Running XQuery from the Command Line

A command is available to run a query contained in a file. The form of command on the Java platform is:

java  net.sf.saxon.Query   [options]   -q:queryfile   [ params...]

On the .NET platform, the command is simply:

Query   [options]   -q:queryfile   [ params...]

The options must come first, then the params. If the last option before the params has no leading hyphen ad option letter then it is recognized as the -q option.

The options are as follows (in any order). Square brackets indicate an optional parameter.


Only relevant when -update:on is specified. Default is on. When backup is enabled, any file that is updated by the query will be preserved in its original state by renaming it, adding ".bak" to the original filename. If backup is disabled, updated files will be silently overwritten.


Indicates that configuration information should be taken from the supplied configuration file. Any options supplied on the command line override options specified in the configuration file.


Use the specified CollectionURIResolver to process collection URIs passed to the collection() function. The CollectionURIResolver is a user-defined class that implements the net.sf.saxon.CollectionURIResolver interface.


Setting -dtd:on requests DTD-based validation of the source file and of any files read using the document() function. Requires an XML parser that supports validation. The setting -dtd:off (which is the default) suppresses DTD validation. The setting -dtd:recover performs DTD validation but treats the error as non-fatal if it fails. Note that any external DTD is likely to be read even if not used for validation, because DTDs can contain definitions of entities.


Normally, if validation using a DTD or Schema is requested, any fixed or default values defined in the DTD or schema will be expanded. Specifying -expand:off suppresses this. (In the case of DTD-defined defaults, this might not work with all XML parsers. It does work with the Xerces parser (default for Java) and the Microsoft parser (default for .NET))


Display a query execution plan. This is a representation of the expression tree after rewriting by the optimizer. If no file name is specified the output is sent to the standard error stream. The output is a tree in XML format.


If ext:off is specified, suppress calls on external Java functions, other than system-supplied Saxon and EXSLT extension functions. This option is useful when loading an untrusted stylesheet, perhaps from a remote site using an http:// URL; it ensures that the stylesheet cannot call Java methods and thereby gain privileged access to resources on your machine.


If -l or -l:on is specified, causes line and column numbers to be maintained for source documents. These are accessible using the extension functions saxon:line-number() and saxon:column-number(). Line numbers are useful when the purpose of the query is to find errors or anomalies in the source XML file. Without this option, line numbers are available while source documents are being parsed and validated, but they are not retained in the tree representation of the document.


Use the specified ModuleURIResolver to process all query module URIs. The ModuleURIResolver is a user-defined class that implements the net.sf.saxon.query.ModuleURIResolver interface. It is invoked to process URIs used in the import module declaration in the query prolog, and (if -u is also specified, or if the file name begins with "http:" or "file:") to process the URI of the query source file provided on the command line.


Send output to named file. In the absence of this option, the results go to standard output. The output format depends on whether the -wrap option is present.

The file is created if it does not already exist; any necessary directories will also be created. If the file does exist, it is overwritten (even if the query fails).


Set optimization level. The value is an integer in the range 0 (no optimization) to 10 (full optimization); currently all values other than 0 result in full optimization but this is likely to change in future. The default is full optimization; this feature allows optimization to be suppressed in cases where reducing compile time is important, or where optimization gets in the way of debugging, or causes extension functions with side-effects to behave unpredictably. (Note however, that even with no optimization, lazy evaluation may still cause the evaluation order to be not as expected.)


Normally, if validation of result documents is requested, a validation error is fatal. Setting the option -outval:recover causes such validation failures to be treated as warnings. The validation message is written both to the standard error stream, and (where possible) as a comment in the result document itself.


Use the PTreeURIResolver. This option is available in Saxon-EE only. It cannot be used in conjunction with the -r option, and it automatically switches on the -u option. The effect is twofold. Firstly, Saxon-specific file extensions are recognized in URIs (including the URI of the source document on the command line). Currently the only Saxon-specific file extension is .ptree, which indicates that the source document is supplied in the form of a Saxon PTree. This is a binary representation of an XML document, designed for speed of loading. Secondly, Saxon-specific query parameters are recognized in a URI. Currently the only query parameter that is recognized is val. This may take the values strict, lax, or strip. For example, source.xml?validation=strict loads a document with strict schema validation.


Execute query internally in push or pull mode. Default is push. This may give performance advantages for certain kinds of query, especially queries that construct intermediate trees in memory. In practice when the output is serialized there is usually little difference, and the option is there mainly for testing.


