REST

Many newer application programmers are realizing the need to open their core functionality to a greater audience. Providing easy, unfettered access to your core API can help get your platform accepted, and allows for mashups and easy integration with other systems.

While other solutions exist, REST is a great way to provide easy access to the logic you’ve created in your application. It’s simple, usually XML-based (we’re talking simple XML, nothing like a SOAP envelope), and depends on HTTP headers for direction. Exposing an API via REST in CakePHP is simple.

The Simple Setup

The fastest way to get up and running with REST is to add a few lines to setup resource routes in your config/routes.php file.

Once the router has been set up to map REST requests to certain controller actions, we can move on to creating the logic in our controller actions. A basic controller might look something like this:

// src/Controller/RecipesController.php
class RecipesController extends AppController
{

    public function initialize()
    {
        parent::initialize();
        $this->loadComponent('RequestHandler');
    }

    public function index()
    {
        $recipes = $this->Recipes->find('all');
        $this->set([
            'recipes' => $recipes,
            '_serialize' => ['recipes']
        ]);
    }

    public function view($id)
    {
        $recipe = $this->Recipes->get($id);
        $this->set([
            'recipe' => $recipe,
            '_serialize' => ['recipe']
        ]);
    }

    public function add()
    {
        $recipe = $this->Recipes->newEntity($this->request->getData());
        if ($this->Recipes->save($recipe)) {
            $message = 'Saved';
        } else {
            $message = 'Error';
        }
        $this->set([
            'message' => $message,
            'recipe' => $recipe,
            '_serialize' => ['message', 'recipe']
        ]);
    }

    public function edit($id)
    {
        $recipe = $this->Recipes->get($id);
        if ($this->request->is(['post', 'put'])) {
            $recipe = $this->Recipes->patchEntity($recipe, $this->request->getData());
            if ($this->Recipes->save($recipe)) {
                $message = 'Saved';
            } else {
                $message = 'Error';
            }
        }
        $this->set([
            'message' => $message,
            '_serialize' => ['message']
        ]);
    }

    public function delete($id)
    {
        $recipe = $this->Recipes->get($id);
        $message = 'Deleted';
        if (!$this->Recipes->delete($recipe)) {
            $message = 'Error';
        }
        $this->set([
            'message' => $message,
            '_serialize' => ['message']
        ]);
    }
}

RESTful controllers often use parsed extensions to serve up different views based on different kinds of requests. Since we’re dealing with REST requests, we’ll be making XML views. You can make JSON views using CakePHP’s built-in JSON and XML views. By using the built in XmlView we can define a _serialize view variable. This special view variable is used to define which view variables XmlView should serialize into XML.

If we wanted to modify the data before it is converted into XML we should not define the _serialize view variable, and instead use template files. We place the REST views for our RecipesController inside src/Template/Recipes/xml. We can also use the Xml for quick-and-easy XML output in those views. Here’s what our index view might look like:

// src/Template/Recipes/xml/index.ctp
// Do some formatting and manipulation on
// the $recipes array.
$xml = Xml::fromArray(['response' => $recipes]);
echo $xml->asXML();

When serving up a specific content type using Cake\Routing\Router::extensions(), CakePHP automatically looks for a view helper that matches the type. Since we’re using XML as the content type, there is no built-in helper, however if you were to create one it would automatically be loaded for our use in those views.

The rendered XML will end up looking something like this:

<recipes>
    <recipe>
        <id>234</id>
        <created>2008-06-13</created>
        <modified>2008-06-14</modified>
        <author>
            <id>23423</id>
            <first_name>Billy</first_name>
            <last_name>Bob</last_name>
        </author>
        <comment>
            <id>245</id>
            <body>Yummy yummmy</body>
        </comment>
    </recipe>
    ...
</recipes>

Creating the logic for the edit action is a bit trickier, but not by much. Since you’re providing an API that outputs XML, it’s a natural choice to receive XML as input. Not to worry, the Cake\Controller\Component\RequestHandler and Cake\Routing\Router classes make things much easier. If a POST or PUT request has an XML content-type, then the input is run through CakePHP’s Xml class, and the array representation of the data is assigned to $this->request->getData(). Because of this feature, handling XML and POST data in parallel is seamless: no changes are required to the controller or model code. Everything you need should end up in $this->request->getData().

Accepting Input in Other Formats

Typically REST applications not only output content in alternate data formats, but also accept data in different formats. In CakePHP, the RequestHandlerComponent helps facilitate this. By default, it will decode any incoming JSON/XML input data for POST/PUT requests and supply the array version of that data in $this->request->getData(). You can also wire in additional deserializers for alternate formats if you need them, using RequestHandler::addInputType().

RESTful Routing

CakePHP’s Router makes connecting RESTful resource routes easy. See the section on Creating RESTful Routes for more information.