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A quick breakdown of Postman vs. Insomnia

Does your organization need the fully loaded capabilities of Postman or the lightweight implementation style offered by Insomnia? Read this quick breakdown to get the picture.

With the right API management tool in place, developers can simplify each step of the API lifecycle through streamlined testing, multilevel collaborations and thorough documentation. To that end, Insomnia and Postman are two platforms designed to help software teams get a handle on APIs across distributed systems through improved documentation, consistency and development flexibility. They both offer unique management features and capabilities for both internal and external APIs, especially when it comes to testing.

In this article, we examine some of the key comparison points between Postman and Insomnia, including the factors to consider before opting for one platform over the other.

The feature-rich benefits of Postman

In its early days, Postman took the form of a simple Chrome extension designed to simplify API testing and documentation processes. Over time, it has evolved into a complete open source API platform that offers an array of subscription tiers ranging up to the enterprise level. Postman provides tools to accelerate the API development pipeline, provide API repositories, simplify cross-team collaboration and improve governance through automated policy enforcement.

Postman is available for Windows, macOS and Linux platforms and enables developers to choose how they collaborate, such as sharing work via Git repos. Along with support for REST, SOAP and GraphQL protocols, Postman also handles OAuth 2.0, AWS signature and Hawk authentication. Its call-and-response management capabilities are further augmented through the inclusion of gRPC, a high-performance remote procedure call framework geared toward high-efficiency data transfers, such as those found in microservices-based communication.

Postman offers collection folders that store API schemas and automatically sync to keep development team members up to date. The platform also enables users to create sharable API links and export test endpoints. However, only developers who have been added to the team by an administrator can access these links. With this, developers can add test suites, integration tests and contract tests to their APIs. They can also monitor, report and analyze API performance using Newman, the command-line collection runner for Postman. Along with scheduling and automating tests to further streamline the API build process, Postman makes it possible for developers to create code; define OpenAPI, GraphQL and RESTful API Modeling Language specifications; and import preexisting API specifications using a built-in editor.

While Postman offers a fully functional GUI, users sometimes complain that the controls for viewing HTTP requests and responses are cumbersome and awkward to navigate. Some also report that fixing errors in Postman can be a challenge, as the platform isn't always able to define the exact issue or identify the root problem associated with an unresponsive API. Furthermore, while the platform providing an abundance of tools and features is a plus from one perspective, Postman may prove an unwieldy platform for small initiatives. There are also reports that Postman can experience latency issues when processing large batches of API calls -- i.e., 1,000 or more -- due to code duplication of dynamic API requests.

The lightweight benefits of Insomnia

Although Postman offers more capabilities for enterprise-level development, Insomnia offers the ability to handle small projects. Insomnia offers an open source, cross-platform API client that incorporates features like secure authentication, support for environmental variables and automated code generation. Compared to Postman, Insomnia represents a somewhat lighter and more compact API management platform with a clean GUI and useful tools for executing REST, SOAP and gRPC requests.

Along with support for creating plugins, developers can generate APIs in popular languages, like NodeJS, Go, Swift, Python, Java and C. Insomnia also enables developers to view API response details -- including as HTML, images and PDF files -- query data, organize collections, duplicate requests and insert comments. Insomnia users can perform a number of different customized tasks, like have requests send in both JSON and XML, set the preferred authentication method -- e.g., OAuth, OpenID, Basic or Beaver -- automate formatting for URL query parameters and apply request headers as necessary.

Insomnia requires users to upload all elements to the cloud for syncing. This could prove a limitation for larger organizations that need to store data locally per certain contractual obligations or service-level agreements. However, Insomnia's addition of support for WebSocket requests should enable data to pass bidirectionally between client and server over a persistent connection, which may help ease this a little bit.

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