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C++ implementation of the HDT compression format

Header Dictionary Triples (HDT) is a compression format for RDF data that can also be queried for Triple Patterns.

Getting Started


In order to compile this library, you need to have the following dependencies installed:

  • GNU Autoconf

    • sudo apt install autoconf on Debian-based distros (e.g., Ubuntu)
    • sudo dnf install autoconf on Red Hat-based distros (e.g., Fedora)
    • brew install autoconf on macOS/OSX
  • GNU Libtool

    • sudo apt install libtool on Debian-based distros (e.g., Ubuntu)
    • sudo dnf install libtool on Red Hat-based distros (e.g., Fedora)
    • brew install libtool on macOS/OSX
  • GNU zip (gzip) Allows GNU zipped RDF input files to be ingested, and allows GNU zipped HDT files to be loaded.

    • sudo apt install zlib1g zlib1g-dev on Debian-based distros (e.g., Ubuntu)
    • sudo dnf install gzip on Red Hat-based distros (e.g., Fedora)
    • zlib is already included as part of macOS/OSX
  • pkg-config A helper tool for compiling applications and libraries.

    • sudo apt install pkg-config on Debian-based distros (e.g., Ubuntu)
    • sudo dnf install pkgconf-pkg-config on Red Hat-based distros (e.g., Fedora)
    • brew install pkg-config on macOS/OSX
  • Serd v0.28+ The default parser that is used to process RDF input files. It supports the N-Quads, N-Triples, TriG, and Turtle serialization formats.

    • sudo apt install libserd-0-0 libserd-dev on Debian-based distros (e.g., Ubuntu)
    • sudo dnf install serd serd-devel on Red Hat-based distros (e.g., Fedora)
    • brew install serd on macOS/OSX

    Sometimes the version of Serd that is distributed by package managers is too old. In that case, Serd can also be built manually: see for the installation instructions.


To compile and install, run the following commands under the directory hdt-cpp. This will also compile and install some handy tools.

make -j2
sudo make install

Installation issues

Sometimes, the above instructions do not result in a working HDT installation. This section enumerates common issues and their workaround.

Compilation issues using Kyoto Cabinet

The support for Kyoto Cabinet was never finished and is currently suspended. It is for the time being not possible to compile HDT with KyotoCabinet.

Common error:

In file included from src/dictionary/KyotoDictionary.cpp:38:0:
src/dictionary/KyotoDictionary.hpp:108:18: error: conflicting return type specified for 'virtual unsigned int hdt::KyotoDictionary::getMapping()'
 unsigned int getMapping();

Package requirements (serd-0 >= 0.28.0) were not met

When getting

Package requirements (serd-0 >= 0.28.0) were not met: Requested 'serd-0 >= 0.28.0' but version of Serd is 0.X

Serd is not 0.28+, probably because of the package manager. Built it manually at

./configure cannot find Serd

While running ./configure you get a message similar to the following:

Package 'serd-0', required by 'virtual:world', not found

This means that ./configure cannot find the location of the serd-0.pc file on your computer. You have to find this location yourself, e.g., in the following way:

find /usr/ -name serd-0.pc

Once you have found the directory containing the serd-0.pc file, you have to inform the ./configure script about this location by setting the following environment variable (where directory /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig/ is adapted to your situation):

export PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/usr/local/lib/pkgconfig/

Using HDT

After compiling and installing, you can use the handy tools that are located in hdt-cpp/libhdt/tools. We show some common tasks that can be performed with these tools.

RDF-2-HDT: Creating an HDT

HDT files can only be created for standards-compliant RDF input files. If your input file is not standards-compliant RDF, it is not possible to create an HDT files out of it.

$ ./rdf2hdt data.nt data.hdt

HDT-2-RDF: Exporting an HDT

You can export an HDT file to an RDF file in one of the supported serialization formats (currently: N-Quads, N-Triples, TriG, and Turtle). The default serialization format for exporting is N-Triples.

$ ./hdt2rdf data.hdt data.nt

Querying for Triple Patterns

You can issue Triple Pattern (TP) queries in the terminal by specifying a subject, predicate, and/or object term. The questions mark (?) denotes an uninstantiated term. For example, you can retrieve all the triples by querying for the TP ? ? ?:

$ ./hdtSearch data.hdt
>> ? ? ? "literal1" "literalA" "literalB" "literalC" "literal1"
9 results shown.

>> ? ?
2 results shown.

>> exit

Exporting the header

The header component of an HDT contains metadata describing the data contained in the HDT, as well as the creation metadata about the HDT itself. The contents of the header can be exported to an N-Triples file:

$ ./hdtInfo data.hdt > header.nt

Replacing the Header

It can be useful to update the header information of an HDT. This can be done by generating a new HDT file (new.hdt) out of an existing HDT file (old.hdt) and an N-Triples file (new-header.nt) that contains the new header information:

$ ./replaceHeader old.hdt new.hdt new-header.nt

Building docker image

Alternatively, the tools can be used via docker.

To build the docker image (using arbitrary name hdt):

docker build -t hdt .

Using tools via docker image

Asssuming you have built docker image named hdt:

docker run -it --rm -v $PWD:/workdir hdt bash

This starts the docker image interactively. Listing files within running container shall show files from your current directory.

To run whatever command from hdt toolset:

root@abcd1234:/workdir# rdf2hdt -f turtle input.ttl output.hdt

To quit the running container, use exit command.

HDT commands can be also called directly from the (docker) host system:

docker run --rm -v $PWD:/workdir hdt rdf2hdt -f turtle input.ttl output.hdt

This takes input.ttl from current directory and create new output.hdt one.


Contributions are welcome! Please base your contributions and pull requests (PRs) on the develop branch, and not on the master branch.


hdt-cpp is free software licensed as GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). See libhdt/COPYRIGHT.