9 Places to Use APIs Without Coding

John Musser
Mar. 26 2007, 12:09AM EDT

Here's a trend we're seeing more of these days: vendor provided interactive API tools. These useful web-based applications let you test drive the methods of a given web API without having to write code. AJAX-style web forms let you choose methods and parameters, press go, and have data immediately returned in another part of the page.

Update: Make that 12 interactive tools, see farther below.

Facebook Console

This can be a great way for API providers to let developers kick the tires on their APIs and quickly get up to speed. From Facebook to Google to CNET, these tools are becoming more common and more sophisticated.

Here's a rundown of 9 places you can try now:

  • Facebook Test Console: If you have a Facebook login you can use the Facebook Test Console. Test over a dozen methods and get responses in XML, JSON, and Facebook PHP Client.
  • Interactive Google Base: As they describe "This demo page provides you with a simple mechanism for using the API and learning how it works. Each Google Base data API operation has an equivalent HTTP method, so you can try out the HTTP GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE methods as you invoke the operations below."
  • CNET API Dashboard: As we reported last month CNET's new shopping API includes this handy tool. Use it to test getting review, shopping and download data.
  • Flickr API Explorer: Try-out methods of the popular Flickr API with this tool. And since you may find yourself looking at an interactive API tool but not have any meaningful data to feed into it - like when it asks you for a "photo_id" - Flickr goes one step farther by offering a list of "Useful Values" on the side of the page including photo IDs and Group IDs. Very helpful feature.
  • Virtual Earth Interactive SDK: Choose from dozens of "I Want To" actions like "Show map" or "Get a route and directions", see the adjacent map perform that action, then click on the Source Code tab to grab that exact JavaScript, or the Reference tab to get the manual page for the relevant method.
  • FollowTheMoney.org: There are a lot of good implementation details in the API for this non-profit, one of which is this AJAX example with download-able source code. For more on FollowTheMoney, see our earlier coverage here.
  • Amazon AWS Zone: Test drive eight different Amazon APIs. As they say "Amazon Web Services made simple." Includes code samples, a code generator, REST and SOAP scratch pads.
  • Interfax Fax Web Service Demo: Doesn't allow you to try the whole API but gives access to the main SendCharFax method so you can send faxes. ID required.
  • MetaCarta JSON API Explorer: Lets you use their mapping data API and get results back in JSON and KML.

As expected, we've heard from readers with more tools for this list:

  • Google AJAX Search API Wizards: A set of useful wizards that help you quickly integrate Google's AJAX Search into your site. Wizards for Maps, Video Bar, Video Search, News Bar, Blog Bar, and Book Bar. A form for each walks you through three steps: Customize it, Tell us your site, Generate code.
  • Demo Tool for Google SAML Single Sign-On: While not a full-featured tool, this interactive demo of the Security Assertion Markup Language single sign-on service for Google Hosted Services walks you through each step of the reasonably complex process illustrate each step of the SAML workflow between Google and the Partner.
  • Here are a pair of Google-provided mapping "playgrounds" where you can use forms to interact with the Google Maps API: GMarkerOptions Playground and GMarkerEvents Playground

If you're aware of others that are not on this list you can share them in the comments.

John Musser

Comments

Comments(7)

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[...] If you wait long enough, someone will build an interactive front-end for anything.  DrJava, for example, comes with a little interpreter that lets users type in simple expressions to explore the state of their code, while the people building the software for the particle detectors in the next-generation collider at CERN use a C++ interpreter. And now this: interactive browser-based front ends to a variety of web APIs, including Flickr, FaceBook, and Amazon.  Type it in, click the button, and see what happens &#8212; it&#8217;s a great way to hear yourself think.  If either of the Eclipse projects we&#8217;ve put forward for the Summer of Code is accepted, we&#8217;re going to need to build some web APIs; a testbed like this would be a great accompaniment. [...]

Awesome post, John. That's a great list.

I've always used the AWS Zone and Flickr API Explorer when coding mashups, so I can tell you first hand that they're a great resource.

I've started to create similar explorers ("playgrounds") for the Maps API, such as http://googlemapsapi.blogspot.com/2007/03/march-marker-madness-gmarkerop...

and http://googlemapsapi.blogspot.com/2007/03/march-marker-madness-gmarker-e...

It's a little tricky to design API explorers for javascript APIs (as there are so many ways to do it). It is, at the same time, quite important to have javascript API explorers as JS can be a strange language sometimes, and newbies to JS can be easily confused.

Anyway, time to go write more API playgrounds. :)

-pamela

[...] And besides standard, static documentation, other options to consider are rich media for things like videos, screencasts and podcasts. Additionally there&#8217;s the option of interactive tools like 9+ tools we&#8217;ve covered in the past. [...]

Glen

Have you ever thought about writing an e-book or guest authoring on

other blogs? I have a blog centered on the same

ideas you discuss and would really like to have you share some

stories/information. I know my readers would enjoy your work.

If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me

an e mail.