Getting data in CSV reports with the help of an API

Getting data in CSV reports with the help of an API

Various APIs (application programming interfaces) are meant to significantly facilitate the life of both the developers and users of web resources. They are able to solve complex problems, provide communication between programs, automate any processes. We have detailed a number of famous APIs in Drupal: Database API, Queue API, Batch API, Field API, Ctools modal API, etc. Today, let's talk about one specific mission that can be successfully entrusted to APIs: receiving data from a website in the form of handy CSV reports.

The CSV format: essence and benefits

CSV is a popular format widely used for importing and exporting the data. Its name stands for Comma-Separated Values​, which largely describes the essence of its work. Tabular data is stored as plain text, where the values are ​​separated by commas, and the lines — by newline characters. Each value corresponds to one cell on the table, and each line to one table row, respectively.

CSV reports look very concise. A CSV file’s size can be several times smaller than than of an XML file, which is a very efficient solution. Even the database of a big online store can fit into 1-2 megabytes. However, it should be noted that XML is somewhat ahead of CSV in terms of complex formatting and styling opportunities.

By default, a CSV file can be viewed in the notepad editor. In addition, it can be opened in Excel, Google Spreadsheets and similar applications, as well as converted to other formats for optimal information presentation.

A special tool created by InternetDevels: an API to generate CSV reports

For convenient CSV data export, special software solutions are created. Even if your site operates a huge amount of information, it is always possible to create the functionality that provides an easy withdrawal of all relevant data. It is applicable not only for your own website — you can export data from other sites to which you have access or which are not closed.

We already have experience in creating an API to retrieve data from the site with the further generation of CSV reports on the basis of this data. It’s been done for the website of a large platform in the real estate industry, which aggregates data from many different sources, offers opportunities for data processing, systematization, and conversion into user-friendly formats. This kind of functionality was essential for it, and fully justified itself.

So let's see how this API works. We can get CSV reports in several steps: sending a request to the server, getting a response in the JSON format, converting data to CSV and saving it in a file.

Requesting the data

So first we need to send a GET request to the server. This request consists of two parts:

  • the path to the site that always remains the same (when dealing with the same site);
  • additional options that allow to fully customize our CSV reports so they only contain the information of our interest.

Additional options are field and filters. Let’s consider them in more detail.

  • A handy pop-up will show us a list of fields, among which we can select and check the needed ones. These will be the names of the future columns in our CSV table (e.g., price, ID, address, etc.).
  • In addition, we can configure the filters by specifying the criteria to sort the data out. Then we will only get the data that falls under specified criteria (for example, objects in the specified range of prices).
Getting the data, converting it to CSV and saving it in a file

"Telling" the server in every detail what we want to see in the table, we get a response in the JSON format to our request. The data is analyzed at the program level and converted to the CSV format, and then saved in a file. This file can be easily downloaded, used as a basis for handy reports in any popular formats, for example, presented as HTML on a website and so on.

For the quick retrieval of statistics, our API works with the powerful Solr service, which stores, indexes and quickly finds the necessary information.

We will gladly create the functionality for CSV reports or anything else that will open new opportunities for your web resource. Tell us about your needs and ideas — and the perfect software solution will not keep on coming!

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