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A lightweight emacs org-mode wrapper for the recoll full-text search engine
Emacs Lisp
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This package provides an emacs wrapper for the recoll full-text file search program.


  • Recoll provides fast full-text searching of the contents of your files, and org-recoll brings those results into emacs. Recoll can index and search a wide-variety of file types (most office formats, pdf, epub, various archive formats, and much, much more).
  • org-recoll formats search results into org-style file links, and includes abstracts showing the context of the search-term in each file.
  • When a file link is opened, org-recoll automatically initiates a search within the opened file. Specifically, org-recoll prompts for a search term (defaulting to the original search), and then automatically begins a search within the file, choosing a search-type suitable for the file (isearch for plain text, dired, or epub; pdf-occur for pdfs; doc-view-search for other docs).
  • Automatically renders html (using shr) for easy navigation of archived web-pages.


I wanted a convenient full-text file-search engine integrated into emacs. Recoll is an easy-to-setup, FOSS, cross-platform search engine with broad file type support. This package is an attempt at creating an interface/results list similar to a conventional search engine inside emacs.


helm-recoll exists, but it has a very different interface and also requires switching to helm. org-recoll is intended to provide a stand-alone, easy to use solution, which is also easy to integrate into an existing org-mode workflow.


Installation of this package

For now, just download org-recoll.el and add it to your load-path. The only hard dependencies are org and dired, but pdf-tools, org-pdfview, ereader, and shr are also recommended. A sample configuration is provided below.

(load "org-recoll")
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c g") 'org-recoll-search)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c u") 'org-recoll-update-index)

Recoll setup

To use org-recoll you need a working recoll setup. At minimum, to get things working you’ll need to have:

  1. Installed recoll and any needed helper programs
  2. Configured recoll (either through the GUI or by editing recoll.conf directly) to tell recoll which directories to index
  3. Run the recoll indexer once.

Indexing can be initiated in the recoll GUI, by invoking recollindex from a terminal, or by calling org-recoll-update-index from inside emacs, but the first run will (depending on how many files are to be indexed) take quite a while and use all the CPU it can get. If you have more than a few hundred files being indexed, I’d advise running it overnight in the GUI. Subsequent runs will be fairly quick unless there have been lots of file changes or new files added.

NB: If you find some files are not getting indexed as expected you are probably missing the relevant helper programs, the recoll GUI can tell you which ones it thinks it needs after the first indexing run.

Special Setup for Certain Types of Content

Recoll can index an enormous number of different kinds of files, many of which are not plain text. In general your org-recoll search experience will be better if you have ways of opening most or all of those files inside emacs (e.g. the automatic file-internal search obviously won’t work if you open the files externally, etc.). This section discusses a few special cases and provides recommendations for emacs integration.


For purposes of this mode, ereader.el is the recommended way to open epubs for searching. Nov.el is a newer mode for opening epubs, and has superior rendering, but does not render the entire file at once, and so does not support full text searching (it will only search the chapter it has currently rendered, which is less useful in this context).


pdf-tools is very strongly recommended for pdfs as it has many advantages over the default doc-view. Because pdf rendering in emacs can be slow, isearching a whole document is not ideal. Therefore instead of auto-starting isearch, pdf-occur is called (when available) for pdfs because it provides a better user experience.


Just bind org-recoll-search to a keybind of your choosing (I use “C-c g” after a certain famous search engine starting with ‘g’) and you’re ready to go. Once you’ve got your first page of results you can page forward and backward with “C-c n” and “C-c p”. Links can be opened by hitting RET, or “C-c o.”


Various parts of org-recoll’s behavior can be customized. For example the number of results per page can be changed, or automatic in-file search can be disabled. For a full list of options customize the org-recoll group.




Opening a Text Result


Opening a PDF Result


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