Getting Started

This document provides all the basic information you need to start using the library. It covers important library concepts, shows examples for various use cases, and gives links to more information.


There are a few setup steps you need to complete before you can use this library:

  1. If you don’t already have a Google account, sign up.
  2. If you have never created a Google APIs Console project, read the Managing Projects page and create a project in the Google API Console.
  3. Install the library.

Authentication and authorization

It is important to understand the basics of how API authentication and authorization are handled. All API calls must use either simple or authorized access (defined below). Many API methods require authorized access, but some can use either. Some API methods that can use either behave differently, depending on whether you use simple or authorized access. See the API’s method documentation to determine the appropriate access type.

1. Simple API access (API keys)

These API calls do not access any private user data. Your application must authenticate itself as an application belonging to your Google Cloud project. This is needed to measure project usage for accounting purposes.

API key: To authenticate your application, use an API key for your Google Cloud Console project. Every simple access call your application makes must include this key.

Warning: Keep your API key private. If someone obtains your key, they could use it to consume your quota or incur charges against your Google Cloud project.

2. Authorized API access (OAuth 2.0)

These API calls access private user data. Before you can call them, the user that has access to the private data must grant your application access. Therefore, your application must be authenticated, the user must grant access for your application, and the user must be authenticated in order to grant that access. All of this is accomplished with OAuth 2.0 and libraries written for it.

Building and calling a service

This section describes how to build an API-specific service object, make calls to the service, and process the response.

Build the service object

Whether you are using simple or authorized API access, you use the build() function to create a service object. It takes an API name and API version as arguments. You can see the list of all API versions on the Supported APIs page. When build() is called, a service object will attempt to be constructed with methods specific to the given API.

httplib2, the underlying transport library, makes all connections persistent by default. Use the service object with a context manager or call close to avoid leaving sockets open.

from googleapiclient.discovery import build

service = build('drive', 'v3')
# ...
from googleapiclient.discovery import build

with build('drive', 'v3') as service:
    # ...

Note: Under the hood, the build() function retrieves a discovery artifact in order to construct the service object. If the cache_discovery argument of build() is set to True, the library will attempt to retrieve the discovery artifact from the legacy cache which is only supported with oauth2client<4.0. If the artifact is not available in the legacy cache and the static_discovery argument of build() is set to True, which is the default, the library will use the service definition shipped in the library. If always using the latest version of a service definition is more important than reliability, users should set static_discovery=False to retrieve the service definition from the internet.


Each API service provides access to one or more resources. A set of resources of the same type is called a collection. The names of these collections are specific to the API. The service object is constructed with a function for every collection defined by the API. If the given API has a collection named stamps, you create the collection object like this:

collection = service.stamps()

It is also possible for collections to be nested:

nested_collection = service.featured().stamps()

Methods and requests

Every collection has a list of methods defined by the API. Calling a collection’s method returns an HttpRequest object. If the given API collection has a method named list that takes an argument called cents, you create a request object for that method like this:

request = collection.list(cents=5)

Execution and response

Creating a request does not actually call the API. To execute the request and get a response, call the execute() function:

    response = request.execute()
except HttpError as e:
    print('Error response status code : {0}, reason : {1}'.format(e.status_code, e.error_details))

Alternatively, you can combine previous steps on a single line:

response = service.stamps().list(cents=5).execute()

Working with the response

The response is a Python object built from the JSON response sent by the API server. The JSON structure is specific to the API; for details, see the API’s reference documentation. You can also simply print the JSON to see the structure:

import json
print(json.dumps(response, sort_keys=True, indent=4))

For example, if the printed JSON is the following:

    "count": 2,
    "items": [
            "cents": 5,
            "name": "#586 1923-26 5-cent blue Theodore Roosevelt MLH perf 10"
            "cents": 5,
            "name": "#628 1926 5-cent Ericsson Memorial MLH"

You can access the data like this:

print('Num 5 cent stamps: %d'.format(response['count']))
print('First stamp name: %s'.format(response['items'][0]['name']))

Finding information about the APIs

Use the APIs Explorer to browse APIs, list available methods, and even try API calls from your browser.

Library reference documentation

Core library documentation and Library reference documentation by API are available.