Query quickstart

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This tutorial covers how to work with Bazel to trace dependencies in your code using a premade Bazel project.

For language and --output flag details, see the Bazel query reference and Bazel cquery reference manuals. Get help in your IDE by typing bazel help query or bazel help cquery on the command line.

Objective

This guide runs you through a set of basic queries you can use to learn more about your project's file dependencies. It is intended for new Bazel developers with a basic knowledge of how Bazel and BUILD files work.

Prerequisites

Start by installing Bazel, if you haven’t already. This tutorial uses Git for source control, so for best results, install Git as well.

To visualize dependency graphs, the tool called Graphviz is used, which you can download in order to follow along.

Get the sample project

Next, retrieve the sample app from Bazel's Examples repository by running the following in your command-line tool of choice:

git clone https://github.com/bazelbuild/examples.git

The sample project for this tutorial is in the 'examples/query-quickstart' directory.

Getting started

What are Bazel queries?

Queries help you to learn about a Bazel codebase by analyzing the relationships between BUILD files and examining the resulting output for useful information. This guide previews some basic query functions, but for more options see the Query guide. Queries help you learn about dependencies in large scale projects without manually navigating through BUILD files.

To run a query, open your command line terminal and enter: posix-terminal bazel query 'query_function'

Scenario

Imagine a scenario that delves into the relationship between Cafe Bazel and its respective chef. This Cafe exclusively sells pizza and mac & cheese. Take a look below at how the project is structured:

bazelqueryguide
├── BUILD
├── src
│   └── main
│       └── java
│           └── com
│               └── example
│                   ├── customers
│                   │   ├── Jenny.java
│                   │   ├── Amir.java
│                   │   └── BUILD
│                   ├── dishes
│                   │   ├── Pizza.java
│                   │   ├── MacAndCheese.java
│                   │   └── BUILD
│                   ├── ingredients
│                   │   ├── Cheese.java
│                   │   ├── Tomatoes.java
│                   │   ├── Dough.java
│                   │   ├── Macaroni.java
│                   │   └── BUILD
│                   ├── restaurant
│                   │   ├── Cafe.java
│                   │   ├── Chef.java
│                   │   └── BUILD
│                   ├── reviews
│                   │   ├── Review.java
│                   │   └── BUILD
│                   └── Runner.java
└── WORKSPACE

Throughout this tutorial, unless directed otherwise, try not to look in the BUILD files to find the information you need and instead solely use the query function.

A project consists of different packages that make up a Cafe. They are separated into: restaurant, ingredients, dishes, customers, and reviews. Rules within these packages define different components of the Cafe with various tags and dependencies.

Running a build

To start, build this project using Bazel to create the executable.

Next, run the executable to provide a menu of what the Cafe has to offer.

To build this project, paste this command into a terminal:

bazel build :runner

Your output should look something like this if the build is successful. bash INFO: Analyzed target //:runner (49 packages loaded, 784 targets configured). INFO: Found 1 target... Target //:runner up-to-date: bazel-bin/runner.jar bazel-bin/runner INFO: Elapsed time: 16.593s, Critical Path: 4.32s INFO: 23 processes: 4 internal, 10 darwin-sandbox, 9 worker. INFO: Build completed successfully, 23 total actions

After it has built successfully, run the application by pasting this command:

bazel-bin/runner
--------------------- MENU -------------------------

Pizza - Cheesy Delicious Goodness
Macaroni & Cheese - Kid-approved Dinner

----------------------------------------------------

This leaves you with a list of the menu items given along with a short description.

Exploring targets

The project lists ingredients and dishes in their own packages. To use a query to view the rules of a package, run the command bazel query package/…

In this case, you can use this to look through the ingredients and dishes that this Cafe has by running:

bazel query //src/main/java/com/example/dishes/...
bazel query //src/main/java/com/example/ingredients/...

If you query for the targets of the ingredients package, the output should look like:

//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:dough
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:macaroni
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:tomato

Finding dependencies

What targets does your runner rely on to run?

Say you want to dive deeper into the structure of your project without prodding into the filesystem (which may be untenable for large projects). What rules does Cafe Bazel use?

If, like in this example, the target for your runner is runner, discover the underlying dependencies of the target by running the command:

bazel query --noimplicit_deps "deps(target)"
bazel query --noimplicit_deps "deps(:runner)"
//:runner
//:src/main/java/com/example/Runner.java
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:MacAndCheese.java
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:Pizza.java
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:macAndCheese
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:pizza
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:Cheese.java
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:Dough.java
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:Macaroni.java
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:Tomato.java
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:dough
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:macaroni
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:tomato
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:Cafe.java
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:Chef.java
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:cafe
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:chef

In most cases, use the query function deps() to see individual output dependencies of a specific target.

