Inside assemblers

This document describes Jena’s built-in assembler classes and how to write and integrate your own assemblers. If you just need a quick guide to the common model specifications, see the assembler quickstart; if you want more details on writing assembler descriptions, see the assembler howto.

The Assembler interface

An Assembler is an object that builds objects (most importantly, Models) from RDF descriptions.

public Object open( Assembler a, Resource root, Mode mode );

public Object open( Assembler a, Resource root );

public Object open( Resource root );

public Model openModel( Resource root );

public Model openModel( Resource root, Mode mode );

The fundamental method is the first: all the others are shorthands for ways of calling it. The abstract class AssemblerBase implements Assembler leaving only that method abstract and defining the others in terms of it.

The definition of sub, Resource root, Mode mode) is that a will construct the object described by the properties of root. If this requires the construction of sub-objects from descriptions hanging off root, is to be used to construct those. If the object is to be constructed in some persistent store, mode defines whether objects can be re-used or created: see modes for more details.

Builtin assemblers

Jena comes with a collection of built-in assemblers: various basic assemblers and a composite general assembler. Each of these assemblers has a constant instance declared as a field of Assembler.

Assembler Result class Type constant
Temporarily omitted as the source got scrambled by the Markdown import TODO

Inside Assemblers

Assembler.general is a particular implementation of the Assembler interface. An Assembler knows how to build the objects - not just models - described by an Assembler specification. The normal route into an Assembler is through the method:

  • open( Resource root ) ? Object

The Assembler inspects the root resource properties and decides whether it can build an object with that description. If not, it throws an exception. Otherwise, it constructs and returns a suitable object. Since the creation of Models is the reason for the existence of Assemblers, there is a convenience wrapper method:

  • openModel( Resource root ) ? Model

which constructs the object and checks that it’s a Model before returning it. When an Assembler requires sub-objects (for example, when an InfModel Assembler requires a Reasoner object), it uses the method:

  • open( Assembler sub, Resource root ) ? Model

passing in a suitable Assembler object. In fact the standard implementation of open(root) is just

  • open( this, root )

passing in itself as the sub-assembler and having open(Assembler,Resource) be the place where all the work is done. (Amongst other things, this makes testing easier.) When working with named persistent objects (typically database models), sometimes you need to control whether new objects should be constructed or old models can be reused. There is an additional method

  • open( Assembler sub, Resource root, Mode mode )

where the Mode argument controls the creation (or not) of persistent models. The mode is passed down to all sub-object creation. The standard implementation of open(sub,root) is just:

  • open( sub, root, Mode.DEFAULT )

A Mode object has two methods:

  • permitCreateNew( Resource root, String name )
  • permitUseExisting( Resource root, String name )

root is the root resource describing the object to be created or reused, and name is the name given to it. The result is true iff the permission is granted. Mode.DEFAULT permits the reuse of existing objects and denies the creation of new ones. There are four Mode constants:

  • Mode.DEFAULT - reuse existing objects
  • Mode.CREATE - create missing objects
  • Mode.REUSE - reuse existing objects
  • Mode.ANY - reuse existing objects, create missing ones

Since the Mode methods are passed the resource root and name, the user can write specialised Modes that look at the name or the other root properties to make their decision. Note that the Modes only apply to persistent objects, so eg MemoryModels or PrefixMappings ignore their Mode arguments.

Implementing your own assemblers

(Temporary documentation pasted in from email; will be integrated and made nice RSN.)

You have to implement the Assembler interface, most straightforwardly
done by subclassing AssemblerBase and overriding

    public Object open( Assembler a, Resource root, Mode mode );

    because AssemblerBase both implements the boring methods that are
    just specialisations of `open` and provides some utility methods
    such as getting the values of unique properties. The arguments are

    * a -- the assembler to use for any sub-assemblies
    * root -- the resource in the assembler description for this object
    * mode -- the persistent open vs create mode

    The pattern is to look for the known properties of the root, use
    those to define any sub-objects of the object you're assembling
    (including using `a` for anything that's itself a structured
    object) and then constructing a new result object from those

    Then you attach this new assembler object to its type in some
    AssemblerGroup using that group's `implementWith` method. You
    can attach it to the handy-but-public-and-shared group
    `Assembler.general` or you can construct your own group. The
    point about an AssemblerGroup is that it does the type-to-assembler
    mapping for you -- and when an AssemblerGroup calls a component
    assembler's `open` method, it passes /itself/ in as the `a` argument,
    so that the invoked assembler has access to all of the component
    assemblers of the Group.

basic assemblers

There is a family of basic assemblers, each of which knows how to assemble a specific kind of object so long as they’re given an Assembler that can construct their sub-objects. There are defined constants in Assembler for (an instance of) each of these basic assembler classes.

produces Class Type constant
default models DefaultModelAssembler ja:DefaultModel defaultModel
memory models MemoryModelAssembler ja:MemoryModel memoryModel
inference models InfModelAssembler ja:InfModel infModel
reasoners ReasonerAssembler ja:Reasoner reasoner
content ContentAssembler ja:Content content
ontology models OntModelAssembler ja:OntModel ontModel
rules RuleSetAssembler ja:RuleSet rules
union models UnionModelAssembler ja:UnionModel unionModel
prefix mappings PrefixMappingAssembler ja:PrefixMapping prefixMapping
file models FileModelAssembler ja:FileModel fileModel

Assembler.general is an assembler group, which ties together those basic assemblers. general can be extended by Jena coders if required. Jena components that use Assembler specifications to construct objects will use general unless documented otherwise.

In the remaining sections we will discuss the Assembler classes that return non-Model objects and conclude with a description of AssemblerGroup.

Basic assembler ContentAssembler

The ContentAssembler constructs Content objects (using the ja:Content vocabulary) used to supply content to models. A Content object has the method:

  • fill( Model m ) ? m

Invoking the fill method adds the represented content to the model. The supplied ModelAssemblers automatically apply the Content objects corresponding to ja:content property values.

Basic assembler RulesetAssembler

A RulesetAssembler generates lists of Jena rules.

Basic assembler DefaultModelAssembler

A “default model” is a model of unspecified type which is implemented as whatever kind the assembler for ja:DefaultModel generates. The default for a DefaultModel is to create a MemoryModel with no special properties.


The AssemblerGroup class allows a bunch of other Assemblers to be bundled together and selected by RDF type. AssemblerGroup implements Assembler and adds the methods:

  • implementWith( Resource type, Assembler a ) ? this
  • assemblerFor( Resource type ) ? Assembler

AssemblerGroup’s implementation of open(sub,root) finds the most specific type of root that is a subclass of ja:Object and looks for the Assembler that has been associated with that type by a call of implementWith. It then delegates construction to that Assembler, passing itself as the sub-assembler. Hence each component Assembler only needs to know how to assemble its own particular objects.

The assemblerFor method returns the assembler associated with the argument type by a previous call of implementWith, or null if there is no associated assembler.

Loading assembler classes

AssemblerGroups implement the ja:assembler functionality. The object of an (type ja:assembler "ClassName") statement is a string which is taken as the name of an Assembler implementation to load. An instance of that class is associated with type using implementWith.

If the class has a constructor that takes a single Resource object, that constructor is used to initialise the class, passing in the type subject of the triple. Otherwise the no-argument constructor of the class is used.