Update, Oct. 9, 2006 - A newer version of Fast Search has been released. Click here for details.

The built-in search tool in Movable Type can be slow and can take a lot of processing power, especially if you have blogs with many entries. When I recently upgraded to version 3.31 of MT, I was dismayed to learn that searches became slower and more processor-intensive (at least on my server). I was forced to disable the mt-search.cgi script, as it was overloading my dedicated server. So I went looking for an alternative. I found a PHP mySQL Fulltext method that worked very fast, and without the CPU problems.

So contacted IƱaki, the creator of this PHP solution, who granted me permission modify the solution and package it up as a Movable Type plugin. I have added a number of features, and I have made significant efforts to make the plugin easy to install and use.

Fast Search is a PHP plugin for Movable Type. This means that Fast Search uses Movable Type's dynamic PHP-based publishing system to display search results. However, you can continue to use static publishing for all of your indexes and archives. Fast Search is fast in part because it uses mySQL fulltext indexing -- basically this means that a search index will be created for the entries in your database, making searches much faster.

Template Tags

Version 1.0 of FastSearch is designed to easily replace the existing search functionality in Movable Type. For example, if you are currently using customized search templates, you can use them with Fast Search, with very few changes in most cases. Many Fast Search template tags have the same names as their CGI counterparts:

  • <MTSearchString> - The search string (query) being searched.
  • <MTSearchResults> - A container tag that displays search results. Arguments include (all are optional):
    • lastn - restricts the search to n results. (example <MTSearchResults lastn="10"> ) The lastn argument, like all arguments for MTSearchResults, can also be specified in the URL (...&lastn=10) or POSTed from a search form)
    • offset - used in coordination with lastn, starts M entries from the start of the list. (example <MTSearchResults lastn="10" offset="10"> will display results 11-20)
    • order - must be either 'date' or 'relevance', the default is 'relevance'. (example $lt;MTSearchResults order="date"> will provide similar results as the CGI search)
    • category - must be a valid category ID for the current blog - restricts the search results to entries from this category.
    • google_highlight - if specified, search words will be highlighted. (example <MTSearchResults google_highlight="1"> )
    • query - the search string (text) to be searched. In normal use, you would NOT include this argument as part of the <MTSearchResults> tag, rather, it would be specified as a URL paramter (example ...query=search+phrase) or POSTed from a search form.
  • <MTBlogResultHeader> - this is container tag that displays content before the search results. (Note: in version 1.0 of Fast Search, you cannot search multiple blogs in the same search)
  • <MTBlogResultFooter> - this is container tag that displays content below the search results.
  • <MTNoSearchResult> - A container tag that displays its content only if zero results are found. Note that this tag must be used after a <MTSearchResults> container.
  • <MTNoSearch> - A container tag that displays its content only if no search phrase was specified.
  • <MTSearchCount> - The number of search results displayed. This tag should be used with a <MTBlogResultHeader> or <MTBlogResultFooter> container.
  • <MTSearchFirst> - The number of the first search result on the current page. This tag should be used with a <MTBlogResultHeader> or <MTBlogResultFooter>container.
  • <MTSearchLast> - The number of the last search result on the current page. This tag should be used with a <MTBlogResultHeader> or <MTBlogResultFooter>container.
  • <MTSearchIfNextPage> - A conditional tag that displays its content if there is a subsequent page of search results. This tag should be used with a <MTBlogResultHeader> or <MTBlogResultFooter>container.
  • <MTSearchNextPageLink> - Output a URL to the next page of search results. This tag should be used within <MTSearchIfNextPage> tags.

As you may have noticed, most of the tags above are identical to the ones used for the existing CGI-based search results. This is by design, so you will easily be able to cut-and-paste your existing search template code into the Fast Search template, though some minor modifications may be required.

Working Examples:

Here are some working examples you can try. Feel free to try additional search queries and note the speed that searches are performed.

