Installing Sphinx Full-Text Search on linux


Sphinx is a full-text search engine. It currently works with MySQL and PostgreSQL better known as Postgres. The two most popular options when its comes to open source databases if not databases in general. Both MySQL and PostgreSQL have full-text search capabilities. So why bother with sphinx?

  1. Control – With sphinx you get more control over filtering, for example you can set a certain column to have a higher weight by using just one function
  2. Speed – Sphinx is about 40-100 times faster at indexing. It’s also up a 1000 times faster at searching than MySQL and Postgres depending on the data.
  3. Relevance – You get much more relevant results with sphinx. i.e Accuracy is greatly improved
  4. Scalability – Sphinx indexes can be stored on distributed servers. You can also search multiple sites at one go.

I could go on but those are probably the most important reasons to switch to Sphinx SE. Besides the fat that there are loads of “big” sites already using it. The Api currently supports PHP, Perl, Ruby, and Java.

So down to the important bits. Btw this tutorial is based on Sphinx 0.9.9 but it shouldn’t matter

Step 1: Download sphinx
The latest stable release at the time of this article is Sphinx 0.9.9 (r2117; Dec 02, 2009) I prefer to use wget so in the terminal I type

$ cd ~
$ mkdir sphinxtemp
$ cd sphinxtemp
$ wget

Step 2: Unzip Sphinx

$ tar -xvf sphinx-0.9.9.tar.gz
$ cd sphinx-0.9.9

Step 3: Install Sphinx

Ones in the directory sphinx-0.9.9 type

$ ./configure

At this point you might get an error like this

ERROR: cannot find MySQL include files.
Check that you do have MySQL include files installed.
The package name is typically 'mysql-devel'.
If include files are installed on your system, but you are still getting
this message, you should do one of the following:
1) either specify includes location explicitly, using --with-mysql-includes;
2) or specify MySQL installation root location explicitly, using --with-mysql;
3) or make sure that the path to 'mysql_config' program is listed in
 your PATH environment variable.

You need to install mysql-devel. I think it also goes my different names also. I think Ubuntu calls it libmysqlclient15-dev asdf

In Centos linux all i had to was type

$ yum install mysql-devel

Ubuntu 9.04

$ sudo aptitude install libmysqlclient15-dev

After install the above package, the following commands

$ ./configure
$ make
$ make install

Voila! You now have sphinx installed

There will be three new binaries stored here /usr/local/bin/ namely:

  • indexer – this is the indexer you will run with configuration settings to index a database
  • searchd – this is the search damon that will be listening to connection from your script(php, phython…), it has to be running for anything to happen
  • search – this is used to run search in the terminal

Step 4: Configure Sphinx

The installation will also create a bunch of files in /usr/local/etc
example.sql, sphinx.conf.dist, sphinx-min.conf.dist

SubStep 4.1 Create Sphinx config file
Copy /usr/local/etc/sphinx-min.conf to /usr/local/etc/sphinx.conf (In the same folder)

cp /usr/local/etc/sphinx-min.conf /usr/local/etc/sphinx.conf

SubStep 4.2 Create Index
Open up /usr/local/etc/sphinx.conf in you favourite editor(vi, gedit, kate, whatever).
Configure this part in the source to represent your server configuration

	sql_host				= localhost
	sql_user				= test
	sql_pass				=
	sql_db				        = test

sql_query is what you want the indexer to index.

So say you have a table of books like this in your database:

book_id (pk)book_titlebook_description
1Blogging 101Blogging 101 is the bestest blogging book ever. Awesome.
2PHP UnleashedPHP development book for total beginners
3The Chicken and the PigThis is a book about an unlikely love affair between a pig and a chicken

Assuming you want to index all columns:

sql_query				= select * from books


sql_query_info			= select * from books where book_id=$id

SubStep 4.3 Run the Indexer

To run the indexer just type

$ indexer

make sure you stop the search daemon first like this

$ searchd --stop

In the Linux terminal. It should index at this point. If it doesn’t you missed something. And it will give an error message. Good luck.

After Indexing has completed start the Search Daemon again

$ searchd

To test sphinx, just type search term e.g:

$ search chicken

This should return one row. “The chicken and the pig”

I will be writing a more detailed tutorial on the PHP API so you can integrate sphinx into your php code. The php api is

For now, Adios. 🙂

About the author

Talifhani Luvhengo

A collection of particles named Tali Luvhengo



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