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[protege-owl] SWRL Advantages

Martin O'Connor martin.oconnor at
Tue Jan 12 02:38:11 PST 2010

SWRL was designed to add additional expressivity to OWL. It was not 
designed to replace OWL - it's goal was to complement it. Initially this 
additional expressivity came at the expense of decidability but a 
so-called DL-Safe interpretation can be employed when executing rules 
that provides decidability. A discussion of DL-Safety can be found in 
the FAQ:

In general, if something can be expressed directly in OWL then OWL 
should be used. There are exceptions, however. In many cases, a SWRL 
rule can provide more concise and understandable formulations than OWL, 
which may instead require a set of not-obviously-related axioms 
distributed throughout an ontology to make equivalent statements. As 
mentioned, OWL 2 provides property chains that can be used to express a 
type of property linkage that OWL 1 did not support and that can in some 
cases be used in express relationships that would previously have 
required SWRL. However, property chains in OWL 2 are not as 
straightforward as one might expect and have some non obvious usage 
restrictions - so SWRL may still be used profitably here.


Thomas Schneider wrote:
> As Kendall Clark pointed out on the Pellet mailing list, the SWRL FAQ 
> page might help as well:
> (Just thought I'd share this for those who aren't on the other list.)
> Thomas
> On 11 Jan 2010, at 22:39, Thomas Russ wrote:
>> On Jan 11, 2010, at 1:52 PM, Rodolfo Rieckhof wrote:
>>> Hello,
>>> i am new to OWL, SWRL and would like to know what advantages have 
>>> SWRL over OWL if any. One more question that i have would be, is 
>>> there anything that i can only specify in SWRL but not in OWL ? i 
>>> would appreciate a little example about this one.
>> SWRL adds additional expressive power.
>> One example of that is expressing constraints across fillers of two 
>> different properties.  For example, "a Person whose boss is his 
>> brother" is not something that can be written in OWL, since it is a 
>> constraint between fillers of two different properties.  You can, 
>> however, express this constraint using SWRL.
>> Some other examples are constraints that involve numeric bounds on 
>> datatype properties in OWL 1.0 (possible in OWL 2.0).  Also, any 
>> constraints that involve a computation.
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