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HTTPie, a Human-Friendly cURL-Like Tool

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cURL is a commonly used command-line tool for making HTTP requests. In this tutorial, we'll have a look at HTTPie, a command-line tool for making HTTP requests in a human-friendly way. HTTPie uses commands with simple and natural syntax and displays the output in a presentable manner. 

From the official docs:

HTTPie (pronounced aitch-tee-tee-pie) is a command line HTTP client. Its goal is to make CLI interaction with web services as human-friendly as possible. It provides a simple http command that allows for sending arbitrary HTTP requests using a simple and natural syntax, and displays colorized output. HTTPie can be used for testing, debugging, and generally interacting with HTTP servers.

Getting Started

In order to get started with HTTPie on an Ubuntu machine, you need to install the package using apt-get.

Once it's installed, you should have HTTPie on your system. Try to make a GET request to any website using HTTPie:

The above query gives the following response:

HTTP Response

That looks as if HTTPie is installed and working on your system. If you look closely, the colored output of the above command shows that the URL has been moved permanently to https://tutsplus.com. Hence, to do a GET request query on tutsplus, modify the query:

The above query would return the HTML output of the GET request on the URL https://tutsplus.com

As seen from the above query, the only information HTTPie needs to perform a request is the URL.

Performing Basic Requests Using HTTPie

Before diving deep into HTTPie commands, we'll have a look at how to perform the basic requests using HTTPie. We'll be making use of json-server to have a dummy server up and running for making requests. To get started with json-server, install the server using npm.

Create a file called index.js which will create some random data for our dummy server.

Run the json server using the index.js file.

Now the server should be up and running at http://localhost:3000/.

GET Request Using HTTPie

By default if a URL is given to HTTPie, it assumes the request type to be GET and performs accordingly. Here is an example of a GET request:

The above request displays the following output:

POST Request Using HTTPie

To perform a POST request using HTTPie, we need to add the POST keyword along with the data to be posted to the URL. Here is an example:

The command would display the following output on the terminal screen:

Try doing a GET request using HTTPie, and you should see the newly posted data in the response.

Submitting Forms Using HTTPie

Submitting a form is another request that is commonly performed by a user. With HTTPie, it becomes quite a bit easier to submit a form over a URL by specifying the form option as shown:

When the above command is executed, the Content-Type is automatically set to application/x-www-form-urlencoded; charset=utf-8, hence you don't need to set it explicitly.

Handling HTTP Redirect

As you may have noticed in our earlier example, by default HTTPie does not handle HTTP redirects. When we tried to do a GET request on www.tutsplus.com, it showed a message stating the URL had been moved. If you want HTTPie to handle redirects, you need to add an option called follow to the request command.

The above HTTPie query would handle HTTP redirects, if any.

Download Files Using HTTPie

HTTPie provides a feature to download files from a server, similar to the wget command. In order to download the file, you need to specify a download option along with the URL.

The above command would display a response as shown below:

Handling Authentication

Accessing a web service URL would require some or other kind of authentication. HTTPie supports most of the commonly used authentication mechanisms. By default, HTTPie supports basic authentication, so you only need to pass in the username and password to the request with the -a option. 

To use a digest authentication, you'll need to pass in the authentication mechanism name using the -A option.

Customizing the Response Display

When we make a request to a URL, all the data along with the header information is displayed in the terminal. HTTPie provides an option to customize the output response. You can print the individual header and body information by specifying the --header and --body option along with the request.

The above command would print the header information as shown:

Now, if you try the HTTP request along with the --body option, it should only print the body portion.

The above command would print the following output:

Maintaining Sessions

While using HTTPie, each request is independent of other requests. We can keep sessions in case we want to persist the session for other HTTP requests. In order to maintain a session, all we need to do is create a named session as shown:

The above command would create a session called roy which can be used for other requests by using the session name. Here is an example which uses the session roy:

Auto Complete Using HTTP Prompt

It might be difficult to remember all commands related to HTTPie. The http-prompt toolkit provides an auto complete feature which can be used along with HTTPie. To get started with http-prompt, install it using pip:

To start a session, invoke http-prompt with the server URL which we'll be querying. Restart the json-server that we installed and invoke the http-prompt as shown:

Type in a few letters of HTTP and the auto complete should show up.

A demo of the autocomplete

Type in httpie and it should display the URL we are querying.

All the HTTPie request commands should be working in the http-prompt. Try typing in GET and it should pop up in the auto complete. On entering the GET command, the following response should be displayed.

The response of a GET command

Wrapping It Up

In this tutorial, we saw how to get started with HTTPie, a more human-friendly cURL alternative. We saw how to do the basic request operations like GET and POST using HTTPie and some other features. For in-depth information on using HTTPie, do have a look at the official documentation. Also check out the official documentation for http-prompt. Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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