Create a Web API with ASP.NET Core MVC and Visual Studio Code on Linux, macOS, and Windows

By Rick Anderson and Mike Wasson

In this tutorial, you’ll build a web API for managing a list of "to-do" items. You won’t build a UI.

There are 3 versions of this tutorial:

Overview

Here is the API that you’ll create:

API Description Request body Response body
GET /api/todo Get all to-do items None Array of to-do items
GET /api/todo/{id} Get an item by ID None To-do item
POST /api/todo Add a new item To-do item To-do item
PUT /api/todo/{id} Update an existing item   To-do item None
DELETE /api/todo/{id}     Delete an item     None None


The following diagram shows the basic design of the app.

The client is represented by a box on the left and submits a request and receives a response from the application, a box drawn on the right. Within the application box, three boxes represent the controller, the model, and the data access layer. The request comes into the application's controller, and read/write operations occur between the controller and the data access layer. The model is serialized and returned to the client in the response.

  • The client is whatever consumes the web API (mobile app, browser, etc). We aren’t writing a client in this tutorial. We'll use Postman or curl to test the app.

  • A model is an object that represents the data in your application. In this case, the only model is a to-do item. Models are represented as C# classes, also know as Plain Old C# Object (POCOs).

  • A controller is an object that handles HTTP requests and creates the HTTP response. This app will have a single controller.

  • To keep the tutorial simple, the app doesn’t use a persistent database. The sample app stores to-do items in an in-memory database.

Set up your development environment

Download and install:

Create the project

From a console, run the following commands:

mkdir TodoApi
cd TodoApi
dotnet new webapi

Open the TodoApi folder in Visual Studio Code (VS Code) and select the Startup.cs file.

  • Select Yes to the Warn message "Required assets to build and debug are missing from 'TodoApi'. Add them?"
  • Select Restore to the Info message "There are unresolved dependencies".

VS Code with Warn Required assets to build and debug are missing from 'TodoApi'. Add them? Don't ask Again, Not Now, Yes and also Info - there are unresolved dependencies  - Restore - Close

Press Debug (F5) to build and run the program. In a browser navigate to http://localhost:5000/api/values . The following is displayed:

["value1","value2"]

See Visual Studio Code help for tips on using VS Code.

Add support for Entity Framework Core

Edit the TodoApi.csproj file to install the Entity Framework Core InMemory database provider. This database provider allows Entity Framework Core to be used with an in-memory database.

<Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk.Web">
  <PropertyGroup>
    <TargetFramework>netcoreapp1.1</TargetFramework>
  </PropertyGroup>
  <ItemGroup>
    <Folder Include="wwwroot\" />
  </ItemGroup>
  <ItemGroup>
    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.AspNetCore" Version="1.1.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc" Version="1.1.2" />
    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.Extensions.Logging.Debug" Version="1.1.1" />
    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.InMemory" Version="1.1.1" />
  </ItemGroup>
</Project>

Run dotnet restore to download and install the EF Core InMemory DB provider. You can run dotnet restore from the terminal or enter ⌘⇧P (macOS) or Ctrl+Shift+P (Linux) in VS Code and then type .NET. Select .NET: Restore Packages.

Add a model class

A model is an object that represents the data in your application. In this case, the only model is a to-do item.

Add a folder named Models. You can put model classes anywhere in your project, but the Models folder is used by convention.

Add a TodoItem class with the following code:

namespace TodoApi.Models
{
    public class TodoItem
    {
        public long Id { get; set; }
        public string Name { get; set; }
        public bool IsComplete { get; set; }
    }
}

The database generates the Id when a TodoItem is created.

Create the database context

The database context is the main class that coordinates Entity Framework functionality for a given data model. You create this class by deriving from the Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.DbContext class.

Add a TodoContext class in the Models folder:

using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore;

namespace TodoApi.Models
{
    public class TodoContext : DbContext
    {
        public TodoContext(DbContextOptions<TodoContext> options)
            : base(options)
        {
        }

        public DbSet<TodoItem> TodoItems { get; set; }

    }
}

Register the database context

In order to inject the database context into the controller, we need to register it with the dependency injection container. Register the database context with the service container using the built-in support for dependency injection. Replace the contents of the Startup.cs file with the following:

using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Builder;
using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore;
using Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection;
using TodoApi.Models;

namespace TodoApi
{
    public class Startup
    {       
        public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
        {
            services.AddDbContext<TodoContext>(opt => opt.UseInMemoryDatabase("TodoList"));
            services.AddMvc();
        }

        public void Configure(IApplicationBuilder app)
        {
            app.UseMvc();
        }
    }
}

The preceding code:

  • Removes the code we're not using.
  • Specifies an in-memory database is injected into the service container.

Add a controller

In the Controllers folder, create a class named TodoController. Add the following code:

using System.Collections.Generic;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc;
using TodoApi.Models;
using System.Linq;

namespace TodoApi.Controllers
{
    [Route("api/[controller]")]
    public class TodoController : Controller
    {
        private readonly TodoContext _context;

        public TodoController(TodoContext context)
        {
            _context = context;

            if (_context.TodoItems.Count() == 0)
            {
                _context.TodoItems.Add(new TodoItem { Name = "Item1" });
                _context.SaveChanges();
            }
        }       
    }
}

The preceding code:

  • Defines an empty controller class. In the next sections, we'll add methods to implement the API.
  • The constructor uses Dependency Injection to inject the database context (TodoContext) into the controller. The database context is used in each of the CRUD methods in the controller.
  • The constructor adds an item to the in-memory database if one doesn't exist.

