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Decision Incubator Tools

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Any problems with tools or tutorials? Add a "Q"-entry on this FAQ-page!


Download the NeOn Toolkit (NTK) from this page: http://neon-toolkit.org/wiki/Download (latest version is 2.3.1, available for Windows, Linux and Mac)

On the download page you can also find this explanation to get plugins for the tools (it is distributed with a minimal set of plugins): "To download and install additional features, start the NTK and go to Help > Software Updates > Find and Install. Select "Search for new features to install", select the NeOn Toolkit Update Site, select the plugins you would like to install, and finally accept the license terms. The selected plugins will now be downloaded and installed."

Basic set of plugins that you definitely want:

  • SPARQL plugin (for querying your knowledge base)
  • A reasoner (I think this is the thing named "Reasoner 2.2.2" but I have to try it out, they changed the name)
  • The XD Tools (eXtreme Design)

Why the NeOn Toolkit?

There are a number of ontology engineering environments available (e.g. Protégé 4, TopBraid Composer, NeOn Toolkit etc.) and in principle ontology design patterns (ODPs) can be used with any of them. However, the particular support for ODPs that CNR has developed, called XD Tools, is an Eclipse plugin, so it works with any Eclipse-based environment (i.e. at the moment that would be TopBraid Composer and the NeOn Toolkit). Again, although it works with TopBraid Composer, there are some minor integration issues, e.g. that sometimes TopBraid does not register an update from the XD Tools so that you have to refresh the ontology project or even close and then re-open the ontology, in order to show changes you made in the ontology with the XD Tools. So, based on this, the recommended tool is the NeOn Toolkit if only looking for ODP-support functionality, but you could also keep TopBraid Composer in mind, since it has a set of other interesting fetures that could be useful for some cases (e.g., easier meta-modelling etc., but basically they can be discussed later if they appear).

Another reason: NTK is free, TopBraid Composer is commercial (there is a free version but it has no reasoner, but you can also try the commercial versions for 30 days).

Some basics of the NeOn Toolkit

  • If you are familiar with the Eclipse framework, you will have no problems with notions such as "perspectives", "views" and "workspaces". Otherwise it may be a good idea to get familiar with those, e.g. through the Eclipse documentation. NeOn Toolkit uses the same basic ideas, since it is in itself an Eclipse plugin. Just to summarize: the XD Tools is a perspective, so this means you have to access it through the menus Window -> Open perspective -> Other... and then select eXtreme Design in the list (the OWL perspective, i.e. basic OWL modelling interface, should be the default). The workspace is a folder where you keep your project folders and in those you keep your ontologies. So if you want to open an ontology, you should import it into a project in the workspace. NeOn Toolkit may put your workspace folder in a strange place (e.g. on the mac it ends up by default as a subfolder of the .app folder of the toolkit) but you can set the location when the toolkit starts, or by selecting "Switch workspace" in the File menu.
  • The Ontology Navigator is where you see your projects and ontologies. If you mark something, you will see more about it in a view to the right. Also note that there are usually context menus, so try right-clicking on things and see what you can do with that.
  • Note that there are a lot of ok-buttons for confirming choices in the NTK, such as the "Add" button when adding domain and ranges for properties, so don't forget to confirm your choices or they will be lost when you go to a new view or click on something else.


This section contains some resources for getting familiar with OWL and ODPs.

Simple OWL tutorial that takes you through some of the basics of OWL. Focused mainly on OWL 1.0, skipping some of the more advanced constructs and all the new features of OWL 2.0, just to get started on the basics. (Another good introduction to OWL is the Pizza examples that come with Protégé.) If you want a quick summary of what's new in OWL2 this blog-post is a good place to start: http://www.amberdown.net/2009/10/owl2-for-rdf-vocabs/

Once you are familiar with the basics of OWL, take the ODP tour!

For learning SPARQL refer to the W3C SPARQL specifications, or any of the many online tutorials (one tutorial can be found here and a brief summary here). An example of some SPARQL CONSTRUCT queries can be found here.

A note on representing sets/collections/sequences/lists in RDF and OWL can be found here.