Bootstrap Typeahead using Solr and ColdFusion

As promised all the way back in February, (not really as soon as I would have liked) here is my entry on using Apache Solr and ColdFusion with Bootstrap Typeahead. Previously, I described how to accomplish this with JqueryUI, but with the increasing popularity of Bootstrap, I thought it would be good to add it to the examples.

This example will use the same Solr setup and CFC method (included in CFSolrLib 3.0) as our previous example. If you want to check out the instructions on how to set those up and build your dictionary your auto suggest terms will come from, you can see them here.

I'm using Bootstrap 2.3.2 and JQuery 1.10.2 in this sample. The JavaScript to call Typeahead on my input is as follows:

$(document).ready(function() {

minLength: 1,

source: function(query, process) {
$.post('components/cfsolrlib.cfc?method=getAutoSuggestResults&returnformat=json&term=' + query, { limit: 8 }, function(data) {
var parJSON = JSON.parse(data);
                var suggestions = [];
                $.each(parJSON, function (i, suggestTerm) {

In the JS, I'm telling Bootstrap we're requiring the user to enter at least one character before we show any results. I'm posting to my cfc, passing the string the user has typed into the text box as the "query" variable and making sure to specify a return format of JSON. We're also specifying a limit of 8 results. In the JQuery UI example, we were relying on Solr to limit results. We have a little more control here. I then parse the returned JSON and use the push method to add the results to the suggestions array before calling Bootstrap's process method, returning the results to the input. There are a few more options I could pass to the typeahead method to update multiple inputs, do some custom hightlighting, etc, but for this example we'll keep it basic.

The HTML for our input is pretty basic:

Keyword: <input type="text" id="keyword" name="keyword" class="typeahead" data-provide="typeahead" autocomplete="off" />

I'm using the default "typeahead" style and specifying data-provide="typeahead" while making sure to turn autocomplete off so the browser doesn't try to trump my results.

A working example of the Bootstrap Typeahead version of the auto complete can be viewed at

For more ColdFusion and Solr fun, keep your browser pointed here!

JQuery Autocomplete using Solr and ColdFusion

Everyone who has ever set up a search interface for a client has heard it. "We want it to automatically fill in like Google." It sounds simple enough, but I definitely experienced a bit of a learning curve setting this up. There was a lot of conflicting information out there and there was a lot of trial and error. This is what I finally got to work. There are a couple ways to accomplish this type of UI with Solr, the two most popular being JQuery UI Autocomplete and Bootstrap Type Ahead. Today, we're going to discuss JQuery UI Autocomplete.

The first thing we need to do is set up Solr to create a library of words to make available to fill in our text field. We start by adding a field and field type to our schema.


<!-- Auto Suggest Field Type -->
<fieldType class="solr.TextField" name="text_auto">
<analyzer type="index">
    <tokenizer class="solr.StandardTokenizerFactory"/>
    <filter class="solr.LowerCaseFilterFactory"/>
    <filter class="solr.ShingleFilterFactory" maxShingleSize="4" outputUnigrams="true" outputUnigramsIfNoShingles="false" />
<analyzer type="query">
    <tokenizer class="solr.StandardTokenizerFactory"/>
    <filter class="solr.LowerCaseFilterFactory"/>
    <filter class="solr.StandardFilterFactory"/>
    <filter class="solr.RemoveDuplicatesTokenFilterFactory"/>

<!--- Auto Suggest Field --->

<field name="content_autosuggest" type="text_auto" indexed="true" stored="true" multiValued="false"/>

<!--- Tell Solr to copy contents of indexed documents to our Auto Suggest Field --->

<copyField source="content" dest="content_autosuggest"/>

When initially setting this up, I found a variety of articles on how to set up the field type to return phrases instead of single words. A lot of the articles described the way it was SUPPOSED to work, but for me it never did. Through some more research and tinkering, I found that using the Standard Tokenizer Factory with the Shingle Filter Factory in the index analyzer did the trick. Also, be sure to use the Remove Duplicates filter in your query analyzer so you don't get duplicate results at query time. Finally, we add a copyField tag to tell Solr to use data put into the "content" field to be used for our dictionary. This occurs at index time. You can change this to whatever field you want your results to come from. For example, if your users will be searching on the "title" field, you'll want to copy title data into the content_autosuggest field. In my case, they're searching for text within indexed documents, so I'm using the content field.

