JsonPatch in ASP.NET Core web API

By Tom Dykstra and Kirk Larkin

This article explains how to handle JSON Patch requests in an ASP.NET Core web API.

Package installation

Support for JsonPatch is enabled using the Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc.NewtonsoftJson package. To enable this feature, apps must:

  • Install the Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc.NewtonsoftJson NuGet package.

  • Update the project's Startup.ConfigureServices method to include a call to AddNewtonsoftJson:

    services
        .AddControllersWithViews()
        .AddNewtonsoftJson();
    

AddNewtonsoftJson is compatible with the MVC service registration methods:

  • AddRazorPages
  • AddControllersWithViews
  • AddControllers

JsonPatch, AddNewtonsoftJson, and System.Text.Json

AddNewtonsoftJson replaces the System.Text.Json based input and output formatters used for formatting all JSON content. To add support for JsonPatch using Newtonsoft.Json, while leaving the other formatters unchanged, update the project's Startup.ConfigureServices as follows:

public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
    services.AddControllersWithViews(options =>
    {
        options.InputFormatters.Insert(0, GetJsonPatchInputFormatter());
    });
}

private static NewtonsoftJsonPatchInputFormatter GetJsonPatchInputFormatter()
{
    var builder = new ServiceCollection()
        .AddLogging()
        .AddMvc()
        .AddNewtonsoftJson()
        .Services.BuildServiceProvider();

    return builder
        .GetRequiredService<IOptions<MvcOptions>>()
        .Value
        .InputFormatters
        .OfType<NewtonsoftJsonPatchInputFormatter>()
        .First();
}

The preceding code requires a reference to Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc.NewtonsoftJson and the following using statements:

using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Builder;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Hosting;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc;
using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Mvc.Formatters;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Configuration;
using Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Hosting;
using Microsoft.Extensions.Options;
using System.Linq;

PATCH HTTP request method

The PUT and PATCH methods are used to update an existing resource. The difference between them is that PUT replaces the entire resource, while PATCH specifies only the changes.

JSON Patch

JSON Patch is a format for specifying updates to be applied to a resource. A JSON Patch document has an array of operations. Each operation identifies a particular type of change, such as add an array element or replace a property value.

For example, the following JSON documents represent a resource, a JSON patch document for the resource, and the result of applying the patch operations.

Resource example

{
  "customerName": "John",
  "orders": [
    {
      "orderName": "Order0",
      "orderType": null
    },
    {
      "orderName": "Order1",
      "orderType": null
    }
  ]
}

JSON patch example

[
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Barry"
  },
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/orders/-",
    "value": {
      "orderName": "Order2",
      "orderType": null
    }
  }
]

In the preceding JSON:

  • The op property indicates the type of operation.
  • The path property indicates the element to update.
  • The value property provides the new value.

Resource after patch

Here's the resource after applying the preceding JSON Patch document:

{
  "customerName": "Barry",
  "orders": [
    {
      "orderName": "Order0",
      "orderType": null
    },
    {
      "orderName": "Order1",
      "orderType": null
    },
    {
      "orderName": "Order2",
      "orderType": null
    }
  ]
}

The changes made by applying a JSON Patch document to a resource are atomic: if any operation in the list fails, no operation in the list is applied.

Path syntax

The path property of an operation object has slashes between levels. For example, "/address/zipCode".

Zero-based indexes are used to specify array elements. The first element of the addresses array would be at /addresses/0. To add to the end of an array, use a hyphen (-) rather than an index number: /addresses/-.

Operations

The following table shows supported operations as defined in the JSON Patch specification:

Operation Notes
add Add a property or array element. For existing property: set value.
remove Remove a property or array element.
replace Same as remove followed by add at same location.
move Same as remove from source followed by add to destination using value from source.
copy Same as add to destination using value from source.
test Return success status code if value at path = provided value.

JsonPatch in ASP.NET Core

The ASP.NET Core implementation of JSON Patch is provided in the Microsoft.AspNetCore.JsonPatch NuGet package.

Action method code

In an API controller, an action method for JSON Patch:

  • Is annotated with the HttpPatch attribute.
  • Accepts a JsonPatchDocument<T>, typically with [FromBody].
  • Calls ApplyTo on the patch document to apply the changes.

