crul workflows

The following aims to help you decide how to use crul in different scenarios.

First, crul is aimed a bit more at developers than at the casual user doing HTTP requests. That is, crul is probably a better fit for an R package developer, mainly because it heavily uses R6 - an interface that’s very unlike the interface in httr but very similar to interacting with classes in Ruby/Python.

Second, there is not yet, but will be soon, the ability to mock HTTP requests. We are working on that, and should have it integrated soon. When that feature arrives we’ll update this vignette.

Load the library

library("crul")

A simple HTTP request function

Most likely you’ll want to do a GET request - so let’s start with that - though the details are not much different for other HTTP verbs.

And in most cases you’ll likely not want to do asynchronous requests - though see below if you do.

You’ll probably want to write a small function, like so (annotated for clarity)

make_request <- function(url) {
  # create a HttpClient object, defining the url
  cli <- crul::HttpClient$new(url = url)
  # do a GET request
  res <- cli$get()
  # check to see if request failed or succeeded
  # - if succeeds this will return nothing and proceeds to next step
  res$raise_for_status()
  # parse response to plain text (JSON in this case) - most likely you'll 
  # want UTF-8 encoding
  txt <- res$parse("UTF-8")
  # parse the JSON to an R list
  jsonlite::fromJSON(txt)
}

Use the function

make_request("https://httpbin.org/get")
#> Error: Service Unavailable (HTTP 503)

Now you can use the make_request function in your script or package.

More customized function

Once you get more familiar (or if you’re already familiar with HTTP) you may want to have more control, toggle more switches.

In the next function, we’ll allow for users to pass in curl options, use a custom HTTP status checker, and xxx.

make_request2 <- function(url, ...) {
  # create a HttpClient object, defining the url
  cli <- crul::HttpClient$new(url = url)
  # do a GET request, allow curl options to be passed in
  res <- cli$get(...)
  # check to see if request failed or succeeded
  # - a custom approach this time combining status code, 
  #   explanation of the code, and message from the server
  if (res$status_code > 201) {
    mssg <- jsonlite::fromJSON(res$parse("UTF-8"))$message$message
    x <- res$status_http()
    stop(
      sprintf("HTTP (%s) - %s\n  %s", x$status_code, x$explanation, mssg),
      call. = FALSE
    )
  }
  # parse response
  txt <- res$parse("UTF-8")
  # parse the JSON to an R list
  jsonlite::fromJSON(txt)
}

Use the function

make_request2("https://api.crossref.org/works?rows=0")
#> $status
#> [1] "ok"
#> 
#> $`message-type`
#> [1] "work-list"
#> 
#> $`message-version`
#> [1] "1.0.0"
#> 
#> $message
#> $message$facets
#> named list()
#> 
#> $message$`total-results`
#> [1] 98119404
#> 
#> $message$items
#> list()
#> 
#> $message$`items-per-page`
#> [1] 0
#> 
#> $message$query
#> $message$query$`start-index`
#> [1] 0
#> 
#> $message$query$`search-terms`
#> NULL

No different from the first function (besides the URL). However, now we can pass in curl options:

make_request2("https://api.crossref.org/works?rows=0", verbose = TRUE)
make_request2("https://api.crossref.org/works?rows=0", timeout_ms = 1)

We can also pass named parameters supported in the get method, including query, disk, and stream.

make_request2("https://api.crossref.org/works", query = list(rows = 0))
#> $status
#> [1] "ok"
#> 
#> $`message-type`
#> [1] "work-list"
#> 
#> $`message-version`
#> [1] "1.0.0"
#> 
#> $message
#> $message$facets
#> named list()
#> 
#> $message$`total-results`
#> [1] 98119404
#> 
#> $message$items
#> list()
#> 
#> $message$`items-per-page`
#> [1] 0
#> 
#> $message$query
#> $message$query$`start-index`
#> [1] 0
#> 
#> $message$query$`search-terms`
#> NULL

In addition, the failure behavior is different, and customized to the specific web resource we are working with

make_request2("https://api.crossref.org/works?rows=asdf")
#> Error: HTTP (400) - Bad request syntax or unsupported method
#>   Integer specified as asdf but must be a positive integer less than or equal to 1000.

Asynchronous requests

You may want to use asynchronous HTTP requests when any one HTTP request takes “too long”. This is of course all relative. You may be dealing with a server that responds very slowly, or other circumstances.

See the async with crul vignette for more details on asynchronous requests.