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using API to create external tool without xml, with course navigation placement

Hi - Im using the canvas API to create an external tool that shows up on left hand side as course navigation, and I am able to do this if i use the xml option and put a bunch of xml in the xml param. I was hoping I could do the same without xml, that is use all url params to insert the ext tool and have it place in course nav just like with the xml. I am able to create the tool with no xml however Im not able to get the course placement if theres no xml in the mix - and Im guessing that you have to use xml to get course placement - is that true? I was hoping to not have to stuff all that xml in an url param - im a little surprised that there isnt a body of xml or json that you can send instead of all url params. the escaping in java code gets a little tricky.

thanks for help - mark

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It is not necessary to use XML to make an app/external tool available in the Course Navigation links in Canvas, if you are developing a version 1.3 LTI, then JSON can also be used.  The Canvas documentation on what is necessary to place a link in the Course Navigation for your app can be found here. 

Additionally, I recommend you look at the EduAppCenter guide on creating LTI Apps that work with Canvas (and possibly other LMSs).