Automatic Generation of Document Ids With the Fluent API

by Dennis 15. August 2013 09:48

Sometimes you’ll want to insert documents into a Sphinx real-time index that don’t come with a id assigned. This might be for instance because they don’t originate from a database. As a matter of fact, the search functionality for this website is implemented without first going through a database: the content is both scrapped by a crawler and read from the corresponding files and then stored directly in a Sphinx real-time index.

So, wouldn’t it be nice if SphinxConnector.NET could automatically assign an id to these documents before saving, so you don’t have to do it yourself? This is what a user thought and what we implemented for the next release (version 3.7).

Two new members have been added to IFulltextStore.Conventions:

public Func<object, bool> DocumentNeedsIdAssigned { get; set; }

public Func<object, object> DocumentIdGenerator { get; set; }

The first, DocumentNeedsIdAssigned, is responsible for telling SphinxConnector.NET whether a document that is about to be saved, needs an id assigned. It comes with a default that will return false if the document in question already has an id with a value greater 0, and true otherwise.

The second, DocumentIdGenerator, is responsible for generating the id. It receives the document that needs to have an id generated (in case the generator has to inspect it before creating an id) and should return the generated id. There is no default generator, so one needs to be provided by the developer for this functionality to work. Let’s have a look at some id generation algorithms you could use:

Id Generation Algorithms

For an algorithm to be suitable for use with Sphinx, it has to generate a unique, positive 32-bit or 64-bit integer number for each document. There are a couple of id generation algorithms that fulfill this requirement: for example a simple sequential generation algorithm could be used, or the hi/lo algorithm which some of you might know from NHibernate. Both need some kind of persistent storage that provides transactional semantics, to avoid duplicate ids being generated. If you are only performing a one time import, you could use a simple sequential id generator that increments id values in memory though.

Alternatively, you could use an id generator such as Snowflake (created by Twitter) or Flake. Snowflake has a .NET port, RustFlakes is a derivative of Flake for .NET which is also available via NuGet. Both can generate unique, positive 64-bit integers without the need of persistent storage.


As stated above, this site’s search functionality is based on Sphinx with the documents being stored in a real-time index. Indexing is done by crawling the site and directly storing the documents in the index, which requires us to generate an id.

Before, we generated and assigned the id manually prior to each call to Save. Now, we assign the id generation method to IFulltextStore.Conventions.DocumentIdGenerator and SphinxConnector.NET will take care of both invoking this method and assigning the id on each call to Save:

var idGenerator = new IdGenerator();
var fulltextStore = new FulltextStore().Initialize(); fulltextStore.Conventions.DocumentIdGenerator = _ => idGenerator.NextId(); using (var session = fulltextStore.StartSession()) { var webpage = new Webpage //<-- Our document, note that we don’t assign an id { Title = "SphinxConnector.NET", Url = "", Content = "Sphinx .NET API" }; session.Save(webpage); //<-- Id will be generated and assigned to document here
session.FlushChanges(); }


This new functionality allows you to delegate the task of generating an id and assigning it to a document to SphinxConnector.NET. By using existing id generators such as Snowflake or RustFlakes, you can create your setup within a couple of minutes and just a few lines of code.



Indexing Office and PDF Files With Sphinx and .NET

by Dennis 6. February 2013 13:19

Sphinx is a great full-text search engine with many amazing features, but there is one feature missing that would make it even better: the ability to directly index Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF files. How one can index these kinds of documents with Sphinx is something that is often asked in the Sphinx forum. Today I’d like to show you an easy way to extract text from these document types and store them in a Sphinx real-time index from your .NET application.

There are a bunch of tools and libraries out there that claim to be able to extract text from various document formats. As it is a pretty hard task to support many formats and extract text reliably, the quality of each library varies greatly. One tool that stands out is the Apache Tika™ toolkit. It is a Java library that

“detects and extracts metadata and structured text content from various documents using existing parser libraries.”

And it is really very good at it. Amongst others, it supports Microsoft Office, Open Document (ODF), and PDF files. But wait, I said Java library, didn’t I? “What am I supposed to do with a Java library in my .NET application?”, you might ask. Well, we’ll just convert it from Java to .NET using IKVM.NET. IKVM.NET is a .NET implementation of a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) which can be used as a drop-in replacement for Java. And it comes with a Java bytecode to CIL translator named ikvmc that we can use to build a .NET version of Apache Tika. In the next section, I’ll walk through the steps required to do this. At the end of this article you can download a complete sample application that uses Tika to extract text from some files and stores them in a Sphinx real-time index via SphinxConnector.NET.

Creating a .NET Version of Apache Tika

To create your own .NET version of Apacha Tika you need to:

  1. Download IKVM.NET
  2. Download the .jar file from the Tika project page (the current version at the time of writing is 1.3)
  3. Extract IKVM.NET to a folder of your choice
  4. Optional: Add the bin folder of IKVM.NET to your %PATH% variable
  5. Execute the following command (add/change the paths to ikvmc.exe and tika-app-1.3.jar if needed):
ikvmc.exe -target:library -version: -out:Apache.Tika.dll tika-app-1.3.jar

Let’s walk through the command line parameters: With –target:library we tell ikvmc to convert the jar to a class library. This is needed because the jar file is also usable as a standalone console/gui application, i.e. contains a main() method, which by default would cause ikvmc to generate an exe file. Next, we specify the version for our output DLL because otherwise ikvmc would set the version to Finally we specify the output file name via –out: and the path to the Tika jar file.

After hitting Enter, ikvmc starts to translate the Java library to .NET. It’ll output a lot of warning messages, but will eventually finish and produce a working DLL. Note that if you want to sign the output assembly you can do so by specifying a key file via the -keyfile: command line option.

Extracting Text from Documents

Now that we've created a .NET library of Tika, we can start extracting text from documents. I’ve created small wrapper that provides methods to perform the extraction. To build the wrapper DLL we need to add references to a couple of IKVM.NET libraries:


Note that you need to reference more of IKVM.NET’s DLL’s in an application that uses Tika, these are just the required files to compile the wrapper project.

The AutoTextExtractor class which handles the extraction of text from files and binary data (useful if your documents are stored in a DB) and the TextExtractionResult class are based on these by Kevin Miller:

public class AutoTextExtractor
  public TextExtractionResult Extract(string filePath,OutputType outputType = OutputType.Text)
      return Extract(System.IO.File.ReadAllBytes(filePath), outputType);

  public TextExtractionResult Extract(byte[] data, OutputType outputType = OutputType.Text)
      var parser = new AutoDetectParser();
      var metadata = new Metadata();

      using (Writer outputWriter = new StringWriter())
      using (InputStream inputStream = TikaInputStream.get(data, metadata))
          parser.parse(inputStream, GetTransformerHandler(outputWriter, outputType), 
              metadata, new ParseContext());
          return AssembleExtractionResult(outputWriter.toString(), metadata);

  private static TextExtractionResult AssembleExtractionResult(string text, Metadata metadata)
      Dictionary<string, string> metaDataResult = metadata.names().
          ToDictionary(name => name, name => String.Join(", ", metadata.getValues(name)));

      string contentType = metaDataResult["Content-Type"];

      return new TextExtractionResult
          Text = text,
          ContentType = contentType,
          Metadata = metaDataResult

  private TransformerHandler GetTransformerHandler(Writer outputWriter, OutputType outputType)
      var factory = (SAXTransformerFactory)TransformerFactory.newInstance();
      TransformerHandler handler = factory.newTransformerHandler();
      handler.getTransformer().setOutputProperty(OutputKeys.METHOD, outputType.ToString());
      handler.setResult(new StreamResult(outputWriter));

      return handler;