  • Mars Rover Blog has over 5,000 entries. Example search: "water on mars". Note that this example shows the default FastSearch template, which is very similar to the default search results template in MT 3.2.
  • Seinfeld Blog has over 8,000 entries, 180 of which consist of the episode descriptions and scripts of all 180 episodes. Fast Search powers the Seinfeld Script Search, which is restricted to a single category containing the episodes. Example search: 'bubble boy'

Requirements:

  • Movable Type 3.2 or 3.3
  • mySQL 4.0.1 or higher

Instructions

  1. Download the plugin and expand the zip file.
  2. Upload the contents of the 'plugins' folder to the 'plugins' directory of your MT installation (usually something like /cgi-bin/mt/plugins).
  3. Upload the contents of the 'php' folder to the 'php' directory (usually something like /cgi-bin/mt/php)
  4. Login to the MT admin interface. If you already logged in, choose 'Main Menu'
  5. If your are running MT 3.3, you should be redirected to an 'Upgrade' screen at this point. The Fast Search upgrade process will update your database to add a fulltext index to the table in your database where entries are stored. Note that this may take some time if you have many entries, and this will add to the overall size of your database.
  6. If you are running MT 3.2, you will not see the upgrade screen (as it is a 3.3 feature), so you need to create the index by browsing to the 'Settings' of a blog where you want to use Fats Search. Choose the 'Plugins' tab then find 'Fast Search' and choose 'Settings'. Now click the link in bold that says "Click here to create or rebuild the FastSearch fulltext index". Again, this may take some time, please be patient. After the index has been created, hit the Back button.
  7. Now browse to the 'Publishing' settings tab for the blog, and scroll down to the Setting called "Dynamic Publishing". If the first option, "Build all templates statically", is selected, you should change this setting to "Set each template's Build Options separately" and click "Save Changes" at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise, you don't need to make any changes here.(Note that change this setting will create an .htaccess file in the root path of the blog. Normally you won't notice this and everything will work fine, but if you have an existing.htacces file, you may want to take a look at it to make sure everything looks okay)
  8. If you just changed your Dynamic Publishing settings in the previous step, you should now rebuild all files for this blog by choosing "Rebuild Site" from the left menu, then "Rebuild all Files". You should also ensure that you have a "Dynamic Site Bootstrapper" (mtview.php) index template and make sure that it gets built, if it hasn't been built previously.
  9. Now return to the Fast Search settings ('Plugins' tab within 'Settings') and check the box to enable Fast Search. You may also want to adjust the settings for Maximum Search Results and logging, then click "Save Changes".
  10. Open the Fast Search settings once again and choose "Click here to install the default Fast Search Template." The template will be created and then displayed. This is an dynamic Index template (which can be customized) used to display the search results. (If desired you can also skip this step and create the index template manually, use the template tags as desired, or by cutting and pasting your exisiting search template code)
The Search Form

If you already have search forms on your blog pages, you need to update them to point to the new Fast Search template. For each template that contains a search form, look for the following (or similar):

<form method="post" action="<$MTCGIPath$><$MTSearchScript$>"

...and change it to:

<form method="post" action="<$MTBlogURL>fastsearch"

...save the template and repeat this step for every template that has a search form.

If you want to insert a new search form on your site, or completely replace existing forms, you can use the following:

<form method="get" action="<$MTBlogURL$>fastsearch">
    <label for="query" accesskey="4">Search this blog:</label><br />
    <input id="query" name="query" size="20" />
    <input type="submit" value="Search" />
</form>

Of course you can also add optional fields to the form such as:

<input type="hidden" name="order" value="date" />

....to sort the results by date, or....

<input type="hidden" name="category" value="5" />

...to restrict the search to category_id = 5.

Once you have the search form(s) on you site, rebuild those pages and start searching. You should notice significant speed and resource improvement, especially on blogs with many entries.

Download Fast Search

Non-commercial use - FREE ( although you must include a

Movable Type search results powered by 
<a href="http://mt-hacks.com/fastsearch.html">Fast Search</a>
link on your search results pages.

Also, donations are appreciated:

Commercial use - $97.00

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Downloads: 4780 (since 3/6/07)

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As always, suggestions and feedback are appreciated. Please reply to this entry.

Note: FastSearch v1.0 is a suitable replacement for most implementations of the built-in search function in Movable Type. However, there are a few features that Fast Search v1.0 does not include. Fast Search v1.0 does not support comment searches, multi-blog searches (searching multiple blogs at the same time), regexp search, case-senstive search, the use of AND and OR operators, and Edit Entry Links). Also, Fast Search v1.0 does not inlcude MT 3.3 search features such as tag search. Some of these features may be supported in future versions -- please let me know what features you would like to see.

Updated: 8/9/06 07:39:00 - added some additonal info to the instructions based on feedback from Patrick.