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Using APIs in an App

Connecting to API backend from the app.

Introduction

Every mobile app has a backend or a server which it connects to. The app uses APIs to connect to this backend to view, edit, and create data. The Appery.io platform provides a complete backend or MBaaS (mobile backend as a service) for your app.

This page explains how to create and connect to an API backend, including 3rd party REST APIs.

Backend Services

The Appery.io platform provides the following backend services for your app:

  • Database
  • Push Notifications
  • Server Code
  • API Express

Every service listed above is exposed via REST APIs and that's how the app connects/talks to the backend.

As all these services are part of a unified platform, you can quickly import any of these services inside the App Builder. To import a service inside the App Builder, select Create New, then select a service that you want to import.

To learn in more detail about each service and how it works, follow the links on the left-hand side.

Push Notifications

Push Notifications are added to app other way - via snippets (Angular) or Event Panel(JQM)

External REST APIs

It is very likely that your app will need to connect to an external API as well. That's also very easy to do and there are two ways to do that. You can connect to a 3rd party API using

Both approaches allow you to invoke the API from the server.

Why Invoke the API From The Server?

There are a number of benefits invoking a 3rd party API from the server:

  • Service API key or any other sensitive information is not exposed to the app.
  • Easy to update the service, or change to a different services without impacting the app. For example, you can reset the API key used without making any changes to the client. You can also switch the service provider without making any changes to the client.
  • Apply logic to the response before sending it back to the app. For example, sorting data on the server before returning it to the app.
  • Apply custom logic before and/or after the service invocation. For example, invoke two or more APIs, combine the response and return it to the app.
  • No cross-domain issues as the service is always invoked from the service.

Importing API Services

You can import REST API services into your app easily and in the same way no matter what backend service you use: API Express, Server Code or Database.

Regardless of the app, to start importing a backend service click Create new and then select a service type you want to import under Backend Services.

Backend Services import menu.

Backend Services import menu.

Watch this short video to learn how to import Backend Services APIs:

Testing the Service

You can import the service and double check that the service was imported correctly. As the service was imported automatically you shoudln't need to make any changes. To test the service, open the Test tab and then click the Test button. You should get the same output here as you get when testing the service in API Express.

Editing the Service

If you need to modify the service, you can make changes to the service in the App Builder or remove and re-import the services. The general recommendation is to re-import the service (after delete). This way you can go back to the backend services (API Express, Server Code, or Database) make any changes to the service and then re-import it. However, be careful with this option as any mappings you set for this service will be removed as well.

Deleting a service used on a page

If you remove a service that is used on the page all mappings will be removed as well.

Using Imported Service On A Page

Once a service is imported, you can add it and use it from a page. To learn how to do this jump over to the App Builder section:

  • Mapping in jQuery Mobile apps.
  • Mapping in Ionic (AngularJS) apps.

The following sections cover each service type in more detail.

Importing API Express Services

Once you created one or more APIs using API Express, you can quickly and easily import (add) those services to your app.

Testing services before using them in an app

Before importing and using a service in your app, we recommend that you test the API Express service in API Express dashboard. Once you know the service works correctly then start using the service in your app. This approach will save you time debugging and testing your app.

To import API Express services:

  1. Inside the App Builder, click Create new.
  2. In Backend Services section select API Express Service.
  3. In the next popup, select the API Express project from which you want to add services.
  4. Once a project is selected you should see the same folder/service structure as in the API Express project. Select one or more services or a folder to import. When you select a folder all services inside the folder will be checked and imported.
  5. Once you selected what you need, click Import selected services button.
  6. The services that you selected will be imported under the Services folder inside the App Builder.

You can now test the service as described in Testing the Service section.

Importing Auto-generated API Services

If you auto-generated API services for a relational database you need to the API Express Generator Extension to import the services into an app.

The API Express Generator extension is an extension that allows you to generate multiple REST API services for a database table. You can quickly generate the following REST APIs to work with the database:

  • Create - to add a new record.
  • Find - to find one or more records.
  • Get - to retrieve an record.
  • Update - to update an object.
  • Delete - to delete a record.

With this extension, the services and JavaScript files are created automatically and can be used in the app as usual to perform CRUD operations.

