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Quickstart for GitHub REST API

Learn how to get started with the GitHub REST API.

Introduction

This article describes how to quickly get started with the GitHub REST API using GitHub CLI, curl, or JavaScript. For a more detailed guide, see "Getting started with the REST API."

Using GitHub CLI in the command line

GitHub CLI is the easiest way to use the GitHub REST API from the command line.

  1. Install GitHub CLI on macOS, Windows, or Linux. For more information, see Installation in the GitHub CLI repository.

  2. Authenticate with GitHub by running this command from your terminal.

    gh auth login
    
  3. Follow the on-screen prompts.

    GitHub CLI automatically stores your Git credentials for you when you choose HTTPS as your preferred protocol for Git operations and answer "yes" to the prompt asking if you would like to authenticate to Git with your GitHub credentials. This can be useful as it allows you to use Git commands like git push and git pull without needing to set up a separate credential manager or use SSH.

  4. Make a request using the GitHub CLI api subcommand, followed by the path. Use the --method or -X flag to specify the method. For more information, see the GitHub CLI api documentation.

    This example makes a request to the "Get Octocat" endpoint, which uses the method GET and the path /octocat. For the full reference documentation for this endpoint, see "REST API endpoints for meta data."

    Shell
    gh api /octocat --method GET
    

Using GitHub CLI in GitHub Actions

You can also use GitHub CLI in your GitHub Actions workflows. For more information, see "Using GitHub CLI in workflows."

Authenticating with an access token

Instead of using the gh auth login command, pass an access token as an environment variable called GH_TOKEN. GitHub recommends that you use the built-in GITHUB_TOKEN instead of creating a token. If this is not possible, store your token as a secret and replace GITHUB_TOKEN in the example below with the name of your secret. For more information about GITHUB_TOKEN, see "Automatic token authentication." For more information about secrets, see "Using secrets in GitHub Actions."

The following example workflow uses the "List repository issues" endpoint, and requests a list of issues in the octocat/Spoon-Knife repository.

YAML
on:
  workflow_dispatch:
jobs:
  use_api:
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    permissions:
      issues: read
    steps:
      - env:
          GH_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
        run: |
          gh api https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Spoon-Knife/issues

Authenticating with a GitHub App

If you are authenticating with a GitHub App, you can create an installation access token within your workflow:

  1. Store your GitHub App's ID as a configuration variable. In the following example, replace APP_ID with the name of the configuration variable. You can find your app ID on the settings page for your app or through the API. For more information, see "GitHub Apps" in the REST API documentation. For more information about configuration variables, see "Variables."

  2. Generate a private key for your app. Store the contents of the resulting file as a secret. (Store the entire contents of the file, including -----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY----- and -----END RSA PRIVATE KEY-----.) In the following example, replace APP_PEM with the name of the secret. For more information, see "Managing private keys for GitHub Apps." For more information about secrets, see "Using secrets in GitHub Actions."

  3. Add a step to generate a token, and use that token instead of GITHUB_TOKEN. Note that this token will expire after 60 minutes. For example:

    YAML
    
    on:
      workflow_dispatch:
    jobs:
      track_pr:
        runs-on: ubuntu-latest
        steps:
          - name: Generate token
            id: generate-token
            uses: actions/create-github-app-token@v1
            with:
              app-id: ${{ vars.APP_ID }}
              private-key: ${{ secrets.APP_PEM }}
          - name: Use API
            env:
              GH_TOKEN: ${{ steps.generate-token.outputs.token }}
            run: |
              gh api https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Spoon-Knife/issues
    

Using Octokit.js

You can use Octokit.js to interact with the GitHub REST API in your JavaScript scripts. For more information, see "Scripting with the REST API and JavaScript."

  1. Create an access token. For example, create a personal access token or a GitHub App user access token. You will use this token to authenticate your request, so you should give it any scopes or permissions that are required to access that endpoint. For more information, see "Authenticating to the REST API" or "Identifying and authorizing users for GitHub Apps."

    Warning: Treat your access token like a password.

    To keep your token secure, you can store your token as a secret and run your script through GitHub Actions. For more information, see the "Using Octokit.js in GitHub Actions" section.

