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Magnolia search functionality is provided by the Jackrabbit repository. An indexer extracts text from nodes and properties. The content of pages, content apps and documents is included in the index.

Magnolia provides a transparent, preconfigured indexing configuration for administrators and templating functions for front-end developers which allow them to implement search with a FreeMarker script.

The Magnolia Travels demo site includes a complete search example, including displaying content stored in a content app in search results.

How search indexing works

Indexing is the process of collecting and parsing content, and storing the data in an index to make information retrieval fast and accurate.

Magnolia search is based on the default Jackrabbit search implementation. Jackrabbit uses an Apache Lucene-based indexer to process the data stored in the JCR. An index makes it faster to retrieve requested portions of the data. Node names and property values are indexed immediately and stored in the repository. Text from documents is extracted in a background process which makes document content searchable after a short delay.

You can find the physical index folders and files on the file system in /<CATALINA_HOME>/webapps/<contextPath>/repositories/magnolia/workspaces/*/index. See the Jackrabbit Search wiki to learn how to configure search indexing from scratch and more about the options available with the implementation. The workspace.xml file mentioned on the wiki is in /repositories/magnolia/workspaces/<name of workspace>.

Typically, each Magnolia instance has its own repository and its own index. This means that the author instance index is typically different from public instance indexes. Any content that has not been activated to a public instance cannot be found when running a search on that public instance.

Magnolia index configuration

Magnolia uses a custom Jackrabbit/Lucene indexing configuration. The indexing configuration file is in the Magnolia Core module in /src/main/resources/info/magnolia/jackrabbit and org.apache.jackrabbit.core.query.lucene.SearchIndex gets it from the classpath. 

A generic Magnolia configuration is used for all workspaces. This configuration fine-tunes the default Jackrabbit search configuration for best results. The sections that follow detail the enhancements.

 Special characters

Jackrabbit stores all character data (node names and values) in Unicode. This ensures that special characters such as accents and umlauts are indexed and can be used in search. Issues with special characters are often due to character set conversion problems in the application server. See URI encoding in Tomcat for more.

Excluding nodes

Magnolia typically stores many properties, such as author, modification dates, templates etc., that are not relevant in search results. To minimize the index and speed-up search, all properties starting with jcr: or  mgnl: are excluded from the index. This means you get fewer results but those results are more relevant.

<index-rule nodeType="nt:base">
    <property isRegexp="true" nodeScopeIndex="false">mgnl:.*</property>
    <property isRegexp="true" nodeScopeIndex="false">jcr:.*</property>
    <property isRegexp="true">.*:.*</property>

Boosting title property

The configuration boosts the title property of the mgnl:page node type since page titles are important.

<index-rule nodeType="mgnl:page"> 
   <property boost="3.0">title</property>

Including areas and components 

The configuration uses index aggregates to ensure area and component content is included in the index. The properties of mgnl:area and mgnl:component make up most of the contents of a page and need to be included explicitly. The aggregate also simplifies searching for content within pages. 

Nested areas are also included using the recursive flag. 

<aggregate primaryType="mgnl:page">
    <include primaryType="mgnl:area">*</include>
    <include primaryType="mgnl:component">*</include>

<!-- areas can be nested. See for recursion -->
<aggregate primaryType="mgnl:area" recursive="true">
    <include primaryType="mgnl:component">*</include>
    <include primaryType="mgnl:area">*</include>

Providing excerpts and highlighting search results

The workspace.xml file in each workspace enables highlighting in search results and the Jackrabbit HTML excerpt provider class. The workspace.xml files are in /<CATALINA_HOME>/webapps/<contextPath>/repositories/magnolia/workspaces/<workspace name>.

Here's the relevant extract from workspace.xml in the contacts workspace.

<!-- needed to highlight the searched term -->
<param name="supportHighlighting" value="true"/>
<!-- custom provider for getting an HTML excerpt in a query result with rep:excerpt() -->
<param name="excerptProviderClass" value="info.magnolia.jackrabbit.lucene.SearchHTMLExcerpt"/>

If you have  configured your own app that operates on its own workspace and displays content on a site, you need to add these parameters to the searchIndex element of your workspace.xml file to show excerpts and highlighting in Web search results.

If you have used fields which allow for the storing of HTML, then that HTML will be indexed along with content. There is potential for the excerpt to contain HTML tags which are not closed.

Implementing search using templating functions

There are many ways to implement search on a site. This section explains how to do it using templating functions and uses the Magnolia Travels demo site as an example. If the demo modules are not installed your can download the magnolia-travel-demo-parent module and install the demo and tours modules.

The MTE module provides search templating functions that allow front-end developers to render search results using only a template script. A component model or Java knowledge is not required. This is how search is implemented in the Magnolia Travels demo site.

There are methods for searching pages and other content, such as content stored in content apps. The methods are exposed in templates as searchfn and you can find templating examples at searchfn.

All you need to implement search on a site is a component to retrieve the results from the search index and display them on the page. 

This is how search works on the Magnolia Travels demo site.

  • searchResults component (Git) searches pages and content apps for relevant results. searchResults.ftl (Git) renders this component.
  • searchResultsPage template (Git) autogenerates the searchResults component.
  • Search results display on the /travel/meta/search-results page that is based on the searchResultsPage template.
  • /search-results page is assigned as the search page for the site in the homePageProperties dialog (Git)

Displaying pages in the website workspace

The searchPages method displays pages stored in the website workspace in the search results. This method retrieves pages whose content (text, image and other properties) was added manually in the Pages app, as opposed to content retrieved from an app or another source. Set the root path of the site to return the relevant items.

Here's the snippet from searchResults.ftl in the travel demo. The root path is /travel.