Getting to-do items

To get to-do items, add the following methods to the TodoController class.

[HttpGet]
public IEnumerable<TodoItem> GetAll()
{
    return _context.TodoItems.ToList();
}

[HttpGet("{id}", Name = "GetTodo")]
public IActionResult GetById(long id)
{
    var item = _context.TodoItems.FirstOrDefault(t => t.Id == id);
    if (item == null)
    {
        return NotFound();
    }
    return new ObjectResult(item);
}

These methods implement the two GET methods:

  • GET /api/todo
  • GET /api/todo/{id}

Here is an example HTTP response for the GetAll method:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
   Content-Type: application/json; charset=utf-8
   Server: Microsoft-IIS/10.0
   Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 20:51:10 GMT
   Content-Length: 82

   [{"Key":"1", "Name":"Item1","IsComplete":false}]

Later in the tutorial I'll show how you can view the HTTP response using Postman or curl.

Routing and URL paths

The [HttpGet] attribute specifies an HTTP GET method. The URL path for each method is constructed as follows:

  • Take the template string in the controller’s route attribute:
namespace TodoApi.Controllers
{
    [Route("api/[controller]")]
    public class TodoController : Controller
    {
        private readonly TodoContext _context;
  • Replace "[Controller]" with the name of the controller, which is the controller class name minus the "Controller" suffix. For this sample, the controller class name is TodoController and the root name is "todo". ASP.NET Core routing is not case sensitive.
  • If the [HttpGet] attribute has a route template (such as [HttpGet("/products")], append that to the path. This sample doesn't use a template. See Attribute routing with Http[Verb] attributes for more information.

In the GetById method:

[HttpGet("{id}", Name = "GetTodo")]
public IActionResult GetById(long id)

"{id}" is a placeholder variable for the ID of the todo item. When GetById is invoked, it assigns the value of "{id}" in the URL to the method's id parameter.

Name = "GetTodo" creates a named route and allows you to link to this route in an HTTP Response. I'll explain it with an example later. See Routing to Controller Actions for detailed information.

Return values

The GetAll method returns an IEnumerable. MVC automatically serializes the object to JSON and writes the JSON into the body of the response message. The response code for this method is 200, assuming there are no unhandled exceptions. (Unhandled exceptions are translated into 5xx errors.)

In contrast, the GetById method returns the more general IActionResult type, which represents a wide range of return types. GetById has two different return types:

  • If no item matches the requested ID, the method returns a 404 error. This is done by returning NotFound.

  • Otherwise, the method returns 200 with a JSON response body. This is done by returning an ObjectResult

Launch the app

In VS Code, press F5 to launch the app. Navigate to http://localhost:5000/api/todo (The Todo controller we just created).

Implement the other CRUD operations

We'll add Create, Update, and Delete methods to the controller. These are variations on a theme, so I'll just show the code and highlight the main differences. Build the project after adding or changing code.

Create

[HttpPost]
public IActionResult Create([FromBody] TodoItem item)
{
    if (item == null)
    {
        return BadRequest();
    }

    _context.TodoItems.Add(item);
    _context.SaveChanges();

    return CreatedAtRoute("GetTodo", new { id = item.Id }, item);
}

This is an HTTP POST method, indicated by the [HttpPost] attribute. The [FromBody] attribute tells MVC to get the value of the to-do item from the body of the HTTP request.

The CreatedAtRoute method returns a 201 response, which is the standard response for an HTTP POST method that creates a new resource on the server. CreatedAtRoute also adds a Location header to the response. The Location header specifies the URI of the newly created to-do item. See 10.2.2 201 Created.

Use Postman to send a Create request

Postman console

  • Set the HTTP method to POST
  • Select the Body radio button
  • Select the raw radio button
  • Set the type to JSON
  • In the key-value editor, enter a Todo item such as
{
    "name":"walk dog",
    "isComplete":true
}
  • Select Send

  • Select the Headers tab in the lower pane and copy the Location header:

Headers tab of the Postman console

You can use the Location header URI to access the resource you just created. Recall the GetById method created the "GetTodo" named route:

[HttpGet("{id}", Name = "GetTodo")]
public IActionResult GetById(long id)

Update

[HttpPut("{id}")]
public IActionResult Update(long id, [FromBody] TodoItem item)
{
    if (item == null || item.Id != id)
    {
        return BadRequest();
    }

    var todo = _context.TodoItems.FirstOrDefault(t => t.Id == id);
    if (todo == null)
    {
        return NotFound();
    }

    todo.IsComplete = item.IsComplete;
    todo.Name = item.Name;

    _context.TodoItems.Update(todo);
    _context.SaveChanges();
    return new NoContentResult();
}

Update is similar to Create, but uses HTTP PUT. The response is 204 (No Content). According to the HTTP spec, a PUT request requires the client to send the entire updated entity, not just the deltas. To support partial updates, use HTTP PATCH.

Postman console showing 204 (No Content) response

Delete

[HttpDelete("{id}")]
public IActionResult Delete(long id)
{
    var todo = _context.TodoItems.FirstOrDefault(t => t.Id == id);
    if (todo == null)
    {
        return NotFound();
    }

    _context.TodoItems.Remove(todo);
    _context.SaveChanges();
    return new NoContentResult();
}

The response is 204 (No Content).

Postman console showing 204 (No Content) response

Visual Studio Code help

Next steps