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Building a RESTful web service with AngularJS $resource

This is a two parts post about how to make RESTful requests through an AngularJS web application.

The index of this brief series of posts is quite simple.

  • Backend setup is the first post in the series. As the subtitle, its main focus is (at least this time) on the backend domain. It will tackle how to setup a RESTful web service. I used PHP for all the examples; however at least the basic concepts beyond a RESTful service are language agnostic.

  • More power with $resource is focused on AngularJS. This post will tackle how to handle RESTful requests through a web application specifically powered by AngularJS. The publication of this post is scheduled for 5 September.

$http or $resource?

In all the posts about AngularJS that I wrote until now, every time that it was necessary to make an asynchronous request to the server I used the $http service. So now, probably you’re asking yourself where do $resource come from.

$resource is a separate, optional module of AngularJS, built over $http. It allows to create a javascript object that represents the data model. In this way each operation computed on the object created through it, is performed also on the server. $resource should be used instead of $http each time the web application has to deal with a RESTful web service.

var r = $resource(url, [defaultParameters], [customActions]);

 - url: parameterized url template.
   Parameters are prefixed by ":"
   for example /book/:bookId
 - defaultParameters: object containing default values
    for url's parameter
   for example { bookId: 42 }
 - customActions: allows to extend the resource object with
   custom actions
   for example:

   {actionName: {
     method: '',
     params: {},
     isArray: true/false }}

   - method: HTTP request method
   - params: additional parameters
   - isArray: true if the expected returned object is an array


// r expones the methods for the default set of
// resource actions

// for example:
// r.get({bookId: 42}) sends a GET request to /book/42

Start using $resource

As I said previously $resource is a separate module of AngularJS; it is defined in the angular-resource.js file, often downloaded with angular.js.

To use $resource there are three easy things to do:

  • Include the source file, immediately after the source of angular.js, and ideally just before the end of the body.
<script src="angular.js"></script>
<script src="angular-resource.js"></script>

<!-- ... more javascript ... -->

  • Include ngResource in the declaration of your web application module.
var myApp = angular.module("myApp", ["ngResource"]);
  • Inject $resource everywhere it will be used. The best choice is to wrap the JavaScript model object into an AngularJS service, in this way we’ll get each of the advantages of using services:
myApp.factory("Books", ["$resource", function ($resource) {
  return $resource( "/book/:bookId",
    { bookId: "@bookId" }, {
      loan: {
        method: "PUT",
        params: { bookId: "@bookId" },
        isArray: false
      /* , method2: { ... } */
    } );

At this point it is really simple to send requests to the web service, that we build in the previous post.

Everywhere it is possible to inject the Books service it is possible to write:

postData = {
  "id": 42,
  "title": "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy",
  "authors": ["Douglas Adams"]

Books.save({}, postData);
// It sends a POST request to /book.
// postData are the additional post data

Books.get({ bookId: 42 });
// Get data about the book with id = 42

// It is still a GET request, but it points to /book,
// so it is used to get the data about all the books

Books.loan({ bookId: 42 });
// It is a custom action.
// Update the data of the book with id = 42

Books.delete({ bookId: 42 });
// Delete data about the book with id = 42