Python REST API With SwaggerUI

Posted on Sat 29 October 2016 in REST • 3 min read

What with REST APIs and the swagger framework for documenting and integrating them being the in-thing lately, to start getting to grips with them I wanted to see how easy it would be to create a simple one in Python with minimal code from me. Turns out it was very simple.

As practice project I picked writing a really simple datastore.

Choosing a Package

After looking around for something that provides a SwaggerUI (demo here to see what this looks like) and schema, I found Flask-RESTPlus which does this really easily out of the box. It also builds on top of Flask which I’ve heard good things about and wanted to try for a while - having only used cherrypy before myself.

Another thing I wanted was to be able to easily test the API, and it seemed Flask is really easy to test, and so by extension so is Flask-RESTPlus as it just plugs in on top. So this combo sounded like a good choice to get going.

I also needed some way to store the data and so looked for a really simple key-value store. A quick search gave TinyDB - small, easy to set up, and stores Python dicts directly (easily converted to from the JSON used in the API).

Getting Started

Getting something up and running was very straightforward - I followed the tutorial here and wrote tests as I went.

That was followed by lots of tweaking/playing with the contents of the SwaggerUI page and working out how to create data models to enforce on the API, but the bulk of the work to get going was trivial.


The SwaggerUI page is really great for exploring and documenting APIs. Often it’s hard to grasp how to integrate with some new code from reading it, but here you can actually play with the interface, press buttons to see what happens, and provide input and follow it through different API calls - really nice to use. Definitely like it and plan to use it more.

With a bit of reading of the Flask-RESTPlus docs you can edit all the fields and documentation in the Swagger UI page so you can make it as easy to use as possible - looks like it’s fully featured in that respect and was a good choice.


It wasn’t entirely plain sailing though - here are the main problems I hit that it’s worth being aware of!

  • You have to use a non-empty prefix for your API to start at (prefix parameter here). I raised an issue about it but it didn’t garner much attention. It’s pretty minor though - I suspect any real system would not have the API exposed on / directly.

  • It doesn’t seem like the swagger schema is exposed anywhere over HTTP by Flask-RESTPlus by default. However, it’s really easy to do so, just return api.__schema__ as the response to a GET request and it’s there. I ended up doing that in a separate schema namespace so it gets it’s own top-level section in the SwaggerUI.

  • If you use the @api.expect decorator to state what model the incoming data must match, Flask-RESTPlus won’t force incoming data to conform unless you set the validate=True parameter on it - seems like the wrong default to me…

End Result

And here’s the result - microstore - a trivial datastore with a rest API and documented and interactive via SwaggerUI. I kept all the code in one file to make it as simple a reference as possible.

I’d say it was a success, and was a fun weekend!