Visualizing the dependency graph (optional)

The section describes how you can visualize the dependency paths for a specific query. Graphviz helps to see the path as a directed acyclic graph image as opposed to a flattened list. You can alter the display of the Bazel query graph by using various --output command line options. See Output Formats for options.

Start by running your desired query and add the flag --noimplicit_deps to remove excessive tool dependencies. Then, follow the query with the output flag and store the graph into a file called graph.in to create a text representation of the graph.

To search for all dependencies of the target :runner and format the output as a graph:

bazel query --noimplicit_deps 'deps(:runner)' --output graph > graph.in

This creates a file called graph.in, which is a text representation of the build graph. Graphviz uses dot – a tool that processes text into a visualization — to create a png:

dot -Tpng < graph.in > graph.png

If you open up graph.png, you should see something like this. The graph below has been simplified to make the essential path details clearer in this guide.

Diagram showing a relationship from cafe to chef to the dishes: pizza and mac and cheese which diverges into the separate ingredients: cheese, tomatoes, dough, and macaroni.

This helps when you want to see the outputs of the different query functions throughout this guide.

Finding reverse dependencies

If instead you have a target you’d like to analyze what other targets use it, you can use a query to examine what targets depend on a certain rule. This is called a “reverse dependency”. Using rdeps() can be useful when editing a file in a codebase that you’re unfamiliar with, and can save you from unknowingly breaking other files which depended on it.

For instance, you want to make some edits to the ingredient cheese. To avoid causing an issue for Cafe Bazel, you need to check what dishes rely on cheese.

To see what targets depend on a particular target/package, you can use rdeps(universe_scope, target). The rdeps() query function takes in at least two arguments: a universe_scope — the relevant directory — and a target. Bazel searches for the target’s reverse dependencies within the universe_scope provided. The rdeps() operator accepts an optional third argument: an integer literal specifying the upper bound on the depth of the search.

To look for reverse dependencies of the target cheese within the scope of the entire project ‘//…’ run the command:

bazel query "rdeps(universe_scope, target)"
ex) bazel query "rdeps(//... , //src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese)"
//:runner
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:macAndCheese
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:pizza
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:cafe
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:chef

The query return shows that cheese is relied on by both pizza and macAndCheese. What a surprise!

Finding targets based on tags

Two customers walk into Bazel Cafe: Amir and Jenny. There is nothing known about them except for their names. Luckily, they have their orders tagged in the 'customers' BUILD file. How can you access this tag?

Developers can tag Bazel targets with different identifiers, often for testing purposes. For instance, tags on tests can annotate a test's role in your debug and release process, especially for C++ and Python tests, which lack any runtime annotation ability. Using tags and size elements gives flexibility in assembling suites of tests based around a codebase’s check-in policy.

In this example, the tags are either one of pizza or macAndCheese to represent the menu items. This command queries for targets that have tags matching your identifier within a certain package.

bazel query 'attr(tags, "pizza", //src/main/java/com/example/customers/...)'

This query returns all of the targets in the 'customers' package that have a tag of "pizza".

Test yourself

Use this query to learn what Jenny wants to order.

Answer

Mac and Cheese

Adding a new dependency

Cafe Bazel has expanded its menu — customers can now order a Smoothie! This specific smoothie consists of the ingredients Strawberry and Banana.

First, add the ingredients that the smoothie depends on: Strawberry.java and Banana.java. Add the empty Java classes.

src/main/java/com/example/ingredients/Strawberry.java

package com.example.ingredients;

public class Strawberry {

}

src/main/java/com/example/ingredients/Banana.java

package com.example.ingredients;

public class Banana {

}

Next, add Smoothie.java to the appropriate directory: dishes.

src/main/java/com/example/dishes/Smoothie.java

package com.example.dishes;

public class Smoothie {
    public static final String DISH_NAME = "Smoothie";
    public static final String DESCRIPTION = "Yummy and Refreshing";
}

Lastly, add these files as rules in the appropriate BUILD files. Create a new java library for each new ingredient, including its name, public visibility, and its newly created 'src' file. You should wind up with this updated BUILD file:

src/main/java/com/example/ingredients/BUILD

java_library(
    name = "cheese",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["Cheese.java"],
)

java_library(
    name = "dough",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["Dough.java"],
)

java_library(
    name = "macaroni",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["Macaroni.java"],
)

java_library(
    name = "tomato",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["Tomato.java"],
)

java_library(
    name = "strawberry",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["Strawberry.java"],
)

java_library(
    name = "banana",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["Banana.java"],
)

