Ruby bindings for Xapian

The Ruby bindings for Xapian are packaged in the xapian module. Ruby strings and arrays are converted automatically in the bindings, so generally they should just work naturally.

The examples subdirectory contains examples showing how to use the Ruby bindings based on the simple examples from xapian-examples: simpleindex.rb, simplesearch.rb, simpleexpand.rb. There's also simplematchdecider.rb which shows how to define a MatchDecider in Ruby.


To use the bindings, you need to use require 'xapian' in your ruby program.

Most standard Xapian methods are available directly to your Ruby program. Names have been altered to conform to the standard Ruby naming conventions (i.e. get_foo() in C++ becomes foo() in Ruby; set_foo() becomes foo=()). C++ operator() methods are renamed to call methods in Ruby.

The C++ methods are not yet documented in the RDocs. In the meantime, refer to the C++ API documentation for information on how to use the various methods. Most are available directly in the Ruby version. The RDocs currently provide information only on methods that are unique to the Ruby version.

The dangerous/non-Rubish methods from the C++ API have been renamed to start with underscores (_) in the Ruby bindings. You can see them in use in xapian.rb. It is strongly recommended that you do not call any method that starts with _ directly in your code, but instead use the wrappers defined in xapian.rb. Improper use of an _ method can cause the Ruby process to segfault.

Unicode Support

In Xapian 1.0.0 and later, the Xapian::Stem, Xapian::QueryParser, and Xapian::TermGenerator classes all assume text is in UTF-8. If you want to index or search for strings in a different encoding, convert them to UTF-8 before passing them to Xapian, and when getting strings back from Xapian. The recommended way to do this is using the String#encode method.


The iterator classes in the Xapian C++ API are wrapped to allow them to be used in a more idiomatic way from Ruby. Where the C++ API has a pair of methods to return a begin and end iterator, the Ruby API has a single method which (in Xapian 1.4.12 and later) supports block iteration, for example:

mset.matches {|match|
  # do something

If no block is specified, an Array is returned instead (which was the only option prior to Xapian 1.4.12). You can use each on this Array to achieve a similar result to passing a block, except the C++ iterator is read eagerly rather than lazily:

mset.matches.each {|match|
  # do something

Non-Class Functions

The C++ API contains a few non-class functions (the Database factory functions, and some functions reporting version information), which are wrapped like so for Ruby:


In C++ there's a Xapian::Query constructor which takes a query operator and start/end iterators specifying a number of terms or queries, plus an optional parameter. In Ruby, this is wrapped to accept a Ruby array containing terms, or queries, or even a mixture of terms and queries. For example:

subq =, "hello", "world")
q =, [subq, "foo","bar", 2)])

MatchAll and MatchNothing

In Xapian 1.3.0 and later, these are wrapped as class constants Xapian::Query::MatchAll and Xapian::Query::MatchNothing.

If you want to be compatible with earlier versions, you can continue to use"") for MatchAll and for MatchNothing.


Custom MatchDeciders can be created in Ruby; simply subclass Xapian::MatchDecider, ensure you call the superclass constructor, and define a __call__ method that will do the work. The simplest example (which does nothing useful) would be as follows:

class MyMatchDecider < Xapian\::MatchDecider
  def __call__(doc):
    return true