    You can also store your token as a Codespaces secret and run your script in Codespaces. For more information, see "Managing encrypted secrets for your codespaces."

    If these options are not possible, consider using another CLI service to store your token securely.

  2. Install octokit. For example, npm install octokit. For other ways to install or load octokit, see the Octokit.js README.

  3. Import octokit in your script. For example, import { Octokit } from "octokit";. For other ways to import octokit, see the Octokit.js README.

  4. Create an instance of Octokit with your token. Replace YOUR-TOKEN with your token.

    JavaScript
    const octokit = new Octokit({ 
      auth: 'YOUR-TOKEN'
    });
    
  5. Use octokit.request to execute your request. Send the HTTP method and path as the first argument. Specify any path, query, and body parameters in an object as the second argument. For more information about parameters, see "Getting started with the REST API."

    For example, in the following request the HTTP method is GET, the path is /repos/{owner}/{repo}/issues, and the parameters are owner: "octocat" and repo: "Spoon-Knife".

    JavaScript
    await octokit.request("GET /repos/{owner}/{repo}/issues", {
      owner: "octocat",
      repo: "Spoon-Knife",
    });
    

Using Octokit.js in GitHub Actions

You can also execute your JavaScript scripts in your GitHub Actions workflows. For more information, see "Workflow syntax for GitHub Actions."

Authenticating with an access token

GitHub recommends that you use the built-in GITHUB_TOKEN instead of creating a token. If this is not possible, store your token as a secret and replace GITHUB_TOKEN in the example below with the name of your secret. For more information about GITHUB_TOKEN, see "Automatic token authentication." For more information about secrets, see "Using secrets in GitHub Actions."

The following example workflow:

  1. Checks out the repository content
  2. Sets up Node.js
  3. Installs octokit
  4. Stores the value of GITHUB_TOKEN as an environment variable called TOKEN and runs .github/actions-scripts/use-the-api.mjs, which can access that environment variable as process.env.TOKEN
on:
  workflow_dispatch:
jobs:
  use_api_via_script:
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    permissions:
      issues: read
    steps:
      - name: Check out repo content
        uses: actions/checkout@v4

      - name: Setup Node
        uses: actions/setup-node@v3
        with:
          node-version: '16.17.0'
          cache: npm

      - name: Install dependencies
        run: npm install octokit

      - name: Run script
        run: |
          node .github/actions-scripts/use-the-api.mjs
        env:
          TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}

The following is an example JavaScript script with the file path .github/actions-scripts/use-the-api.mjs.

import { Octokit } from "octokit"

const octokit = new Octokit({ 
  auth: process.env.TOKEN
});

try {
  const result = await octokit.request("GET /repos/{owner}/{repo}/issues", {
      owner: "octocat",
      repo: "Spoon-Knife",
    });

  const titleAndAuthor = result.data.map(issue => {title: issue.title, authorID: issue.user.id})

  console.log(titleAndAuthor)

} catch (error) {
  console.log(`Error! Status: ${error.status}. Message: ${error.response.data.message}`)
}

Authenticating with a GitHub App

If you are authenticating with a GitHub App, you can create an installation access token within your workflow:

  1. Store your GitHub App's ID as a configuration variable. In the following example, replace APP_ID with the name of the configuration variable. You can find your app ID on the settings page for your app or through the App API. For more information, see "GitHub Apps." For more information about configuration variables, see "Variables."

  2. Generate a private key for your app. Store the contents of the resulting file as a secret. (Store the entire contents of the file, including -----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY----- and -----END RSA PRIVATE KEY-----.) In the following example, replace APP_PEM with the name of the secret. For more information, see "Managing private keys for GitHub Apps." For more information about secrets, see "Using secrets in GitHub Actions."

