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How to Create a GraphQL Front-End with Retool

GraphQL is a query language for APIs that allows you to specify exactly what data you want from your backend, and how you want it structured. GraphQL is not tied to any specific database or technology, and can be implemented on top of any existing REST or RPC APIs. GraphQL also provides a type system that describes the schema of your data, and enables powerful developer tools like GraphiQL and Apollo.

Retool is a fast and easy way to build internal tools and dashboards on top of any data source, including GraphQL APIs. Retool provides a drag-and-drop interface for creating UI components, and a full-fledged code editor for writing custom logic and queries. Retool also supports version control, deployment, and access control for your internal tools.

In this blog post, we will show you how to create a simple GraphQL front-end with Retool, using the Star Wars API (SWAPI) as an example. We will cover the following steps:

  • Setting up a GraphQL API with SWAPI
  • Connecting Retool to the GraphQL API
  • Building a UI for querying and displaying data
  • Adding interactivity and logic to the UI

Setting up a GraphQL API with SWAPI

SWAPI is a public API that provides information about the Star Wars universe, such as characters, planets, films, and species. SWAPI has a REST endpoint, as well as a GraphQL wrapper that we can use for this tutorial. The GraphQL endpoint is https://swapi-graphql.netlify.app/.graphql, and you can explore the schema and try out queries using GraphiQL at https://swapi-graphql.netlify.app/.

For example, if we want to query for the name and height of Luke Skywalker, we can write the following GraphQL query:

query {
  person(personID: 1) {
    name
    height
  }
}

The response will be:

JSONAI-generated code. Review and use carefully. More info on FAQ.
{
  "data": {
    "person": {
      "name": "Luke Skywalker",
      "height": 1.72
    }
  }
}

We can also query for multiple fields and nested objects, such as the name and climate of Luke’s home planet, and the name and lifespan of his species:

query {
  person(personID: 1) {
    name
    homeWorld {
      name
      climate
    }
    species {
      name
      lifespan
    }
  }
}

The response will be:

JSONAI-generated code. Review and use carefully. More info on FAQ.
{
  "data": {
    "person": {
      "name": "Luke Skywalker",
      "homeWorld": {
        "name": "Tatooine",
        "climate": "arid"
      },
      "species": {
        "name": "Human",
        "lifespan": 120
      }
    }
  }
}

Connecting Retool to the GraphQL API

Now that we have a GraphQL API to work with, we can connect Retool to it and start building our front-end. To do this, we need to create a new resource in Retool, which is a way of defining a data source and how to interact with it.

To create a new resource, go to the Resources page in Retool, and click on the Create new button. Choose GraphQL as the type of resource, and enter the following information:

  • Name: SWAPI
  • Base URL: https://swapi-graphql.netlify.app/.graphql
  • Headers: None
  • Query Variables: None

 

Click on the Save button, and you should see a success message. You can also test your resource by clicking on the Test your resource button, and entering a GraphQL query in the Query editor. For example, you can enter the same query we used before to get Luke’s name and height:

query {
  person(personID: 1) {
    name
    height
  }
}

Click on the Run button, and you should see the same response as before:

JSONAI-generated code. Review and use carefully. More info on FAQ.
{
  "data": {
    "person": {
      "name": "Luke Skywalker",
      "height": 1.72
    }
  }
}

 

Building a UI for querying and displaying data

Now that we have connected Retool to our GraphQL API, we can start building our UI for querying and displaying data. To do this, we need to create a new app in Retool, which is a way of defining a UI layout and logic for your internal tool.

To create a new app, go to the Apps page in Retool, and click on the Create new button. Choose Blank app as the type of app, and enter a name for your app, such as SWAPI Front-End. You should see a blank canvas where you can drag and drop UI components from the left sidebar.

 

For this tutorial, we will create a simple UI that consists of the following components:

  • A text input for entering a person ID
  • A button for submitting the query
  • A table for displaying the person’s name, height, home world, and species
  • A text component for showing the query status

To add a component, simply drag and drop it from the left sidebar to the canvas. You can also resize and reposition the components by dragging their edges and corners. You can also edit the properties and settings of each component by clicking on it and using the right sidebar.

For example, to add a text input for entering a person ID, drag and drop a Text Input component to the canvas, and edit its properties as follows:

  • Name: personIDInput
  • Label: Person ID
  • Placeholder: Enter a person ID (e.g. 1)
  • Default value: 1

 

To add a button for submitting the query, drag and drop a Button component to the canvas, and edit its properties as follows:

  • Name: submitButton
  • Label: Submit
  • Type: Primary
  • On click: Run query

 

To add a table for displaying the person’s data, drag and drop a Table component to the canvas, and edit its properties as follows:

  • Name: personTable
  • Data: personQuery.data.person
  • Columns: name, height, homeWorld.name, species.name
  • Column labels: Name, Height, Home World, Species

![Add a table for displaying the person’s data]

To add a text component for showing the query status, drag and drop a Text component to the canvas, and edit its properties as follows:

  • Name: statusText
  • Value: {{ personQuery.isLoading ? “Loading…” : personQuery.error ? “Error: ” + personQuery.error : “Success!” }}

![Add a text component for showing the query status]

Adding interactivity and logic to the UI

Now that we have built our UI for querying and displaying data, we need to add some interactivity and logic to it. To do this, we need to create a query in Retool, which is a way of defining a data operation and how to trigger it.

To create a new query, go to the Queries tab in the left sidebar, and click on the + button. Choose SWAPI as the resource, and enter a name for your query, such as personQuery. You should see a query editor where you can write your GraphQL query.

For this tutorial, we will write a query that takes a person ID as a variable, and returns the person’s name, height, home world, and species. To do this, enter the following query in the query editor:

query ($personID: ID!) {
  person(personID: $personID) {
    name
    height
    homeWorld {
      name
    }
    species {
      name
    }
  }
}

To define the variable, click on the Variables tab in the right sidebar, and enter the following information:

  • Name: personID
  • Type: ID!
  • Value: {{ personIDInput.value }}

![Create a query in Retool]

Click on the Save button, and you should see a success message. You can also test your query by clicking on the Run button, and entering a person ID in the text input. For example, if you enter 1, you should see the same data as before:

JSONAI-generated code. Review and use carefully. More info on FAQ.
{
  "data": {
    "person": {
      "name": "Luke Skywalker",
      "height": 1.72,
      "homeWorld": {
        "name": "Tatooine"
      },
      "species": {
        "name": "Human"
      }
    }
  }
}

![Test your query in Retool]

To make the query run automatically when the button is clicked, go to the Settings tab in the right sidebar, and check the box for Trigger this query when one of these components change. Then, select submitButton as the component.

![Trigger the query when the button is clicked]

Now, you should be able to enter any person ID in the text input, click on the submit button, and see the corresponding data in the table. You should also see the query status in the text component.

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Auroraca

Through my blog, I strive to inspire people to live a life full of adventure and style, as well as provide practical insight into travel destinations and sustainable lifestyles

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