Installing Search Engines


Official Download Location:

Solr is Java but comes in a pre-packaged form that requires very little other than the JRE and Jetty. It’s very performant and has an advanced featureset. Haystack suggests using Solr 3.5+, though it’s possible to get it working on Solr 1.4 with a little effort. Installation is relatively simple:

curl -O
tar xvzf apache-solr-3.5.0.tgz
cd apache-solr-3.5.0
cd example
java -jar start.jar

You’ll need to revise your schema. You can generate this from your application (once Haystack is installed and setup) by running ./ build_solr_schema. Take the output from that command and place it in apache-solr-3.5.0/example/solr/conf/schema.xml. Then restart Solr.


build_solr_schema uses a template to generate schema.xml. Haystack provides a default template using some sensible defaults. If you would like to provide your own template, you will need to place it in search_configuration/solr.xml, inside a directory specified by your app’s TEMPLATE_DIRS setting. Examples:

# ...or...

You’ll also need a Solr binding, pysolr. The official pysolr package, distributed via PyPI, is the best version to use (2.1.0+). Place somewhere on your PYTHONPATH.


pysolr has its own dependencies that aren’t covered by Haystack. For best results, you should have an ElementTree variant install (preferably the lxml variant), httplib2 for timeouts (though it will fall back to httplib) and either the json module that comes with Python 2.5+ or simplejson.

More Like This

To enable the “More Like This” functionality in Haystack, you’ll need to enable the MoreLikeThisHandler. Add the following line to your solrconfig.xml file within the config tag:

<requestHandler name="/mlt" class="solr.MoreLikeThisHandler" />

Spelling Suggestions

To enable the spelling suggestion functionality in Haystack, you’ll need to enable the SpellCheckComponent.

The first thing to do is create a special field on your SearchIndex class that mirrors the text field, but uses FacetCharField. This disables the post-processing that Solr does, which can mess up your suggestions. Something like the following is suggested:

class MySearchIndex(indexes.SearchIndex, indexes.Indexable):
    text = indexes.CharField(document=True, use_template=True)
    # ... normal fields then...
    suggestions = indexes.FacetCharField()

    def prepare(self, obj):
        prepared_data = super(MySearchIndex, self).prepare(obj)
        prepared_data['suggestions'] = prepared_data['text']
        return prepared_data

Then, you enable it in Solr by adding the following line to your solrconfig.xml file within the config tag:

<searchComponent name="spellcheck" class="solr.SpellCheckComponent">

    <str name="queryAnalyzerFieldType">textSpell</str>

    <lst name="spellchecker">
      <str name="name">default</str>
      <str name="field">suggestions</str>
      <str name="spellcheckIndexDir">./spellchecker1</str>
      <str name="buildOnCommit">true</str>

Then change your default handler from:

<requestHandler name="standard" class="solr.StandardRequestHandler" default="true" />

... to ...:

<requestHandler name="standard" class="solr.StandardRequestHandler" default="true">
    <arr name="last-components">

Be warned that the <str name="field">suggestions</str> portion will be specific to your SearchIndex classes (in this case, assuming the main field is called text).


Official Download Location:

Elasticsearch is Java but comes in a pre-packaged form that requires very little other than the JRE. It’s also very performant, scales easily and has an advanced featureset. Haystack requires at least version 0.90.0+. Installation is best done using a package manager:

# On Mac OS X...
brew install elasticsearch

# On Ubuntu...
apt-get install elasticsearch

# Then start via:
elasticsearch -f -D es.config=<path to YAML config>

# Example:
elasticsearch -f -D es.config=/usr/local/Cellar/elasticsearch/0.90.0/config/elasticsearch.yml

You may have to alter the configuration to run on localhost when developing locally. Modifications should be done in a YAML file, the stock one being config/elasticsearch.yml:

# Unicast Discovery (disable multicast) false [""]

# Name your cluster here to whatever.
# My machine is called "Venus", so...
  name: venus


  logs: /usr/local/var/log
  data: /usr/local/var/data

You’ll also need an Elasticsearch binding: pyelasticsearch (NOT pyes). Place pyelasticsearch somewhere on your PYTHONPATH (usually python install or pip install pyelasticsearch).


pyelasticsearch has its own dependencies that aren’t covered by Haystack. You’ll also need requests & simplejson for speedier JSON construction/parsing.


Official Download Location:

Whoosh is pure Python, so it’s a great option for getting started quickly and for development, though it does work for small scale live deployments. The current recommended version is 1.3.1+. You can install via PyPI using sudo easy_install whoosh or sudo pip install whoosh.

Note that, while capable otherwise, the Whoosh backend does not currently support “More Like This” or faceting. Support for these features has recently been added to Whoosh itself & may be present in a future release.


Official Download Location:

Xapian is written in C++ so it requires compilation (unless your OS has a package for it). Installation looks like:

curl -O
curl -O

tar xvzf xapian-core-1.0.11.tar.gz
tar xvzf xapian-bindings-1.0.11.tar.gz

cd xapian-core-1.0.11
sudo make install

cd ..
cd xapian-bindings-1.0.11
sudo make install

Xapian is a third-party supported backend. It is not included in Haystack proper due to licensing. To use it, you need both Haystack itself as well as xapian-haystack. You can download the source from Installation instructions can be found on that page as well. The backend, written by David Sauve (notanumber), fully implements the SearchQuerySet API and is an excellent alternative to Solr.

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