Creating a search plugin

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This document is about how to create a Search Plugin. You can use a Search Plugin to search through the database of your Joomla! site. To create a plugin, you will at least need two files; an XML file and a PHP file. For internationalization it is good to create an INI file as well.

XML file

The XML file is named the same as the PHP file, and is one of the two required files. Always start off with the XML tag and define that it is written in a UTF-8 format.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    "-//Joomla! 1.5//DTD plugin 1.0//EN" "">

To define that the plugin has to be a search plugin, add this line

<install version="1.5" type="plugin" group="search">

The type will define it is a plugin, the group defines the Plugin is in the group of search plugins.

After that, add some information about yourself and the plugin:

<name>Name of your search plugin</name>
<creationDate>Creation date</creationDate>
<author>Your name</author>
<authorEmail>Your e-mail address</authorEmail>
<authorUrl>Your website</authorUrl>
<copyright>Copyright information</copyright>
<license>License, for example GNU/GPL</license>
<version>Version of the plugin</version>
<description>Description of the plugin; shown during installation and when editing 
the plugin in the Plugin Manager</description>

And now, include your PHP file to the Search Plugin. The name of this file should be the same as the name of this XML file. Put this name also behind the plugin="" part.

You could also add more files for your plugin, for example, an image. Just add another row between <files> and </file>, and then place the file between <filename> tags.

   <filename plugin="nameofplugin">nameofplugin.php</filename>

For the internationalization, we will use language files. This is not required, but people from other countries will love it they can easily translate your plugin to their own language. The language tags can be found here: [1] (use the ISO 639-1 column) and here: [2]

   <language tag="en-GB">language/en-GB/en-GB.plg_search_nameofplugin.ini</language>

Optionally, you could add some parameters to the plugin. These will look like this

   <param name="search_limit" type="text"
  • Param name: The name of the parameter. You will need this when creating the PHP file.
  • Param type: You could choose between several types of parameters. Look at this document to learn something about the different types: [3]
  • Param default: The default setting for this parameter.
  • Param label: The name of this parameter displayed in the edit screen of this plugin in the Plugin Manager.
  • Param description: The text which appears as a tool tip for this parameter.

Do not forget to end your XML file with the following tag


PHP file

The PHP file of your plugin is the most important file of the plugin. This is an example PHP file of a search plugin. The comments are included.

