Running Pipelines with the CLI

Capreolus provides a command line interface for running experiments using pipelines that are described by Task modules. To create a new pipeline, you’ll need to create a new Task before using the CLI.

Capreolus takes a functional approach to describing an experiment. An experiment is simply a pipeline plus a set of configuration options specifying both classes to use for the pipeline’s modules and configuration options associated with each module. These configuration options fully and deterministically describe the pipeline; the output should always be the same given the same configuration options (modulo any CUDA non-determinism). Capreolus takes advantage of this functional approach to cache intermediate outputs (given module dependencies).


The CLI takes a pipeline to run, such as rank.searcheval, and optionally a list of configuration options for the pipeline: capreolus <pipeline> [with <configuration options>]. The first part of the pipeline corresponds to a Task (rank) and the second part corresponds to one of the Task’s commands (searcheval, which runs search followed by evaluate). If no command is specified, a default chosen by the Task is run. Configuration options are specified in key=value format.

All Tasks provide several commands to help understand their operation. The print_config command displays the Task’s configuration, including any options specified on the command line. The print_pipeline command displays the pipeline’s dependency graph, including current module choices.

Additionally, the modules Task provides list of all module types and classes that are currently registered. For example:

$ capreolus modules
module type=benchmark
module type=reranker

Example Pipelines


Results and cached objects are stored in ~/.capreolus/results/ and ~/.capreolus/cache/ by default. Set the CAPREOLUS_RESULTS and CAPREOLUS_CACHE environment variables to change these locations. For example: export CAPREOLUS_CACHE=/data/capreolus/cache


  • Use RankTask with the NFCorpus Benchmark. This will download the collection, create an index, and search for the NFCorpus topics. The Benchmark specifies a dependency on and provides the corresponding topics and relevance judgments.
$ capreolus rank.searcheval with \
  • Use a similar pipeline, but with RM3 query expansion and a small grid search over expansion parameters. The evaluation command will report cross-validated results using the folds specified by the Benchmark.
$ capreolus rank.searcheval with \
  searcher.index.stemmer=porter \ searcher.fbDocs=5-10-15 searcher.fbTerms=5-25-50


  • Use RerankTask to run the same RankTask pipeline optimized for recall@1000, and then train a Reranker optimized for P@20 on the first fold provided by the Benchmark. We limit training to two iterations (niters) of size itersize to keep the training process from taking too long.
$ capreolus rerank.traineval with \
  rank.searcher.index.stemmer=porter \ rank.searcher.fbDocs=5-10-15 rank.searcher.fbTerms=5-25-50 \
  rank.optimize=recall_1000 reranker.trainer.niters=2 optimize=P_20


  • The ReRerankTask demonstrates pipeline flexibility by adding a second reranking step on top of the output from RerankTask. Run capreolus rererank.print_config to see the configuration options it expects. (Hint: it consists of a RankTask name rank as before, followed by a RerankTask named rerank1, followed by another RerankTask named rerank2.)