Tuning Sphinx to search unicode effectively

by Daniel Alexander Smith on August 21st, 2009

In this post, i’m going to briefly describe some settings that I’ve found enable results from sphinx searches to most closely match the expectations of users. Specifically, for things like performing a search on “theatre” and getting results that match “théâtre” too.

Firstly, make sure your database is properly encoding utf8 (see previous posts here for some hints).

In the index definition in your sphinx.conf, you may want to have the following lines.

  • enable_star = 1 means wildcards are on.
  • min_prefix_len = 1 means that people can search for “b*”, by default it’s 3 character before a *.
  • morphology = stem_en means that query expansion using English word stemming is enabled, so that “walk” will also match “walking” for example.
  • charset_type = utf-8 tells sphinx that we’re using utf-8, and that some characters will be double-byte because of this.
  • charset_table = ….. is list of mappings that tell sphinx to translate certain characters before indexing, which means that e.g.:
    • Unicode Codepoint U+00C0 (À) should be considered equal to a.

    I got this list from http://yob.id.au/blog/2008/05/08/thinking_sphinx_and_unicode/.

This setup means that we will match “théâtre” when we do a search for “theatre.” Excellent.

	enable_star = 1
	min_prefix_len = 1
	morphology = stem_en
	charset_type = utf-8
	charset_table = 0..9, a..z, _, A..Z->a..z, U+00C0->a, U+00C1->a,
    U+00C2->a, U+00C3->a, U+00C4->a, U+00C5->a, U+00C7->c, U+00C8->e,
    U+00C9->e, U+00CA->e, U+00CB->e, U+00CC->i, U+00CD->i, U+00CE->i,
    U+00CF->i, U+00D1->n, U+00D2->o, U+00D3->o, U+00D4->o, U+00D5->o,
    U+00D6->o, U+00D9->u, U+00DA->u, U+00DB->u, U+00DC->u, U+00DD->y,
    U+00E0->a, U+00E1->a, U+00E2->a, U+00E3->a, U+00E4->a, U+00E5->a,
    U+00E7->c, U+00E8->e, U+00E9->e, U+00EA->e, U+00EB->e, U+00EC->i,
    U+00ED->i, U+00EE->i, U+00EF->i, U+00F1->n, U+00F2->o, U+00F3->o,
    U+00F4->o, U+00F5->o, U+00F6->o, U+00F9->u, U+00FA->u, U+00FB->u,
    U+00FC->u, U+00FD->y, U+00FF->y, U+0100->a, U+0101->a, U+0102->a,
    U+0103->a, U+0104->a, U+0105->a, U+0106->c, U+0107->c, U+0108->c,
    U+0109->c, U+010A->c, U+010B->c, U+010C->c, U+010D->c, U+010E->d,
    U+010F->d, U+0112->e, U+0113->e, U+0114->e, U+0115->e, U+0116->e,
    U+0117->e, U+0118->e, U+0119->e, U+011A->e, U+011B->e, U+011C->g,
    U+011D->g, U+011E->g, U+011F->g, U+0120->g, U+0121->g, U+0122->g,
    U+0123->g, U+0124->h, U+0125->h, U+0128->i, U+0129->i, U+012A->i,
    U+012B->i, U+012C->i, U+012D->i, U+012E->i, U+012F->i, U+0130->i,
    U+0134->j, U+0135->j, U+0136->k, U+0137->k, U+0139->l, U+013A->l,
    U+013B->l, U+013C->l, U+013D->l, U+013E->l, U+0142->l, U+0143->n,
    U+0144->n, U+0145->n, U+0146->n, U+0147->n, U+0148->n, U+014C->o,
    U+014D->o, U+014E->o, U+014F->o, U+0150->o, U+0151->o, U+0154->r,
    U+0155->r, U+0156->r, U+0157->r, U+0158->r, U+0159->r, U+015A->s,
    U+015B->s, U+015C->s, U+015D->s, U+015E->s, U+015F->s, U+0160->s,
    U+0161->s, U+0162->t, U+0163->t, U+0164->t, U+0165->t, U+0168->u,
    U+0169->u, U+016A->u, U+016B->u, U+016C->u, U+016D->u, U+016E->u,
    U+016F->u, U+0170->u, U+0171->u, U+0172->u, U+0173->u, U+0174->w,
    U+0175->w, U+0176->y, U+0177->y, U+0178->y, U+0179->z, U+017A->z,
    U+017B->z, U+017C->z, U+017D->z, U+017E->z, U+01A0->o, U+01A1->o,
    U+01AF->u, U+01B0->u, U+01CD->a, U+01CE->a, U+01CF->i, U+01D0->i,
    U+01D1->o, U+01D2->o, U+01D3->u, U+01D4->u, U+01D5->u, U+01D6->u,
