Tcl8 bindings for Xapian

The Tcl8 bindings for Xapian are packaged in the xapian namespace, and largely follow the C++ API, with the following differences and additions. Tcl8 strings and lists, etc., are converted automatically in the bindings, so generally it should just work as expected.

The examples subdirectory contains examples showing how to use the Tcl8 bindings based on the simple examples from xapian-examples: simpleindex.tcl, simplesearch.tcl, simpleexpand.tcl.

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. Tcl8 uses UTF-8 as its internal representation, except that ASCII nul (character value 0) is represented as the overlong (and thus invalid) UTF-8 sequence \xc0\x80. We don't currently convert this to/from \x00 so you should avoid passing strings containing ASCII nul between Tcl and Xapian.


To destroy an object obj, you need to use one of obj -delete or rename obj "" (either should work, but see below).

SWIG's Tcl wrapping doesn't handle an object returned by a factory function correctly. This only matters for the Xapian::WritableDatabase class, and we avoid wrapping the problematic Xapian::Chert::open factory function to avoid setting a trap for the unwary. You can just use a Xapian::WritableDatabase constructor instead (and specify a backend by passing $::xapian::DB_BACKEND_GLASS or similar in the flags).

As of Xapian 1.1.0, you can explicitly close the database, so the lack of a call to the destructor isn't an issue:

xapian::WritableDatabase xapiandb testdir $::xapian::DB_CREATE_OR_OVERWRITE
xapian_db close

If you want compatibility with Xapian 1.0.x, then Michael Schlenker reports that this form works (i.e. the destructor gets called):

xapian::WritableDatabase xapiandb testdir $::xapian::DB_CREATE_OR_OVERWRITE
rename xapiandb ""

However, apparently none of these forms work:

xapian::WritableDatabase xapiandb testdir $::xapian::DB_CREATE_OR_OVERWRITE
set db xapiandb
$db -delete

set db [xapian::WritableDatabase xapiandb testdir $::xapian::DB_CREATE_OR_OVERWRITE]
$db -delete

set db [xapian::WritableDatabase xapiandb testdir $::xapian::DB_CREATE_OR_OVERWRITE]
rename $db ""


Xapian::Error exceptions can be handled in Tcl like so:

if [catch {
    # Code which might throw an exception.
  } msg] {
    # Code to handle exceptions.
    # $errorCode is "XAPIAN <error_class>" (e.g. "XAPIAN DocNotFoundError".)
    # $msg is the result of calling get_msg() on the Xapian::Error object.


All iterators support next and equals methods to move through and test iterators (as for all language bindings). MSetIterator and ESetIterator also support prev.

Iterator dereferencing

C++ iterators are often dereferenced to get information, eg (*it). With Tcl8 these are all mapped to named methods, as follows:

Iterator deferencing methods
Iterator Dereferencing method
PositionIterator get_termpos
PostingIterator get_docid
TermIterator get_term
ValueIterator get_value
MSetIterator get_docid
ESetIterator get_term

Other methods, such as MSetIterator::get_document, are available under the same names.


MSet objects have some additional methods to simplify access (these work using the C++ array dereferencing):

MSet additional methods
Method name Explanation
mset get_hit index returns MSetIterator at index
mset get_document_percentage index mset convert_to_percent [mset get_hit index]
mset get_document index [mset get_hit index] get_document
mset get_docid index [mset get_hit index] get_docid

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 Tcl:


For Tcl, constants are wrapped as $xapian::CONSTANT_NAME or $xapian::ClassName_CONSTANT_NAME. So Xapian::DB_CREATE_OR_OPEN is available as $xapian::DB_CREATE_OR_OPEN, Xapian::Query::OP_OR is available as $xapian::Query_OP_OR, and so on.


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 Tcl, this is wrapped to accept a Tcl list to give the terms/queries, and you can specify a mixture of terms and queries if you wish. For example:

set terms [list "hello" "world"]
xapian::Query subq $xapian::Query_OP_AND $terms
xapian::Query bar_term "bar" 2
xapian::Query query $xapian::Query_OP_AND [list subq "foo" bar_term]

MatchAll and MatchNothing

As of Xapian 1.1.1, these are wrapped for Tcl as $xapian::Query_MatchAll and $xapian::Query_MatchNothing.


There is an additional method get_matching_terms which takes an MSetIterator and returns a list of terms in the current query which match the document given by that iterator. You may find this more convenient than using the TermIterator directly.