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Django/Xappy search integration

Bridges Xappy (an interface to the Xapian search engine) with Django.

While other projects, like the GSoC 2008 project try to be generic and support a common set of functionality, this allows you to take full advantage of the features provided by Xappy. On the downside, it is Xappy-specific.


This has not been worked on for a while; Neither has the Xappy library this is based on. You may want to have a look at django-haystack, which also supports Xapian.

This probably won't change. I quite like Haystack, and I would likely prefer to work on exposing more native Xapian features via the Haystack API, where required.

Still, I'll happily merge patches to this repository, even if I'm not at this time working on it myself.


Just Python 2.5, Django and Xappy. Xappy should be a recent version, the app is currently written against revision 252.



Don't forget to familarize yourself with Xappy first:

django-xappy was originally designed for a project with an index spanning multiple models. As such, keep in mind that if you're use case is simpler, usage may currently not be as straightforward and easy as it could be.

In the case that one index does include multiple models, the official Django search-api branch, as well as some other projects, for example djapian, use a proxy model that mirrors all documents in the index. For a example, see:

We adapt that approach, however, instead of maintaining an additional model with it's own rows duplicating all other models, the proxy is simply a non-model object that defines the fields of the index, and to what fields of each particular models they map.

Defining an index

The first step is to define the index. This primarily entails the fields that the index is supposed to have, and the Xappy actions to apply to each field:

import django_xappy as search
from django_xappy import action, FieldActions

class MyIndex(search.Index):
    location = '/var/search/index'

    class Data:
        def name():
            return "index this!"

First, note that we specify the location attribute directly in the class. This may seem counter-intuitive at first if you expect that to be instance data, but note that your index class is not a template for just some index, but, like each model represents a database table, it represents an actual physical search index that you intend to maintain.

Now, every method of the inner Data class that has at least one action applied to it is considered a field of the index.

Remember that while an index can store the content of multiple models with clashing field names, it's own field names must be unique. For this reason, you define fields as methods and return the appropriate value for the model instance in self.content_object (your Data class is the proxy that wraps around the objects to be indexed).


def name(self):
    if self == Book:
        return self.content_object.title
    elif self == auth.User:
        return self.content_object.username

This field is supposedly part of an index that searches both Books and Users. It maps to Book.title or User.username, depending on the type of an object.

Registering the models

Once your index is defined, you must tell it which models it handles. Note that a model can be registerd with multiple indexes.


This will cause all changes to those model are logged, so make sure it runs before you start working with any of the affected models.

Putting it in an app's file works best. For larger projects I usually create a separate search application with it's own file, and define the index there.

Alternatively, using an application's works as well.

Using the index

To connect to your index, simply create an instance:

index = MyIndex()


If you want to open your index at a location other than the default, the following works as well:

index = MyIndex('/some/other/place')

Just remember that django-xappy's own code will always open the default location (for example, the update code), so this is really only useful in rare cases.

To search, just do:

results ='who am i')

This will give you the first ten results.

results ='who am i', page=3, num_per_page=5)

Now, the result set includes 5 documents from page 3.

See the Advanced Usage section for more about pagination.


You can also modify the index, although you usually don't need to (and shouldn't) do this. Use the provided update scripts instead. For example, to add a document:

f = Film.objects.get(pk=1)


The Xappy separation between a search and an indexer connection is hidden by the index class, although if possible you should only use an instance for either modifying or searching.

In templates

Usually, you would pass the results collection that is returned by search() into your template.

There, you can simply iterate over it:

{% if results %}
    {% for result in results %}
        {{ result.content_object }}
    {% endif %}
{% endif %}

result.content_object gives you access to the orignal model instance. If you used the STORE_CONTENT action on some of your fields, you may instead those values using on of:

{{ result.some_field }}
{{ result.highlighted.some_field }}
{{ result.summarised.some_field }}

Keeping your index up-to-date

Since django-xappy logs all changes to your models instead of applying them directly, you need to update your index in regular intervals.

A management command is available to help you with this. Provided you have django-xappy in your INSTALLED_APPS list, you can do:

$ ./ index --update

for an incremental update, and

$ ./ index --full-rebuild

to rebuild all indexes from scratch.

