Working with API’s… for low-code dummies (and how Linx can help you)

There are different ways to integrate one system or application with another. Using an API (Application Programming Interface) is one such way. This allows different systems to communicate with one another based upon a set of predefined rules and methods.

A low-code development platform like Linx can lighten your load and deal with most of the complexity for you, leaving you with only needing a basic understanding of how API’s work.

So how do API’s work?

There are a couple of basic, but important concepts that form the basis of an understanding of API’s. To get us started, let’s look at these:

Endpoints Authentication Requests Responses

In a nutshell, it all comes together like this;

To work with (“consume”) an API, an application (also referred to as ‘client’) must send a request message that indicates what the application wants to do (e.g. GET or POST specific details) to an API endpoint. The application will be authenticated before a successful connection can be established. Once the connection is established, and the request message is processed, the application will receive a response message. 

Do the following:

Before you even start, determine why you want to integrate with the other system:

your business requirements will determine which operations you will perform on the other system: you may for example want to read (GET), create (POST), update (PUT), or delete data

Most API’s have an extensive API Reference published, which you need to go through in order to use the API. Look for the API Reference and understand how the specific API handles authentication and data.

When you know why you want to integrate, and how to use the API, do this:

1. Connect…

by providing connection details for the API endpoint

2. Be authenticated…

by providing your user authentication details, if required

3. Send request…

by using a specific method, e.g. GET (to retrieve data), POST (to add or create new data), PUT (to update data), or DELETE (to delete data) to a specific URL and path by including relevant input data via e.g. Query parameters, header or body details

4. Handle response…

by receiving the requested data, as well as success or failure responses by processing the response data in your application (e.g. in your Linx solution) to achieve your solution’s overall goal. Linx supports responses in both JSON and XML formats and makes it easy to handle the response data in any of the more than 35 pre-packaged Linx plugins that contain literally hundreds of functions, types and services.

API specifications: SOAP and REST

Let’s now expand on our basic understanding of endpoints, authentication, requests and responses, by looking at API specifications.

The goal of API specifications is to standardize the exchange of data. Standardization makes it possible for diverse systems, written in different programming languages and potentially running on different operating systems, or using different technologies, to seamlessly communicate with each other.

The implication of this is that when you consume an API, the specification will determine the nature of how you will connect, authenticate, send a request and receive a response.

Linx supports both SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and REST (Representational State Transfer) API specifications to both guide you through the process of consuming API’s in your process flows, and to decrease the amount of code you would normally require

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