Categories
GraphQL JavaScript Nodejs

An Introduction to GraphQL

Spread the love

GraphQL is a query language for our API and a server-side runtime for running queries by using a type system for our data.

In this article, we’ll look at how to make basic queries to a GraphQL API.

Defining the API

We define an API by defining the types and fields for those types and provide functions for each field on each type.

For example, if we have the following type:

type Query {  
  person: Person  
}

Then we have to create a function for the corresponding type to return the data:

function Query_person(request) {  
  return request.person;  
}

Making Queries

Once we have a GraphQL service running, we can send GraphQL queries to validate and execute on the server.

For example, we can make a query as follows:

{  
  person {  
    firstName  
  }  
}

Then we may get JSON like the following:

{  
  "person": {  
    "firstName": "Joe"  
  }  
}

Queries and Mutations

Queries are for getting data from the GraphQL server and mutations are used for manipulating data stored on the server.

For example, the following is a query to get a person’s name:

{  
  person {  
    name  
  }  
}

Then we may get the following JSON from the server:

{  
  "data": {  
    "person": {  
      "name": "Joe"  
    }  
  }  
}

The field name returns a String type.

We can change the query as we wish if we want to get more data. For example, if we write the following query:

{  
  person {  
    name  
    friends {  
      name  
    }  
  }  
}

Then we may get something like the following as a response:

{  
  "data": {  
    "person": {  
      "name": "Joe",  
      "friends": [  
        {  
          "name": "Jane"  
        },  
        {  
          "name": "John"  
        }  
      ]  
    }  
  }  
}

The example above has friends being an array. They look the same from the query perspectively, but the server knows what to return based on the type specified.

Arguments

We can pass in arguments to queries and mutations. We can do a lot more with queries if we pass in arguments to it.

For example, we can pass in an argument as follows:

{  
  person(id: "1000") {  
    name      
  }  
}

Then we get something like:

{  
  "data": {  
    "person": {  
      "name": "Luke"  
    }  
  }  
}

from the server.

With GraphQL, we can pass in arguments to nested objects. For example, we can write:

{  
  person(id: "1000") {  
    name  
    height(unit: METER)  
  }  
}

Then we may get the following response:

{  
  "data": {  
    "person": {  
      "name": "Luke",  
      "height": 1.9  
    }  
  }  
}

In the example, the height field has a unit which is an enum type that represents a finite set of values.

unit may either be METER or FOOT.

Fragments

We can define fragments to let us reuse complex queries.

For example, we can define a fragment and use it as follows:

{  
  leftComparison: person(episode: FOO) {  
    ...comparisonFields  
  }  
  rightComparison: person(episode: BAR) {  
    ...comparisonFields  
  }  
}  
​  
fragment comparisonFields on Character {  
  name  
  appearsIn  
  friends {  
    name  
  }  
}

In the code above, we defined the comparisonFields fragment which has the list of fields we want to include in each query.

Then we have the leftComparison and rightComparison queries which include the fields of the comparisonFields fragment by using the ... operator.

Then we get something like:

{  
  "data": {  
    "leftComparison": {  
      "name": "Luke",  
      "appearsIn": [  
        "FOO",  
        "BAR"  
      ],  
      "friends": [  
        {  
          "name": "Jane"  
        },  
        {  
          "name": "John"  
        }  
      ]  
    },  
    "rightComparison": {  
      "name": "Mary",  
      "appearsIn": [  
        "FOO",  
        "BAR"  
      ],  
      "friends": [  
        {  
          "name": "Mary"  
        },  
        {  
          "name": "Alex"  
        }  
      ]  
    }  
  }  
}

Using variables inside fragments

We can pass in variables into fragments as follows:

query PersonComparison($first: Int = 3){  
  leftComparison: person(episode: FOO) {  
    ...comparisonFields  
  }  
  rightComparison: person(episode: BAR) {  
    ...comparisonFields  
  }  
}  
​  
fragment comparisonFields on Character {  
  name  
  appearsIn  
  friends(first: $first) {  
    name  
  }  
}

Then we may get something like:

{  
  "data": {  
    "leftComparison": {  
      "name": "Luke",  
      "appearsIn": [  
        "FOO",  
        "BAR"  
      ],  
      "friends": [  
        {  
          "name": "Jane"  
        },  
        {  
          "name": "John"  
        }  
      ]  
    },  
    "rightComparison": {  
      "name": "Mary",  
      "appearsIn": [  
        "FOO",  
        "BAR"  
      ],  
      "friends": [  
        {  
          "name": "Mary"  
        },  
        {  
          "name": "Alex"  
        }  
      ]  
    }  
  }  
}

as a response.

The operation type may either be a query, mutation, or subscription and describes what operator we’re intending to do. It’s required unless we’re using the query shorthand syntax. In that case, we can’t supply a name or variable definition for our operation.

The operation name is a meaningful and explicit name for our operation. It’s required in multi-operation documents. But its use is encouraged because it’s helpful for debugging and server-side logging.

It’s easy to identify the operation with a name.

Conclusion

GraphQL is a query language that lets us send requests to a server in a clear way. It works by sending nested objects with operation type and name along with any variables to the server.

Then the server will return us the response that we’re looking for.

Operation types include queries for getting data and mutations for making changes to data on the server.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *