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API Collaboration Tools – What are they?
API (Application Programming Interface) collaboration tools allow you to develop and test APIs. A team within an organization can use these tools to work together. They provide API management, documentation, and testing resources for groups. In this article, we will review some of the top API collaboration tools. A few are free or have a free usage level while others need payment to get started at any level.
In this article, we review the above-mentioned features for a list of tools with very large user bases. As a developer, it is very important to be able to find support for the applications you spend time learning. The fastest support is often found in a quick internet search. Either StackOverflow questions or even personal blog posts can support you. But internet searches will be frustrating if the tool you need help with has a small user base. So that determines the main criteria for being a “Top API Collaboration Tool” in this article. It is an established large community of users.
Top API Collaboration Tools
- RapidAPI Teams
- Postman Workspaces
- Paw Cloud
- Mulesoft Anypoint Platform
- Apigee (purchased by Google in 2016)
- Microsoft Azure API Management
When looking for a tool to help with API collaboration, there are a few features to consider. We will discuss these for each of the tools in the above list:
- Documentation/Support – When things go wrong, is there a healthy developer community? One you can access besides from internet searches? For this, we will consider both self-help and paid support plans.
- Testing Environment – Can you test your APIs before publishing them? This is important even before your teammates see them. This needs to happen in a secure environment. This environment cannot affect end-users or internal production systems.
- Cost – Sometimes the cost is per user. Other times it is per batch of API calls or the level of support provided. But the true cost includes other factors that are not so easy to quantify.
- Documentation/Support: RapidAPI Teams is a service for organizations to collaborate on internal APIs together. There is a detailed introduction to the Teams concept. Also, find links to other features in the platform from the main documentation area. The organization dashboard is easy to understand. There are visual cues and links to take advantage of more features of the platform:
- Testing Environment: Ease of testing is one of the strongest features of RapidAPI. This enables people to test internal and external APIs using a familiar language. This reduces the true cost of the platform. Developers have pre-built templates in different languages to integrate with APIs. There are code snippets in over a dozen different languages. These are setup with your authentication credentials to test any API:
- Cost: RapidAPI Teams is free for the first 5 users, you don’t even need to enter payment information. Beyond 5 users it is only $10 per month per extra user. See the Teams FAQ page for more details. There are a wide range of integration language examples. There is also a graphical user interface for documenting your API. This makes for a very low true cost to use RapidAPI Teams.
- Documentation/Support: Postman does a great job of communicating how to get started. They show this on the Workspaces page. Key features have their own pages, like the developer portal. They organize and make documentation searchable within the Learning Center. Postman offers account level support for free. Postman provides technical support to paid plans. They also have a public Github issue tracker.
- Documentation/Support: You can find documentation for Paw for Teams linked from the main documentation page. It is a Mac tool but according to the Teams promotional page the cloud they use is AWS. On the support page they mention a paw-cloud tag on StackOverflow. But the most recent question is over a month old. You can contact them by email or web form on the support page though.
- Testing Environment: For testing, you can use the Paw code generator to create code snippets. The options are curl and HTTP but you can create or download other choices. You can use these code snippets to test your APIs, but you have to export the code and run it in your own environment.
Mulesoft Anypoint Platform
- Documentation/Support: MuleSoft has gamified its training process. They do this by using the concept of the old video game “Space Invaders”. The game called Mule Invaders has a compelling storyline and useful learning points. They have self-paced and instructor-led courses. These courses can lead to certifications that encourage developer involvement. Their documentation is also well laid out for reference.
- Testing Environment: The testing environment used in MuleSoft is MUnit. It provides a GUI which can help you see where errors lie in the flow of your API application. It can also be part of CI/CD flows. To use it, you need to install a development environment called Anypoint Studio.
- Cost: There is a 30 day free trial of Mulesoft but their pricing page does not list actual prices. Salesforce owns it, which explains how the training and certification paths are setup. This is very much like Salesforce. That also helps explain why reviewers consider it expensive.
- Documentation/Support: The documentation for Apigee Edge is well organized. They have step by step and video tutorials as well. Apigee uses a product called Edge which allows you to build API Proxies. This means you create a layer of abstraction between your APIs and users or consumers. This layer of abstraction provides extra capabilities. They use it to manage security, track performance, and gather usage metrics. Within the documentation is even a section on Antipatterns. This information is to help developers create well-performing APIs.
- Testing Environment: Apigee runs through APIs itself. There are instructions on how to build a development portal using their API. There are three options for a developer portal. One is an integrated portal with sample pages you can customize with your own content. A second option is a drupal based portal. You can also build a custom portal using their APIs.
- Cost: The cost of Apigee Edge is free to evaluate for 60 days. But there is no migration to paid offerings so you have to start over when you pay. There are several differences between the different paid options. You have to contact them to find out prices though.
Browse some Apigee Alternatives.
Microsoft Azure API Management
- Documentation/Support: When I looked for documentation I found links to a guide, ebook, whitepaper, and webinar. It’s nice to have choices but I was expecting some sort of central reference. The guide, ebook, and whitepaper are all pdf files anyone can view. The webinar is something you have to register for with your personal information. I later found reference documentation linked from the Getting Started section. I would expect that to be in the Documentation section instead.
- Testing Environment: Azure has a development portal that you can customize for your developers. The developers can use it to collaborate on internal APIs. There are instructions to create mock API responses before the API is even connected. There are also instructions on how to debug your APIs.
- Cost: The cost of Azure API Management is complex but at least it is public information. Like Amazon Web Services there is a calculator you can use to help estimate charges. You can use this to understand pricing for different usage models.
- Documentation/Support: The Swagger site lists SwaggerHub as a “Pro Tool”. They present Swagger as the precursor to the OpenAPI Specification. You can find documentation for SwaggerHub on the main Swagger site. For support, they mention three options. They are a forum, a chatbot appearing on every page of swagger.io, and an IRC channel called #swagger on freenode.net. There is also a training course hosted by Smartbear.
- Testing Environment: For testing, you can do API Mocking, but the main testing tool is the Swagger Inspector. With the inspector, you can drill down into the communications between servers. This is helpful when testing API calls.
- Cost: The cost of SwaggerHub is free for one person, but to collaborate you need a Team or Enterprise account. The prices are between $12 and $18 per month per user for up to 10 people. The variances are due to the number of users and the payment periods (annual or monthly). For more than 10 people you need to contact them for prices. The GUI tools help to reduce the learning curve for new users.