Next, we need to set up a search component and request handler in our solrconfig to handle our Auto Suggest requests. Technically, auto suggest is a spell check component since it's actually taking our keystrokes and suggesting possible alternate spellings to complete the word or phrase we're typing in. We set it up like so.


<searchComponent class="solr.SpellCheckComponent" name="suggest">
<lst name="spellchecker">
<str name="name">suggest</str>
<str name="classname">org.apache.solr.spelling.suggest.Suggester</str>
<str name="lookupImpl">org.apache.solr.spelling.suggest.tst.TSTLookup</str>
<str name="field">content_autosuggest</str> <!-- the indexed field to derive suggestions from -->
<str name="buildOnCommit">true</str>
<str name="storeDir">C:\AutoSuggestDictionary</str>
<str name="queryAnalyzerFieldType">text_auto</str>

<requestHandler class="org.apache.solr.handler.component.SearchHandler" name="/suggest">
<lst name="defaults">
<str name="df">content_autosuggest</str>
<str name="spellcheck">true</str>
<str name="spellcheck.dictionary">suggest</str>
<str name="spellcheck.onlyMorePopular">true</str>
<str name="spellcheck.count">25</str>
<str name="spellcheck.collate">true</str>
<arr name="components">

We name our component "suggest" so we know when we query against this component, we're getting back our auto complete "suggestions". Really you can name it whatever you want, but I found "suggest" to make the most sense. There is a bit of mixed information out there on what to set in the "lookupImpl" attribute. This is the lookup class used to make matches. Some information I have read says to always use the FSTLookup due to it's performance. In my case, after some tinkering, I found TSTLookup to work for me better. Information on the different available classes is available on the Solr Wiki page. In the "field" attribute, we list the name of the field we're using for our auto suggest data and set "buildOnCommit" to true. This will ensure that as new content is indexed and committed, it is made available to the suggester component. You can set this to false to save resources, but you will have to run the build command manually to get any new data into the dictionary. The "storeDir" attribute tells Solr where to build the dictionary file. If you do not specify this attribute, the dictionary will be built and stored in memory. This eats up A LOT of memroy. We then specify the field type used for the auto-suggest data, which we set to text_auto in the schema.xml file above.

The request handler is relatively straightforward. We set up a search handler called "/suggest" and set up some default values. Set the "df" (default field) value to content_autosuggest, the field we use exclusively for auto suggest data. Since our component is a spellcheck component, we also have to set up some default values for the spellchecker. First, setting "spellcheck" to true lets Solr know we are using a spellcheck component. The "spellcheck.dictionary" attribute specifys which dictionary (or spellchecker) we're pulling our results from. We're setting this to the "suggest" component we defined above the request handler. The "onlyMorePopular" attribute is not used for spell check, but is used with the suggester to return results sorted by frequency rather than alphabetically. "Count" is simply how many results to return per request. Setting "collate" to true modifys the query slightly. This just ensures that we get the top results for our search term by ordering them properly. Finally, we tie our request handler to our suggest component by adding it to the "components" section of the request handler.

That's it for the Solr setup. I know that was a lot to take in. There's definitely A LOT of configuration to do and it's easy to make a mistake here or there getting all of the pieces tied together. Take it slow and pay attention to the details. As always if you hit a snag, the guy with the green hair is here to lend a hand.

Now, on to the ColdFusion side of the house.

In the latest release of CFSolrLib, there's a method in cfsolrlib.cfc called "getAutoSuggestResults".

getAutoSuggestResults method:

