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Tools – Lesson 1

Save time & effort with the right API tools

If you’ve ever built anything in your life, you know that having access to the proper tools can entirely define the experience. Working with APIs is no different in that regard! When you’re a developer, efficiency is the name of the game — using the right API tools can save you tons of time and effort, not to mention frustration (!). In this next series of posts, we’ll learn about a few popular API tools.

tool set on plank

Why API tools?

If you’re using APIs, you’re likely doing so from within your code (e.g., Python, JavaScript, etc.), in the context of an IDE that provides advanced debugging functionality. Even so, relying only upon your IDE when troubleshooting API-related issues can be a really inefficient way of doing things. This is especially true when you’re just wanting to explore API requests and responses or see request and response data as it’s being sent back and forth ‘over the wire.’ That’s where API tools can come in very handy.

When API tools?

Through the years, I’ve found API tools to be extremely helpful in following two scenarios:

  • Testing (trying out) API Requests
  • Troubleshooting API Requests

Scenario 1: Testing (trying out) API requests

API tools like and Postman and cURL let you easily try out API requests. In doing so, you can figure out how a request must be structured and what contents it must contain, in order to achieve your desired result. They also give you a way to explore the structure and contents of API responses that you’ll receive back from various requests. When I’m using a new API, my process looks something like this:

  1. Review API documentation to learn about the API and identify the API requests that I’ll need to accomplish my desired result.
  2. Use Postman to test (try out) the API requests that I’ll be using. For each request, I can confirm the proper request structure and also learn what a successful response looks like.
  3. Once I’ve got working requests in Postman, I’ll use that info as the basis for writing my code.

By doing things in this manner, I ensure a thorough understanding of the API before I ever start writing my code, increasing the odds that my code will have the desired result the first time around. And even if my code doesn’t work the first time around, then I have a successful request in Postman that I can use for troubleshooting.

Scenario 2: Troubleshooting API requests

No matter how methodical you are, you’ll still run into problems sometimes with the API calls from your code not having the intended effect. When this happens, step away from the code and use an API tool to figure out:

  1. What is the structure and contents of the API request that your code is issuing? (A tool like Fiddler is great for this.)
  2. How does the structure and contents of that API request differ from what’s shown in the documentation or from a successful request that you crafted previously in a tool like Postman?

Which API tools?

There are a *ton* of great API tools available these days — far too many to discuss them all here on API Newbies. We’ll cover the following three tools, which I’ve personally found to be most useful:

Postman (API client) – an app for issuing API requests and receiving responses in return.

sample request and response in Postman

cURL – a command line tool for issuing API requests and receiving responses in return.

cURL request example

Fiddler – an app for troubleshooting API issues by inspecting network traffic.

Fiddler example traffic inspector

But what about tool ABC?

Find another tool that you like better for testing (trying out) and/or troubleshooting API requests? By all means, use it! The goal is simply to find and use API tools that improve the efficiency of your development process, whatever those tools may be.

How API tools?

In each of the tools-related posts that follow, we’ll discuss what the tool does, why you should consider using it, how to get started using it, and where to learn more about it. Quite purposefully, we won’t provide detailed information about tool features and usage. Instead, you should reference the recommended sources for that type of information, as it’ll be more complete & current than any details we may have been able to include here on API Newbies.

So there you have it…

…an introduction to the Tools series here on API Newbies. Let’s kick this off by learning about my favorite API tool of all time: Postman.

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Further reading: This site provides the level of technical detail required to understand and use REST APIs in most situations. If you'd like to geek out on these topics further, the internet is full of more in-depth resources!