Here's an example:

[HttpPatch]
public IActionResult JsonPatchWithModelState(
    [FromBody] JsonPatchDocument<Customer> patchDoc)
{
    if (patchDoc != null)
    {
        var customer = CreateCustomer();

        patchDoc.ApplyTo(customer, ModelState);

        if (!ModelState.IsValid)
        {
            return BadRequest(ModelState);
        }

        return new ObjectResult(customer);
    }
    else
    {
        return BadRequest(ModelState);
    }
}

This code from the sample app works with the following Customer model.

public class Customer
{
    public string CustomerName { get; set; }
    public List<Order> Orders { get; set; }
}
public class Order
{
    public string OrderName { get; set; }
    public string OrderType { get; set; }
}

The sample action method:

  • Constructs a Customer.
  • Applies the patch.
  • Returns the result in the body of the response.

In a real app, the code would retrieve the data from a store such as a database and update the database after applying the patch.

Model state

The preceding action method example calls an overload of ApplyTo that takes model state as one of its parameters. With this option, you can get error messages in responses. The following example shows the body of a 400 Bad Request response for a test operation:

{
    "Customer": [
        "The current value 'John' at path 'customerName' is not equal to the test value 'Nancy'."
    ]
}

Dynamic objects

The following action method example shows how to apply a patch to a dynamic object.

[HttpPatch]
public IActionResult JsonPatchForDynamic([FromBody]JsonPatchDocument patch)
{
    dynamic obj = new ExpandoObject();
    patch.ApplyTo(obj);

    return Ok(obj);
}

The add operation

  • If path points to an array element: inserts new element before the one specified by path.
  • If path points to a property: sets the property value.
  • If path points to a nonexistent location:
    • If the resource to patch is a dynamic object: adds a property.
    • If the resource to patch is a static object: the request fails.

The following sample patch document sets the value of CustomerName and adds an Order object to the end of the Orders array.

[
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Barry"
  },
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/orders/-",
    "value": {
      "orderName": "Order2",
      "orderType": null
    }
  }
]

The remove operation

  • If path points to an array element: removes the element.
  • If path points to a property:
    • If resource to patch is a dynamic object: removes the property.
    • If resource to patch is a static object:
      • If the property is nullable: sets it to null.
      • If the property is non-nullable, sets it to default<T>.

The following sample patch document sets CustomerName to null and deletes Orders[0].

[
  {
    "op": "remove",
    "path": "/customerName"
  },
  {
    "op": "remove",
    "path": "/orders/0",
  }
]

The replace operation

This operation is functionally the same as a remove followed by an add.

The following sample patch document sets the value of CustomerName and replaces Orders[0]with a new Order object.

[
  {
    "op": "replace",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Barry"
  },
  {
    "op": "replace",
    "path": "/orders/0",
    "value": {
      "orderName": "Order2",
      "orderType": null
    }
  }
]

The move operation

  • If path points to an array element: copies from element to location of path element, then runs a remove operation on the from element.
  • If path points to a property: copies value of from property to path property, then runs a remove operation on the from property.
  • If path points to a nonexistent property:
    • If the resource to patch is a static object: the request fails.
    • If the resource to patch is a dynamic object: copies from property to location indicated by path, then runs a remove operation on the from property.

The following sample patch document:

  • Copies the value of Orders[0].OrderName to CustomerName.
  • Sets Orders[0].OrderName to null.
  • Moves Orders[1] to before Orders[0].
[
  {
    "op": "move",
    "from": "/orders/0/orderName",
    "path": "/customerName"
  },
  {
    "op": "move",
    "from": "/orders/1",
    "path": "/orders/0"
  }
]

The copy operation

This operation is functionally the same as a move operation without the final remove step.

The following sample patch document:

  • Copies the value of Orders[0].OrderName to CustomerName.
  • Inserts a copy of Orders[1] before Orders[0].
[
  {
    "op": "copy",
    "from": "/orders/0/orderName",
    "path": "/customerName"
  },
  {
    "op": "copy",
    "from": "/orders/0",
    "path": "/orders/1"
  }
]

The test operation

If the value at the location indicated by path is different from the value provided in value, the request fails. In that case, the whole PATCH request fails even if all other operations in the patch document would otherwise succeed.