<cffunction name="getAutoSuggestResults" access="remote" returntype="any" output="false">
<cfargument name="term" type="string" required="no">
<cfif Len(trim(ARGUMENTS.term)) gt 0>
<!--- Remove any leading spaces in the search term --->
     <cfset ARGUMENTS.term = "#trim(ARGUMENTS.term)#">
h = new http();
local.suggestResponse = h.send().getPrefix().Filecontent;
if (isXML(local.suggestResponse)){
         local.XMLResponse = XMLParse(local.suggestResponse);
         local.wordList = "";
         if (ArrayLen(XMLResponse.response.lst) gt 1 AND structKeyExists(XMLResponse.response.lst[2].lst, "lst")){
            local.wordCount = ArrayLen(XMLResponse.response.lst[2].lst.lst);
            For (j=1;j LTE local.wordCount; j=j+1){
             if(j eq local.wordCount){
                local.resultCount = XMLResponse.response.lst[2].lst.lst[j].int[1].XmlText;
                local.resultList = arrayNew(1);
                For (i=1;i LTE local.resultCount; i=i+1){
                 arrayAppend(local.resultList, local.wordList & XMLResponse.response.lst[2].lst.lst[j].arr.str[i].XmlText);
                local.wordList = local.wordList & XMLResponse.response.lst[2].lst.lst[j] & " ";
            //sort results aphabetically
            if (ArrayLen(local.resultList)){
            local.resultList = "";
local.resultList = "";
    <cfset local.resultList = "">
<cfreturn local.resultList />

There are lots of loops in there that are basically building lists of suggestions. The cfc sets up the http call to the suggester request handler and parses the XML that gets returned. I've done a little work so the cfc knows if we're typing our second or third word, the suggester takes that into account when looking for suggestions instead of just looking for the word we're currently typing. It's getting back the top valid results from solr and then alphabetizing the list to make it a little more pleasing to the user's eye. It also does a little error checking to make sure we're getting a valid result back from Solr. If not, it simply returns a blank result rather than throwing back an error to the form and blowing the whole business up in the user's face.

Now onto our form.

<InvalidTag src="js/jquery-1.7.2.js"></script>
<InvalidTag src="js/jqueryui/jqueryui-1.8.22.js"></script>
<link rel="stylesheet" href="css/jqueryui/jqueryui-1.8.22.css" type="text/css" />
<InvalidTag type="text/javascript">
$(function() {
source: "components/cfsolrlib.cfc?method=getAutoSuggestResults&returnformat=json"

    <title>CFSolrLib 3.0 | Auto-Suggest example</title>

    Keyword: <input id="keyword" />


First, we include JQuery and JQuery UI to make sure JQuery's autocomplete methods are available. For this example, I just created an input called "keyword" that we will be using to generate our results. In the script block at the top, we're binding our input to our CFC that makes the call to Solr and specifying that we want JSON as our return format. JQuery Autocomplete expects JSON as it's data.

As long as you already have information in your index, Solr will build the dictionary when you start it up. If not, start Solr and index a few things. Since we set buildOnCommit = "true", the items will be added to our dictionary when we commit our changes to the index. You can always manually rebuild your dictionary at any time like so.

h = new http();

You can simplify this further by just typing that URL into a browser to rebuild the dictionary, but this code snippet works well if you want to insert a button or link into an application to rebuild your dictionary on the fly while debugging.

If all went well and you have all of your bits and pieces set up correctly, you should be able to run this in a browser and see results drop down as you begin to type in the input box.

There's a fully functional example of this code, including a properly set up Solr 4.0 instance in the latest CFSolrLib, available on GitHub.

A working example can be viewed at

This is definitely a lot of information to take in. If you get it all working on your first try, well kudos to you. When you get everything customized to your application, this is a very powerful tool.

I plan on writing a post about Bootstrap Type Ahead and Solr very soon. Enjoy!

JQuery Workaround for IE Selects

While trying to append an option to a html select and make it the selected value for a project I was working on, I noticed that although the code worked perfectly in FIrefox, the same code would add a blank entry to my select in IE. After doing some poking around I found this in a bug report on the JQuery website. Since the person reporting the bug posted a workaround, they marked it as will not fix.

Code that works in FF:

$("select[name='MySelect']").append(new Option('value', 'text', selected));
Workaround for IE:

$("select[name='MySelect']").append("<option selected='selected' value='value'> command_value</option>");
These work great for static values. I had a heck of a time finding some code for those of us that want to use variables. After playing with some concatination I came up with this.

$("select[name='MySelect']").append("<option selected='selected' value='" + valueVariable + "'>" + displayVariable + "</option>");
This solved my problem and added the new option to my select box and made it the selected value using the information in my form.

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