⌘ kean.blog

Client-Side Search


The search is for Nuke Docs is built using lunr.js which is a simple client-side search engine which is relatively easy to use.

Populating Index #

First, you need to populate a search index. In Nuke Docs, an index is a JSON file generated during the Jekyll build process. The file has front matter to enable special processing where you can use Liquid tags.



{% assign guides = site.pages | where: 'layout', 'nuke-guide' %}
{% for guide in guides %}
    "title": {{guide.title | jsonify}},
    "content": {{ guide.content | markdownify | jsonify }},
    "link": {{ guide.url | jsonify  }}
  }{% unless forloop.last %},{% endunless %}
{% endfor %}

As an output, I get a simple search-index.json file with an array of pages. When the user presses the search button (or an f key), the app fetches it and populates the lunr.js index.

function populateSearchIndex(json) {
    let entries = json.flatMap(splitPageIntoChunks);

    searchIndex = lunr(function () {
        this.field('title', { boost: 5 });

        for (var i = 0; i < entries.length; i++) {
            const entry = entries[i];
            this.add({ title: entry.title, content: entry.content, id: i });

    for (const entry of entries) {
        const excerpt = truncate(entry.content, 120, true);
        searchEntries.push({ 'title': entry.title, 'link': entry.link, 'excerpt': excerpt });

Searching #

With the index populated, you can start searching. With lunr.js 2.0, the search simply looks for complete matches of the input words by default. For example, if you want to search for priorirty, but only enter priori, the results will be empty. So I ended up with the following approach for creating a query:

const updatedQuery = query
    .split(" ")
    .map(word => word + '^2 ' + word + '*')
    .join(' ');

const results = searchIndex.search(updatedQuery);

I search for a complete match boosting its score (^2) and for a prefix using a wildcard (*). I also tried adding a bit of fuzziness (~1) but was producing inaccurate results with high scores.

Granular Index #

The search works, but only for complete pages: you can’t jump to subheadings. Fortunately, I already had jekyll-anchor-headings set up for the table of contents, so all I needed to do was preprocess the pages. I take a page, split it into chunks using simple regex1, find anchor links, strip HTML and Liquid tags from content, and voila – now the search index has parts of pages split based on subheadings instead of complete pages.

I don’t want to paste the complete code here, but you can always find it on the website. As for the UI, you can find it there as well; it was challenging to get the search view to work precisely the way I wanted it to with keyboard navigation, automatic scrolling, nice highlighting, etc.

Conclusion #

lunr.js is a great tool with more features that I haven’t covered here. Fortunately, it has a website with documentation of its own.

  1. .content.split(/(<h[^>]*>.*?<\/h.>)/g). Parsing HTML with regex is generally not a good idea, but it works well in this controlled environment.