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From Erick Erickson <>
Subject Re: Partial / starts with searching
Date Fri, 13 Feb 2009 13:32:00 GMT
Surprisingly, I found that constructing Filters was surprisingly fast
for partial queries, you might want to give that a spin. See the Filter
class, which is unrelated to any of the TokenFilter-derived classes <G>.

The basic idea here is to use, say, WildCardTermEnum
or RegexTermEnum (in my experience, WildcartTermEnum is faster)
to construct a bit mask for all the docs that contain your
wildcarded term, and pass that along to your query. It'll restrict
the documents returned to only docs whose corresponding bit is
on in your filter. You can get a feel for whether this is fast enough
just by constructing your filter with a bit of test code. This
technique has the downside that your wildcard terms will NOT
contribute to scoring the document though. This is not much of
a problem in my experience.

About timing: Do note that you need to measure response *after*
a few warmup queries, the first few queries incur overhead.

Another possibility, depending upon how big you can stand for
your index to be, and assuming that you're OK with restricting
wildcards to "begins with". You could index, in the same position
(see Lucene In Action, Synonym Analyzer for a discussion) several
tokens for each word. Say you are indexing the word automobile.
Index a$, au$, aut$ and automobile. Now your wildcards (remember
this is only "begins with") search for a* would translate into
a$, no wildcard involved. There are obvious space tradeoffs here,
but since I don't know how big your index is I can't speculate
on how suitable this is. And once you get out beyond, say, 4
leading characters, the number of OR clauses becomes much
smaller so auto* can probably just be submitted as a "regular"
wildcard query.

And finally, consider whether it's worth the time and effort to
match on less than three leading characters. One lesson from
the "too many clauses" exception is that the use *to the user*
of a query term like a* is pretty small. You'll have at least
one term in virtually every document. Ask your product
manager if requiring at least three leading characters is
acceptable, in which case you may not need to do anything.

"The guys" generously spent time with me a couple of years ago
on this topic, see the following for that discussion:


On Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 3:05 AM, d-fader <> wrote:

> Hi,
> I've actually posted this message in de dev mailing list earlier,
> because I though my 'issue' is a limitation of the functionality of
> Lucene, but they redirected me to this mailinglist, so I hope one of you
> guys can help me out :)
> Maybe the 'issue' I'm addressing now is discussed thouroughly already,
> in that case I think I need some redirection to the sources of those
> discussions :) Anyway, here's the thing.
> For all I know it's impossible to search partial words with Lucene
> (except the asterix method with e.g. the StandardAnalyzer -> ambul* to
> find ambulance). My problem with that method is that my index consists
> of quite a few terms. This means that if a user would search for 'ambu
> amster' (ambulance amsterdam), there will be so many terms to search,
> the waiting time is just inacceptable. Now I started thinking why it's
> impossible to search only a 'part' of a term or even only the 'start' of
> a term and the only reason I could think of was that the Index terms are
> stored tokenized (in that way you (of course) can't find partial terms,
> since the index doesn't actually contain the literal terms, but tokens
> instead). But Lucene can also store all terms untokenized, so in that
> case, in my humble opinion, a partial search would be possible, since
> all terms would be stored 'literally'.
> Maybe my thinking is wrong, I only have a black box view of Lucene, so I
> don't know much about indexing algorithm and all, but I just want to
> know if this could be done or else why not :) You see, the users of my
> index want to know why they can't search parts of the words they enter
> and I still can't give them a really good answer, except the 'it would
> result in too many OR operators in the query' statement :) . I've tried
> using a Dutch stemmer (most of the data I'm indexing is Dutch) but that
> didn't work out quite good. Furthermore users sometimes search for a
> certain 'filename' and mostly they just enter a part of the name and
> thus don't find anything.
> I hope someone can enlighten me :) Thanks in advance!
> Jori
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