Setting up a Ruby on Rails project with faceted Solr search integration using Sunspot and acts-as-taggable-on

In this article I'll show how to setup a Rails project with faceted solr searching integration. This code uses the following: sunspot gem for Solr integration, and acts-as-taggable-on for tagging and search facets.

RVM/Rails Setup

$ mkdir solrfacets

# create rvm gemset
$ echo "rvm use --create ruby-1.9.2@solrfacets" > solrfacets/.rvmrc

$ cd solrfacets

# install rails
$ gem install rails

# create new rails project
$ rails new .

# version control
$ git init
$ git add .
$ git commit -am "new rails project"

Add gems, file: Gemfile, added:

gem 'acts-as-taggable-on'
gem 'sunspot_rails'
gem 'sunspot_solr', :groups => [:development, :test]

Installing gems

$ bundle

Create default scaffolding for a Post model

$ rails generate scaffold Post title:string content:text

Add tags property to Post model. file: app/models/post.rb

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
   attr_accessible :content, :title
+  acts_as_taggable_on :tags

Run acts-as-taggable-on migration

$ rails generate acts_as_taggable_on:migration

Setup/create database

$ rake db:migrate

Part 2, Random Data

The model is now setup to create Posts with a title, content, and array of tags. For demonstration purposes, I decided to create a rake task to populate the content attribute with lorem ipsum text, and the tags with random words from /usr/share/dict/words.

Modified the Post model to enable :tag_list as mass assignable. file: app/models/post.rb

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
-  attr_accessible :content, :title
+  attr_accessible :content, :title, :tag_list
   acts_as_taggable_on :tags

Added lorem gem; file: Gemfile

gem 'lorem', :groups => [:development]


$ bundle

Created a ruby rake script to create 20 Posts with 20 random tag words. file: lib/tasks/create_random_posts_and_tags.rake

namespace :db do
  desc "Create random posts and tags."
  task :create_random_posts_and_tags => :environment do

    # count the number of lines in the dictionary
    dict_word_count = `wc -l /usr/share/dict/words | awk '{print $1}'`.to_i

    # get 100 random words for the facets
    facet_words ={ `sed $(echo #{Random.rand(dict_word_count)})"q;d" /usr/share/dict/words`.strip! }

    # create 20 random posts
    (1..20).each do |i|

      post = Post.create!({
        :title => "Post #{i}",
        :content =>'paragraphs', 1).output,
        :tag_list =>{ facet_words[rand(facet_words.size)] },



Executed rake task to create posts

$ rake db:create_random_posts_and_tags

Part 3, Solr Sunspot

Generate default configuration

$ rails generate sunspot_rails:install

Add code to index Post data. In this code, I added ":stored => true" to each property to: 1. avoid querying Active Record on the search results page; and 2. to enable matches highlighting. file: app/models/post.rb

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
   attr_accessible :content, :title, :tag_list
   acts_as_taggable_on :tags
+  searchable :auto_index => true, :auto_remove => true do
+    string :title, :stored => true
+    text :content, :stored => true
+    string :tag_list, :multiple => true, :stored => true
+  end

Setup Solr development server via Jetty

# start solr
$ rake sunspot:solr:start

# index data
$ rake sunspot:solr:reindex

At this point, you should be able to browse and query the solr search results and verify the structure of the indexed data. Example URL: http://localhost:8982/solr/select/?q=*:*

Querying solr directly

Add a new Search controller

$ rails generate controller Search search

Revised search controller to be named route. file: config/routes.rb

-  get "search/search"
+  get 'search' => 'search#search', :as => 'search'

Define the search controller method. I set the controller to pass 2 instance variables to the view: @search and @hits. @hits contains the stored values, allowing us to query solr directly, instead of Active Record. file: app/controllers/search_controller.rb

class SearchController < ApplicationController
  def search

    # only search if keyword has been entered
    if params[:keywords].nil? || params[:keywords].empty?
      @hits = []
      @search = do
        fulltext params[:keywords] do
          highlight :content
        facet :tag_list
        paginate :per_page => 10

        # tags, AND'd
        if params[:tag].present?
          all_of do
            params[:tag].each do |tag|
              with(:tag_list, tag)

      @hits = @search.hits


Define the search view. This code contains the following sections: search form, search results (@hits with matches highlighting), and facets generation. I set the facets as an array, to allow the user to select multiple. file: app/views/search/search.html.erb


<!-- FORM: -->
<%= form_tag search_path, :method => :get do %>
  <%= text_field_tag :keywords, params[:keywords] %>
  <%= submit_tag "Search", :name => nil %>
<% end %>

<% if @hits.any? %>
  <h2>Search Results</h2>
    <% @hits.each do |hit| %>
        <%= link_to hit.stored(:title), post_path(hit.primary_key) %><br/>
        <% hit.highlights(:content).each do |highlight| %>
          <%= highlight.format { |word| "*#{word}*" } %>
        <% end %>
    <% end %>
<% end %>

<!-- FACETS HTML: -->
facets_html = ''
if not @search.nil?

  # check for existing tags in query string
  existing_tag_facets = []
  if params[:tag].present?
    existing_tag_facets = params[:tag]

  facet_links_off = ''
  facet_links_on = ''

  @search.facet(:tag_list).rows.each_with_index do |facet, index|
    break if index == 10;

    # check if facet is selected
    if (params[:tag].kind_of?(Array) and params[:tag].include? facet.value)
      tag_facets = existing_tag_facets - [facet.value]
      facet_links_on << "<li>#{link_to facet.value, :keywords => params[:keywords], :tag => tag_facets} (-)</li>"
    elsif @hits.size > 1
      tag_facets = existing_tag_facets + [facet.value]
      facet_links_off << "<li>#{link_to facet.value, :keywords => params[:keywords], :tag => tag_facets} (#{facet.count})</li>"


  facets_html << "<strong>Filter by tags</strong>"
  if facet_links_on.size > 0
    facets_html << "<ul class='search_facets_on'>#{facet_links_on}</ul>"
  if facet_links_off.size > 0
    facets_html << "<ul class='search_facets_off'>#{facet_links_off}</ul>"

<%= raw facets_html %>

Browsing to http://localhost:3000/search now shows the search form. I entered "lorem" to get the following result. Note the asterisks around keyword "lorem" in the results. The tag facets are shown below with their associated result count.

solr search results with facets

By clicking on two tags, the facet counts and associated results decrease. The facet links can also be unselected. Great.

solr search results with facets selected