Getting started with launchpadlib

zx81I’m not a developer. I’ve played around — various flavours of BASIC as a kid, Python nowadays — but it rarely goes beyond a little experimentation.

Lately, though, my lack of Python-fu has been increasingly frustrating. In particular, there are times when I want to know something that I’m pretty sure Launchpad can tell me but there’s not an easy way to get at that information through the web UI.

For just those occasions we have the Launchpad web services API and its Python library, launchpadlib.

So, I’m going to learn my way around launchpadlib and write about my experience here. Bear in mind, I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who isn’t a developer. That may seem odd but I’m willing to be there are plenty of people out there who want to do the same as me: get more out of Launchpad and the data it hosts.

Getting started

You can install launchpadlib straight from the primary Ubuntu archive in recent releases. That’s what I’ve done so, unless I say otherwise, assume I’m writing about the version of launchpadlib that’s available in Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty).

Installation takes nothing more than a simple:

sudo apt-get install python-launchpadlib

Authenticating with Launchpad

When you access Launchpad through launchpadlib you can opt to either:

  • access Launchpad anonymously
  • log in with a user account and grant that launchpadlib instance a certain level of access to the account’s data.

If all you need is read-only access to public data, you may as well access Launchpad anonymously. For anything where you need to write data or access data that’s available only when logged in, each person who uses your launchpadlib application will need to grant their instance of the app access to their Launchpad account.

The Launchpad API, and so launchpadlib, lets OAuth take care of the authentication. It’s pretty simple really: when you run your app it opens up a Launchpad page in your browser. On that page you can choose what level of access that particular application has to your account. That log-in should be a one-time thing, as launchpadlib will cache your credentials.

And you can check/change what access different API apps have at any time.

Accessing Launchpad data

launchpadlib lets you access Launchpad data and functionality just like they were any other Python object. That’s great for someone like me because it means I don’t have to care about REST APIs, HTTP or any of that.

In my next post I’ll start actually getting hold of Launchpad data and maybe trying to do something with it.

Photo by S├ębastien Bertrand. Licence: CC BY 2.0

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