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Code Your First API With Node.js and Express: Connect a Database

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This post is part of a series called Code Your First API With Node.js and Express.
Code Your First API With Node.js and Express: Set Up the Server

Build a REST API With Node.js and Express: Connecting a Database

In the first tutorial, Understanding RESTful APIs, we learned what the REST architecture is, what HTTP request methods and responses are, and how to understand a RESTful API endpoint. In the second tutorial, How to Set Up an Express API Server, we learned how to build servers with both Node's built-in http module and the Express framework, and how to route the app we created to different URL endpoints.

Currently, we're using static data to display user information in the form of a JSON feed when the API endpoint is hit with a GET request. In this tutorial, we're going to set up a MySQL database to store all the data, connect to the database from our Node.js app, and allow the API to use the GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE methods to create a complete API.

Installation

Up to this point, we have not used a database to store or manipulate any data, so we're going to set one up. This tutorial will be using MySQL, and if you already have MySQL installed on your computer, you'll be ready to go on to the next step.

If you don't have MySQL installed, you can download MAMP for macOS and Windows, which provides a free, local server environment and database. Once you have this downloaded, open the program and click Start Servers to start MySQL.

In addition to setting up MySQL itself, we'll want GUI software to view the database and tables. For Mac, download SequelPro, and for Windows download SQLyog. Once you have MySQL downloaded and running, you can use SequelPro or SQLyog to connect to localhost with the username root and password root on port 3306.

Once everything is set up here, we can move on to setting up the database for our API.

Setting Up the Database

In your database viewing software, add a new database and call it api. Make sure MySQL is running, or you won't be able to connect to localhost.

When you have the api database created, move into it and run the following query to create a new table.

This SQL query will create the structure of our users table. Each user will have an auto-incrementing id, a name, and an email address.

We can also fill the database with the same data that we're currently displaying through a static JSON array by running an INSERT query.

There is no need to input the id field, as it is auto-incrementing. At this point, we have the structure of our table as well as some sample data to work with.

Connecting to MySQL

Back in our app, we have to connect to MySQL from Node.js to begin working with the data. Earlier, we installed the mysql npm module, and now we're going to use it.

Create a new directory called data and make a config.js file.

We'll begin by requiring the mysql module in data/config.js.

Let's create a config object that contains the host, user, password, and database. This should refer to the api database we made and use the default localhost settings.

For efficiency, we're going to create a MySQL pool, which allows us to use multiple connections at once instead of having to manually open and close multiple connections.

Finally, we'll export the MySQL pool so the app can use it.

You can see the completed database configuration file in our GitHub repo.

Now that we're connecting to MySQL and our settings are complete, we can move on to interacting with the database from the API.

Getting API Data From MySQL

Currently, our routes.js file is manually creating a JSON array of users, which looks like this.

Since we're no longer going to be using static data, we can delete that entire array and replace it with a link to our MySQL pool.

Previously, the GET for the /users path was sending the static users data. Our updated code is going to query the database for that data instead. We're going to use a SQL query to SELECT all from the users table, which looks like this.

Here is what our new /users get route will look like, using the pool.query() method.

Here, we're running the SELECT query and then sending the result as JSON to the client via the /users endpoint. If you restart the server and navigate to the /users page, you'll see the same data as before, but now it's dynamic.

Using URL Parameters

So far, our endpoints have been static paths—either the / root or /users—but what about when we want to see data only about a specific user? We'll need to use a variable endpoint.

For our users, we might want to retrieve information about each individual user based on their unique id. To do that, we would use a colon (:) to denote that it's a route parameter.

We can retrieve the parameter for this path with the request.params property. Since ours is named id, that will be how we refer to it.

Now we'll add a WHERE clause to our SELECT statement to only get results that have the specified id.

We'll use ? as a placeholder to avoid SQL injection and pass the id through as a parameter, instead of building a concatenated string, which would be less secure.

