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the Jovian Skye: Search Engine Shootout
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Search Engine Shootout · 10 November 2005 by Julian

I was in the market for a [simple] search engine to use on our staff intranet the other day, so being the PHP/MySQL developer (& proponent of Open Source Software) that I was I hunted down two choices; PhpDig & Sphider.

First I tried PhpDig

So I went to the site & downloaded it. Oh Yeah!, I saw I could index PDFs & Word docs. (Kewl ;-) ). So I went about downloading & installing it. That didn’t take long, except once I tried to get it to index PDFs & Word docs.

PhpDig’s instructions seemed rather straight forward, but I was having problems getting it to index the PDFs (I thought I’d try that first, before indexing the Word docs). So RTFM, . . . no help. Then I tried to look through the forums, . . . no help, but wait . . . these forums seem to have only half the threads in them, hmm, maybe I’d better register. So I did.

Still half of the threads are missing, but wait hang on a second there, there’s . . . a . . . link. Whoa what did I discover, the software is open source & the software is free but wait the help’s gonna cost yah (BURN!). Oh did that leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Why can’t he just say, it’s NOT FREE??!!?? It’s not that I wouldn’t pay for it (I do pay for some software), I’d just like to know about the cost before I’VE INSTALLED THE BLOODY THING!

So the next decision was; am I going to keep this? the search engine was pretty good, fast easy to use & it has templates, but wait a second there’s only 300 something-odd pages that have been indexed, this site is several thousand. Ok back to RTFM, . . . no help there. CRAP!

So I went of in a search for another engine . . .

Enter Sphider

Well pretty much Sphider was as straight forward to install as PhpDig. The feature set wasnâ??t quite there yet (no Word/Excel indexing on Windows), & it was apparent that the project wasnâ??t quite as advanced as PhpDig (no templates, nor XHTML code, these are â??in the worksâ? supposedly).

Setup was quick just a few things to do, one thing missing is documentation of any substance (a problem of all OSS really). But I was up in running within an hour or so. It was good to see the use of excluded areas of the page to index (just add some comments to your include files & youâ??re away)

One big difference (other than the fact I could get it to index the whole site) was the speed in which it indexed the site, quite noticeably quicker (& the feedback on the indexing was good too).

I was very impressed with the backend tools for Sphider, simple but all that you really need.

The Verdict

Not much of a hard problem picking the winner; the fastest, the most thorough & the easiest to get help on (& the one I kept), was Sphider. Although still missing a few features Iâ??m very certain it will catch up.

Iâ??ve had Sphider running on our Intranet web site for a few weeks now & itâ??s been very successful, itâ??s interesting to view the â??Most popular searchesâ? & looking at the top keywords is useful to track the information that people are the most interested in.

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