Use (or don't use) document projection. Document Projection is a mechanism that analyzes a query to determine what parts of a document it can potentially access, and then while building a tree to represent the document, leaves out those parts of the tree that cannot make any difference to the result of the query. Requires Saxon-EE.


Identifies the file containing the query. The file can be specified as "-" to read the query from standard input. If this is the last option then the "-q:" prefix may be omitted.


Allows the query to be specified inline (if it contains spaces, you will need quotes around the expression to keep the command line processor happy). For example java net.sf.saxon.Query -qs:doc('a.xml')//p[1] selects elements within the file a.xml in the current directory.


Specifies the XQuery language version supported. Default is "1.0". The value "1.1" is currently only available with Saxon-EE. It supports a fairly small subset of the features from the draft XQuery 1.1 specification.


Use the specified URIResolver to process all URIs. The URIResolver is a user-defined class, that implements the URIResolver interface defined in JAXP, whose function is to take a URI supplied as a string, and return a SAX InputSource. It is invoked to process URIs used in the doc() function, and (if -u is also specified) to process the URI of the source file provided on the command line.


Performs the transformation N times, where N is the specified integer. This option is useful for performance measurement, since timings for the first few runs of the query are often dominated by Java warm-up time.


Take input from the specified file. If the -u option is specified, or if the name begins with "file:" or "http:", then the name is assumed to be a URI rather than a filename. This file must contain an XML document. The document node of the document is made available to the query as the context item. The source document can be specified as "-" to take the source from standard input.


Invoke a schema-aware transformation. Requires Saxon-EE to be installed.


Specifies what whitespace is to be stripped from source documents (applies both to the principal source document and to any documents loaded for example using the doc() function. The default is none: no whitespace stripping.


Display version and timing information to the standard error output. The output also traces the files that are read and written, and extension modules that are loaded.


Notify query tracing information. Also switches line numbering on for the source document. If a classname is specified, it is a user-defined class, which must implement net.sf.saxon.trace.TraceListener. If the classname is omitted, a system-supplied trace listener is used. This traces execution of function calls to the standard error output.


Switches on tracing of the binding of calls to external Java methods. This is useful when analyzing why Saxon fails to find a Java method to match an extension function call in the stylesheet, or why it chooses one method over another when several are available.


Indicates that the output of the trace() function should be directed to a specified file. Alternatively, specify #out to direct the output to System.out, #err to send it to System.err (the default), or #null to have it discarded. This option is ignored when a trace listener is in use: in that case, trace() output goes to the registered trace listener.


Selects the implementation of the internal tree model. -tree:tiny selects the "tiny tree" model (the default). -tree:linked selects the linked tree model. -tree:tinyc selects the "condensed tiny tree" model. See Choosing a tree model.


Indicates that the name of the source document is a URI; otherwise it is taken as a filename, unless it starts with "http:" or "file:", in which case they it is taken as a URL.


Indicates whether XQuery Update syntax is accepted. This option requires Saxon-EE. The value "on" enables XQuery update; any elegible files updated by the query are written back to filestore. A file is eligible for updating if it was read using the doc() or collection() functions using a URI that represents an updateable location. The context document supplied using the -s option is not eligible for updating. The default value "off" disables update (any use of XQuery update syntax is an error). The value "discard" allows XQuery Update syntax, but modifications made to files are not saved in filestore. If the document supplied in the -s option is updated, the updated document is serialized as the result of the query (writing it to the -o destination); updates to any other documents are simply discarded.

Use of the -t option is recommended: it gives feedback on which files have been updated by the query.


Requests schema-based validation of the source file and of any files read using the doc() function. This option is available only with Saxon-EE, and it automatically switches on the -sa option. Specify -val or -val:strict to request strict validation, or -val:lax for lax validation.


Wraps the result sequence in an XML element structure that indicates the type of each node or atomic value in the query result. This format can handle any type of query result. In the absence of this option, the command effectively wraps a document{} constructor around the supplied query, so that the result is a single XML document, which is then serialized. This will fail if the query result includes constructs that cannot be added to a document node in this way, notably free-standing attribute nodes.


Use specified SAX parser for source file and any files loaded using the document() function. The parser must be the fully-qualified class name of a Java class that implements the org.xml.sax.Parser or org.xml.sax.XMLReader interface


Apply XInclude processing to all input XML documents (including schema documents as well as source documents). This currently only works when documents are parsed using the Xerces parser, which is the default in JDK 1.5 and later.


