How to use Google API in Python

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Introduction

In this multi-part series, I'll break down the code that allows you to leverage Google APIs to the most basic level (even for Python), so you can customize as necessary for your app, whether it's running as a command-line tool or something server-side in the cloud backending Web or mobile clients.

If you've got the book and played around with our Google+ API example, you'll find this code familiar, if not identical — I'll go into more detail here, highlighting the common code for generic API access and then bring in the G+-relevant code later.

Google API access

In order to access Google APIs, follow these instructions:

  • Go to the Google Developers Console and login.
    Use your Gmail or Google credentials; create an account if needed

  • Click "Create Project" button
    Enter a Project Name (mutable, human-friendly string only used in the console)
    Enter a Project ID (immutable, must be unique and not already taken)

  • Once project has been created, click "Enable an API" button
    You can toggle on any API(s) that support(s) simple API access (not authorized).
    For the code example below, we use the Google+ API.
    Other ideas: YouTube Data API, Google Maps API, etc.
    Find more APIs (and version#s which you need) at the OAuth Playground.

  • Select "Credentials" in left-nav under "APIs & auth"
    Go to bottom half and click "Create new Key" button Grab long "API KEY" cryptic string and save to Python script.
    NOTE:  You can also watch a video walkthrough of this app setup process in the "DevConsole" here.

Accessing Google APIs from Python

Now that you're set up, everything else is done on the Python side. To talk to a Google API, you need the Google APIs Client Library for Python, specifically the apiclient.discovery.build() function.
Download and install the library in your usual way, for example:

$ pip install -U google-api-python-client  # or pip3 for 3.x

NOTE:
If you're building a Python App Engine app, you'll need something else, the Google APIs Client Library for Python on Google App Engine.
It's similar but has extra goodies just for cloud developers that must be installed elsewhere.
As App Engine developers know, libraries must be in the same location on the filesystem as your source code.
Once everything is installed, make sure that you can import apiclient.discovery:

$ python 
Python 2.7.6 (default, Apr  9 2014, 11:48:52)
[GCC 4.2.1 Compatible Apple LLVM 5.1 (clang-503.0.38)] 

In discovery.py is the build() function, which is what we need to create a service endpoint for interacting with an API.
Now craft the following lines of code in your command-line tool, using the shorthand from-import statement instead:

from apiclient import discovery
API_KEY = # copied from project credentials page
SERVICE = discovery.build(API, VERSION, developerKey=API_KEY)

Take the API key you copied from the credentials page and assign to the API_KEYvariable as a string.  Obviously, embedding an API key in source code isn't something you'd so in practice as it's not secure whatsoever — stick it in a database, key broker, encrypt, or at least have it in a separate byte code (.pyc/.pyo) file that you import — but we'll allow it now solely for illustrative purposes of a simple command-line script.

In our short example we're going to do a simple search for "python" in public Google+ posts, so for the API variable, use the string 'plus'.
The API version is currently on version 1 (at the time of this writing), so use 'v1' for VERSION. (Each API will use a different name and version string... again, you can find those in the OAuth Playground or in the docs for the specific API you want to use.)
Here's the call once we've filled in those variables:

GPLUS = discovery.build('plus', 'v1', developerKey=API_KEY)

We need a template for the results that come back.
There are many fields in a Google+ post, so we're only going to pick three to display... the user name, post timestamp, and a snippet of the post itself:

TMPL = '''
User: %s
Date: %s
Post: %s
'''

Now for the code.
Google+ posts are activities (known as "notes;" there are other activities as well).
One of the methods you have access to is search(), which lets you query public activities; so that's what we're going to use.
Add the following call using the GPLUS service endpoint you already created using the verbs we just described and execute it:

items = GPLUS.activities().search(query='python').execute().get('items', [])

If all goes well, the (JSON) response payload will contain a set of 'items' (else we assign an empty list for the for loop).
From there, we'll loop through each matching post, do some minor string manipulation to replace all whitespace characters (including NEWLINEs [ \n ]) with spaces, and display if not blank:

for data in items:
  post = ' '.join(data['title'].strip().split())
  if post:
    print(TMPL % (data['actor']['displayName'],
                  data['published'], post))
    
from __future__ import print_function
from apiclient import discovery

TMPL = '''
    User: %s
    Date: %s
    Post: %s
'''

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