Ask any developer and they will be able to tell you how important an API is to a web or mobile service. APIs can be defined as a meeting point of different entities in the online infrastructure. A mobile app is connected to it’s backend through an API or an HTML5 app or a website uses an API to communicate to servers. And the right tool to manage and test is a must have tool for any developer.
Postman, a suite of API management tools, is a must have for any developer. At least in the opinion of 380,000 users, who form the monthly active user base of the API management suite.
To ensure smooth functioning of apps, API publishers usually use a wiki or a documentation site, which has to be constantly updated and maintained. Moreover, a programmer has to copy/paste or translate individual API calls manually into code so that she can try it out for her use case. This copy/paste/update process is a big source of errors, in fact, many steps done manually by a programmer can introduce bugs into the code.
While APIs themselves help connect entities together, the information flow between providers and consumers of an API is not exactly smooth, and this is where Postman comes in.
Postman was created out of a desire to make working with APIs easier.
“I found out that most tools available were not exactly designed for working with APIs on a regular basis. The growth of AJAX based web apps and mobile apps made it even more apparent that APIs are going to be a critical part of the development workflow,” says Abhinav Asthana, developer of Postman.
What Postman Delivers
Postman is a suite of tools which will help developers with REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs more efficiently. The Postman Chrome app let’s you construct and send API requests quickly, which is a lot faster than writing your own code or using existing command line tools.
One of the highlights of the tool is that it lets you save API requests, so that you can change parameters and send them again.
“I decided to work on Postman full time 3 months ago. Working on Postman has been extremely rewarding for me. It has given me the opportunity to interact with hundreds of people from all over the world. I love writing code as well as designing interfaces and I am happy doing both with Postman,” says Abhinav, who quit his position as CTO of TeliportMe to pursue his project full time.
The API management suite has been adopted by individual developers as well as companies, including Box, Cisco, Raw Engineering, Intel, BazaarVoice and The Guardian to name a few. Noted developers like Scott Hanselman have mentioned it as one of the best developer tools of 2014.
Postman is available as both a Google Chrome Packaged App and a Google Chrome in-browser app. The packaged app version includes advanced features that are not available in the in-browser version. The has also been highest rated productivity app on the Chrome Web Store.
The suite is free to use, and currently generates revenues through donations and in-app purchases.
Abhinav says, “Developers and companies have contributed to it’s development through donations. Mashape is an official Postman sponsor. Last month a new upgrade called Jetpacks was launched which developers can get for $9.99 per copy.”
Another interesting feature of the app is ‘Collections’. It is is basically a group of requests with it’s associated metadata. Using collections a developer can document their entire API. Once an API has been saved as a collection, it can be shared and imported by others.
More than 63,000 API collections have been shared through Postman and it is used in more than 100 countries. Usage in United States beats everyone else by a healthy margin. India and China come next followed by the UK, Germany and France.
There have been other Chrome and Firefox apps which allows developers to fire requests to an API. Fiddler and Curl are some other well known tools used by developers. Lately, there are also API tools from companies like Apiary and Runscope.
In the future Postman plans to incorporate a sync service, so that collections can be synced and shared between users just like Google Docs. Integration with Continuous Integration (CI) servers is a high priority feature as well.
Abhinav is a B.E. in Electronics and Instrumentation from the Goa campus of BITS-Pilani and is also the co-founder of BITS360 (a panoramic virtual tour of all 4 BITS campuses).
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