    U+01D7->u, U+01D8->u, U+01D9->u, U+01DA->u, U+01DB->u, U+01DC->u,
    U+01DE->a, U+01DF->a, U+01E0->a, U+01E1->a, U+01E6->g, U+01E7->g,
    U+01E8->k, U+01E9->k, U+01EA->o, U+01EB->o, U+01EC->o, U+01ED->o,
    U+01F0->j, U+01F4->g, U+01F5->g, U+01F8->n, U+01F9->n, U+01FA->a,
    U+01FB->a, U+0200->a, U+0201->a, U+0202->a, U+0203->a, U+0204->e,
    U+0205->e, U+0206->e, U+0207->e, U+0208->i, U+0209->i, U+020A->i,
    U+020B->i, U+020C->o, U+020D->o, U+020E->o, U+020F->o, U+0210->r,
    U+0211->r, U+0212->r, U+0213->r, U+0214->u, U+0215->u, U+0216->u,
    U+0217->u, U+0218->s, U+0219->s, U+021A->t, U+021B->t, U+021E->h,
    U+021F->h, U+0226->a, U+0227->a, U+0228->e, U+0229->e, U+022A->o,
    U+022B->o, U+022C->o, U+022D->o, U+022E->o, U+022F->o, U+0230->o,
    U+0231->o, U+0232->y, U+0233->y, U+1E00->a, U+1E01->a, U+1E02->b,
    U+1E03->b, U+1E04->b, U+1E05->b, U+1E06->b, U+1E07->b, U+1E08->c,
    U+1E09->c, U+1E0A->d, U+1E0B->d, U+1E0C->d, U+1E0D->d, U+1E0E->d,
    U+1E0F->d, U+1E10->d, U+1E11->d, U+1E12->d, U+1E13->d, U+1E14->e,
    U+1E15->e, U+1E16->e, U+1E17->e, U+1E18->e, U+1E19->e, U+1E1A->e,
    U+1E1B->e, U+1E1C->e, U+1E1D->e, U+1E1E->f, U+1E1F->f, U+1E20->g,
    U+1E21->g, U+1E22->h, U+1E23->h, U+1E24->h, U+1E25->h, U+1E26->h,
    U+1E27->h, U+1E28->h, U+1E29->h, U+1E2A->h, U+1E2B->h, U+1E2C->i,
    U+1E2D->i, U+1E2E->i, U+1E2F->i, U+1E30->k, U+1E31->k, U+1E32->k,
    U+1E33->k, U+1E34->k, U+1E35->k, U+1E36->l, U+1E37->l, U+1E38->l,
    U+1E39->l, U+1E3A->l, U+1E3B->l, U+1E3C->l, U+1E3D->l, U+1E3E->m,
    U+1E3F->m, U+1E40->m, U+1E41->m, U+1E42->m, U+1E43->m, U+1E44->n,
    U+1E45->n, U+1E46->n, U+1E47->n, U+1E48->n, U+1E49->n, U+1E4A->n,
    U+1E4B->n, U+1E4C->o, U+1E4D->o, U+1E4E->o, U+1E4F->o, U+1E50->o,
    U+1E51->o, U+1E52->o, U+1E53->o, U+1E54->p, U+1E55->p, U+1E56->p,
    U+1E57->p, U+1E58->r, U+1E59->r, U+1E5A->r, U+1E5B->r, U+1E5C->r,
    U+1E5D->r, U+1E5E->r, U+1E5F->r, U+1E60->s, U+1E61->s, U+1E62->s,
    U+1E63->s, U+1E64->s, U+1E65->s, U+1E66->s, U+1E67->s, U+1E68->s,
    U+1E69->s, U+1E6A->t, U+1E6B->t, U+1E6C->t, U+1E6D->t, U+1E6E->t,
    U+1E6F->t, U+1E70->t, U+1E71->t, U+1E72->u, U+1E73->u, U+1E74->u,
    U+1E75->u, U+1E76->u, U+1E77->u, U+1E78->u, U+1E79->u, U+1E7A->u,
    U+1E7B->u, U+1E7C->v, U+1E7D->v, U+1E7E->v, U+1E7F->v, U+1E80->w,
    U+1E81->w, U+1E82->w, U+1E83->w, U+1E84->w, U+1E85->w, U+1E86->w,
    U+1E87->w, U+1E88->w, U+1E89->w, U+1E8A->x, U+1E8B->x, U+1E8C->x,
    U+1E8D->x, U+1E8E->y, U+1E8F->y, U+1E96->h, U+1E97->t, U+1E98->w,
    U+1E99->y, U+1EA0->a, U+1EA1->a, U+1EA2->a, U+1EA3->a, U+1EA4->a,
    U+1EA5->a, U+1EA6->a, U+1EA7->a, U+1EA8->a, U+1EA9->a, U+1EAA->a,
    U+1EAB->a, U+1EAC->a, U+1EAD->a, U+1EAE->a, U+1EAF->a, U+1EB0->a,
    U+1EB1->a, U+1EB2->a, U+1EB3->a, U+1EB4->a, U+1EB5->a, U+1EB6->a,
    U+1EB7->a, U+1EB8->e, U+1EB9->e, U+1EBA->e, U+1EBB->e, U+1EBC->e,
    U+1EBD->e, U+1EBE->e, U+1EBF->e, U+1EC0->e, U+1EC1->e, U+1EC2->e,
    U+1EC3->e, U+1EC4->e, U+1EC5->e, U+1EC6->e, U+1EC7->e, U+1EC8->i,
    U+1EC9->i, U+1ECA->i, U+1ECB->i, U+1ECC->o, U+1ECD->o, U+1ECE->o,
    U+1ECF->o, U+1ED0->o, U+1ED1->o, U+1ED2->o, U+1ED3->o, U+1ED4->o,
    U+1ED5->o, U+1ED6->o, U+1ED7->o, U+1ED8->o, U+1ED9->o, U+1EDA->o,
    U+1EDB->o, U+1EDC->o, U+1EDD->o, U+1EDE->o, U+1EDF->o, U+1EE0->o,
    U+1EE1->o, U+1EE2->o, U+1EE3->o, U+1EE4->u, U+1EE5->u, U+1EE6->u,
    U+1EE7->u, U+1EE8->u, U+1EE9->u, U+1EEA->u, U+1EEB->u, U+1EEC->u,
    U+1EED->u, U+1EEE->u, U+1EEF->u, U+1EF0->u, U+1EF1->u, U+1EF2->y,
    U+1EF3->y, U+1EF4->y, U+1EF5->y, U+1EF6->y, U+1EF7->y, U+1EF8->y,

