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Activity: Use methods with curl

Last updated: Sep 07, 2020

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Our sample weather API doesn’t allow you to use anything but a GET method, so for this exercise, to use other methods with curl, we’ll use the petstore API from Swagger. However, we won’t actually use the Swagger UI (which is something we’ll explore later). For now, we just need an API with which we can use to create, update, and delete content.

In this example, using the Petstore API, you’ll create a new pet, update the pet, get the pet’s ID, delete the pet, and then try to get the deleted pet.

Create a new pet

To create a pet, you have to pass a JSON message in the request body. Rather than trying to encode the JSON and pass it in the URL, you’ll store the JSON in a file and reference the file.

A lot of APIs require you to post requests containing JSON messages in the body. Request bodies are often how you configure a service. The list of JSON key-value pairs that the API accepts is called the “Model” in the Swagger UI display.

  1. Insert the following into a text file. This information will be passed in the -d parameter of the curl request:

      "id": 123,
      "category": {
        "id": 123,
        "name": "test"
      "name": "fluffy",
      "photoUrls": [
      "tags": [
          "id": 0,
          "name": "string"
      "status": "available"
  2. Change the first id value to another integer (a whole number in this case). Also, change the pet’s name of fluffy to something else.

    Use a unique ID and name that others aren’t likely to also use. Also, don’t begin your ID with the number 0.

  3. Save the file in a directory that you can conveniently access from your terminal, such as your user directory (on a Mac, Users/YOURUSERNAME — replace YOURUSERNAME with your actual user name on your computer).
  4. In your terminal, browse to the directory where you saved the mypet.json file. (Usually, the default directory is Users/YOURUSERNAME — hence the previous step.)

    If you’ve never browsed directories using the command line, here’s how you do it:

    • On a Mac, find your present working directory by typing pwd. Then move up a level by typing change directory: cd ../. Move down a level by typing cd pets, where pets is the name of the directory you want to move into. Type ls to list the contents of the directory.

    • On Windows, look at the prompt path to see your current directory. Then move up a level by typing cd ../. Move down a level by typing cd pets, where pets is the name of the directory you want to move into. Type dir to list the contents of the current directory.

  5. After your terminal or command prompt is in the same directory as your JSON file, create the new pet with the following curl request:

    curl -X POST --header "Content-Type: application/json" --header "Accept: application/json" -d @mypet.json ""

    The Content-Type indicates the type of content submitted in the request body. The Accept indicates the type of content we will accept in the response.

    The response should look something like this:


    In the response, check to see that your pet’s name was returned.

Update your pet

Guess what, your pet hates its name! Change your pet’s name to something more formal using the update pet method.

  1. In the mypet.json file, change the pet’s name.
  2. Use the PUT method instead of POST to update the pet’s name (keep the same curl content otherwise):

    curl -X PUT --header "Content-Type: application/json" --header "Accept: application/json" -d @mypet.json ""

Get your pet’s name by ID

Find your pet’s name by passing the ID into the /pet/{petID} endpoint:

  1. In your mypet.json file, copy the first id value.
  2. Use this curl command to get information about that pet ID, replacing 51231236 with your pet ID.

    curl -X GET --header "Accept: application/json" ""

    The response contains your pet’s name and other information:

    {"id":51231236,"category":{"id":4,"name":"test"},"name":"mr. fluffernutter","photoUrls":["string"],"tags":[{"id":0,"name":"string"}],"status":"available"}

    You can format the JSON by pasting it into a JSON formatting tool:

      "id": 51231236,
      "category": {
        "id": 4,
        "name": "test"
      "name": "mr. fluffernutter",
      "photoUrls": [
      "tags": [
          "id": 0,
          "name": "string"
      "status": "available"

Delete your pet

Unfortunately, your pet has died. It’s time to delete your pet from the pet registry.

  1. Use the DELETE method to remove your pet. Replace 5123123 with your pet ID:

    curl -X DELETE --header "Accept: application/json" ""
  2. Now check to make sure your pet is removed. Use a GET request to look for your pet with that ID:

    curl -X GET --header "Accept: application/json" ""

    You should see this error message:

    {"code":1,"type":"error","message":"Pet not found"}

This example allowed you to see how you can work with curl to create, read, update, and delete resources. These four operations are referred to as CRUD and are common to almost every programming language.

Although Postman is probably easier to use, curl lends itself to power-level usage. Quality assurance teams often construct advanced test scenarios that iterate through a lot of curl requests.

Understanding idempotent methods

One concept important to understand with HTTP methods is “idempotency.” Roy Fielding defines idempotency as follows:

A request method is considered “idempotent” if the intended effect on the server of multiple identical requests with that method is the same as the effect for a single such request. Of the request methods defined by this specification, PUT, DELETE, and safe request methods are idempotent” (RFC 7231, 4.2.2.

In other words, with idempotent methods, you can run them multiple times without multiplying the results. Idempotent methods include GET, PUT, and DELETE, while POST is not (see 8.1.3 for a more detailed list).

Todd Fredrich explains idempotency by comparing it to a pregnant cow. Let’s say you bring over a bull to get a cow pregnant. Even if the bull and cow mate multiple times, the result will be just one pregnancy, not a pregnancy for each mating session.

Import curl into Postman

You can import curl commands into Postman by doing the following:

  1. Open a new tab in Postman and click the Import button in the upper-left corner.
  2. Select Paste Raw Text and insert your curl command:

    curl -X GET --header "Accept: application/json" ""

    Make sure you don’t have any extra spaces at the beginning.

    Importing into Postman

  3. Click Import.
  4. Close the dialog box.
  5. Click Send. (If you deleted your pet, you will see the same “Pet not found” error message as before.)

Export Postman to curl

You can also export Postman to curl by doing the following:

  1. If desired, select one of your OpenWeatherMap API requests in Postman.
  2. Click the Code button (it’s right below Save).

    Generating code snippets

  3. Select curl from the drop-down menu.
  4. Copy the code snippet.

    curl -X GET \

    In place of APIKEY you should see your actual API key.

  5. Remove the backslashes and line breaks. If you’re on Windows, change the single quotes to double quotes.
  6. Insert the curl command into your terminal and observe the result.

    curl -X GET ""

    Through Postman’s Import and Code functionality, you can easily switch between Postman and curl.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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