OJAX metasearch user interface

The OJAX repository search toolbar is as simple, uncluttered and unthreatening as possible,
reflecting the simple search experience while providing the power of an advanced search.

How do I....

Getting started

Enter one or more search terms in the search terms field
Ojax empty find box
then either

Hit the 'Enter' key if you wish to choose one of the auto-complete options offered
or Hit the space bar or click on the Search button
or Select some other search criteria
or Wait for the autosearch to be activated after 5 seconds

Search fields

By default, searching is on the combined fields of author, title, abstract and comments. These fields map, respectively, to the creator, title and description Dublin Core metadata fields harvested from the repositories OJAX is searching. (Both abstract and comments map to description fields.)

search fields dialog box If you wish to restrict the fields searched simply un-tick the unwanted fields and the search results change to exclude those fields.

Fielded data

You can search a specific Dublin Core metadata field by typing the field name followed by a colon ":" then the term you are looking for. For example, title:"Stars and planets" AND creator:Smith.

Search operators

Ojax search example

You can improve your searches by adding operators to your search terms.

Search terms are case-insensitive but Boolean operators must be in upper case.
Operator Example Finds pages containing
  Ajax XML Either the word Ajax or the word XML or both.
OR Ajax OR XML Either the word Ajax or the word XML or both.
|| Ajax || XML As OR
AND Ajax AND XML The words Ajax and XML
&& Ajax && XML As AND
+ +XML Ajax The word XML must appear. The word Ajax may appear.
NOT Ajax NOT XML The word Ajax but not the word XML
- Ajax -XML As NOT
! Ajax !XML As NOT
" " "graphical user interface" The exact phrase "graphical user interface"
? Sm?th Smith, Smyth etc [Single character wildcard search]
* physic* Any word beginning with physic [Multiple character wildcard search]
~ "boson muon"~10 The words boson and muon within a specified number of words of each other, in this case 10
^ Wusteman^4 AND library The term Wusteman is a specified number of times more relevant than library, in this case 4

For further details of OJAX's query syntax, see the Apache Lucene Query Parser Syntax page.


Search terms you enter in the search terms field and the subject field are auto-completed. For example, if you type John in the search terms field, a list is automatically dropped down that itemises all matches to John and the number of their occurrences:

ojax auto-completion

You select the term you want either by highlighting the term with the cursor keys and pressing return or by selecting with the mouse. The entire field is then automatically completed and a search is triggered. Your selection will replace the contents of the search terms field and the search is then triggered.

If you don't want to choose any of the auto-completion options, hitting the Escape key gets rid of the auto-completion menu. Entering a space character will trigger a search, as described in Auto-search.

Note: Auto-completion only completes the term you're currently entering. The number of matches refers to this current term, not the entire search phrase so far. For example, the following are auto-completions for the term "super", not the phrase "young super".

auto-completion for the word super

If you're searching for example for "young superstable" then once you get as far as entering "young superst" no auto complete options matching "superst" are found so Ojax displays a warning that there is no matching term in the repository. This lets you know that that term won't be found in any search and you can try alternative terms such as "super-stable" instead. auto-completion failure for the term superst


You can click the search button whenever you want during your search - but you never have to click it.
A search is automatically triggered whenever you select an entire option - for example, whenever

     You select an archive or a year
or You accept a suggested auto-completion.
or OJAX thinks you are likely to have finished entering a search term because you have
    Entered a space character in the search terms field or subject field
or Tabbed out of a field having modified its contents
or Been inactive for 5 seconds after having modified a field.

While a search is in progress, the search button is greyed out and acquires a red border.

The Search results

Your search results are displayed beneath the OJAX toolbar in one dynamically scrollable list - so you don't have to navigate between pages.

OJAX search results

The dynamic information panel to the right of the scroll bar shows the current scroll position in relation to the beginning and end of the results set.

In the initial results display, only one line of each of the title, authors, subject, abstract and (optional) comments fields are shown for each item. To see any hidden detail, hover the cursor over the relevant field. To expand all display fields for an item, hover the cursor over the bar containing the resource identifier. Clicking on this bar causes a new window to open that points to the full record in the original repository.

OJAX Auto Expansion

No results

You will know when OJAX has completed a search because the search button is no longer greyed out and the red border disappears. If your search has produced no results a warning popup will appear over the search field.

No Results Warning

Sorting results

Because OJAX makes results available so quickly and sorts results so rapidly, you don't need to choose your preferred sort options before the search is performed.  Once the results list has appeared, simply select a field to sort on from the Sort by bar immediately above the results list.

OJAX sort-by bar

Clicking one of these options sorts the results in ascending order; an upward pointing arrow appears to the right of the sort option chosen:

ojax ascending sort bar

Clicking on the option again sorts in descending order and the direction of the arrow is reversed.

Clicking on the arrow removes the sort; the results revert to their original order.

Note: Lucene sorts capital letters before lower case letters. For example, JONES will appear before James.

Browser search box integration via OpenSearch

Browsers which support the OpenSearch standard, such as Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0 can integrate Ojax search into the browser search field.

Both browsers use a similar approach to installing a new search provider. For example, here is the process to follow for Firefox 2.0.

First, while on the Ojax page, click on the small inverted triangle in the search box dropdown to display the list of search providers installed. As Ojax implements the OpenSearch Discovery standard you should see 'Add "Ojax Repository Search"' as an option in the list.

Clicking that will install Ojax as a search provider for Firefox, and make it the default search provider.

At any time you can re-display the search provider list and change the default search provider just by selecting it from the list.

Alternatively, click the "Add to Firefox" link above the Search button. This will pop up a confirmation dialog as shown. Clicking Add will install Ojax as a Search Provider, and make it the default if you ticked the "Start using it right away" checkbox.

Whenever Ojax is the selected Search Provider the browser will ask Ojax for the Search Suggestions to display. Selecting a search suggestion (with the mouse, or with the arrow keys and Enter) will display the Ojax search page and initiate a search for the selected Search Suggestion.

If you are entering multiple search terms then you can select a Search Suggestion from the list with the up/down arrow keys (don't hit the Enter key) and simply keep on typing to enter the remaining search terms. For each term you can accept suggestions via the arrow keys in the same way. When you have entered all the search terms then press Enter to initiate a search.

Search feeds

If you have searches which you repeat frequently you can click on the "Save this search as a feed" link to add an Atom feed for that search to your feed reader. As content matching your query is added to your repository your feed reader will detect the new additions.

This feed is in OpenSearch Atom format. Some OpenSearch aware feed readers (such as Internet Explorer 7.0) will take advantage of the special features of this format and allow sorting and filtering by date, category etc.

Here is an example of how the feed is displayed in Internet Explorer 7.0. Clicking on the "Subscribe to this feed link" will add it to your Feed List.

More information on OJAX

See Using Ajax to Empower Dynamic Searching by Judith Wusteman and Pádraig O'hIceadha. Published in Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL) Vol. 25, No. 2, June 2006, pp 57-64.

Known limitations in OJAX Version 0.7

Judith Wusteman & Pádraig O'hIceadha, February 2007