In the BUILD file for dishes, you want to add a new rule for Smoothie. Doing so includes the Java file created for Smoothie as a 'src' file, and the new rules you made for each ingredient of the smoothie.

src/main/java/com/example/dishes/BUILD

java_library(
    name = "macAndCheese",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["MacAndCheese.java"],
    deps = [
        "//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese",
        "//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:macaroni",
    ],
)

java_library(
    name = "pizza",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["Pizza.java"],
    deps = [
        "//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese",
        "//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:dough",
        "//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:tomato",
    ],
)

java_library(
    name = "smoothie",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = ["Smoothie.java"],
    deps = [
        "//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:strawberry",
        "//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:banana",
    ],
)

Lastly, you want to include the smoothie as a dependency in the Chef’s BUILD file.

src/main/java/com/example/restaurant/BUILD

java\_library(
    name = "chef",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = [
        "Chef.java",
    ],

    deps = [
        "//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:macAndCheese",
        "//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:pizza",
        "//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:smoothie",
    ],
)

java\_library(
    name = "cafe",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    srcs = [
        "Cafe.java",
    ],
    deps = [
        ":chef",
    ],
)

Build cafe again to confirm that there are no errors. If it builds successfully, congratulations! You’ve added a new dependency for the 'Cafe'. If not, look out for spelling mistakes and package naming. For more information about writing BUILD files see BUILD Style Guide.

Now, visualize the new dependency graph with the addition of the Smoothie to compare with the previous one. For clarity, name the graph input as graph2.in and graph2.png.

bazel query --noimplicit_deps 'deps(:runner)' --output graph > graph2.in
dot -Tpng < graph2.in > graph2.png

The same graph as the first one except now there is a spoke stemming from the chef target with smoothie which leads to banana and strawberry

Looking at graph2.png, you can see that Smoothie has no shared dependencies with other dishes but is just another target that the Chef relies on.

somepath() and allpaths()

What if you want to query why one package depends on another package? Displaying a dependency path between the two provides the answer.

Two functions can help you find dependency paths: somepath() and allpaths(). Given a starting target S and an end point E, find a path between S and E by using somepath(S,E).

Explore the differences between these two functions by looking at the relationships between the 'Chef' and 'Cheese' targets. There are different possible paths to get from one target to the other:

  • Chef → MacAndCheese → Cheese
  • Chef → Pizza → Cheese

somepath() gives you a single path out of the two options, whereas 'allpaths()' outputs every possible path.

Using Cafe Bazel as an example, run the following:

bazel query "somepath(//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant/..., //src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese)"
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:cafe
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:chef
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:macAndCheese
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese

The output follows the first path of Cafe → Chef → MacAndCheese → Cheese. If instead you use allpaths(), you get:

bazel query "allpaths(//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant/..., //src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese)"
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:macAndCheese
//src/main/java/com/example/dishes:pizza
//src/main/java/com/example/ingredients:cheese
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:cafe
//src/main/java/com/example/restaurant:chef

Output path of cafe to chef to pizza,mac and cheese to cheese

The output of allpaths() is a little harder to read as it is a flattened list of the dependencies. Visualizing this graph using Graphviz makes the relationship clearer to understand.

Test yourself

One of Cafe Bazel’s customers gave the restaurant's first review! Unfortunately, the review is missing some details such as the identity of the reviewer and what dish it’s referencing. Luckily, you can access this information with Bazel. The reviews package contains a program that prints a review from a mystery customer. Build and run it with:

bazel build //src/main/java/com/example/reviews:review
bazel-bin/src/main/java/com/example/reviews/review

Going off Bazel queries only, try to find out who wrote the review, and what dish they were describing.

Hint

Check the tags and dependencies for useful information.

Answer

This review was describing the Pizza and Amir was the reviewer. If you look at what dependencies that this rule had using bazel query --noimplicit\_deps 'deps(//src/main/java/com/example/reviews:review)' The result of this command reveals that Amir is the reviewer! Next, since you know the reviewer is Amir, you can use the query function to seek which tag Amir has in the `BUILD` file to see what dish is there. The command bazel query 'attr(tags, "pizza", //src/main/java/com/example/customers/...)' output that Amir is the only customer that ordered a pizza and is the reviewer which gives us the answer.

Wrapping up

Congratulations! You have now run several basic queries, which you can try out on own projects. To learn more about the query language syntax, refer to the Query reference page. Want more advanced queries? The Query guide showcases an in-depth list of more use cases than are covered in this guide.