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Book Review: Sphinx Search Beginner’s Guide

April 5th, 2011 No comments

Packtpub were kind enough to send me a copy of their new book, Sphinx Search Beginner’s Guide to review.

The book is written by Abbas Ali who is currently working as Chief Operating Officer and Technical Manager at SANIsoft Technologies Private Limited, Nagpur, India. The company specializes in development of large, high performance, and scalable PHP applications.

Sphinx is well described by it’s website as follows:

Sphinx is an open source full text search server, designed from the ground up with performance, relevance (aka search quality), and integration simplicity in mind. It’s written in C++ and works on Linux (RedHat, Ubuntu, etc), Windows, MacOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, and a few other systems.

Sphinx lets you either batch index and search data stored in an SQL database, NoSQL storage, or just files quickly and easily — or index and search data on the fly, working with Sphinx pretty much as with a database server.

The book covers everything from the installation and setup of Sphinx to simple and advanced use in PHP.

Here is a full outline of what’s covered:

  • Chapter 1, Setting Up Sphinx is an introduction to Sphinx. It guides the reader through the installation process for Sphinx on all major operating systems.
  • Chapter 2, Getting Started demonstrates some basic usage of Sphinx in order to test its installation. It also discusses full-text search and gives the reader an overview of Sphinx.
  • Chapter 3, Indexing teaches the reader how to create indexes. It introduces and explains the different types of datasources, and also discusses different types of attributes that can comprise an index.
  • Chapter 4, Searching teaches the reader how to use the Sphinx Client API to search indexes from within PHP applications. It shows the reader how to use the PHP implementation of the Sphinx Client API.
  • Chapter 5, Feed Search creates an application that fetches feed items and creates a Sphinx index. This index is then searched from a PHP application. It also introduces delta indexes and live index merging.
  • Chapter 6, Property Search creates a real world real estate portal where the user can add a property listing and specify different attributes for it so that you can search for properties based on specific criteria. Some advanced search techniques using a client API are discussed in this chapter.
  • Chapter 7, Sphinx Configuration discusses all commonly used configuration settings for
    Sphinx. It teaches the reader how to configure Sphinx in a distributed environment where
    indexes are kept on multiple machines.
  • Chapter 8, What Next? discusses some new features introduced in the recent Sphinx release.
    It also shows the reader how a Sphinx index can be searched using a MySQL client library.
  • Lastly, it discusses the scenarios where Sphinx can be used and mentions some of the
    popular Web applications that are powered by a Sphinx search engine.


At first, the style of the book seemed a bit strange to me – it’s split up into small chunks which are often followed by a “What just happened” section which gives a summary or broken down explanation of the concept just explained. Once I got used to it though, this actually improved the clarity and aided understanding.

The book is a very informative read for both beginners to either search or Sphinx and existing users and i’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in either search or the Sphinx product.

Anyone willing to find out more about or purchase the book can do so on the Packetpub website.

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