Exploring Web services

Rational Application Developer and WebSphere Integration Developer both come with a piece of functionality known as the Web Services Explorer. Part of the unit test client, this provides a user interface for invoking WSDL defined Web services. Until now, I’ve always used the Explorer by right-clicking on a piece of WSDL and selecting Web Services > Test with Web Services Explorer. This is all very well if the WSDL happens to be in your workspace. What I hadn’t realised until this week is that you can also use the Explorer with any arbitrary URL addressable WSDL.

With the Web Services Developer capability enabled you should be able to select Run > Launch the Web Services Explorer from the menu bar. The Explorer will start off in the UDDI perspective but you can use the icons at the top-right to switch to the WSDL perspective. Then select the WSDL Main link at which point you can enter the WSDL URL and away you go.

The Web Services Explorer is a server-side web application which isn’t always convenient or appropriate. Recently I’ve taken to using soapUI as a simple client-side tool for invoking Web services. Once again you can just give it the URL of some WSDL and it will pull-in all the related artefacts. Unlike the Explorer it doesn’t try to provide forms for creating requests but will generate test XML with helpful comments indicating which elements are optional. This does have the benefit that it’s easy to send custom SOAP headers.

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