The full code for our individual user resource now looks like this:

Now you can restart the server and navigate to http://localhost/users/2 to see only the information for Gilfoyle. If you get an error like Cannot GET /users/2, it means you need to restart the server.

Going to this URL should return a single result.

If that's what you see, congratulations: you've successfully set up a dynamic route parameter!

Sending a POST Request

So far, everything we've been doing has used GET requests. These requests are safe, meaning they do not alter the state of the server. We've simply been viewing JSON data.

Now we're going to begin to make the API truly dynamic by using a POST request to add new data.

I mentioned earlier in the Understanding REST article that we don't use verbs like add or delete in the URL for performing actions. In order to add a new user to the database, we'll POST to the same URL we view them from, but just set up a separate route for it.

Note that we're using app.post() instead of app.get() now.

Since we're creating instead of reading, we'll use an INSERT query here, much like we did at the initialization of the database. We'll send the entire request.body through to the SQL query.

We're also going to specify the status of the response as 201, which stands for Created. In order to get the id of the last inserted item, we'll use the insertId property.

Our entire POST receive code will look like this.

Now we can send a POST request through. Most of the time when you send a POST request, you're doing it through a web form. We'll learn how to set that up by the end of this article, but the fastest and easiest way to send a test POST is with cURL, using the -d (--data) flag.

We'll run curl -d, followed by a query string containing all the key/value pairs and the request endpoint.

Once you send this request through, you should get a response from the server.

If you navigate to http://localhost/users, you'll see the latest entry added to the list.

Sending a PUT Request

POST is useful for adding a new user, but we'll want to use PUT to modify an existing user. PUT is idempotent, meaning you can send the same request through multiple times and only one action will be performed. This is different than POST, because if we sent our new user request through more than once, it would keep creating new users.

For our API, we're going to set up PUT to be able to handle editing a single user, so we're going to use the :id route parameter this time.

Let's create an UPDATE query and make sure it only applies to the requested id with the WHERE clause. We're using two ? placeholders, and the values we pass will go in sequential order.

For our test, we'll edit user 2 and update the email address from gilfoyle@piedpiper.com to bertram@piedpiper.com. We can use cURL again, with the [-X (--request)] flag, to explicitly specify that we're sending a PUT request through.

Make sure to restart the server before sending the request, or else you'll get the Cannot PUT /users/2 error.

You should see this:

The user data with id 2 should now be updated.

Sending a DELETE Request

Our last task to complete the CRUD functionality of the API is to make an option for deleting a user from the database. This request will use the DELETE SQL query with WHERE, and it will delete an individual user specified by a route parameter.

We can use -X again with cURL to send the delete through. Let's delete the latest user we created.

You'll see the success message.

Navigate to http://localhost:3002, and you'll see that there are only two users now.

Congratulations! At this point, the API is complete. Visit the GitHub repo to see the complete code for routes.js.

Sending Requests Through the request Module

At the beginning of this article, we installed four dependencies, and one of them was the request module. Instead of using cURL requests, you could make a new file with all the data and send it through. I'll create a file called post.js that will create a new user via POST.

We can call this using node post.js in a new terminal window while the server is running, and it will have the same effect as using cURL. If something is not working with cURL, the request module is useful as we can view the error, response, and body.

Sending Requests Through a Web Form

Usually, POST and other HTTP methods that alter the state of the server are sent using HTML forms. In this very simple example, we can create an index.html file anywhere, and make a field for a name and email address. The form's action will point to the resource, in this case http//localhost:3002/users, and we'll specify the method as post.

Create index.html and add the following code to it:

Open this static HTML file in your browser, fill it out, and send it while the server is running in the terminal. You should see the response of User added with ID: 4, and you should be able to view the new list of users.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, we learned how to hook up an Express server to a MySQL database and set up routes that correspond to the GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE methods for paths and dynamic route parameters. We also learned how to send HTTP requests to an API server using cURL, the Node.js request module, and HTML forms.

At this point, you should have a very good understanding of how RESTful APIs work, and you can now create your own full-fledged API in Node.js with Express and MySQL!

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