Concepts / Building Search UI / What is Vue InstantSearch?
Mar. 22, 2019

What is Vue InstantSearch?

You are reading the documentation for Vue InstantSearch v2. Read our migration guide to learn how to upgrade from v1 to v2. You can still find the v1 documentation here.

InstantSearch is a family of open-source, production-ready UI libraries that eases the usage and installation of the Algolia search engine.

It provides high-level UI widgets that interact with Algolia’s API, to easily build instant-search applications, where you focus on building your UI instead of needing to understand every detail of the Algolia search engine right away.

You are currently reading the Vue InstantSearch documentation. It is dedicated to Vue.

It is compatible with server-side rendering and has full routing capabilities.

The InstantSearch family is composed of multiple InstantSearch flavors, no matter your front-end stack we got you covered:

A progressive customization API

Vue InstantSearch, like any InstantSearch flavors, is designed to be used progressively; that is, it provides three layers of usage that get progressively more powerful, with each level giving you more control.

  1. At first you’ll be using pre-defined widgets, which you can configure and place on your UI, but they do not give you access to the DOM output.
  2. Eventually you’ll want to re-define the render output (DOM or Native) of a widget. You can do this by extending widgets. This is a hybrid solution, where you start with our widgets, and then you can take over control of the render output.
  3. Finally, if you want to implement a completely new widget that does not exist - thus giving you full control over the the UI component as well as its render output - you’ll want to create custom widgets.

Using widgets

Widgets in Vue InstantSearch are Vue components that have a predefined behavior and rendered output.

Within the Vue InstantSearch documentation, widgets are components, and vice-versa. When you see the word widget in this documentation, consider it as an Vue component. Similar with all InstantSearch flavors, we call them widgets for uniformity, but they may use another term for widgets.

Widgets usually have options to alter their behavior a bit; options can be passed to widgets via attributes.

For example, here’s how to use the ais-refinement-list widget:

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<ais-refinement-list attribute="brand" />

Here we are adding the ais-refinement-list widget and asking it to show a list of brands, thus allowing your end users to “refine” their search by brand.

There are many widgets bundled with Vue InstantSearch; we try to bundle the ones that we think are the most used in all search UIs. Have a look at the widget showcase.

But before you can use the ais-refinement-list widget, you need to add the InstantSearch root widget.

The InstantSearch root widget

There’s one very specific widget in Vue InstantSearch and it is the ais-instant-search one.

This widget is what we call the instantsearch root widget, which is responsible for the communication between your application and Algolia. This widget wraps all other Vue InstantSearch widgets. Here’s how:

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<template>
  <ais-instant-search
    index-name="instant_search"
    :search-client="searchClient"
  >
    <!-- Widgets -->
  </ais-instant-search>
</template>

<script>
  export default {
    data() {
      return {
        searchClient: algoliasearch(
          'latency',
          '6be0576ff61c053d5f9a3225e2a90f76'
        ),
      };
    },
  };
</script>

You can learn more about this widget in the Vue InstantSearch API reference and in the getting started.

Extending widgets

Widgets with pre-defined behavior, which output a very specific set of DOM, are not always sufficient to answer your needs. You might want, for example, to completely change the rendering of the ais-menu widget so that it renders as a select element instead of a list of links.

This cannot be answered by adding more options. What if you want to render a ais-menu widget as a keyboard controlled slideshow of images? No simple option will ever fulfill and scale those needs.

That’s why Vue InstantSearch provides a second API layer that we call extending widgets. The actual API feature behind this use case is Vue slots and is common to all InstantSearch flavors as connectors.

By extending widgets, you are able to completely redefine a widget’s behavior and its DOM output.

To know more, and to use this API feature, read the extending widgets guide.

Creating custom widgets

Finally, when none of the previous solutions work for you and you want to create a completely new widget from scratch, then we provide a third layer of API to do that: creating custom widgets. The actual API feature to achieve this is to directly create a new connector that will let you have the full control of the render but also on the behavior. This is a use case where you have to be prepared to learn a lot of the Algolia semantics in order to achieve what you want. But in some situations this might be the only way out.

To know more and to use this API feature, read the creating custom widgets guide.

CSS theme

Since every widget in Vue InstantSearch has a predefined DOM output, we also provide a default CSS theme that you can load in your application.

Here’s a preview of the theme:

Within its predefined DOM output, every widget exposes a list of CSS classes that you can use to update the styling of the rendering.

For more information on how to style widgets, read the styling and CSS classes guide.

Need help?

Vue InstantSearch is worked on full-time by Algolia’s JavaScript team.

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