fermata

Succinct native REST client, for client-side web apps and node.js. Turns URLs into magic JavaScript objects. Supports JSON, CouchDB, OAuth 1.0a, form uploads and more!

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Fermata

Fermata is a JavaScript REST library that lets you simply state your HTTP requests using clean syntax.

Features:

  • cleanly build URL strings (optional dot syntax — node.js, supporting browsers) and send asynchronous HTTP requests
  • automatic conversion of JSON request/response data
  • easily send raw data and form requests (including files!)
  • full customization of request (method, headers, data) when necessary
  • easy to add custom initialization and transport handlers
  • OAuth 1.0a support — node.js

Fermata is a no-hassle library, compatible with all modern browsers and node.js

Why?

Fermata magically provides a clean JavaScript interface for direct access to any REST interface.

It does this by taking away the pain of URL strings and giving back a polished server response. Fermata works well in modern browsers and even better in node.js. Its API naturally matches the authoritative HTTP documentation, so you always have access to each of your REST interfaces' latest and greatest features. The simple plugin interface makes it easy to provide site-specific defaults, and/or support servers that don't use the standard JSON data format.

The differences are subtle, but the result is magic! In the end, Fermata makes URLs so elegant that there is no need to use — or maintain! — some one-off "wrapper library" for every different service.

Magic?

For production apps you'll want this file on your own server, but for quick in-browser development you can simply include:

<script src="https://raw.github.com/natevw/fermata/master/fermata.js"></script>

This will make Fermata available through a single global variable on the window: fermata

To make Fermata available under node.js, simply:

$ npm install fermata

The examples below assume you import Fermata's module via var fermata = require('fermata');

Alrighty then?

Let's GET started

So you need to fetch a JSON resource from "http://youraccount.example.com/api/v3/frobbles"?

In Fermata, that's just:

var site = fermata.json("http://youraccount.example.com");
site.api.v3.frobbles.get(function (err, data/*, headers*/) {
   if (!err) console.log("The first Frobble is named", data[0].name);
});

Fermata turns even URLs themselves into native JavaScript objects! Each path part becomes a property, and so slashes in HTTP paths simply turn into dot operators on JavaScript objects. When you pass a callback function, Fermata uses the last method call as the request's method. It really couldn't get much cleaner.

Need to add query parameters?

var newAPI = site.api.v4;     // reuses the base URL from above
newAPI.frobbles({ perPage: 10, page: myPageNum }).get(myPageHandler);

This does a GET on http://youraccount.example.com/api/v4/frobbles?perPage=10&page=N, then asynchronously passes the response data to the myPageHandler callback function after automatically converting the raw JSON response text into a ready-to-use object.

Browser behind the times?

Unfortunately, the examples above will only work in node.js, Firefox 4+ and (soon) Chrome. But don't worry! In browsers without JavaScript's upcoming Proxy feature you just need to use parentheses to form URLs, instead of dots:

var newAPI = site('api')('v4');
newAPI('frobbles')({ perPage: 10, page: myPageNum }).get(myPageHandler);

Note how the dot syntax does still work for the final .get; Fermata provides fallbacks for the basic HTTP methods until browsers catch up.

There's no harm in always using parentheses — you'll need them for adding query parameters or avoiding path component escaping anyway. The following all return the same URL string:

site.api.v4['cannot-dot']({key:"val"})()      // requires harmony-proxies support
site(['api/v4'])('cannot-dot')({key:"val"})()
site(['api/v4', 'cannot-dot'])({key:"val"})()
site('api', 'v4', 'cannot-dot', {key:"val"})()

PUT

Of course, it's also easy to update a REST resource with Fermata. Let's set some configuration on "http://youraccount.example.com/api/v3/whoozits/<ID>/repertoire":

(site.api.v3.whoozits[i].repertoire).put({
    tricks: [1,2,3,4]
}, function (error, result) {
    if (!error) {
        console.log("Configuration accepted for Whoozit #" + i);
    } else {
        console.warn(error);
    }
});

You can send data by passing it to the request method before your callback function (and headers by passing them before the data, but plugins usually handle that for you...). Just like Fermata converts the server's raw response into a JavaScript object, Fermata can convert data dictionaries into a variety of raw formats for you: JSON, x-www-form-urlencoded, form-data...

POST

When the HTTP documentation says something like, "To create a Quibblelog, POST it to /utils/quibblelogger":

site.utils.quibblelogger.post({ message: "All your base.", level: 'stern warning' }, someCallback);

Or for cross-browser support:

site('utils')('quibblelogger').post({ message: "All your base.", level: 'stern warning' }, someCallback);

Voilà!