If -xmlversion:1.1 is specified, allows XML 1.1 and XML Namespaces 1.1 constructs. This option must be set if source documents using XML 1.1 are to be read, or if result documents are to be serialized as XML 1.1. This option also enables use of XML 1.1 constructs within the stylesheet itself.


Loads additional schema documents. The declarations in these schema documents are available when validating source documents (or for use by the validate{} expression). This option may also be used to supply the locations of schema documents that are imported into the query, in the case where the import schema declaration gives the target namespace of the schema but not its location.


If -xsdversion:1.1 is specified, allows XML Schema 1.1 constructs such as assertions. This option must be set if schema documents using XML Schema 1.1 are to be read.


If set to "on" (the default) the schema processor attempts to load any schema documents referenced in xsi:schemaLocation and xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation attributes in the instance document, unless a schema for the specified namespace (or non-namespace) is already available. If set to "off", these attributes are ignored.


Set a feature defined in the Configuration interface. The names of features are defined in the Javadoc for class net.sf.saxon.FeatureKeys: the value used here is the part of the name after the last "/", for example --allow-external-functions:off. Only features accepting a string or boolean may be set; for booleans the values true/false or on/off are recognized.


Display command syntax

The following options are also available for backwards compatibility, but are likely to be withdrawn at some time in the future. Also, where previous releases allowed an option and a value to be separated by a space rather than a colon (for example -r uriresolver), this syntax should still work for the time being.

-ds | -dt

  • -dt is equivalent to -tree:tiny

  • -ds is equilvalent to -tree:linked


Equivalent to -explain.


Equivalent to external:off


Equivalent to versionmsg:off


Equivalent to -strip:all


Equivalent to -strip:ignorable


Equivalent to -strip:none

-TL classname

Equivalent to -T:classname


Equivalent to -T:net.sf.saxon.trace.TimedTraceListener


Equivalent to -dtdval:on


Equivalent to -val:strict


Equivalent to -val:lax


Equivalent to -outval:recover


Equivalent to -xmlversion:1.1

A param takes the form name=value, name being the name of the parameter, and value the value of the parameter. These parameters are accessible within the query as external variables, using the $name syntax, provided they are declared in the query prolog. If there is no such declaration, the supplied parameter value is silently ignored.

A param preceded by a leading question mark (?) is interpreted as an XPath expression. For example, ?time=current-dateTime() sets the value of the external variable $time to the value of the current date and time, as an instance of xs:dateTime, while ?debug=false() sets the value of the variable $debug to the boolean value false. If the parameter has a required type (for example declare variable $p as xs:date external;), then the supplied value must be compatible with this type according to the standard rules for converting function arguments (it doesn't need to satisfy the stricter rules that apply to variable initialization). The static context for the XPath expression includes only the standard namespaces conventionally bound to the prefixes xs, fn, xsi, and saxon. The static base URI (used when calling the doc() function) is the current directory. The dynamic context contains no context item, position, or size, and no variables.

A param preceded by a leading plus sign (+) is interpreted as a filename or directory. The content of the file is parsed as XML, and the resulting document node is passed to the stylesheet as the value of the parameter. If the parameter value is a directory, then all the immediately contained files are parsed as XML, and the resulting sequence of document nodes is passed as the value of the parameter. For example, +lookup=lookup.xml sets the value of the external variable lookup to the document node at the root of the tree representing the parsed contents of the file lookup.xml.

A param preceded by a leading exclamation mark is interpreted as a serialization parameter. For example, !indent=yes requests indented output, and !encoding=iso-8859-1 requests that the serialized output be in ISO 8859/1 encoding. This is equivalent to specifying the option declaration declare option saxon:output "indent=yes"; or declare option saxon:output "encoding=iso-8859-1"; in the query prolog.

Under Windows, and some other operating systems, it is possible to supply a value containing spaces by enclosing it in double quotes, for example name="John Smith". This is a feature of the operating system shell, not something Saxon does, so it may not work the same way under every operating system.

If the parameter name is in a non-null namespace, the parameter can be given a value using the syntax {uri}localname=value. Here uri is the namespace URI of the parameter's name, and localname is the local part of the name.

This applies also to output parameters. For example, you can set the indentation level to 4 by using the parameter !{}indent-spaces=4. In this case, however, lexical QNames using the prefix "saxon" are also recognized, for example !saxon:indent-spaces=4. For the extended set of output parameters supported by Saxon, see Additional serialization parameters.