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A Xapian Content Indexing/Searching Framework for Zope3

Project Description

The package provides a content indexing framework for a multi-threaded python application. It utilizes xapian for its indexing library, and the zope component architecture for flexibility. It operates primarily as a framework wrapper for xapian core search facilities.


  • processes all indexing operations asynchronously.
  • mechanisms for indexing/resolving content from multiple data stores.
  • easy to customize indexing behavior via adaptation.
  • transaction aware modifications, aggregates operations for content within a transaaction scope.


Let’s create some content to work with. The only responsibility on content for purposes of integration with indexing is that they implement the IIndexable marker interface.

>>> class Content( object ):
...    implements( interfaces.IIndexable )
...    __parent__ = None
...    @property
...    def __name__( self ): return self.title
...    def __init__( self, **kw): self.__dict__.update(kw)
...    def __hash__( self ): return hash(self.title)
>>> rabbit = Content( title=u"rabbit", description="furry little creatures", keywords=("skin",) )
>>> elephant = Content( title=u"elephant", description="large mammals with memory", keywords=("apple",) )
>>> snake = Content( title=u"snake", description="reptile with scales", keywords=("skin", "apple")  )


Resolvers allow us to index content from multiple data stores. ie. we could have content from a relational database, and content from a subversion, and content from the fs, that we’d like to index into xapian. Resolvers allow us to unambigously identify object via an identifier, and to retrieve an object given its identifier. Resolvers are structured as named utilities, with the utility name corresponding to the resolving strategy.

One key requirement, is that we need to be able to load the content asynchronously in a different thread in order for the indexing machinery to work with it.

For the purposes of testing we’ll construct a simple resolver scheme and some sample content here:

>>> class ContentResolver( object ):
...    implements( interfaces.IResolver )
...    scheme = "" # name of resolver utility ( optionally "" for default )
...    map = dict( rabbit=rabbit, elephant=elephant, snake=snake )
...    def id( self, object ): return object.title
...    def resolve( self, id ): return[id]
>>> component.provideUtility( ContentResolver() )

Catalog Definition

a core responsibility of any application utilizing this package, is to define the application specific fields of interest to index.

an application does this via constructing a xapian index connection and adding additional fields:

>>> import xappy
>>> indexer = xappy.IndexerConnection('tmp.idx')
>>> indexer.add_field_action('resolver', xappy.FieldActions.INDEX_EXACT )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('resolver', xappy.FieldActions.STORE_CONTENT )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('object_type', xappy.FieldActions.INDEX_EXACT )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('object_type', xappy.FieldActions.STORE_CONTENT )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('title', xappy.FieldActions.INDEX_FREETEXT )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('title', xappy.FieldActions.STORE_CONTENT )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('title', xappy.FieldActions.STORE_CONTENT )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('title', xappy.FieldActions.SORTABLE )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('description', xappy.FieldActions.INDEX_FREETEXT )
>>> indexer.add_field_action('keyword', xappy.FieldActions.INDEX_EXACT )

Queue Processor

Now we can startup our asynchronous indexing thread, with this index connection. Note we shouldn’t attempt to perform any indexing directly in the application threads with this indexer, as no locking is performed by xapian. Instead, write operations are routed to the queue processor which performs all modifications to the index in a separate thread/process. For the purposes of testing, we’ll also lower the time threshold for index flushes (default 60s):

For test purposes, we set the poll timeout to 0.1 seconds.

>>> from ore.xapian import queue
>>> queue.QueueProcessor.POLL_TIMEOUT = 0.1
>>> queue.QueueProcessor.FLUSH_THRESHOLD = 1

Let’s start the indexing queue. We typically do this in ZCML, but its not required, and for testing purposes we’ll do it directly from python.

>>> queue.QueueProcessor.start( indexer )
<ore.xapian.queue.QueueProcessor object at ...>

Verify that the queue is running.

>>> queue.QueueProcessor.indexer_running


Content indexing is automatically provided via event integration. Event subscribers for object modified, object added, and object removed are utilized to generate index operations which are processed asynchronously by the queue processor.


However in order for the proper resolver to be associated with the index operations for each object we need to construct an operation factory thats associated to the resolver. The appropriate operation factory for an object will be found via adaptation:

>>> from ore.xapian.operation import OperationFactory
>>> class MyOperationFactory( OperationFactory ):
...      resolver_id = ContentResolver.scheme
>>> component.provideAdapter( MyOperationFactory, (interfaces.IIndexable,) )

The operation factory is used by the various event handlers to create operations for the index queue. The default implementation already provides an appropriate generic implementation for the creation of operations, our customization is only to ensure that the factory uses the specified resolver.