In my source definition I also include the following line:

        sql_query_pre           = SET NAMES 'utf8'

Which should ensure that all characters read from the database into the indexer for sphinx will be utf-8.

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1 Comment
  1. dbind permalink

    Thank you, that was awesome.

    For my needs, I removed chars larger than 8 bits since we’re working with iso-8859-1 here. In case someone finds it useful:

    charset_type = sbcs # Single-byte character set
    charset_table = 0..9, a..z, _, A..Z->a..z, \
    U+C0->a, U+C1->a, U+C2->a, U+C3->a, U+C4->a, U+C5->a, \
    U+E0->a, U+E1->a, U+E2->a, U+E3->a, U+E4->a, U+E5->a, \
    U+C8->e, U+C9->e, U+CA->e, U+CB->e, \
    U+E8->e, U+E9->e, U+EA->e, U+EB->e, \
    U+CC->i, U+CD->i, U+CE->i, U+CF->i, \
    U+EC->i, U+ED->i, U+EE->i, U+EF->i, \
    U+D2->o, U+D3->o, U+D4->o, U+D5->o, U+D6->o, \
    U+F2->o, U+F3->o, U+F4->o, U+F5->o, U+F6->o, \
    U+D9->u, U+DA->u, U+DB->u, U+DC->u, \
    U+F9->u, U+FA->u, U+FB->u, U+FC->u, \
    U+C7->c, U+E7->c, \
    U+D1->n, U+F1->n, \
    U+DD->y, U+FD->y, U+FF->y

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