The test operation is commonly used to prevent an update when there's a concurrency conflict.

The following sample patch document has no effect if the initial value of CustomerName is "John", because the test fails:

[
  {
    "op": "test",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Nancy"
  },
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Barry"
  }
]

Get the code

View or download sample code. (How to download).

To test the sample, run the app and send HTTP requests with the following settings:

  • URL: http://localhost:{port}/jsonpatch/jsonpatchwithmodelstate
  • HTTP method: PATCH
  • Header: Content-Type: application/json-patch+json
  • Body: Copy and paste one of the JSON patch document samples from the JSON project folder.

Additional resources

This article explains how to handle JSON Patch requests in an ASP.NET Core web API.

PATCH HTTP request method

The PUT and PATCH methods are used to update an existing resource. The difference between them is that PUT replaces the entire resource, while PATCH specifies only the changes.

JSON Patch

JSON Patch is a format for specifying updates to be applied to a resource. A JSON Patch document has an array of operations. Each operation identifies a particular type of change, such as add an array element or replace a property value.

For example, the following JSON documents represent a resource, a JSON patch document for the resource, and the result of applying the patch operations.

Resource example

{
  "customerName": "John",
  "orders": [
    {
      "orderName": "Order0",
      "orderType": null
    },
    {
      "orderName": "Order1",
      "orderType": null
    }
  ]
}

JSON patch example

[
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Barry"
  },
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/orders/-",
    "value": {
      "orderName": "Order2",
      "orderType": null
    }
  }
]

In the preceding JSON:

  • The op property indicates the type of operation.
  • The path property indicates the element to update.
  • The value property provides the new value.

Resource after patch

Here's the resource after applying the preceding JSON Patch document:

{
  "customerName": "Barry",
  "orders": [
    {
      "orderName": "Order0",
      "orderType": null
    },
    {
      "orderName": "Order1",
      "orderType": null
    },
    {
      "orderName": "Order2",
      "orderType": null
    }
  ]
}

The changes made by applying a JSON Patch document to a resource are atomic: if any operation in the list fails, no operation in the list is applied.

Path syntax

The path property of an operation object has slashes between levels. For example, "/address/zipCode".

Zero-based indexes are used to specify array elements. The first element of the addresses array would be at /addresses/0. To add to the end of an array, use a hyphen (-) rather than an index number: /addresses/-.

Operations

The following table shows supported operations as defined in the JSON Patch specification:

Operation Notes
add Add a property or array element. For existing property: set value.
remove Remove a property or array element.
replace Same as remove followed by add at same location.
move Same as remove from source followed by add to destination using value from source.
copy Same as add to destination using value from source.
test Return success status code if value at path = provided value.

JsonPatch in ASP.NET Core

The ASP.NET Core implementation of JSON Patch is provided in the Microsoft.AspNetCore.JsonPatch NuGet package. The package is included in the Microsoft.AspnetCore.App metapackage.

Action method code

In an API controller, an action method for JSON Patch:

  • Is annotated with the HttpPatch attribute.
  • Accepts a JsonPatchDocument<T>, typically with [FromBody].
  • Calls ApplyTo on the patch document to apply the changes.

Here's an example:

[HttpPatch]
public IActionResult JsonPatchWithModelState(
    [FromBody] JsonPatchDocument<Customer> patchDoc)
{
    if (patchDoc != null)
    {
        var customer = CreateCustomer();

        patchDoc.ApplyTo(customer, ModelState);

        if (!ModelState.IsValid)
        {
            return BadRequest(ModelState);
        }

        return new ObjectResult(customer);
    }
    else
    {
        return BadRequest(ModelState);
    }
}

This code from the sample app works with the following Customer model.

public class Customer
{
    public string CustomerName { get; set; }
    public List<Order> Orders { get; set; }
}
public class Order
{
    public string OrderName { get; set; }
    public string OrderType { get; set; }
}

The sample action method:

  • Constructs a Customer.
  • Applies the patch.
  • Returns the result in the body of the response.

