In May 2023, the Postman team finally released a much anticipated Visual Studio Code extension. I'm sure most readers will know that Postman is the best API platform for developers. The desktop version of Postman is probably the most well-known and used API development tool in the marketplace today, so will this new VS-Code extension live up to the same hype?
The Postman extension is not the only API client for VS-Code. Clients like Thunder Client and Rest Client have both been downloaded millions of times apiece, so are you better off sticking with them? Read on to find out if this new Postman extension wins the VS-Code API extension crown, or if its a pile of poo 💩💩💩
The Postman team first made the announcement that the VS-Code extension was available in July 20023. If you are interested then I recommend reading this blog post which details all its features.
Just like any VS-Code extension, you can install the Postman extension via the marketplace and you can find the download page here. After installing the extension, you will see a new icon in the sidebar. Click on it to launch the Postman client UI:
Before you can use the extension, you will need to log in using a Postman account. Being forced to create a Postman account is handy as it allows you to sync and share your requests and collections between different VS-Code instances, the desktop app, as well as other team members easily.
I have to flag that I did encounter a pretty serious error while trying to log into Postman. The first time I tried to install the extension, after authenticating in a browser my extension became corrupted. When this happened the extension failed to load, even though I uninstalled, rebooted VS-Code, then re-installed it.
To fix the issue I had to delete my Visual Studio cache from my file system. To do this you will need to delete two folders,
CachedData. These folders can be found here:
In terms of capabilities, Postman provides the same sort of features that the desktop client provides. It allows you to make API requests and read the responses. You can create environments and variables to make it easier to work with the same APIs hosted on different environments. Additionally, you get a useful history request log which I find saves me a bunch of time.
In terms of requests, you can add query string, body data, auth headers, and HTTP headers. You can even create pre and post-scripts for automated testing whenever you call one of the APIs.
After making a request, you can then inspect all the returned data, including cookie values and HTTP headers. In terms of the VS-Code extension and desktop app, they both provide similar stuff. The desktop app is definitely more tailored just to API requests, While VS-Code is still an IDE at heart, however, not having to jump out of VS-Code when coding is also really useful.
Postman vs. Thunderclient: My previous REST client in VS-Code was Thunder client. Thunder client is pretty good, however, it just does REST and not web sockets, or anything else.
In terms of day-to-day use, I found Thunderclient less intuitive compared to Postman. Tasks like creating environments and variables and associating them to requests are slightly easier in Postman and the process is slicker.
ThunderClient also offers a log-in process like Postman, so you can save and sync requests and collections between team members. If you are interested in team sharing, then another consideration is cost.
Both extensions have a free tier for individual usage, however, you may need to pay some money if you want to use either of them commercially within a team. In terms of price comparison between Thunderclient, Postman is probably a little more expensive. Postman's paid-for tiers start at $12 per user, whereas Thunderclient starts at $3 a user. As there are quite a few tiers and different features, I recommend making a comparison yourself using the links below:
Postman vs. Rest Client: Personally, I don't get why REST Client is the most downloaded extension from this list. I say this because it does not provide any form of UI. To make a request, you can create a file in your project with an HTTP extension. Next, you can paste your API URL in as a text. After doing this, you will be given the option to
Send Request. Clicking on this will give you access to the request-response within a separate file:
REST Client does not have a desktop version, it does not have variables or an easy way to add additional data to a request like easily adding access tokens. As this extension is so basic, for me Postman wins hands down!
Personally, I think the clear winner is Postman. The benefit of using the Postman extension is that you are able to create HTTP, web sockets, and RPC requests all from within VS-Code. The UI is slicker and easier to use compared to its rivals and it also contains more features. If you haven't already installed it today🔥🔥🔥
Happy Coding 🤘