Guides / Building Search UI

What Is Vue InstantSearch?

You’re reading the documentation for Vue InstantSearch v3. Read our migration guide to learn how to upgrade from v2 to v3. You can still find the documentation for version 1 on our community website.

Vue InstantSearch is an open-source, production-ready UI library for Vue that lets you quickly build a search interface in your front-end application.

Our goal is to help you implement awesome search experiences as smoothly as possible by providing a complete search ecosystem. InstantSearch tackles an important part of this vast goal by providing front-end widgets that you can assemble into unique search interfaces.

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:

<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:

    <!-- Widgets -->

  export default {
    data() {
      return {
        searchClient: algoliasearch(

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, InstantSearch provides a third layer of API for this: creating custom widgets. There are two APIs: the fist one lets you create a new connector, and the second one lets you create a new widget. Both solutions give you full control of the render and behavior.

When building a new widget, you must be prepared to dive deep into the Algolia semantics to achieve what you want.

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:

Theme preview

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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