As the web evolves, more and more tools are available to take care of complex jobs for us. Why create a CRUD API from scratch when you can generate one in a few clicks? Why struggle with difficult search operations and queries, when simple and efficient solutions exist?

Maybe we're intimidated by new technologies, or concerned about investing time in tools that don't pan out. Or, more likely, we may not even be aware that a simple solution exists.

MeiliSearch in action

This tutorial will show you, in the fewest steps possible, how to use Strapi and MeiliSearch to create a search-based web-app. First, let's get acquainted with our tools!

Introducing our Tools

Strapi

Strapi is a headless CMS. It provides a quick way to create a back-end where we can add and store data. The data is then available through a REST API without having to code anything or configure our database.

MeiliSearch

MeiliSearch is a fast, open-source search engine that's easy to use and deploy. The aim of MeiliSearch is to create a relevant search experience out of the box in very few steps and with no configuration needed.

Requirements

To be able to follow this tutorial, you'll need the following:

  • An open terminal or command prompt
  • Node.js >= 10.16 and <= 14: this makes it possible to run JS outside a browser
    • You can check the active version with the command node --version
    • If your version of Node is outside this range, we recommend that you install nvm and use it to access Node 14
  • NPM and NPX >= 6.x (installed with Node.js): package managers that help you access and use JS libraries

Steps:

  1. Create a working directory
  2. Create Strapi Back End
  3. Start MeiliSearch
  4. Connect Strapi and MeiliSearch
  5. Conclusion

Create a directory for our app

We don't want our app to be all over the place! Let's create a directory where we will add every part of our application.

mkdir my-app
cd my-app

If you are not using a UNIX-based operating system please follow this guide to create a directory.

Create a back end using Strapi

In this section we are going to create and run a back-end using Strapi.

Our first step is to generate a Strapi Application. Go to your open terminal window and run the following command:

npx [email protected] back --quickstart
Using npx we run a specific version of the package without installing it globally. Note that this guide may not work with a different version.

This command creates a Strapi app in a new directory called back and opens the admin dashboard. Create an account or log in so that you have access.

If you lose this page at any time, just go to http://localhost:1337/admin in your browser

Once you have created your account, you should be redirected to Strapi's admin dashboard. This is where we will configure our back-end API.

Our next step is to create a new collection type—in this case, it'll be a collection of restaurants. Complete step 3 of Strapi's quick start guide to continue.

Admin dashboard landing page

After finishing step 3 of Strapi's quick start guide, a new collection named Restaurants should have appeared under Collection Types. If we click on it, we can see that there are still no restaurants. Let's add some!

Restaurants collection landing page

Click on + Add New Restaurants in the upper-right corner of the dashboard. Now let's add three restaurants, one by one:

  • Name: The Butter Biscotte. Description:  All about butter, nothing about health.
  • Name: The Slimy Snail Description: Gastronomy is made of garlic and butter.
  • Name: The Smell of Blue Description: Blue Cheese is not expired, it is how you eat it. With a bit of butter and a lot of happiness.
Create an entry in the Restaurant Collection.

For each restaurant, you need to press save and then publish. Once the three restaurants have been added, you should end up with the following page:

Main page of Restaurants showcasing the restaurants we have added

Our Strapi back end is now up and running! Strapi automatically creates a REST API for our Restaurants collection. Check out Strapi's documentation for all available API endpoints.

Next, it's time to bring MeiliSearch into the mix.

Launch and Start MeiliSearch

tl;dr: download, install and start MeiliSearch.

Want to avoid a local installation? Use our one-click install on DigitalOcean or our free 72h MeiliSearch Sandbox and continue to the next section.

If you made it this far, you should already have an open terminal window running Strapi. If not or if you closed it by accident, please follow this guide, navigate to the directory .../my-app/back that we created, and run the command npm run develop to restart Strapi.

Let's take a moment to open a second terminal window and move to the my-app directory. This window will be used to run MeiliSearch.

Inside my-app, create a new directory called meilisearch-binary .

mkdir meilisearch-binary
cd meilisearch-binary
Create and move to directory where we will run MeiliSearch

Execute the following command to download MeiliSearch in the current directory. If cURL doesn't work for you, consider trying one of the many other methods to download and install MeiliSearch.

# Install MeiliSearch
curl -L https://install.meilisearch.com | sh
Download and install MeiliSearch

We now have the meilisearch binary in our directory. Let's run it!

# Launch MeiliSearch
./meilisearch
Launch MeiliSearch

You should see a big chunk of text (including some ASCII art) confirming that MeiliSearch is up and running.

Running MeiliSearch

Find the line titled Server listening on. This lets us know where MeiliSearch is being served. Once you've found it, open this adress in your browser.

You should arrive on a web page without much to look at.

The MeiliSearch web interface w/ empty index

This is the MeiliSearch web interface. It will remain empty until we add some data to our MeiliSearch instance.

Data, you say? It just so happens we already have some in our Strapi app! Time to connect the two and start searching through our data with MeiliSearch.

Connect Strapi and MeiliSearch

In order to add the MeiliSearch plugin to Strapi, we need to quit our Strapi app. Go to the terminal window running Strapi (make sure it's not the one running MeiliSearch!) and push control + c to kill the process.

Once you've done that, move inside the back directory and install the plugin.

cd back
npm install strapi-plugin-meilisearch

After the installation, we have to rebuild our Strapi app before starting it again in development mode, since it makes configuration easier.

npm run build
npm run develop

At this point, our Strapi app should be running once again on the default address: http://localhost:1337/admin/ . Visiting it in your browser, you should see an admin sign-in page; enter the same credentials as before.

Once connected, you should see a new Plugin on the left side of the screen: MeiliSearch! Let's click on it.

Arriving on the MeiliSearch plugin page, we can see that the information is split into two sections:

  • MeiliSearch credentials
  • Strapi collections
MeiliSearch plugin page of Strapi admin dashboard

First, we need to add the credentials of our MeiliSearch instance so that Strapi knows where to send our data.

You may remember from the previous step that MeiliSearch runs on http://localhost:7700 by default. Add this in the MeiliSearch Host field, then click Add to connect your MeiliSearch instance to Strapi.  

Add credentials to MeiliSearch.
Note that we leave MeiliSearch Api Key blank because we started MeiliSearch without a master key.

Great! Now it's time to add your Strapi collection to MeiliSearch.

Try clicking on the check box next to restaurant and watch as MeiliSearch instantly begins processing your data. Because we only have three documents, the indexing time is practically non-existent.

Add restaurants to MeiliSearch

We can now go back to our MeiliSearch host address: http://localhost:7700. After refreshing, you should observe that the page is not as empty as before.

Demo page of MeiliSearch

We did it! Try inputting "butter" and check out the results.

Front-end Interface

Using instant-meilisearch, you can implement a front-end search interface in React, Vue, or Angular in no time at all.

Here's an interactive code sandbox (in React) where you can get a feel for the different components. You can't break anything, so feel free to play around!

Conclusion

I hope this article was a pleasant introduction to the new MeiliSearch plugin for Strapi. However, this is just the beginning!

If you have any questions, please join us on Slack. If you like MeiliSearch, a star on GitHub means a lot. For more information, see our: