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Optimization for very large search results

How to configure Index Manager to handle searches that produce very large search results.

Why this is important

When users perform searches that produce a very large number of hits, chances are slim that they will be able to scroll through the search results in a meaningful way. Another aspect of this is that Index Manager's search engine may block other users from searching when handling such large results. In a system where FotoWeb is connected to the Index Manager and hosts archives for a great number of users, this will almost certainly have a negative effect on the perceived performance of the system.

One way Index Manager can be configured to bypass this potential issue is to have a search threshold set. This will make the server abort the search when X number of files have been found, and these will be returned to the requesting client.

The downside to this is that the search results may appear artbitrary - there is no guarantee that the user gets the latest, and presumably most relevant, hits.

Setting a search threshold

Open the index properties and go to the Advanced tab. Tick the Abort search threshold checkbox and set the maximum number of hits a search can produce before the search is canceled. 

Index search handling options

Alternatives to using a search threshold

As explained above, using a search threshold may not always be ideal. However, there are other options that can assist in reducing the number of search hits. One obvious alternative is creating smaller individual indexes that will create smaller search results. Another is to create individual indexes and configure search filtering to add some initial filtering that affects the actual content that is added to the index. Filtering can be defined either by adding file filtering on the index itself, or by setting a query that limits the content that is exposed in the index when users access it.

Finally, teaching users how to use the system and how to produce precise searches is also very valuable. To this end, users of FotoStation can create complex queries and store them for later use to avoid lots of rephrasing. In FotoWeb, you can use taxonomies to help users more easily navigate to the content they're likely to be interested in.

Disabling leading search characters

If Index Manager logs show that users frequently search using leading wildcards in their queries, this is typically something that will produce very large search results and can cause the system to appear less responsive. To this end, you can configure Index Manager to ignore search queries that begin with a wildcard:

Open the index properties and go to the Advanced tab. Then tick the Disable leading search characters checkbox.

What this accomplishes

Search strings that begin with a wildcard (#, * and ?) often result in very long search times. These characters have special meaning when preceding a search word. By disabling leading search characters with this option, any search that starts with any of the wildcards will be ignored and return zero hits.