Try out My Tiny Search Engine from Start!

Have you ever thought about deploying a fancy project like a search engine to a server made accessible to everyone just like Larry Page and Sergey Brin did 20 years ago? Follow the steps! Your dreams are at reach.

Before Start

How amazing! This is homework for one of my university courses – Advanced Data Structure and Algorithms Analysis. I share this to all of you just to show how simple a search engine can be. It simply crawls about 1000 pages of the full work of the famous playwriter Shakespeare at, indexing it, and serving the search engine to the public.

This is a tutorial based on the Linux Operating System(Ubuntu 18.10), most of the other versions should be supported as well, but the commands may vary a little bit. I have also tested the project on max OS X, the indexing time was about 1.5 hours, a little bit too long and the machine kept sweating. So I think it should be a good choice to run the program on the server directly. I finished in 2 weeks(actually mostly the whole night before the DDL) and I think you can deploy it in an hour (half of the time deployed automatically).

Clone the Whole Project & Overview

I have made this project open source, so you can download it directly from my GibHub using the following command.

$ git clone

To have an overview of the whole project, you can use the following commands:

$ cd shakespeare-search-engine

or using a simpler one,

$ cd shake*

where * matches all the words you omit for convenience. Cool, right?

Using (which means list all the files in the directory)

$ ls

You can now see all the files for the project as following:

Since I did not upload the index files to GitHub, you have to generate the folders for data storage yourself:

$ mkdir data
$ mkdir data/nodes

Now, after an overview, we are ready to install the dependencies.

Get Dependencies Installed

Next, we will have the environment set up. As you can see, if we run the program directly, we are tend to get errors, since more some dependencies are not on the server.

Setting up the Environment

I have estimated for you that there are 3 packages needed for this project, 2 for crawling, indexing the pages and 1 for the web server.

Install python3-bs4

We use BeautitulSoup to parse the html file, get the links inside a page, etc.

$ apt-get install python3-bs4

enter y, then the process will be finished in no time. (In this tutorial, if it is not specified, always enter y)

Install nltk

nltk is a packages that makes NLP(Natural Language Processing) Really easy.

When you try to install pip3 install nltk, you may encouter:

Follow the instructions:

$ apt install python3-pip

What the hell! Is the system joking me? E: Unable to locate package python3-pip???

Don’t worry, following lines will help

$ echo "
deb bionic main universe
deb bionic-security main universe 
deb bionic-updates main universe
" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install python3-pip

Now feel free to install nltk!

$ pip3 install nltk

Install flask

Flask is a light-weight web framework that uses python.

$ pip3 install flask

Last Check

Before moving on, you should make sure that the previous steps are set up correctly.

$ python3
>>> import bs4, nltk, flask
>>> exit()

If no error occurs, you are free to move on!

Crawling & Indexing

This step will take roughly half an hour on a server with 1 Core CPU 1GB RAM. Make sure you are at the shakespeare-search-engine directory:

$ nohup python3 &

Now a backgound task is grabbing and analyzing every single word of the webpage for you, which makes the search engine faster later. All the pains and waiting will pay back!

Run the web server

Now it’s the last step to go!

About half an hour later log back into your server. To check if the indexing was success:

$ cd shake*
$ ls data

If you see exact the same files as following, you are safe to go.

This is the last step, I promise!

$ nohup python3 & 

Now your search engine is running, to try it, just enter the IP address of your server in your browser.

I searched lear, following is the result:

Bonus: Download the index to Local for Fun

As I have said, generating the index at a local machine is not that fun – hours will be cost. So, to make it easy, you can download the index to your local machine, run it, edit the code have more fun.

On the server:

$ sudo apt-get install zip
$ zip -r data

On your local machine: ( should be replaced by your server address)

$ scp [email protected]:/root/shakespeare-search-engine/ ~/Desktop

This command is run on macOS, the file should be at the desktop after running this command.


  1. Beautiful Soup Docs:
  2. Install pip3:
  3. Shell append multiple lines to a file:
  4. Create zip file:
  5. Download using scp: