A SPARQL query client (pronounced "ask")
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ASQC provides a simple command-line SPARQL query client.

The intent is that this client can be used in Unix-style pipeline operations to perform sequences of query operations that pass information as RDF (from CONSTRUCT queries) or variable bindings (from SELECT queries).


Assumes Python 2.7 installed; not yet tested with other versions.

Installation is from Python Package Index (PyPI).

MacOS / Linux

Temporary installation

This option assumes that the virtualenv package (http://pypi.python.org/pypi/virtualenv) has been installed.

Select working directory, then:

virtualenv testenv
source testenv/bin/activate
pip install asqc

When finished, from the same directory:

rm -rf testenv

System-wide installation (needs root privileges)

sudo pip install asqc

If older versions of rdflib and/or other utilities are installed, it may be necessary to force an upgrade, thus:

sudo pip install --upgrade asqc


Right now, this is pretty much it. For a usage summary:

asq --help

See also the examples described below.

Currently, RDF data is supported as RDF/XML only, and SPARQL SELECT query results as JSON. Support for other formats is on the TODO list.


This information is displayed by "asq --help":

  asq [options] [query]
  asq --help      for an options summary
  asq --examples  to display the path containing example queries

A sparql query client, designed to be used as a filter in a command pipeline.
Pipelined data can be RDF or query variable binding sets, depending on the
options used.

  --version             show program's version number and exit
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --examples            display path of examples directory and exit
  -b BINDINGS, --bindings=BINDINGS
                        URI or filename of resource containing incoming query
                        variable bindings (default none). Specify '-' to use
                        stdin. This option works for SELECT queries only when
                        accessing a SPARQL endpoint.
  -e ENDPOINT, --endpoint=ENDPOINT
                        URI of SPARQL endpoint to query.
  -f FORMAT, --format=FORMAT
                        Format for input and/or output:
                        XML, N3, NT, TURTLE, JSONLD, RDFA apply to RDF data,
                        others apply to query variable bindings.  Multiple
                        comma-separated values may be specified; they are
                        applied to RDF or variable bindings as appropriate.
                        'template' is a python formatting template with
                        '%(var)s' for query variable 'var'.  If two values are
                        given for RDF or variable binding data, they are
                        applied to input and output respectively.  Thus:
                        RDFXML,JSON = RDF/XML and JSON result bindings;
                        RDFXML,N3 = RDF/XML input and Turtle output; etc.
  -o OUTPUT, --output=OUTPUT
                        URI or filename of RDF resource for output (default
                        stdout).Specify '-'to use stdout.
  -p PREFIX, --prefix=PREFIX
                        URI or filename of resource containing query prefixes
                        (default ~/.asqc-prefixes)
  -q QUERY, --query=QUERY
                        URI or filename of resource containing query to
                        execute. If not present, query must be supplied as
                        command line argument.
  -r RDF_DATA, --rdf-input=RDF_DATA
                        URI or filename of RDF resource to query (default
                        stdin or none). May be repeated to merge multiple
                        input resources. Specify '-' to use stdin.
  -v, --verbose         display verbose output
                        Type of query output: SELECT (variable bindings,
                        CONSTRUCT (RDF) or ASK (status).  May be used when
                        system cannot tell the kind of result by analyzing the
                        query itself.  (Currently not used)
                        Format for RDF input data:
                        Format for RDF output data:
                        Format for query variable binding input data:
                        Format for query variable binding output data:

Example queries

The directory "examples" contains some sample files containing queries and prefix declarations that can be used with the following commands.

To obtain the full path name of the examples directory, enter:

asq --examples

Commands below for running the examples assume this is the current working directory.

Query DBpedia endpoint

This example comes from the DBpedia front page. It returns a list of musicians born in Berlin, by sending a SPARQL query to the DBpedia SPARQL endpoint.

asq -e http://dbpedia.org/sparql -p dbpedia.prefixes -q dbpedia-musicians.sparql

Where dbpedia-musicians.sparql contains:

SELECT ?name ?birth ?description ?person WHERE {
     ?person dbo:birthPlace :Berlin .
     ?person <http://purl.org/dc/terms/subject> <http://dbpedia.org/resource/Category:German_musicians> .
     ?person dbo:birthDate ?birth .
     ?person foaf:name ?name .
     ?person rdfs:comment ?description .
     FILTER (LANG(?description) = 'en') .

And dbpedia.prefixes contains:

PREFIX rdf: <http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#>
PREFIX rdfs: <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#>
PREFIX owl: <http://www.w3.org/2002/07/owl#>
PREFIX xsd: <http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#>
PREFIX skos: <http://www.w3.org/2004/02/skos/core#>
PREFIX foaf: <http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/>
PREFIX dc: <http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/>
PREFIX dcterms: <http://purl.org/dc/terms/>
PREFIX dbpedia2: <http://dbpedia.org/property/>
PREFIX dbpedia: <http://dbpedia.org/>
PREFIX dbo: <http://dbpedia.org/ontology/>
PREFIX dbc: <http://dbpedia.org/resource/Category:>
PREFIX : <http://dbpedia.org/resource/>

Query SKOS ontology

This example retrieves the SKOS ontology RDF file and runs the SPARQL query locally. It returns a list of classes defined by the ontology.

asq -r http://www.w3.org/2009/08/skos-reference/skos.rdf -p skos.prefixes \
  "SELECT DISTINCT ?c WHERE { ?c rdf:type owl:Class }"

A similar query using CONSTRUCT returns the information as an RDF graph:

asq -r http://www.w3.org/2009/08/skos-reference/skos.rdf -p skos.prefixes \
  "CONSTRUCT { ?c rdf:type owl:Class } WHERE { ?c rdf:type owl:Class }"

Composition of queries to different data sources

This example shows how ASQ can be used to fetch results from different sources and combine the results. SELECT query results from one query can be used to constrain the results returned by a second query.

This example uses DBpedia and BBC Backstage SPARQL endpoints to create a list of actors from Japan who appear in BBC television programmes:

asq -e http://dbpedia.org/sparql -p dbpedia.prefixes \
  -q dbpedia-people-from-japan.sparql \
asq -e http://api.talis.com/stores/bbc-backstage/services/sparql -p dbpedia.prefixes \
  -b dbpedia-people-from-japan.json \
  -q bbc-people-starring-in-television-shows.sparql

or, equivalently, piping bindings from one asq command straight to the next:

asq -e http://dbpedia.org/sparql -p dbpedia.prefixes \
  -q dbpedia-people-from-japan.sparql | \
asq -e http://api.talis.com/stores/bbc-backstage/services/sparql -p dbpedia.prefixes \
  -b - \
  -q bbc-people-starring-in-television-shows.sparql


  • The query to the BBC backstage endpoint can take a little time to complete (about 30 seconds)
  • These queries work in part because BBC backstage makes extensive use of the DBpedia ontologies
  • It is possible that this particular result could have ben obtained from BBC backstage alone, as it replicates information from DBpedia, but the example has been constructed to use information from the different endpoints.
  • Joining queries in this way when sending queries to different endpoints is not scalable in the current implementation of ASQ: all available results are retrieved from both services, then joined in the ASQ client. (I am thinking about possible ways to use the results from one query to limit what comes from the next. When querying RDF resources, results from one query are used directly to constrain the results of the next query.)

Update history

  • 0.1.1: Initial packaging
  • 0.1.2: Add examples and extended README
  • 0.1.3: Add support for alternative input and output formats
  • 0.1.4: Add support for CSV output format for query result bindings
  • 0.1.5: Add support for --debug option and diagnostics for query syntax error
  • 0.1.6: Update to work with rdflib 4.0.1 and neew SPARQL 1.1 library
  • 0.1.7: Support parsing of RDFa from HTML5