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Her, an ORM for REST APIs

Cette note est écrite en anglais, c’est voulu. Hello, english-speaking friends!

Over the last few years, I’ve worked with Web applications that use a REST API as backend. I’ve also worked on regular Web applications that interact with a database (usually MySQL or MongoDB) backend. I quickly realized that one of things I missed the most while working with the first kind is the ORM. So I decided to build one.

I looked through existing solutions (mostly just ActiveResource, which turns out is not actively maintained anymore…) and found out it wasn’t as flexible as I wanted it to be. Lots of hard-coded stuff, no way to cleanly hook my own code in low-level methods, etc.

Her is an ORM that was specifically designed to work with REST APIs. Well, basically it does two things: 1) mapping HTTP responses to Ruby objects (through JSON) and 2) adding methods to Ruby objects that trigger HTTP requests (with Faraday). It handles the basic ORM stuff and much more. First, initialization is easy:

Her::API.setup :base_uri => "https://api.example.com"

The README file covers all supported features, but here a few ones:

CRUD (create, retrieve, update, delete)

Like every ORM, Her supports basic find, create, save and destroy methods. Each of these methods triggers an HTTP request and handles the response correctly.

class User
  include Her::Model

# Will call "GET /users/1"
@user = User.find(1) # => #<User(users/1) id=1 name="Tobias Fünke">

# Will call "POST /users&name=Maeby+Fünke"
@new_user = User.create(:name => "Maeby Fünke") # => #<User(users/2) id=2 name="Maeby Fünke">

# Will call "PUT /users/2&name=Maeby+Fünke&gender=F"
@new_user.gender = "F"

# Will call "DELETE /users/1"
User.delete_existing(1) # @user.find(1).delete would have worked too, but would have triggered 2 requests

Relationships and associations

Her also handles basic relationships through the has_many, belongs_to and has_one methods. It supports embedded relationship data in the resource response but will make an extra HTTP request to fetch it if it’s not included (providing that there’s an API endpoint for it).

class User
  include Her::Model
  has_many :comments

class Comment
  include Her::Model

# With embedded data (no extra HTTP request)
@user = User.find(1) # Let’s say GET /users/1 returns { :id => 1, :name => "Rémi Prévost", :comments => [{ :id => 2, :body => "Hello." }]
@user.comments # => [#<Comment(comments/2) id=2 body="Hello">]

# Without embedded data
@user = User.find(1) # Let’s say GET /users/1 returns { :id => 1, :name => "Rémi Prévost" }
@user.comments # => [#<Comment(comments/2) id=2 body="Hello">] fetched from "GET /users/1/comments"


One of nicest about using Faraday as the HTTP layer is that we can leverage its middleware and add custom behavior to the ORM. For example, Her currently doesn’t support authentication — but it’s very easy to add your own:

class MyAuthentication < Faraday::Middleware
  def call(env)
    env[:request_headers]["X-API-Token"] = "foobar"

Her::API.setup :base_uri => "https://api.example.com", :add_middleware => MyAuthentication

Now each request sent by Her will have a custom X-API-Token HTTP header.

What’s next?

Well first, it needs more documentation. The only documentation we currently have is YARD-generated, which is absolutely fine for me — but it needs more content.

In the meantime, feel free to report bugs, improve the code and suggest features in the issues. I’m quite proud of the spec directory for this project, so contributing without breaking anything should be relatively easy.