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Building APIs with Python: Flask RESTful and Other Frameworks

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Building APIs with Python: Flask RESTful and Other Frameworks

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It makes sense to build your API with Python, considering its increasingly becoming a popular programming language among developers. In the words of Roman Osipenko, “Python is both strong and dynamically typed language — it brings flexibility and development speed.” 

Outside the popularity of Python among developers, frameworks that use this language including Flask, Django and Fast API, render themselves to many applications including AI, machine learning, web scrapping among others. These are key features allowing applications based on Python to have diverse and often complex capabilities. 

Benefits of Flask RESTful Framework

Flask is a Python-based web framework which stands out for its simplicity and scalability. With its inbuilt simplicity, this framework gives any Python development company using it the flexibility to create lightweight APIs that can integrate seamlessly with other frameworks as if they were built on Flask. 

Flask RESTful is a Flask extension that allows the development of versatile object-oriented code within minimal set-up. Its minimalism is a key attractive feature removing unnecessary complexities. It simple design also offers extensive scalability allowing Python developers to integrate just the necessary components. Such simplicity reflects on the API’s response time.  

With its flexible routing, Flask allows developers to map API endpoints, thus allowing for clean designs. The framework also comes with an inbuilt testing and debugging making it easy to fix errors and debug as you go. 

 Perhaps most significant is the extensive community behind Flask. The Flask ecosystem brings together a group of active community members all contributing significantly through documentation, tutorials and extensions that you can leverage in your API development. 

Comparing Flask RESTful with Other Frameworks 

REST or Representational State Transfer is a system designed to develop the software  for the internet. This architectural model  facilitates the development of reliable and scalable web applications.

Different frameworks exist to facilitate the development of RESTful web applications and interfaces using Python. They include: 

Django

Django Rest is an open source Python framework designed for developing complex, database web applications. Its is a framework that Django Stars often use in the development of complex software projects.

Some of the advantages of using Django include: 

  • Speed and scalability when developing APIs
  • It’s backed by an active community of developers
  • Extensive documentation
  • Built-in security controls, resulting in safer applications
  • Versatility, thanks to its in-depth library of features and its complexity

However, Django has some shortcomings: 

  • It’s not suited for simpler projects
  • Slow websites, especially when they are built with multiple databases
  • It has a steep learning curve 

Despite it’s steep learning curve, software development companies like Django Stars have dedicated themselves to building software based on this framework.

 FastAPI 

FastAPI is a relatively new REST framework that was first released in 2018. Some of the advantages of using FastAPI are: 

  • It supports asynchronous development which can reduce execution time 
  • It’s relatively fast compared to Django and Flask
  • It has straightforward endpoints making testing easy 
  • It’s easily deployed 
  • It has extensive documentation with editor support

Some of its shortcomings include:

  • The main file may become too crowded 
  • It limits scalability

Flask-RESTful

Flask-RESTful operates as a micro framework meaning it’s fundamentally designed with minimalist design in mind. It lends itself well to lightweight projects. 

Some of its advantages include: 

  • Scalability 
  • Great documentation
  • Increased flexibility 
  • In-built security features

On the other hand, Flask-RESTful is not suited to highly complex projects since it lacks the extensive library of features present on frameworks like Django.

Steps to Build Your API with Flask RESTful

Before you start building your API, you must prepare your development environment. ensure that you’ve installed Python 3, Flask and Python Package Index (Pip). If you’re using Python 2>, you’ll find the pip comes pre-installed. 

You should also create a virtual environment to isolate your project and keep the code neat and clean. The virtualenv utility should allow you to create a virtual environment. 

However, if you’re using Python 3.4, you can use pyvenv as the virtual environment to separate your Flask RESTful API.

 Step 1: Install Flask-Restful

Use the Python installer package (pip) to install Flask-RESTful 

Use this command to install Flask-Restful. 

Note: The dependencies for Flask RESTful are automatically installed when you install Flask-RESTful or Flask. 

You must have Python version 2.7, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6 or 3.7 to install Flask-RESTful

Step 2: Set Up a Basic Flask Application 

Set up a basic Flask-RESTful app (minimal API) and save it as api.py. 

Run the saved api.py to ensure it’s running as expected. 

Step 3: Define the Resources That Represent Your APIs Endpoints

Resources are Flask RESTful’s basic building blocks. Each resource represents an end point in your API and the HTTPS method such as GET, POST, PUT and DELETE which correspond to the Create, Read, Update and Delete operations of each endpoint. 

To create these resources, breakdown the key resources groups (objects) you will be dealing with. For example, if you’re working on an accounting API, you may have resources such as taxes, Invoices and statements. 

Add as many resource classes as your API needs (we recommend outlining the required resource groups before you begin the API development process. Use ‘api.add_resource()’ to add new resource classes. 

Once you have added your resources, it’s time to define methods for your resource. These methods guide your API on handling http requests. HTTPS methods do the following: 

  • GET retrieves tasks 
  • POST creates a new task 
  • PUT updates an existing task
  • DELETE removes a task

Add the resource class and specify the URL endpoint. 

Step 4: Run and Test Your API 

Testing is key in API development. Before testing you API, run your Flask-RESTful API to execute the API you just created using ‘Python app.py’. 

Proceed to test your API. You can use one of three methods for simple APIs: 

  • Running a search on your browser for ‘ http://localhost :5000/’ 
  • Use a cURL
  • Use Python request library. This method uses a Python script to send a JSON request to your API.

Summary 

One of the advantages of using Python frameworks for building APIs is the scalability, flexibility, speed and inbuilt testing processes. Flask-RESTful is suited to lightweight projects with minimal complexity. However, if you need a highly complex API, its best to work with a Python development company like Django Stars which is experienced in developing complex, Django APIs. 

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