Adding Search
March 2021

I’ve added search to this blog. Results are generated as you type. Try it by typing / or cmd-k.

If you look on the Pelican plugins index you’ll see that Tipue search is the only search tool with a ready-made Pelican plugin, but unfortunately the project seems to have died and the projects website is now something else.

But searching a static site must be quite a common need and googling for alternatives gave me a few choices. Lunr.js seems to be the most popular, but it also seemed fairly complicated and like it was probably more than I needed. I went with Tiny Search because it seemed to do what I needed and was easy to setup. There’s even an example for Pelican blogs.

One hurdle to success was minimising the false positives. The default settings seem to prioritise keeping the size of the index small (tiny) over giving a good user experience. Maybe its because the amount of text on my site is significanly less, or more, than the typical use case. Either way, after checking the project’s issues on Github I found an issue that matched my problem perfectly. The solution is to increase the tiny_magic variable at build time.

According to the Readme, this requires using a container and building the index using docker run.... Unfortunately the Dockerfile wouldn’t complete without errors. Checking the issues again and adding to the discussion resulted in an alternative Dockerfile being suggested, which works. Woohoo! I could then build the search index with a massive tiny_magic value (2048).

Then something weird happened. I write in Vim and I use fzf to find and open files. I realised that fzf had stopped working. After some investigating, I realised it was only not working in the blog project, and that fzf.vim calls the fzf CLI tool, which in turn calls the ripgrep tool. The underlying issue was that ripgrep wasn’t working, and after a few hours (sob) of debugging, I found out that one of the things that makes rg special is that it ignores stuff in your .gitignore file. Sneakily, and without me noticing, the Docker image for constructing the tinysearch files had created a .gitignore file with a single entry. The entry was *, which selects everything. So rg was ignoring everything, and giving no results. Which meant I couldn’t find and open files.

I still don’t know how (or which part of) the Dockerfile does this, so I’ve created a .gitignore-master file which contains the correct content, and after I generate a new search index I replace the new traitorous .gitignore with the contents of .gitignore-master. I’ll come back to it later when/if I have a better understanding of Dockerfile syntax, or Rust.

Adding search to the site made the content feel a lot closer and more accessible. Once it was working I immediately wanted to use some keyboard shortcuts to open the search box and select results. Kind of like does it. It feels really fast and precise.

Googling for some jquery packages, and also some vanilla javaScript showed me enough to get things working. You can hit / or ctrl-k or cmd-k and bring up a search box that populates results as you type!

Only whole words are matched unfortunately, but its still a super useful feature. The search index includes article content as well as article titles and categories. I’d like to tweak a few of the keyboard shortcut behaviours, and add the contents of various pages (which aren’t articles) to the search index.


I’ve reimplemented search using fuse.js. You can read about it here