  3. Add a step to generate a token, and use that token instead of GITHUB_TOKEN. Note that this token will expire after 60 minutes. For example:

    
    on:
      workflow_dispatch:
    jobs:
      use_api_via_script:
        runs-on: ubuntu-latest
        steps:
          - name: Check out repo content
            uses: actions/checkout@v4
    
          - name: Setup Node
            uses: actions/setup-node@v3
            with:
              node-version: '16.17.0'
              cache: npm
    
          - name: Install dependencies
            run: npm install octokit
    
          - name: Generate token
            id: generate-token
            uses: actions/create-github-app-token@v1
            with:
              app-id: ${{ vars.APP_ID }}
              private-key: ${{ secrets.APP_PEM }}
    
          - name: Run script
            run: |
              node .github/actions-scripts/use-the-api.mjs
            env:
              TOKEN: ${{ steps.generate-token.outputs.token }}
    
    

Using curl in the command line

Note: If you want to make API requests from the command line, GitHub recommends that you use GitHub CLI, which simplifies authentication and requests. For more information about getting started with the REST API using GitHub CLI, see the GitHub CLI version of this article.

  1. Install curl if it isn't already installed on your machine. To check if curl is installed, execute curl --version in the command line. If the output provides information about the version of curl, that means curl is installed. If you get a message similar to command not found: curl, you need to download and install curl. For more information, see the curl project download page.

  2. Create an access token. For example, create a personal access token or a GitHub App user access token. You will use this token to authenticate your request, so you should give it any scopes or permissions that are required to access the endpoint. For more information, see "Authenticating to the REST API."

    Warning: Treat your access token like a password.

    To keep your token secure, you can store your token as a Codespaces secret and use the command line through Codespaces. For more information, see "Managing encrypted secrets for your codespaces."

    You can also use GitHub CLI instead of curl. GitHub CLI will take care of authentication for you. For more information, see the GitHub CLI version of this page.

    If these options are not possible, consider using another CLI service to store your token securely.

  3. Use the curl command to make your request. Pass your token in an Authorization header. Replace YOUR-TOKEN with your token.

    Shell
    curl --request GET \
    --url "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Spoon-Knife/issues" \
    --header "Accept: application/vnd.github+json" \
    --header "Authorization: Bearer YOUR-TOKEN"
    

    Note: In most cases, you can use Authorization: Bearer or Authorization: token to pass a token. However, if you are passing a JSON web token (JWT), you must use Authorization: Bearer.

Using curl commands in GitHub Actions

You can also use curl commands in your GitHub Actions workflows.

Authenticating with an access token

GitHub recommends that you use the built-in GITHUB_TOKEN instead of creating a token. If this is not possible, store your token as a secret and replace GITHUB_TOKEN in the example below with the name of your secret. For more information about GITHUB_TOKEN, see "Automatic token authentication." For more information about secrets, see "Using secrets in GitHub Actions."

YAML
on:
  workflow_dispatch:
jobs:
  use_api:
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    permissions:
      issues: read
    steps:
      - env:
          GH_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
        run: |
          curl --request GET \
          --url "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Spoon-Knife/issues" \
          --header "Accept: application/vnd.github+json" \
          --header "Authorization: Bearer $GH_TOKEN"

Authenticating with a GitHub App

If you are authenticating with a GitHub App, you can create an installation access token within your workflow:

  1. Store your GitHub App's ID as a configuration variable. In the following example, replace APP_ID with the name of the configuration variable. You can find your app ID on the settings page for your app or through the App API. For more information, see "GitHub Apps." For more information about configuration variables, see "Variables."

  2. Generate a private key for your app. Store the contents of the resulting file as a secret. (Store the entire contents of the file, including -----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY----- and -----END RSA PRIVATE KEY-----.) In the following example, replace APP_PEM with the name of the secret. For more information, see "Managing private keys for GitHub Apps." For more information about storing secrets, see "Using secrets in GitHub Actions."

  3. Add a step to generate a token, and use that token instead of GITHUB_TOKEN. Note that this token will expire after 60 minutes. For example:

    YAML
    
    on:
      workflow_dispatch:
    jobs:
      use_api:
        runs-on: ubuntu-latest
        steps:
          - name: Generate token
            id: generate-token
            uses: actions/create-github-app-token@v1
            with:
              app-id: ${{ vars.APP_ID }}
              private-key: ${{ secrets.APP_PEM }}
    
          - name: Use API
            env:
              GH_TOKEN: ${{ steps.generate-token.outputs.token }}
            run: |
              curl --request GET \
              --url "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Spoon-Knife/issues" \
              --header "Accept: application/vnd.github+json" \
              --header "Authorization: Bearer $GH_TOKEN"
    
    

Next steps

For a more detailed guide, see "Getting started with the REST API."