Generate Google API Refresh and Access Tokens in PHP

I don't want to sound like Captain Obvious but here's the thing: Google API is great and flexible but the lack of documentation from Google makes me think that these guys assume that everyone out there is as smart as them. This is what happened the first time I put my hands on trying out to use OAuth2 for Google API to generate a refresh token for offline access. Luckily for you, humble reader of my humble blog, I am sharing my wisdom with you.

But first, a bit of theory. You are able to access private user information through Google API by means of an access token which expires after 3600s. So what happens when you want to retrieve information offline like what most web applications do? Here comes the refresh token. This guy does not expire and you are able to generate a new access token using REST.

All you need to make this happening is to download my script and put it in your PHP project root. If you are using a laptop on localhost, just point your browser to http://localhost/get_google_tokens.php. Authorize the app to access your personal data, and a token will be generated for you and printed on the screen. But before doing all that, read the section below as you need to modify the script to enter your own credentials.

How does the script work? First of all you need to go to Google API Console and create a new project. Let's say that you are interested in accessing the Google Drive API - from the services menu just enable Drive. Last but not least, go to API Access and create a client ID (Web application or desktop application, does not really matter). Copy the client ID and secret and paste them in the script. Some notes for the geek who want to understand more:

$access_type = "offline";

This line tells Google API that we want it to generate a refresh token.

$approval_prompt = "force";

This line asks Google to prompt us again for approval even if we have previously approved it. I use this in testing scenarios when I have run the script a number of times and end up with a blank refresh token.

$scope = "";

This is an important line of code. This defines the access scope of the application. So if our application is only interested in accessing the Drive API, put that in the scope. If you want to access more APIs, place the URIs separated by a space. Check this site for a full list of API scopes.

Finally note that the response we get from Google is JSON encoded and therefore needs to be decoded to extract the refresh and access tokens.


Jesualdo Flores Alvarado said...

Wow, amazing.
It has been very helpful for me.

Do you have an option for Installed devices? I´m creating an app for android with HTML5, but I´m not sure if this PHP code will work whitout http://localhost.

Anyway, Thank you so much.

Shairyar Baig said...

This is a wonderful article, helped alot. How can we reuse this refresh token so the user who already gave the access does not get the prompt again?