In a real app, the code would retrieve the data from a store such as a database and update the database after applying the patch.

Model state

The preceding action method example calls an overload of ApplyTo that takes model state as one of its parameters. With this option, you can get error messages in responses. The following example shows the body of a 400 Bad Request response for a test operation:

{
    "Customer": [
        "The current value 'John' at path 'customerName' is not equal to the test value 'Nancy'."
    ]
}

Dynamic objects

The following action method example shows how to apply a patch to a dynamic object.

[HttpPatch]
public IActionResult JsonPatchForDynamic([FromBody]JsonPatchDocument patch)
{
    dynamic obj = new ExpandoObject();
    patch.ApplyTo(obj);

    return Ok(obj);
}

The add operation

  • If path points to an array element: inserts new element before the one specified by path.
  • If path points to a property: sets the property value.
  • If path points to a nonexistent location:
    • If the resource to patch is a dynamic object: adds a property.
    • If the resource to patch is a static object: the request fails.

The following sample patch document sets the value of CustomerName and adds an Order object to the end of the Orders array.

[
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Barry"
  },
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/orders/-",
    "value": {
      "orderName": "Order2",
      "orderType": null
    }
  }
]

The remove operation

  • If path points to an array element: removes the element.
  • If path points to a property:
    • If resource to patch is a dynamic object: removes the property.
    • If resource to patch is a static object:
      • If the property is nullable: sets it to null.
      • If the property is non-nullable, sets it to default<T>.

The following sample patch document sets CustomerName to null and deletes Orders[0].

[
  {
    "op": "remove",
    "path": "/customerName"
  },
  {
    "op": "remove",
    "path": "/orders/0",
  }
]

The replace operation

This operation is functionally the same as a remove followed by an add.

The following sample patch document sets the value of CustomerName and replaces Orders[0]with a new Order object.

[
  {
    "op": "replace",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Barry"
  },
  {
    "op": "replace",
    "path": "/orders/0",
    "value": {
      "orderName": "Order2",
      "orderType": null
    }
  }
]

The move operation

  • If path points to an array element: copies from element to location of path element, then runs a remove operation on the from element.
  • If path points to a property: copies value of from property to path property, then runs a remove operation on the from property.
  • If path points to a nonexistent property:
    • If the resource to patch is a static object: the request fails.
    • If the resource to patch is a dynamic object: copies from property to location indicated by path, then runs a remove operation on the from property.

The following sample patch document:

  • Copies the value of Orders[0].OrderName to CustomerName.
  • Sets Orders[0].OrderName to null.
  • Moves Orders[1] to before Orders[0].
[
  {
    "op": "move",
    "from": "/orders/0/orderName",
    "path": "/customerName"
  },
  {
    "op": "move",
    "from": "/orders/1",
    "path": "/orders/0"
  }
]

The copy operation

This operation is functionally the same as a move operation without the final remove step.

The following sample patch document:

  • Copies the value of Orders[0].OrderName to CustomerName.
  • Inserts a copy of Orders[1] before Orders[0].
[
  {
    "op": "copy",
    "from": "/orders/0/orderName",
    "path": "/customerName"
  },
  {
    "op": "copy",
    "from": "/orders/0",
    "path": "/orders/1"
  }
]

The test operation

If the value at the location indicated by path is different from the value provided in value, the request fails. In that case, the whole PATCH request fails even if all other operations in the patch document would otherwise succeed.

The test operation is commonly used to prevent an update when there's a concurrency conflict.

The following sample patch document has no effect if the initial value of CustomerName is "John", because the test fails:

[
  {
    "op": "test",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Nancy"
  },
  {
    "op": "add",
    "path": "/customerName",
    "value": "Barry"
  }
]

Get the code

View or download sample code. (How to download).

To test the sample, run the app and send HTTP requests with the following settings:

  • URL: http://localhost:{port}/jsonpatch/jsonpatchwithmodelstate
  • HTTP method: PATCH
  • Header: Content-Type: application/json-patch+json
  • Body: Copy and paste one of the JSON patch document samples from the JSON project folder.

Additional resources