Command Line Tools - Jq

As a modern developer, you have access to a wide variety of tools. However, there are a few that stand out for their simplicity, versatility, and sheer power. One such tool is jq, which is a command-line JSON processor. In this post, we will take a closer look at jq, explore its basic usage, and understand how it can increase developer productivity.

What is jq?

At its core, jq is to JSON what awk is to text. It’s a lightweight, flexible tool designed to parse, query, and manipulate JSON data. Whether you’re dealing with configuration files, API responses, log files, or data payloads, jq offers a streamlined approach to handle JSON data.

jq use cases

  • Data Transformation - With jq, transforming JSON data structures is a breeze. You can easily reshape, filter, and modify data without the need for complex scripts or additional tools.

  • Quick Insights - Need to quickly extract specific data from a large JSON file? jq allows for rapid querying, helping get insights in seconds.

  • Automation - jq can be seamlessly integrated into scripts and automation workflows, making tasks like data validation, extraction, and transformation automated and error-free.

  • Debugging - When working with APIs or data-driven applications, jq can be a lifesaver. It helps in formatting and colorizing raw JSON, making it more readable and easier to debug on console.

  • Integration with Other Tools - jq pairs well with other command-line tools. You can easily pipe data between tools, enhancing the Unix philosophy of combining small, powerful utilities.

Installing jq

Before diving into its functionalities, let’s get jq installed:

  • macOS Installing jq with Homebrew
brew install jq
  • Ubuntu/Debian
sudo apt-get install jq
  • Windows Installing jq using winget
winget install jqlang.jq

Installing jq using Chocolatey

chocolatey install jq.

jq basics

Here are some basic usage examples for jq. You can try these examples in online jq playground

  1. Prettify JSON - Simply using jq without any arguments will format and colorize raw JSON.
echo '{"name":"John","age":30}' | jq .
  1. Working with Arrays - Access array elements with their index.
echo '["airplane", "boat", "car"]' | jq '.[1]'

This will output “boat”

  1. Filtering Data - Extract specific values from JSON data using the dot notation.
echo '{"name": "John", "age": 30}' | jq '.name'

This will output “John”

  1. Chaining Filters - Combine multiple filters to refine queries.
echo '{"people": [{"name": "John", "age": 30}, {"name": "Doe", "age": 25}]}' | jq '.people[] | .name'

This will output “name” from “people” array i.e “John” and “Doe”

  1. Conditional Filtering - The select function to filter data based on conditions.
echo '[{"name": "John", "age": 30}, {"name": "Doe", "age": 25}]' | jq '.[] | select(.age > 28)'

This will select & output name “John” and age “30”


jq is a powerful tool that simplifies the often complex task of working with JSON data. Whether you’re a developer, data scientist, or just someone looking to process JSON files, jq offers a range of functionalities to make your life easier. As you become more familiar with it, you’ll discover even more advanced features and techniques to streamline your JSON processing tasks.

Find more about jq on official website

Happy jq-ing!