Here’s the TextExtractionResult class:

public class TextExtractionResult
    public string Text { get; set; }
    public string ContentType { get; set; }
    public IDictionary<string, string> Metadata { get; set; }

And the OutputType enumeration:

public enum OutputType

Demo Application

I’ve created a small demo application that contains a DLL that wraps Tika with the help of the aforementioned classes, and a console application that demonstrates how to extract and store the contents of some files in a Sphinx real-time index with SphinxConnector.NET. The code that does the extraction is pretty simple:

private static SphinxDocumentModel[] GetDocuments()
    AutoTextExtractor textExtractor = new AutoTextExtractor();

    int id = 1;

    return (from filePath in Directory.EnumerateFiles(@"..\..\..\..\testfiles")
            select new SphinxDocumentModel
                Id = id++,
                FileContent = textExtractor.Extract(filePath).Text,
                FilePath = Path.GetFullPath(filePath)

I’ll omit the code that saves the documents to the index, as it is straightforward. Tip: if you are working with big files you might have to increase Sphinx’ max_packet_size setting.

The archive contains all required libraries so it’s pretty big (IKVM.NET and Tika alone take up about 50 MB in space).


[1] Zip-Package (22 MB)

[2] 7z-Package (18 MB)

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How-to | Tutorial

Optimized Attribute Filtering with SphinxConnector.NET’s Fluent API

by Dennis 1. February 2013 12:11

An interesting article over at the MySQL Performance Blog was recently published about optimizing Sphinx queries that only filter by an attribute (i.e. do not contain a full-text query). I recommend reading the article first and then coming back here, but here’s a quick summary: a Sphinx query that only filters by an attribute may be relatively slow compared to an equivalent query in a regular DBMS. The reason for this is the fact that one cannot create indexes (as in B-tree indexes) for attributes in Sphinx as one would do in a DBMS. So to retrieve the results of such a query, Sphinx has to perform a full-scan of the index which is relatively costly depending on the size of the index.

The article describes a neat trick to get around this limitation: by adding a full-text indexed field for an attribute and querying that, one can achieve a greatly improved query time. In this post I’d like to demonstrate how this technique can be used with SphinxConnector.NET’s fluent API in conjunction with a real-time index.

The index in the articles example contains data about books, so I’ll be using that here as well. These documents have an integer attribute for a user id that we’d like to store as a full-text indexed field. Let’s take a look at what the document model should look like and which additional settings need to be applied.

To add the user id attribute to the full-text index it needs to be converted to a string. We’ll also add a prefix to each value to avoid it being included in the results of a “regular” full-text query. To do this, we add a string property to the document model that returns the converted and prefixed value:

public class CatalogItem
    public int Id { get; set; }

    public int UserId { get; set; }

    public string Title { get; set; }

    public string UserIdKey
        get { return "userkey_" + UserId; }

As of Version 3.2, SphinxConnector.NET will automatically exclude any read-only property when selecting the results of a query, so no further setup is required here (it will of course still be inserted into the index during a save).

In previous versions of SphinxConnector.NET the UserIdKey property would have to be configured as follows:

fulltextStore.Conventions.IsFulltextFieldOnly = memberInfo => memberInfo.Name == "UserIdKey";

A query that uses the new attribute would then look this:

IList<CatalogItem> results = session.Query<CatalogItem>().
                                     Match("@UserIdKey userkey_42").

For the sake of completeness, here’s the corresponding Sphinx configuration:

index catalog
    type = rt
    path = catalog
rt_field = title rt_field = useridkey rt_attr_string = title rt_attr_uint = userid }

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A Quick Way to Setup Logging during Development

by Dennis 18. January 2013 09:29

I’ve been asked a few times if there’s a quick way to get logging output from SphinxConnector.NET without setting up a “real” logging framework like NLog. Here’s one: Common.Logging comes with two adapters named TraceLoggerFactoryAdapter and ConsoleOutLoggerFactoryAdapter. The latter (obviously) logs messages to the console, while the former logs messages via .NET’s Trace class. One nice thing about the trace log is that it can be accessed via Visual Studio’s ‘Output’ window (CTRL+ALT+O) if your application is running with a debugger attached (F5).

