Thanks to gems, it is easy to implement a search engine into Rails applications. Of course, you have to choose which gem to use. While there are countless options, four stand out as the best. You will be happy with any of these options.
Sunspot provides you with the power of the Solr search engine for your Ruby on Rails application. That means you will get full text search without string programming and Boolean queries. You simply index your objects and then search for them.
In order to add Sunspot to your Rails app, you will need to install the sunspot_rails gem. If you’re using Rails with Active Record, you can get started by just dropping it into the system. If you don’t use Active Record, you will need to add some code to your application in order to use this gem.
Searchkick is probably my favorite new tool for implementing a powerful search feature into an application. This gem leverages the robust Elasticsearch server, so if you're implementing this on a web application server such as Heroku you'll need to include additional addons since this works on a separate search server.
I just finished building an application that required a very robust search feature that included features such as: auto complete, spelling recommendations, and a weighted search algorithm and Searchkick performed very well.
You can also implement a search engine with Thinking Sphinx. This connects the Sphinx search daemon to Active Record. Once it is connected, it manages the configuration and searching.
A lot of Rails developers go with this option because Sphinx is incredibly fast at indexing data, and provides flexible searching options. Flexibly is at the core of Rails, so this makes Thinking Sphinx a nice choice.
If you want to go with this option, install the thinking-sphinx gem.
Searchlogic is another top choice for implementing a search engine in a Rails application, however it hasn't been updated in a number of years, so it's mainly used for older versions of Rails. Once you install the gem, you can use Searchlogic to search using conditions on columns, and to use condition aliases. You can also use this gem to search using scopes in associated classes. This will help you keep your code dry, meaning that you won’t repeat yourself in the code. This is an essential part of having clean, elegant code.
You can order your search data and use various conditions with this gem as well. All of these tools make this a very useful option if you need to add a search engine to your application.
Ransack lets you create simple and advanced search forms for your Rails applications. Ransack lets you search for objects with various associations. You can also customize attribute names for your searches and add custom search functions. In addition, you can use the scope/class methods for your searches. This is just a small sample of what Ransack can do. If you want a robust search engine that has lots of features, this is a great option.
Search engine integration is a matter of personal preference. All of these are great options, so choose the one that works with your style. You can even try out various search engines before you commit to a single one. Then you can use that same option across all of your applications. If you don't want to use outside services you can also utilize built it tools such as Postgres Full Text Search and similar features supplied from databases.
I've been a software engineer for the past decade and have traveled the world building applications and training individuals on a wide variety of topics.