Sphinx is an open source full text search server, designed from the ground up with performance, relevance (aka search quality), and integration simplicity in mind. It's written in C++ and works on Linux (RedHat, Ubuntu, etc), Windows, MacOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, and a few other systems.

Sphinx lets you either batch index and search data stored in an SQL database, NoSQL storage, or just files quickly and easily — or index and search data on the fly, working with Sphinx pretty much as with a database server.

A variety of text processing features enable fine-tuning Sphinx for your particular application requirements, and a number of relevance functions ensures you can tweak search quality as well.

Searching via SphinxAPI is as simple as 3 lines of code, and querying via SphinxQL is even simpler, with search queries expressed in good old SQL.

Sphinx clusters scale up to tens of billions of documents and hundreds of millions search queries per day, powering top websites such as Craigslist, Living Social, MetaCafe and Groupon... to view a complete list of known users please visit our Powered-by page.

And last but not least, it's licensed under GPLv2.

Performance and scalability

  • Indexing performance. Sphinx indexes up to 10-15 MB of text per second per single CPU core, that is 60+ MB/sec per server (on a dedicated indexing machine).
  • Searching performance. Searching through 1,000,000-document, 1.2 GB text collection that we use for everyday development and testing runs at 500+ queries/sec on a 2-core desktop machine with 2 GB of RAM.
  • Scalability. Biggest known Sphinx cluster indexes 25+ billion documents, resulting in over 9TB of data. Busiest known one is Craigslist, serving 300+ million search queries/day.

Key features

  • Batch and Real-Time full-text indexes. Two index backends that support both efficient offline index construction andincremental on-the-fly index updates are available.
  • Non-text attributes support. An arbitrary number of attributes (product IDs, company names, prices, etc) can be stored in the index and used either just for retrieveal (to avoid hitting the DB), or for efficient Sphinx-side search result set post-processing.
  • SQL database indexing. Sphinx can directly access and index data stored in MySQL (all storage engines are supported), PostgreSQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, SQLite, Drizzle, and anything else that supports ODBC.
  • Non-SQL storage indexing. Data can also be streamed to batch indexer in a simple XML format called XMLpipe, or inserted directly into an incremental RT index.
  • Easy application integration. Sphinx comes with three different APIs, SphinxAPI, SphinxSE, and SphinxQL. SphinxAPI is a native library available for Java, PHP, Python, Perl, C, and other languages. SphinxSE, a pluggable storage engine for MySQL, enables huge result sets to be shipped directly to MySQL server for post-processing. SphinxQL lets the application query Sphinx using standard MySQL client libary and query syntax.
  • Advanced full-text searching syntax. Our querying engine supports arbitrarily complex queries combining boolean operators, phrase, proximity, strict order, and quorum matching, field and position limits, exact keyword form matching, substring searches, etc.
  • Rich database-like querying features. Sphinx does not limit you to just keyword searching. On top of full-text search result set, you can compute arbitrary arithmetic expressions, add WHERE conditions, do ORDER BY, GROUP BY, use MIN/MAX/AVG/SUM, aggregates etc. Essentially, full-blown SQL SELECT is supported.
  • Better relevance ranking. Unlike many other engines, Sphinx does not solely rely on 30-year-old statistical ranking that only considers keyword frequencies, nor limits you to it. By default, Sphinx additionally analyzes keyword proximity, and ranks closer phrase matches higher, with perfect matches ranked on top. Also, ranking is flexible: you can choose from a number of built-in relevance functions, tweak their weights by using expressions, or develop new ones.
  • Flexible text processing. Sphinx indexing features include full support for SBCS and UTF-8 encodings (meaning that effectively all world's languages are supported); stopword removal and optional hit position removal (hitless indexing); morphology and synonym processing through word forms dictionaries and stemmers; exceptions and blended characters; and many more.
  • Distributed searching. Searches can be distributed across multiple machines, enabling horizontal scale-out and HA (High Availability).


The Sphinx Search server is dual-licensed, thus it can be either commercially licensed or freely available via the Downloads page if used in accordance with the terms of the GPL v.2.

For those interested in commercial licensing, typically needed for embedding Sphinx in non-GPL products (OEMs/ISVs). Please refer to the Commercial Licensing page for additional information, or reach out to the Sphinx Licensing team directly via our Contact page.

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