Plugins

Every time you initialize a new Fermata URL, you do so through a plugin. Fermata provides two built-in (high level) plugins:

  1. json — initialized with a base URL string, then simply sends a JavaScript object to the server as a JSON string and expects that the server will reply with JSON too. Passes headers (and X-Status-Code) as the second callback argument.
  2. raw - gives more direct access, whatever text/byte data you pass gets sent verbatim and your callback gets the full response info. This is a handy way to start when adding new plugins (see below).

Many useful REST servers might talk in XML, or require that every request be specially signed with a secret key. Or maybe you just want to build the base URL string from higher-level settings.

Enter custom plugins.

For example, many of the ideas in Fermata originated in a node.js Chargify library we wrote for their payment management API.

Without plugins, setting up Fermata to connect to Chargify is totally possible...but kinda ugly:

var acct = fermata.json({url:"http://" + api_key + ":x@" + site_name + ".chargify.com"});

With the old custom Chargify-specific library this was a lot cleaner:

var acct = chargify.wrapSite(site_name, api_key);

...but of course if we stick with the old custom library, we then have to learn how to use its old custom interface (which was a bit confusing, and didn't support Fermata's dot syntax).

Plugins give us the best of both worlds. Fermata's one magical native API, with useful service-specific smoke and mirrors hiding backstage:

var acct = fermata.chargify(site_name, api_key);
// WHOOHOO NOW WE ARE MONEY MAKING!!!

There's a tiny bit of setup to use plugins from node.js, since Fermata can't actually read your mind:

var f = require('fermata');
require('fermata-chargify').init(f, 'billing');     // installs Chargify plugin into our Fermata module, optionally with a custom name.

f.billing(site_name, api_key);

In the browser, just include any plugins after the script tag for Fermata, and each plugin will be accessible through its default name.

Since such a "fermata-chargify" plugin hasn't been published yet, we can just register its implementation directly:

fermata.registerPlugin('myChargify', function (transport, name, key) {
    // setup our custom base URL
    this.base = "http://" + key + ":x@" + name + ".chargify.com";

    return function (request, callback) {
        // we can make usage much cleaner by automatically appending this extension
        request.path[request.path.length-1] += ".json";

        // the rest is "borrowed" from the built-in JSON plugin
        request.headers['Accept'] = "application/json";
        request.headers['Content-Type'] = "application/json";
        request.data = JSON.stringify(request.data);
        return transport(request, function (err, response) {
            if (!err) {
                if (response.status.toFixed()[0] !== '2') { err = Error("Bad status code from server: " + response.status); }
                try {
                    response = JSON.parse(response.data);
                } catch (e) { err = e; }
            }
            callback(err, response);
        });
    };
});

Plugin support is still young, and it might be nice to make it easier for plugins to build off of e.g. common JSON, OAuth, etc. foundations in the future. Take a look at the detailed documentation below for tips on publishing plugins that can be easily used from both node.js and the browser.

Complete documentation

NOTE: this API may continue to undergo refinement until a stable 1.0 release.

URL proxy

  • fermata.json(base_url) - create a URL proxy object for base_url using the built-in 'json' plugin
  • () - absolute URL as string
  • .method([headers, [data,]] function) - request targetting callback, returns native XHR/http.ClientRequest object including an .abort() method
  • (string/array...[, object]) - general extension syntax, each type documented below
  • (object) - override query parameters (see $key:value details below)
  • (array) - extend URL with components (without encoding)
  • (string[, string...]) - extend URL (with encoding)
  • [string] - extend URL (with encoding)

Once you create a URL wrapper, you can extend it in various ways:

var api = fermata.json({url:"http://api.example.com:5984"});
var eg1 = api.database._design.app._view.by_date;
var eg2 = api['database']['_design']['app']['_view']['by_date'];
var eg3 = api("database")("_design")("app")("_view", "by_date");
var eg4 = api.database(["_design/app", "_view/by_date"]);

These all result in the same API endpoint. We can dump the URL as a string using an empty ():

eg1() === eg2() === eg3() === eg4() === "http://api.example.com:5984/database/_design/app/_view/by_date";

At any point in the process, you can set query parameters (a leading '$' on a key forces JSON stringification of the value):

var api = fermata.api({url:"http://api.example.com:5984", user:"myuser", password:"mypassword");
var faster_queries = api({ stale: 'ok' });
var always_include_docs = faster_queries.database({ include_docs: true });
var some_app = always_include_docs({ reduce: false })._design.app;
var recent_items = some_app(['_view/by_date'], { $endkey: [2011, 4, 1] });
recent_items({ limit: 10 })() === "http://api.example.com:5984/database/_design/app/_view/by_date?stale=ok&include_docs=true&reduce=false&limit=10&endkey=%5B2011%2C4%2C1%5D";

