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Using Boolean Searching

The + and - operators indicate that a word is required to be present or absent, respectively, for a match to occur. Thus, this query retrieves all the rows that contain the word MySQL but that do not contain the word YourSQL.

Boolean full-text searches have these characteristics:

  • They do not use the 50% threshold.

  • They do not automatically sort rows in order of decreasing relevance. You can see this from the preceding query result: The row with the highest relevance is the one that contains MySQL twice, but it is listed last, not first.

  • They can work even without a FULLTEXT index, although a search executed in this fashion would be quite slow.

  • The minimum and maximum word length full-text parameters apply.

  • The stopword list applies.

The boolean full-text search capability supports the following operators:

  • +

    A leading plus sign indicates that this word must be present in each row that is returned.

  • -

    A leading minus sign indicates that this word must not be present in any of the rows that are returned.

    Note: The - operator acts only to exclude rows that are otherwise matched by other search terms. Thus, a boolean-mode search that contains only terms preceded by - returns an empty result. It does not return all rows except those containing any of the excluded terms.

  • (no operator)

    By default (when neither + nor - is specified) the word is optional, but the rows that contain it are rated higher. This mimics the behavior of MATCH() ... AGAINST() without the IN BOOLEAN MODE modifier.

  • > <

    These two operators are used to change a word's contribution to the relevance value that is assigned to a row. The > operator increases the contribution and the < operator decreases it. See the example following this list.

  • ( )

    Parentheses group words into subexpressions. Parenthesized groups can be nested.

  • ~

    A leading tilde acts as a negation operator, causing the word's contribution to the row's relevance to be negative. This is useful for marking noise words. A row containing such a word is rated lower than others, but is not excluded altogether, as it would be with the - operator.

  • *

    The asterisk serves as the truncation (or wildcard) operator. Unlike the other operators, it should be appended to the word to be affected. Words match if they begin with the word preceding the * operator.

  • "

    A phrase that is enclosed within double quote (") characters matches only rows that contain the phrase literally, as it was typed. The full-text engine splits the phrase into words, performs a search in the FULLTEXT index for the words. Prior to MySQL 5.0.3, the engine then performed a substring search for the phrase in the records that were found, so the match must include non-word characters in the phrase. As of MySQL 5.0.3, non-word characters need not be matched exactly: Phrase searching requires only that matches contain exactly the same words as the phrase and in the same order. For example, "test phrase" matches "test, phrase" in MySQL 5.0.3, but not before.

    If the phrase contains no words that are in the index, the result is empty. For example, if all words are either stopwords or shorter than the minimum length of indexed words, the result is empty.

The following examples demonstrate some search strings that use boolean full-text operators:

  • 'apple banana'

    Find rows that contain at least one of the two words.

  • '+apple +juice'

    Find rows that contain both words.

  • '+apple macintosh'

    Find rows that contain the word apple, but rank rows higher if they also contain macintosh.

  • '+apple -macintosh'

    Find rows that contain the word apple but not macintosh.

  • '+apple ~macintosh'

    Find rows that contain the word apple, but if the row also contains the word macintosh, rate it lower than if row does not. This is softer than a search for '+apple -macintosh', for which the presence of macintosh causes the row not to be returned at all.

  • '+apple +(>turnover <strudel)'

    Find rows that contain the words apple and turnover, or apple and strudel (in any order), but rank apple turnover higher than apple strudel.

  • 'apple*'

    Find rows that contain words such as apple, apples, applesauce, or applet.

  • '"some words"'

    Find rows that contain the exact phrase some words (for example, rows that contain some words of wisdom but not some noise words). Note that the " characters that enclose the phrase are operator characters that delimit the phrase. They are not the quotes that enclose the search string itself.

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