' %}"></script>
<script src="{% url 'api-docs:schema-js' %}"></script>

The coreapi library, and the schema object will now both be available on the window instance.

const coreapi = window.coreapi;
const schema = window.schema;

Instantiating a client

In order to interact with the API you’ll need a client instance.

var client = new coreapi.Client();

Typically you’ll also want to provide some authentication credentials when instantiating the client.

Session authentication

The SessionAuthentication class allows session cookies to provide the user authentication. You’ll want to provide a standard HTML login flow, to allow the user to login, and then instantiate a client using session authentication:

let auth = new coreapi.auth.SessionAuthentication({
    csrfCookieName: 'csrftoken',
    csrfHeaderName: 'X-CSRFToken',
});
let client = new coreapi.Client({auth: auth});

The authentication scheme will handle including a CSRF header in any outgoing requests for unsafe HTTP methods.

Token authentication

The TokenAuthentication class can be used to support REST framework’s built-in TokenAuthentication, as well as OAuth and JWT schemes.

let auth = new coreapi.auth.TokenAuthentication({
    scheme: 'JWT',
    token: '<token>',
});
let client = new coreapi.Client({auth: auth});

When using TokenAuthentication you’ll probably need to implement a login flow using the CoreAPI client.

A suggested pattern for this would be to initially make an unauthenticated client request to an “obtain token” endpoint

For example, using the “Django REST framework JWT” package

// Setup some globally accessible state
window.client = new coreapi.Client();
window.loggedIn = false;

function loginUser(username, password) {
    let action = ["api-token-auth", "obtain-token"];
    let params = {username: username, password: password};
    client.action(schema, action, params).then(function(result) {
        // On success, instantiate an authenticated client.
        let auth = window.coreapi.auth.TokenAuthentication({
            scheme: 'JWT',
            token: result['token'],
        })
        window.client = coreapi.Client({auth: auth});
        window.loggedIn = true;
    }).catch(function (error) {
        // Handle error case where eg. user provides incorrect credentials.
    })
}

Basic authentication

The BasicAuthentication class can be used to support HTTP Basic Authentication.

let auth = new coreapi.auth.BasicAuthentication({
    username: '<username>',
    password: '<password>',
})
let client = new coreapi.Client({auth: auth});

Using the client

Making requests:

let action = ["users", "list"];
client.action(schema, action).then(function(result) {
    // Return value is in 'result'
})

Including parameters:

let action = ["users", "create"];
let params = {username: "example", email: "example@example.com"};
client.action(schema, action, params).then(function(result) {
    // Return value is in 'result'
})

Handling errors:

client.action(schema, action, params).then(function(result) {
    // Return value is in 'result'
}).catch(function (error) {
    // Error value is in 'error'
})

Installation with node

The coreapi package is available on NPM.

$ npm install coreapi
$ node
const coreapi = require('coreapi')

You’ll either want to include the API schema in your codebase directly, by copying it from the schema.js resource, or else load the schema asynchronously. For example:

let client = new coreapi.Client();
let schema = null;
client.get("https://api.example.org/").then(function(data) {
    // Load a CoreJSON API schema.
    schema = data;
    console.log('schema loaded');
})
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