[#-------------- ASSIGNMENTS --------------]
[#assign queryStr = ctx.getParameter('queryStr')!?html]

[#-------------- RENDERING --------------]
[#if content.headline?has_content]

[#if queryStr?has_content]
    [#assign searchResults = searchfn.searchPages(queryStr, '/travel') /]
    [#assign recordsFound = searchResults?size /]

    <h3><em>${recordsFound}</em> ${i18n['search.pagesFoundFor']} "${queryStr}"</span></h3>

    <div class="list-group">
        [#if searchResults?has_content]
            [#list searchResults as item]
                <a href="${}" class="list-group-item">
                    <h4 class="list-group-item-heading">${item.title!}</h4>
                    <p class="list-group-item-text">${item.excerpt!}</p>
    <#-- More processing here, not shown in snippet  >

Here are the results for the term "contact". Excerpts and highlighting are provided automatically by the indexing configuration.

Displaying content stored in apps

The searchContent method allows you to search any content in the JCR. The method is useful to display "pages" whose content is stored in another workspace. In this scenario you need to set the workspace where the content is stored, the parent URL within that workspace and the node type

In the Magnolia Travels demo site all Tour content (text, images and more) is entered in the Tours app and retrieved by a component that displays the content on pages. The app content is stored in the tours workspace, under /magnolia-travels and is of node type mgnl:content.

Here's the snippet from searchResults.ftl that retrieves Tours app content.

[#assign searchResults = searchfn.searchContent('tours', queryStr, '/magnolia-travels', 'mgnl:content') /]
[#assign recordsFound = searchResults?size /]

    <h3><em>${recordsFound}</em> ${i18n['search.toursFoundFor']} "${queryStr}"</span></h3>

    <div class="list-group">
    [#if searchResults?has_content]
        [#list searchResults as item]
            <a href="${}" class="list-group-item">
               <h4 class="list-group-item-heading">${item.description!}</h4>
               <img src="${damfn.getAssetLink(item.image)}" class="img-responsive img-rounded" height="80" width="160" alt="${item.description!}"/>
               <p class="list-group-item-text">${item.excerpt!}</p>

Here are the results for the term "swiss".

URI mappings

Best practice

When you display results from content app workspaces, build a link to a detail page that displays the content item in question using URI mappings.

URI mapping is used in the Demo Travels example to display app content on pages and ensure that the content is included in the search index. URI mapping is a way to redirect incoming requests to the location of the content.

Configuring URI2Repository mapping

The URI2Repository mapping URI mapping mechanism determines which repository node should be served when a particular URI is requested.

Here's the URI2Repository mapping for the tours workspace in /server/URI2RepositoryMapping/mappings/tours.

Node nameValue


















tours URI2Repository mapping node.



Injects the /tours/ path into the request URL.



Repository the mapping applies to.

Configuring VirtualURI mapping

Virtual URI mapping allows you to create short, convenient URLs.

Here's the virtual URI mapping for the Tours app in /modules/tours/virtualURIMapping/toursMapping.

Node nameValue


















Tours virtual URI mapping node.



RegexpVirtualURIMapping allows you to specify a regexp pattern that matches a sequence of characters. A pattern can match a variety of URIs.



Path to tours in the tours workspace as mapped in the URI2Repository mapping configuration.



URI to which tours are forwarded. /travel is the root node of the site and /tour is injected by the URI2Repository mapping configuration.

Customizing search

You can customize search by writing your own queries to search the index and execute them in code. A query returns a result set which you can display on a page.

Write queries in a language supported by the JCR repository such as SQL-2 (grammar, examples).

You can test your queries in the Query subapp. When you get the result set you want, implement the query in code.

Example queries

The following queries are written in SQL-2. See  JCR Query Cheat Sheet  for more examples.

1) Find pages that contain the word "swiss".

Workspace: website

SELECT * FROM [mgnl:page] AS t WHERE 
   CONTAINS(t.*, 'swiss')

2) Find modules that have  commands . This query looks for a folder named commands in the module configuration.

Workspace: config

SELECT * FROM [mgnl:content] AS t WHERE 
   name(t) = 'commands'

3) Find assets that are not JPG images under the /example path in the DAM.

Workspace: dam

SELECT * FROM [nt:base] AS t WHERE 
   ([jcr:primaryType] = 'mgnl:asset' AND 
   [type] <> 'jpg') AND 
ORDER BY [t].title asc

Joins are slow in JCR SQL-2. See Queries in Jackrabbit 2.4.x for issue description and hints.


Search within Magnolia is access controlled. Search results include only content the user has permission to access. Permissions are controlled through Security. When you execute a query in Magnolia context ( MgnlContext ), contextual factors such as the current user's permissions are taken into account. If you do not have permission to the items you are querying, they will not show up in the results.

Solr module

For more advanced search options you can use the Solr module. This module uses the  Apache Solr  search platform to index and crawl Magnolia content. Solr is a standalone enterprise search server with a REST like API. Solr uses the Lucene library for full-text indexing and provides advanced features such as faceted search, distributed search and index replication.


  1. We are using following freemarker code to filter out html tags in the excerpt. Otherwise html code can break due to unclosed tags.
    ${item.excerpt?replace('<[^>]*>', '', 'r')!}
    1. That's a very nice workaround. Thanks for your comment.

    2. It's pretty hard to properly filter out HTML tags.  What happens with your regex if tags are not properly closed, like so:

      <h1Thing I am looking for <style>Heading</h1>hi</style> 

      The HTML code isn't broken here, but you have lost information ("Thing I am looking for ").

    3. Jsoup can be also used for that kind of purpose. Moreover, you can whitelist some tags such <mark> tag to highlight the keyword.