CCEL Search Help

The CCEL has a powerful customized search engine. Search capabilities included full-text, wild-card, and phrase searching, stemming, searching a particular book or author, searching for scripture references or commentary, finding definitions in dictionaries or encyclopedias, and much more.

If you wish to search for a word or phrase in all books, click the Search tab, and then click the Within Books tab. Clicking "Advanced Search" gives you more control—to search within a particular author or book for example.

If you want to find a book, click the Titles & Authors tab and type in a couple author or title keywords.

If you want to look up the definition of a term, click the Definitions tab. It will find definitions of your term in all installed dictionaries and encyclopedias.

If you want to look up a certain Bible passage, click the Scripture tab. It will find Bibles and commentaries containing the passage. You can also use this mode to search various translations of the Bible for phrases or words.

To find pages that other users have tagged with a particular subject, click the Subject tags tab. Note: The query format for tag searches is more limited than for the other categories. An asterisk (*) may be used as a wildcard, and a query containing terms separated by spaces will match any individual term. Since tags can only consist of letters, any search containing other characters will return zero results.

If you wish to make the most advanced use possible of the search engine, you may want to read about the syntax of search queries, below.

Query Syntax


The CCEL uses the Lucene search engine API for its search capabilities. The following is adapted from the documentation taken from Lucene's page on query syntax

NOTE: only books that are installed or are on a mounted CCEL disc will be searched. Only the main (XML) format is searched.


A query is broken up into terms and operators. There are two types of terms: Single Terms and Phrases.

A Single Term is a single word such as "test" or "hello".

A Phrase is a group of words surrounded by double quotes such as "hello dolly".

Multiple terms can be combined together with Boolean operators to form a more complex query (see below).

Note: The analyzer used to create the index will be used on the terms and phrases in the query string. So it is important to choose an analyzer that will not interfere with the terms used in the query string.


Lucene supports fielded data. When performing a search you can either specify a field or use the default field. For the CCEL-Desktop, the default field (document contents) is called contents, and other available fields are authorID, author, bookID, title, and divTitle. Using the pseudo-field keyword will expand to searching in author, authorID, title, and bookID.

The fields scripture, scriptureRef, and scriptureCom are also searchable but must be quoted if spaces are included in a passage. The pseudo-field scr will expand to any of these three. Alternatively, the following syntax can be used: Book___CH#V##, where Book___ is the length-seven ID of the book of the Bible and CH# and V## are the three-digit chapter and verse quantifiers, respectively. Zero's for a verse indicates the entire chapter, and zeros for the chapter indicate the entire book.

You can search any field by typing the field name followed by a colon ":" and then the term you are looking for.

As an example, if you want to search for a document entitled "Confessions of St. Augustine" containing the word "Great", you can enter:

title:"Confessions of St. Augustine" AND contents:great


title:"Confessions of St. Augustine" AND great

Since contents is the default field, the field indicator is not required. (For author/title searches the default field is keyword.)

Note: The field is only valid for the term that it directly precedes, so the query

title:Confessions of St. Augustine

Will only find "Confessions" in the title field. It will find the remaining words in the contents field.

Term Modifiers

Lucene supports modifying query terms to provide a wide range of searching options.

Wildcard Searches

Lucene supports single and multiple character wildcard searches.

To perform a single character wildcard search use the "?" symbol.

To perform a multiple character wildcard search use the "*" symbol.

The single character wildcard search looks for terms that match that with the single character replaced. For example, to search for "text" or "test" you can use the search:


Multiple character wildcard searches looks for 0 or more characters. For example, to search for test, tests or tester, you can use the search:


You can also use the wildcard searches in the middle of a term.


Note: You cannot use a * or ? symbol as the first character of a search.

Fuzzy Searches

Lucene supports fuzzy searches based on the Levenshtein Distance, or Edit Distance algorithm. To do a fuzzy search use the tilde, "~", symbol at the end of a Single word Term. For example to search for a term similar in spelling to "roam" use the fuzzy search:


This search will find terms like foam and roams

Starting with Lucene 1.9 an additional (optional) parameter can specify the required similarity. The value is between 0 and 1, with a value closer to 1 only terms with a higher similarity will be matched. For example:


The default that is used if the parameter is not given is 0.5.

Proximity Searches

Lucene supports finding words are a within a specific distance away. To do a proximity search use the tilde, "~", symbol at the end of a Phrase. For example to search for a "apache" and "jakarta" within 10 words of each other in a document use the search:

"jakarta apache"~10

Range Searches

Range Queries allow one to match documents whose field(s) values are between the lower and upper bound specified by the Range Query. Range Queries are inclusive (i.e. the query includes the specified lower and upper bound). Sorting is done lexicographically.

mod_date:[20020101 TO 20030101]

This will find documents whose mod_date fields have values between 20020101 and 20030101. Note that Range Queries are not reserved for date fields. You could also use range queries with non-date fields:

title:[Aida TO Carmen]

This will find all documents whose titles are between Aida and Carmen.

Boosting a Term

Lucene provides the relevance level of matching documents based on the terms found. To boost a term use the caret, "^", symbol with a boost factor (a number) at the end of the term you are searching. The higher the boost factor, the more relevant the term will be.

Boosting allows you to control the relevance of a document by boosting its term. For example, if you are searching for

jakarta apache

and you want the term "jakarta" to be more relevant boost it using the ^ symbol along with the boost factor next to the term. You would type:

jakarta^4 apache

This will make documents with the term jakarta appear more relevant. You can also boost Phrase Terms as in the example:

"jakarta apache"^4 "jakarta lucene"

By default, the boost factor is 1. Although the boost factor must be positive, it can be less than 1 (e.g. 0.2)

Boolean operators

Boolean operators allow terms to be combined through logic operators. Lucene supports AND, "+", OR, NOT and "-" as Boolean operators(Note: Boolean operators must be ALL CAPS).


The OR operator links two terms and finds a matching document if either of the terms exist in a document. This is equivalent to a union using sets. The symbol || can be used in place of the word OR.

To search for documents that contain either "jakarta apache" or just "jakarta" use the query:

"jakarta apache" OR jakarta


The AND operator is the default conjunction operator. This means that if there is no Boolean operator between two terms, the AND operator is used. The AND operator matches documents where both terms exist anywhere in the text of a single document. This is equivalent to an intersection using sets. The symbol && can be used in place of the word AND.

To search for documents that contain "jakarta apache" and "jakarta lucene" use the query:

"jakarta apache" jakarta


"jakarta apache" AND "jakarta lucene"

+ (Plus)

The "+" or required operator requires that the term after the "+" symbol exist somewhere in a the field of a single document.

To search for documents that must contain "jakarta" and may contain "lucene" use the query:

+jakarta apache


The NOT operator excludes documents that contain the term after NOT. This is equivalent to a difference using sets. The symbol ! can be used in place of the word NOT.

To search for documents that contain "jakarta apache" but not "jakarta lucene" use the query:

"jakarta apache" NOT "jakarta lucene"

Note: The NOT operator cannot be used with just one term. For example, the following search will return no results:

NOT "jakarta apache"

- (Minus)

The "-" or prohibit operator excludes documents that contain the term after the "-" symbol.

To search for documents that contain "jakarta apache" but not "jakarta lucene" use the query:

"jakarta apache" -"jakarta lucene"


Lucene supports using parentheses to group clauses to form sub queries. This can be very useful if you want to control the boolean logic for a query.

To search for either "jakarta" or "apache" and "website" use the query:

(jakarta OR apache) AND website

This eliminates any confusion and makes sure you that website must exist and either term jakarta or apache may exist.

Field Grouping

Lucene supports using parentheses to group multiple clauses to a single field.

To search for a title that contains both the word "return" and the phrase "pink panther" use the query:

title:(+return +"pink panther")

Escaping Special Characters

Lucene supports escaping special characters that are part of the query syntax. The current list special characters are

+ - && || ! ( ) { } [ ] ^ " ~ * ? : \

To escape these character use the \ before the character. For example to search for (1+1):2 use the query: