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SWISH-LIBRARY - Interface to the Swish-e C library

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What is the Swish-e C library

It is a C library implementation based on swish-e-2.1-dev, but many of the functions have been rewritten in order to get a thread safe library. That's is not to say that it is currently thread safe.

The advantage of the library is that the index file(s) can be opened one time and many queries made on the open index. This saves the startup time required to fork and run the swish-e binary, and the expensive time of opening up the index file. Some benchmarks have shown a three fold increase in speed.

The downside is that your program now has more code and data in it (the index tables can use quite a bit of memory), and if a fatal error happens in swish it will bring down your program. These are things to think about, especially if embedding swish into a web server such as Apache where there are many processes serving requests.

The best way to learn about the library is to look at two files included with the swish-e distribution that make use of the library.


This file gives a basic overview of linking a C program with the Swish-e library. Not all available functions are used in that example, but it should give you a good overview of building a program with swish-e.

To build libtest run and run libtest:

    $ make libtest
    $ ./libtest [optional name of index file(s)]

You will be prompted for the search words. The default index used is index.swish-e. This can be overridden by placing a list of index files in a quote-protected string.

    $ ./libtest 'index1 index2 index3'


The SWISHE.xs file contains more examples of how to read from the perl library. It includes example code for reading additional information from the index files.

Not all available functions are documented here. That's both do to laziness, and the hope that a better interface will be created for these functions. Check the above files for details.

You should check for errors after every call. See the src/libtest.c file for examples.

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Available Functions

struct SWISH *SwishInit(char *IndexFiles);

This functions opens and reads the header info of the index files included in IndexFiles string. The string should contain a space separated list of index files.

    SWISH *myhandle;
    myhandle = SwishOpen("file1.idx");

This function will return a swish handle. You must check for errors, and on error free the memory used by the handle, or abort.

Here's an example of aborting:

    SWISH *swish_handle;
    swish_handle = SwishInit("file1.idx file2.idx");
    if ( SwishError( swish_handle ) )
        SwishAbortLastError( swish_handle );

And here's an example of catching the error:

    SWISH *swish_handle;
    swish_handle = SwishInit("file1.idx file2.idx");
    if ( SwishError( swish_handle ) )
        printf("Failed to connect to swish. %s\n", SwishErrorString( swish_handle ) );
        SwishClose( swish_handle );  /* free the memory used */
        return 0;

struct SWISH *SwishOpen(char *IndexFiles); [depreciated]

This functions opens and reads header info of the index files included in IndexFiles

    myhandle = SwishOpen("file1.idx");

Returns NULL on error. This function is depreciated since there is no way to find out what error caused an error. Use SwishInit() instead.

void SwishClose(struct SWISH *handle);

This function closes and frees the memory of a Swish handle

int SwishSearch(struct SWISH *handle,char *words,int structure,char *properties,char *sortspec);

This function executes a search for a handle.

Input data:

    handle      : value returned by SwishOpen
    words       : the search string
    structure   : At this moment always one (it will implement the -t option of Swish-e)
    properties  : [Depreciated]  Set as NULL.  See text for comments.
    sortspec    : Sort specs for the results. Use NULL if sort by rank

Returns the number of hits or a negative value on error.

    num_results = SwishSearch(swish_handle, "title=test", 1, NULL, "date desc");

There is a new feature here that it is not included in swish-e-2.0: You can specify several sorting properties including a combination of descending and ascending fields.

    field1 asc field2 desc

Currently, when num_results is zero there is also an error condition set (``Word not found''). Therefore, only check and report errors if num_results is a negative number.

    if ( num_results < 0 && SwishError( swish_handle ) )
        SwishAbortLastError( swish_handle );

The properties parameter:

In general, you will find it easiest to use the functions described below to fetch properties:


You can also pass in a space-separated list of properties to the SwishSearch() function. This will parse and cache the list of properites and then the property IDs can be used to fetch the property values. This saves the time of converting the property names from a string to a property ID value for each result. It's unlikely that the speed-up is sigificant. See the perl/SWISHE.xs code for an example how this can be done.

int SwishSeek(struct SWISH *handle, int n)

This function puts the results pointer on the nth result. The first result is number zero. Returns n if operation goes OK or a negative number on error. After calling SwishSeek() call SwishNext() to fetch the first record at the position selected by SwishSeek();


    SwishSeek( swish_handle, 0 );  /* start at the beginning */
    SwishSeek( swish_handle, 5 );  /* start at the sixth record */

If you always read results from the very start you do not need to call SwishSeek(). After a query the position is set to the start of the result list.

struct result *SwishNext(struct SWISH *handle)

This function returns next result. It must be executed after SwishSearch. Returns NULL on error or when no more results are available. Call SwishError() to check for errors.

The value returned is used to fetch the various properties for a given file (e.g. rank, title, path name). Typically, SwishNext() is called in a loop to fetch and display all the properties.

char *SwishResultPropertyStr (SWISH *handle, RESULT *result, char *property )

Once you have a result returned from SwishNext() you can call this function to fetch a string value of any property.

    printf("path = %s\n", SwishResultPropertyStr (swish_handle, result, "swishdocpath" ) );

If the property named is not defined (invalid name supplied) swish will return the string ``(null)''. If the property does not exist for this result the null string will be returned.

You must not free the memory returned by the call, and you must copy the string to a new memory location if you wish to keep the string around longer than just while processing the current result.

Currently, a cache of one result's properties (per index) are stored in memory.

unsigned long SwishResultPropertyULong (SWISH *handle, RESULT *result, char *property )

This will return numeric (and date) properties as an unsigned long.

It will return ULONG_MAX on error, which can mean either that the property name specified was invalid, the property specified was not a numeric or date property, or simply that the no value exists for the current result. Check SwishError() to determine if it's a real error vs. just that the result does not have the property.

int SwishError(struct SWISH *handle)

This function returns the last error code. It's often used as a test to see if any errors happened on the last operation.

char *SwishErrorString(struct SWISH *handle)

Returns the string version of the error code. See src/error.c for possible errors. This is a generic error class. See SwishLastErrorMsg() for possible specific messages.

char *SwishLastErrorMsg(struct SWISH *handle)

This can return additional (more specific) information about the last error. For example, SwishErrorString() might return:

    Index file error

But SwishLastErrorMsg might give details like:

    Couldn't open the property file "index1.prop": No such file or directory

SwishAbortLastError( SWISH *handle )

This will abort the program, and format and print any error messages.

SwishCriticalError( SWISH *handle )

This will return true if the last error was critical. A critical error means swish is in an unstable state and you must call SwishClose() on the handle.


Call this after calling SwishInit() and any messages or warning will be sent to stderr (standard error) instead of to stdout. This might be important when running swish-e in a web server environment.


This is used to set the limit ranges on a property (as is done with the -L switch when running swish from the command line.


Clears the limits set by SetLimitParameter(). If you use limits you will need to clear them after each request.

Stem(char **inword, int *lenword)

This can be used to convert a word to its stem. Word is modified in place (or reallocated if needed.

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Please report bug reports to the Swish-e discussion group. Feel also free to improve or enhance this feature.

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Author Aug 2000 Jose Ruiz

Updated: Aug 22, 2002 - Bill Moseley

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Document Info

$Id: SWISH-LIBRARY.pod,v 1.4 2002/08/22 23:08:07 whmoseley Exp $

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