  1. Open an app, then click Create New > Extensions > API Express Generator.
  2. You will see a domain selection screen. Keep the default Appery.io domain selected and click Next.
  3. On the next screen select the API Express project and click Select.
  4. On the next screen you will see the services inside this API Express project. Locate the service folder which you want to import and click the generate link for it.
  5. Enter a name under which the services will be imported in the App Builder or keep the default value and click Generate.
  6. Click Save in the App Builder and refresh the App Builder browser page to see the newly generated services in Services folder.

All the basic operations services, as well as the JavaScript, have been successfully generated.
The API Express Generator has created an AppClientSettings service file with the data on the domain where the project is located and its apiKey.

Another way to locate the project API key is to go to API Express > Project > Settings.

Editing API Express services

If you edit the services in API Express, you should regenerate the appropriate services inside the Appery.io App Builder.

List of Generated Services

The following services are generated via the extension:

  • APIExpressService_count
  • APIExpressService_create
  • APIExpressService_delete
  • APIExpressService_find
  • APIExpressService_get
  • APIExpressService_update
  • AppClientGetState
  • AppClientGoOffline
  • AppClientGoOnline
  • AppClientLogin
  • AppClientLogout
  • AppClientResetFailedSync
  • AppClientRetrySync
  • AppClientSettings
  • BarcodeService
  • ScanDB_Products_create_service
  • ScanDB_Products_list_service
  • ScanDB_settings

Importing Server Code Services

Once you created one or more Server Code scripts, you can quickly and easily import (add) those services to your app.

Testing services before using them in an app

Before importing and using a service in your app, we recommend you test the Server Code script. Once you know the service works correctly then start using the service in your app. This approach will save you time debugging and testing your app.

To import Server Code service:

  1. Inside the App Builder, click Create new.
  2. In Backend Services section select Server Code.
  3. In the next popup, select the Server Code script for which you want to import the service.
  4. Once you select the script, click Import selected services button.
  5. The service that you selected will be imported under the Services folder inside the App Builder.

You can now test the service as described in Testing the Service section.

Importing Database Services

Once you created a database, you can quickly and easily import (add) services to work with the database to your app.

To import a database service:

  1. Inside the App Builder, click Create new.
  2. In Backend Services section select Database Service.
  3. In the next popup, select the database for which you want to import the services.
  4. Once you select the services, click Import selected services button. (check the next section for the explanation on the various services).
  5. The service that you selected will be imported under the Services folder inside the App Builder.

You can now test the service as described in Testing the Service section.

Database Service Types

In the import window, there are two groups of services you can import.

In the Database user services section, you can import the services to work with the Users collection:

  • Login
  • Logout
  • Signup
  • Me
  • Update User
  • Delete User
  • User Queries
  • User Details
  • All Users

In the Database collection services section, you can import the services for any custom collection and for the Files collection (_files).

For a custom collection, you can import any of the following services:

  • Create - to create a new object.
  • Read - to read one object.
  • Update - to update an object.
  • Delete - to delete an object.
  • List - to list all objects in the collection.
  • Query - to query (search) for objects.
  • Distinct - to retrieve all distinct values.
  • Batch Update - to perform batch update.

For for Files collection, you can import any of the following services:

  • Create - to create a file.
  • Upload - to upload a file.
  • Read - to get the file (data).
  • Delete - to remove the file.
  • List - to retrieve a files list.

Using Database in an App

The Appery.io Database is exposed via REST APIs, which you can import and then use in an app as described in the section above. Connecting to the database directly from the app works okay for very simple or small apps. For example, if your app only needs to load the entire list of objects and display them on a page.

If your app does more than just this (and that's most apps), we recommend using the following approach. Create a Server Code script that will access the database. This allows you to write any logic in the script which you don't have to do on the client. For example, you can:

  • Sort the database results.
  • Filter the database results.
  • Query the database two or more times.
  • Run any custom logic before or after querying the database.

We recommend this as invoking app logic is better on the server. This approach allows you to write as simple or as complicated logic using server-side JavaScript. Once you developed the script, it's very simple to test it. Once the script is tested, use in your app. If you need to make changes to the script, you can make changes without impacting the app.

Here are two more examples that demonstrate the benefits of using Server Code to access the database:

In addition to accessing the database, you can also send Push Notifications and invoke any 3rd party API from the Server Code script.