//First start with information about the Plugin and yourself. For example:
 * @version		$Id: nameofplugin.php versionnumber date author
 * @copyright	        Copyright
 * @license		License, for example GNU/GPL
 * All other information you would like to add
//To prevent accessing the document directly, enter this code:
// no direct access
defined( '_JEXEC' ) or die( 'Restricted access' );
//Define the registerEvent and the language file. Replace 'nameofplugin' with the name of your plugin.
$mainframe->registerEvent( 'onSearch', 'plgSearchnameofplugin' );
$mainframe->registerEvent( 'onSearchAreas', 'plgSearchnameofpluginAreas' );
JPlugin::loadLanguage( 'plg_search_nameofplugin' );
//Define a function to return an array of search areas. Replace 'nameofplugin' with the name of your plugin.
function &plgSearchnameofpluginAreas()
	static $areas = array(
		'nameofplugin' => 'Nameofplugin'
	return $areas;
//The real function has to be created. The database connection should be made. 
//The function will be closed with an } at the end of the file.
function plgSearchnameofplugin( $text, $phrase='', $ordering='', $areas=null )
	$db		=& JFactory::getDBO();
	$user	=& JFactory::getUser(); 
//If the array is not correct, return it:
	if (is_array( $areas )) {
		if (!array_intersect( $areas, array_keys( plgSearchnameofpluginAreas() ) )) {
			return array();
//Define the parameters. First get the right plugin; 'search' (the group), 'nameofplugin'. 
$plugin =& JPluginHelper::getPlugin('search', 'nameofplugin');
//Then load the parameters of the plugin.
$pluginParams = new JParameter( $plugin->params );
//Now define the parameters like this:
$limit = $pluginParams->def( 'nameofparameter', defaultsetting );
//Use the function trim to delete spaces in front of or at the back of the searching terms
$text = trim( $text );
//Return Array when nothing was filled in.
if ($text == '') {
		return array();
//After this, you have to add the database part. This will be the most difficult part, because this changes per situation.
//In the coding examples later on you will find some of the examples used by Joomla! 1.5 core Search Plugins.
//It will look something like this.
	$wheres = array();
	switch ($phrase) {
//search exact
		case 'exact':
			$text		= $db->Quote( '%'.$db->getEscaped( $text, true ).'%', false );
			$wheres2 	= array();
			$wheres2[] 	= 'LOWER( LIKE '.$text;
			$where 		= '(' . implode( ') OR (', $wheres2 ) . ')';
//search all or any
		case 'all':
		case 'any':
//set default
			$words 	= explode( ' ', $text );
			$wheres = array();
			foreach ($words as $word)
				$word		= $db->Quote( '%'.$db->getEscaped( $word, true ).'%', false );
				$wheres2 	= array();
				$wheres2[] 	= 'LOWER( LIKE '.$word;
				$wheres[] 	= implode( ' OR ', $wheres2 );
			$where = '(' . implode( ($phrase == 'all' ? ') AND (' : ') OR ('), $wheres ) . ')';
//ordering of the results
	switch ( $ordering ) {
//alphabetic, ascending
		case 'alpha':
			$order = ' ASC';
//oldest first
		case 'oldest':
//popular first
		case 'popular':
//newest first
		case 'newest':
//default setting: alphabetic, ascending
			$order = ' ASC';
//replace nameofplugin
	$searchNameofplugin = JText::_( 'Nameofplugin' );
//the database query; differs per situation! It will look something like this:
	$query = 'SELECT AS title,'
	. ' CONCAT_WS( " / ", '. $db->Quote($searchNameofplugin) .', b.title )AS section,'
	. ' "1" AS browsernav'
	. ' FROM #__nameofplugin AS a'
	. ' INNER JOIN #__categories AS b ON = a.catid'
	. ' WHERE ( '. $where .' )'
	. ' AND a.published = 1'
	. ' AND b.access <= '. (int) $user->get( 'aid' )
	. ' ORDER BY '. $order
//Set query
	$db->setQuery( $query, 0, $limit );
	$rows = $db->loadObjectList();
//The 'output' of the displayed link
	foreach($rows as $key => $row) {
		$rows[$key]->href = 'index.php?option=com_newsfeeds&view=newsfeed&catid='.$row->catslug.'&id='.$row->slug;
//Return the search results in an array
return $rows;

There are four variables that get passed in. They are evident by their names and use in the above code. What's not obvious is what the function should return: an array of objects that the search tool uses to display the results. The results could alternatively have been assembled like this.

$rows[] = (object) array(
			'href'        => 'index.php?option=com_newsfeeds&view=newsfeed&catid='.$row->catslug.'&id='.$row->slug,
			'title'       => $row['name'],
			'section'     => $searchnameofplugin,
			'created'     => $row['date'],
			'text'        => $row['name'],
			'browsernav'  => '1'

INI file(s)

Joomla 1.5 For internationalization it is good to use the INI files. You can add everything to the language file that outputs text to the user, in this order:

  • XML description tag
  • XML label and description attributes from parameters
  • JText::_( 'string' ) used by the plugin

Start your INI file with something like this:

# $Id: en-GB.plg_search_nameofplugin.ini
# Joomla! Project
# Copyright (C) 2005 - 2007 Open Source Matters. All rights reserved.
# License GNU/GPL, see LICENSE.php
# Note : All ini files need to be saved as UTF-8 - No BOM

Of course, you could also add other information, like the author.

For example, this parameter:

<param name="search_limit" type="text" size="5" default="50" label="Search Limit" 
description="Number of Search items to return"/>

Will cause the following output in the INI file:

NUMBER OF SEARCH ITEMS TO RETURN=Number of Search items to return

The file looks repetitive, but will be very useful for translators.

When you want to make your search plugin available in more languages, first add them to the