To apply changes on a regular basis, you normally would just setup a cronjob to run index --update -q.

Advanced usage

Complex search queries

So far, we always passed a query string to, which was then internally resolving using Xappy's query_parse(). If you need more control, you can manually build a Query object and give that to the search method. All of Xappy's query builders are exposed by the index.

For example, say you want to restrict the user's search to results from a certain category:

q = index.query_parse(request.GET.get('q'))
q = index.query_filter(
                index.query_field('category', request.GET.get('cat'))

results =, query_str=request.GET.get('q'))

Note that query_filter differs from an AND-query_composite in that only the first part of the query is used for ranking purposes. See the Xappy docs for more information.

Further note that in addition to the Query object we built we also pass the query_str parameter to search(). This is required so that the query can be spell checked and a corrected version made available. If you don't pass query_str, the spell checked version will not be available on the results object (although you are free to call index.spell_correct manually).


While technically, you have to use pagination (the search() function always returns a paged subset of the results), there currently isn't good support for pagination with respect to display, i.e. rendering next and previous links etc.

You can however use an external paginator to do this, like the one that Django has builtin:

from django.core.paginator import Paginator
Paginator(results, num_per_page).page(page)

Just make sure that the num_per_page and page values are the same that you passed into search().

Multiple field values

Sometimes, you may want to add a field multiple times to the index, for example, if you are using the TAG action. To do this, simply make your data function a generator:

class Data:
        def tags(self):
                for tag in self.content_object.tags:

Partial model registration

Rather than registering a full model, you can also just pass a queryset to register:


This will ensure that only Book objects that match the given query will end up in the index. As you can see in the example, this can be useful e.g. for excluding private objects from the index. Note however, that while updating the public status of an existing object to True will make the object appear in the index due to "add" and "update" being synonymous, switching an existing object to be private would not delete it from the index. This may improve in the future (see also TODO section).

Custom update scripts

If you don't like to use the management command, you can create a standalone update script. A default script is provided that you can easily wrap around:


from django_xappy.scripts import update

Keep in mind that you have to do step 1 and setup your project's Django environment for this script. For information on how to do this, see:

Also, all modules that define an index need to be loaded, or update.main won't know what to update.

examples\simple\scripts\ shows how this might look.

If you want to further customize things: update.main wraps around the lower-level functions apply_changes and rebuild, which you can call directly. Of course, you can also manually modify the index as per your liking, using index.update(), index.delete() etc.


Limited functionality to work with OpenSearch is included.

For more information about OpenSearch, see:

In django_xappy.feeds you will find a subclass of Django's own syndication.Feed that can be used to output a feed for your search results, while adding the OpenSearch response metadata. You basically use it like the default Feed class, defining what data to include in titles, descriptions etc., with the following specialties:

  • No need to define items - this will use the list of search result automatically.
  • Instead, you need to define results, pointing it to a django-xappy search results objects.
  • Optionally, you may set spell_suggestion to False if you do not want to include a spelling correction in the metadata, even if would be available.

Incompatible Changes

After 0.1

Revision 19:
order_by parameter to search() no longer exists, use the Xappy original sortby.


  • Simplify usage for simple cases where an index does not spawn multiple models.
  • Port tests from critify project, pay particular attention to model inheritance issues.
  • Fail if a data class does not define any fields/actions?
  • Add a "search" management command for some simple index testing.
  • Allow disabling of search result database resolving - when outputting the search results, instead of using a resolved model instance, one would have to use STORE_CONTENT index fields instead. On the plus side, performance would likely improve.
  • Improve the example project with respect to search display ( model-specific results, result highlighting, ...)
  • Better pagination features. There is no reason why one would have to use an external paginator.
  • Support accent normalization (see src/djapian/backend/
  • When not using a queryset restriction, then during index rebuild, model.objects.all() will be used, which may be a custom manager with a restrictive default query, while a partial update essentially truly handles all objects. Both cases should behave the same.
  • If an object is updated, and the update removes it from the queryset it's model used to register with the index, the object will not be removed from the index; this could be done automatically though by checking with the queryset during the save-signal handler and logging a "delete" change. It would also cost performance though, so maybe this should be optional behaviour.


Bridges the Xappy Xapian interface with Django.







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