Then, presto! To make a request on any Fermata URL, simply provide your response callback to the JavaScript method corresponding to the HTTP verb:

api.database.get(logging_callback);

var data = {};
api.database.put(data, logging_callback);

var headers = {};
api.database.post(headers, data, logging_callback).post(data);

// any method name can be used, not just the usual HTTP suspects
api.database.copy({Destination: "new_database"}, null, logging_callback);

Default plugins

Fermata provides two high-level plugins:

  • fermata.json("http://example.com") - send/receive data objects as JSON
  • fermata.raw({base:"http://example.com"}) - expects string request data, returns raw response from the platform-level transport, e.g. yourCallback(null, {status:418 headers:{}, data:"..."})

There are also several builtin plugins that are primarily intended for chaining within your own plugins:

  • fermata.statusCheck() - simple plugin that sets the callback error parameter if the response status code is not 2xx.
  • fermata.autoConvert([defaultType]) - converts request/response data between native JS data objects and common HTTP content types, using header fields (currently supports: "text/plain", "application/json", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded", "application/form-data")
  • fermata.oauth({client, client_secret[, token, token_secret]}) - adds an OAuth authorization signature to the requests it transports

File handling

There are two primary ways a server might allow binary file uploads, and Fermata supports them both:

  • RESTful PUT - fermata.raw("http://example.com/some/destination").put( nodeBufferOrBrowserFile , callback)
  • form upload - fermata.json("http://example.com/some/action").post({'Content-Type':"multipart/form-data"}, {fileField: form.input.file || {data:nodeBuffer, name:"", type:""} }, callback)

For multipart/form-data, send a File/Blob in the browser (Fermata will use the XHR2 FormData to send it). Under node.js, set the field name's value to an object with a .data property (and optional .name and .type).

Keep in mind that Fermata is intentionally designed to convert back and forth between fully-formed HTTP data and in-memory JavaScript objects, as this is exactly what you want for API communication, documents and photos. For larger files like video data or disk snapshots, you'll want to directly use the streaming features of node.js on the server-side, and provide an interruptible uploader app on the client-side.

Adding plugins

  • fermata.registerPlugin(name, setupFunction) - register a plugin initialization function that receives the platform transport function. This function should set this.base and must return a (typically wrapped/extended) transport function.

When the user calls fermata.yourplugin(...) to create a new URL wrapper, Fermata sets up a base "transport" function for your plugin to use and calls yourSetupFunction(transport, ...) with a this object set to an empty "internal URL" dictionary. You can chain plugins with the .using(name, ...) method on the transport object you receive. For example, if you want your requests to be processed by
The "internal URL" contains a subset of the request parameters ({base:"", path:[""], query:{}}) that the user will be extending through Fermata's API. You can add defaults in your setup function, setting this.base to a specific service's API root for example.

Fermata plugins intended for cross-platform use should generally try to follow the following template:

var fermata;
(function () {
    var plugin = function (transport, baseURL) {                // A plugin is a setup function which receives a base "raw" HTTP transport, followed by each argument supplied to the fermata.plugin call.
        this.base = baseURL;                    // ...this setup function can set default base/path/query items, then must return the (typically wrapped) request transport function.
        transport = transport.using('statusCheck').using('autoConvert', "application/json");        // any registered plugin may be used
        return function (request, callback) {                   // request = {base, method, path, query, headers, data}
            request.path[request.path.length - 1] += ".json";   // NOTE: automatically adding an extension like this breaks the URL string Fermata automatically returns on `()` calls, and so this pattern will likely need to be replaced somehow before v1.0
            transport(request, function (err, response) {       // response = {status, headers, data}
                callback(err, response);
            });
        };
    };

    // some boilerplate to deal with browser vs. CommonJS
    if (fermata) {
        fermata.registerPlugin("jsonExtension", plugin);
    } else {
        module.exports = plugin;
    }
})();

As of Fermata v0.9, this plugin API may still need some improvement (=change) but the basic idea is that Fermata can easily delegate the interesting high-level decisions to logic customized for a particular REST server interface.

Release Notes

  • 0.1 - initial release
  • 0.2 - Better docs, API tweaks
  • 0.3 - URL.method() redesign
  • 0.5 - Browser support
  • 0.6 - Plugin architecture
  • 0.7 - Plugin chaining
  • 0.8 - Form-based file uploads
  • 0.9 — Expose native request, better errors
  • 0.10 — Auto-convert improvements (headers, 204)

Roadmap

  • 0.11 - Clean up some loose ends and lingering questions (streams/binary, plugin chaining)
  • 1.0 - Your feedback needed before the API is finalized!

License

Written by Nathan Vander Wilt. Copyright © 2011 &yet, LLC. Released under the terms of the MIT License:

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.

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