Here is the relevant code:

private static void SetupLogging()
    LogManager.Adapter = new TraceLoggerFactoryAdapter
        Level = LogLevel.All,
        ShowLevel = true,
        ShowDateTime = true,

I also added a Conditional attribute to the setup method to ensure that it is only being called in a debug configuration.



Using SphinxConnector.NET with ASP.NET MVC

by Dennis 21. December 2012 11:41

As using Sphinx from a web application is probably the most common use case,  I thought I’d post some guidelines and examples on how to use the fluent API in an ASP.NET MVC application with regards to setup and proper handling of IFulltextStore and IFulltextSession. The documentation already mentions that there should (usually) be one instance of the FulltextStore per application and one IFulltextSession per thread/(web-) request. Let’s take a look at a few different approaches to this:

Using Lazy


This approach makes use of the Lazy<T> class that was introduced with .NET 4.0. We create a base controller that holds the IFulltextStore instance which will be initialized upon the first access. Lazy<T> will make sure that the FulltextStore is created only once in a thread-safe way.

public abstract class SearchController : Controller
    private static readonly Lazy<IFulltextStore> Store = new Lazy<IFulltextStore>(() =>
        IFulltextStore fulltextStore = new FulltextStore().Initialize();

        return fulltextStore;

    protected static IFulltextStore FulltextStore
        get { return Store.Value; }

    protected IFulltextSession FulltextSession { get; private set; }

    protected override void OnActionExecuting(ActionExecutingContext filterContext)
        FulltextSession = FulltextStore.StartSession();

    protected override void OnActionExecuted(ActionExecutedContext filterContext)
        if (filterContext.IsChildAction || FulltextSession == null)

        using (FulltextSession)
            if (filterContext.Exception != null)


The IFulltextSession for every request is created in an override of OnActionExecuting by assigning the result of StartSession to the FulltextSession property. This way, every controller that inherits from SearchController automatically gets an open session that is ready for use. In the override of OnActionExecuted we tell the FulltextSession to flush all pending changes. The using statement ensures that it is properly disposed of.

Using an IoC-Container


Following is an example installer for Castle Windsor:

public class SphinxConnectorInstaller : IWindsorInstaller
    public void Install(IWindsorContainer container, IConfigurationStore store)
                                     Instance(new FulltextStore().Initialize()).
                                     UsingFactoryMethod(kernel =>

In this example, we setup Castle Windsor so that it can create both IFulltextStore and IFulltextSession. If you wanted to create IFulltextSession yourself (by injecting IFulltextStore into your classes and calling StartSession), you could remove the corresponding code from the installer.

We instruct Windsor to use the Singleton lifestyle for IFulltextStore, which means that Windsor will create one instance per container. In fact, Windsor uses Singleton is the default lifestyle, but in cases like this I’d like to make that explicit, so that developers that are not familiar with Windsor immediately see what’s going on. For IFulltextSession we set LifestylePerWebRequest so that Windsor will create an instance for each request; it will also automatically call Dispose at the end of each request, so we don’t have to worry about that. If you wanted Windsor to also call FlushChanges, you could do so with the help of Windsor’s OnDestroy method.

Initialization at Application Startup


Like with the first approach, we create a base controller, this time with a static property hat holds the IFulltextStore instance. The instance is initialized in the Global.asax.cs file in Application_Start:

public abstract class SearchController : Controller 
    public static IFulltextStore FulltextStore { get; set; }
protected IFulltextSession FulltextSession { get; private set; }
//Overrides of OnActionExecuting and OnActionExecuted omitted }
protected void Application_Start()



private static void InitFulltextStore()
    IFulltextStore fulltextStore = new FulltextStore().Initialize();

    SearchController.FulltextStore = fulltextStore;

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