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What is a fulltext index and when should I use it? [closed]

Posted by: admin November 29, 2017 Leave a comment


As the title states, what is a fulltext index and when should I use it?


In databases indices are usually used to enhance performance when looking for something defined in your where clause. However when it comes to filtering some text, e.g. using something like WHERE TextColumn LIKE '%searchstring%' then searches are slow, because the way regular database indices work are optimized for matches against the ‘whole content’ of a column and not just a part of it. In specific the LIKE search can not make use of any kind of index.

As mentioned in the comment below MySQL needs the MATCH () ... AGAINST syntax to search within a fulltext index; BTW this varies depending on the database vendor. In MS SQL you can use CONTAINS so keep this in mind when you plan to support other databases too.

Fulltext indices work better for regular text, because they are optimized for these type of columns. Very simplified: They split the text into words and make an index over the words and not the whole text. This works a lot faster for text searches when looking for specific words.


A full text index is an index you apply in a MySQL database to text fields that you plan to run a full text search on. A full text search uses the match(field) against('text') syntax. If you want to run a full text search you must have a full text index on the columns you’ll be running it against.

There are three types of Full Text searches. I’ll quote the manual, because I think it says it best:

  • A boolean search interprets the search string using the rules of a
    special query language. The string
    contains the words to search for. It
    can also contain operators that
    specify requirements such that a word
    must be present or absent in matching
    rows, or that it should be weighted
    higher or lower than usual. Common
    words such as “some” or “then” are
    stopwords and do not match if present
    in the search string. The IN BOOLEAN
    MODE modifier specifies a boolean
    search. For more information, see
    Section 11.9.2, “Boolean Full-Text

  • A natural language search interprets the search string as a
    phrase in natural human language (a
    phrase in free text). There are no
    special operators. The stopword list
    applies. In addition, words that are
    present in 50% or more of the rows are
    considered common and do not match.
    Full-text searches are natural
    language searches if no modifier is

  • A query expansion search is a modification of a natural language
    search. The search string is used to
    perform a natural language search.
    Then words from the most relevant rows
    returned by the search are added to
    the search string and the search is
    done again. The query returns the rows
    from the second search. The WITH QUERY
    EXPANSION modifier specifies a query
    expansion search. For more
    information, see Section 11.9.3,
    “Full-Text Searches with Query

For more information take a gander at the Full Text Search Reference Page.