Content Integration

Applications will be typically be indexing many types of objects corresponding to different interfaces and with different attribute values. An index however tries to index object attributes into a common set of fields appropriate for generic application usage and search interfaces. Therefore a common application need is to customize the representation of an object that is indexed.

>>> class ContentIndexer( object ):
...      implements( interfaces.IIndexer )
...      def __init__( self, context): self.ob = context
...      def document( self, connection ):
...          doc = xappy.UnprocessedDocument()
...          doc.fields.append( xappy.Field( 'title', self.ob.title ))
...          doc.fields.append( xappy.Field( 'description', self.ob.description ))
...          doc.fields.append( xappy.Field( 'object_type', self.ob.__class__.__name__ ) )
...          for kw in self.ob.keywords:
...              doc.fields.append( xappy.Field( 'keyword', kw ) )
...          return doc
>>> component.provideAdapter( ContentIndexer, (interfaces.IIndexable,) )

Now let’s generate some events to kickstart the indexing:

>>> from zope.event import notify
>>> from import ObjectAddedEvent
>>> notify( ObjectAddedEvent( rabbit ) )
>>> notify( ObjectAddedEvent( elephant ) )
>>> notify( ObjectAddedEvent( snake ) )

In order to have the indexer process these events, we need to commit the transaction.

>>> transaction.commit()
>>> import time
>>> time.sleep(0.1)


Search Utilities are analagous to xapian search connections. To allow for reuse of a connection and avoid passing constructor arguments, we construct a search gateway which functions as a container for pooling search connections and which we register as a utility for easy access:

>>> from ore.xapian import search
>>> search_connections = search.ConnectionHub('tmp.idx')

We can get a search connection from a gateway by calling it:

>>> searcher = search_connections.get()
>>> query = searcher.query_parse('rabbit')
>>> results = query, 0, 30)
>>> len(results)

We can retrieve the object indexed by calling the object() method on a individual search result:

>>> results[0].object() is rabbit
>>> query = searcher.query_parse('mammals')
>>> results = query, 0, 30 )
>>> len(results) == 1

We can search across the object type index to retrieve all indexed of the same type.

>>> query = searcher.query_field( 'object_type', 'Content')
>>> results = query, 0, 30 )
>>> len(results) == 3

Let’s try a keyword search, we indexed the content objects across two keywords, “apple” and “skin”.

>>> query = searcher.query_field('keyword', 'apple')
>>> results = query, 0, 30 )
>>> print [i.object().title for i in results]
[u'snake', u'elephant']

Let’s sort on title as well.

>>> query = searcher.query_field('keyword', 'skin')
>>> results = query, 0, 30, sortby="title" )
>>> print [i.object().title for i in results]
[u'rabbit', u'snake']

Content Integration Redux

For verification let’s test modification and deletion as well.

>>> from zope.lifecycleevent import ObjectModifiedEvent
>>> from import ObjectRemovedEvent

We’ll give the rabbit a new description.

>>> rabbit.description = 'hairy little animal'
>>> notify(ObjectModifiedEvent(rabbit))

And delete the snake-object.

>>> notify(ObjectRemovedEvent(snake))

Wait a bit and reopen the search connection.

>>> transaction.commit()
>>> time.sleep(0.1)
>>> searcher.reopen()

Verify search results:

>>> query = searcher.query_parse('hairy')
>>> len(, 0, 30))
>>> query = searcher.query_parse('snake')
>>> len(, 0, 30))


To be a good testing citizen, we cleanup our queue processing thread.

>>> queue.QueueProcessor.stop()


There are several caveats to using an indexing against relational content, the primary one of concern is the use of non index aware applications, performing modifications of the database structure.

there are additional ways to deal with this, if the index queue is moved directly into the database, then modifying applications can insert operations directly into the index queue. additionally most databases support trigger operations that can perform this functionality directly in the schema structure.

the additional constraint with using database based operations is that additional properties of the domain model may be lost, or hard to capture for other appliacations or database triggers.


0.5.0 - November 11th, 2008

  • add extensive optional logging options
  • don’t let a bad op kill the indexing thread
  • log if an object can’t be resolved
  • enable synchronous mode for integration testing
  • allow for multiple zcml defs for a queue processor

0.4.2 - May 2nd, 2008

  • add license headers

0.4.1 - May 1st, 2008

  • packaging fix, not a zip safe package (includes zcml)

0.4 - April 30th, 2008

  • transactional operation buffer for feeding into operation queue. also performs aggregation of operations for a given piece of content within a transaction scope.
  • zcml support for starting an indexer
  • additional test coverage and bug fixes
  • rename flush timeout to poll timeout on queue processor.
  • transaction package dependency

0.3 - February 10th, 2008

First Release

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