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Introduction to the REST API

cURL Basics

A good way to familiarize yourself with the RavenDB REST API is with the command line tool cURL, which allows you to construct and send individual HTTP requests. You can download cURL from (If you're using Linux your CLI may already have cURL installed). You can learn how to use it with the cURL documentation. This page just covers the basics you'll need to interact with RavenDB.

All cURL commands begin with the keyword curl and contain the URL of your RavenDB server or one of its endpoints. This command retrieves the first document from a database named "Demo" located on our public playground server, and prints it in your CLI:


The other parameters of the HTTP request are specified using 'options'. These are the main cURL options that interest us:

Option Purpose
-X Set the HTTP method that is sent with the request
-H Add one or more headers, e.g. to provide extra information about the contents of the request body
-d This option denotes the beginning of the body of the request. The body itself is wrapped with double quotes ". One of the ways to upload a document to the server is to send it in the body.
-T Set the path to a file you want to upload, such as a document or attachment
--cert (For https) the path to your certificate file
--key (For https) the path to your private key file

This request uploads a document to a database on the playground server from a local file:

curl -X PUT -T <path to file>document.txt
More about how to upload documents

Document Format and Structure

In RavenDB all documents have a standard JSON format. In essence, every JSON object is composed of a series of key-value pairs. A document with a complex structure might look something like this:

    "<key>": <value>,
    "<key>": "<string value>",
    "an array": [
        "<string value>",
    "an object": {
        "<key>": <value>,
        "<key>": "<string value>",

The whole object is wrapped in curly brackets {}. The <key> is always a string, and the <value> can be a string (denoted by double quotes), a number, a boolean, or null. The value can also be an array of values wrapped in square brackets [], or it can itself be another JSON object wrapped in another pair of curly brackets. Whitespace is completely optional. In the above example and throughout the documentation, JSON is broken into multiple lines for the sake of clarity. When using cURL, the entire command including the request body needs to be on one line.

Sending raw JSON using cURL

Sending raw JSON in the body faces us with a problem: the body itself is wrapped with double quotes ", so the double quotes within the JSON will be interpreted by the parser as the end of the body. The solution is to escape every double quote by putting a backslash \ before it, like this:

-d "{
    \"a string\": \"some text\",
    \"a number\": 42

Binary data

In addition to JSON, pure binary data can be stored as an attachment associated with an existing document. Files can be added to the request with the -T option. Some types of requests, though, allow you to include raw binary in the body - such as the Put Attachment Command.

Using cURL With HTTPS

HTTPS adds public-key encryption on top of standard HTTP to protect information during transit between client and server. It has become increasingly common throughout the internet in recent years. Our setup wizard makes it very simple to set up server secure using a free Let's Encrypt certificate.

To communicate with a secure server over https, you need to specify the paths to the your client certificate and private key files with the --cert and --key options respectively:

curl --cert <path to your certificate file> --key <path to your private key file> "<server url>"

These files can be found in the configuration Zip package you recieved at the end of the setup wizard. You can download this Zip package again by going to this endpoint: <the URL of your server>/admin/debug/cluster-info-package. The certificate and key are found at the root of the package with the names: admin.client.certificate.<your domain name>.crt, and admin.client.certificate.<your domain name>.key respectively.

Common HTTP Status Codes

These are a few of the HTTP status codes we use in our REST API, and what we mean by them:

Code Official IANA description Purpose
200 OK Indicates that a valid request was received by the server, such as GET requests and queries. This includes cases where the response body itself is empty because the query returned 0 results.
201 Created Confirms the success of document PUT requests
304 Not Modified When prompted, the server can check if the requested data has been modified since the previous request. If it hasn't, the server responds with this status code to tell the client that it can continue to use the locally cached copy of the data. This is a mechanism we often use to minimize traffic over the network.
404 Not Found Sometimes used to indicate that the request was valid but the requested data could not be found
409 Conflict Indicates that the database has received conflicting commands. This happens in clusters when different nodes receive commands to modify the same data at the same time - before the modification could be passed on to the rest of the cluster.
500 Internal Server Error Used for exceptions that occur on the server side