GNU ELPA - consult-recoll


Recoll queries using consult
consult-recoll-0.7.tar, 2022-Aug-20, 230 KiB
Jose A Ortega Ruiz <>
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To install this package, run in Emacs:

M-x package-install RET consult-recoll RET

Full description


1 About

Recoll is a local search engine that knows how to index a wide variety of file formats, including PDFs, org and other text files and emails. It also offers a sophisticated query language, and, for some document kinds, snippets in the the found documents actually matching the query at hand.

This package provides an emacs interface to perform recoll queries, and display its results, via consult. It is also recommened that you use a a package for vertical display of completions that works well with consult, such as vertico.


This package is part of GNU ELPA, so for recent Emacs versions you can install it directly via M-x package-install RET consult-recoll RET.

1.1 Tip: using consult-recoll with helm

If you use helm-mode, you'll need to disable helm's completing read for consult-recoll, with something like:

(with-eval-after-load "helm"
  (with-eval-after-load "recoll"
    (add-to-list 'helm-completing-read-handlers-alist
		 (cons #'consult-recoll nil))))

2 Searching

The entry point of consult-recoll is the interactive command consult-recoll. Just invoke it (e.g., via M-x consult-recoll) to perform any query and get its results dynamically displayed in the minibuffer, with "live" updates as the query changes. Selecting any of the candidate results will open the associated file, using the functions in consult-recoll-open-fns (see Opening search results below).

By default, your input will be interpreted as a recoll query, in the recoll query language (so you can issue queries like "" or "dir:/home/jao/docs mime:application/pdf where is wally", and so on). You can fine tune how queries are issued by customizing consult-recoll-search-flags.

2.1 Tip: Two-level filtering

consult-recoll builds on the asychronous logic inside consult.el, so you can use consult's handy two-level filtering, which allows searching over the results of a query. For example, if you start typing

#goedel's theorem

see a bunch of results, and want to narrow them to those lines matching, say, "hofstadter", you can type # (which stops further recoll queries) followed by the term you're interested in:

#goedel's theorem#hofstadter

at which point only matches containing "hofstadter" will be offered.

3 Displaying results

For each matching result, consult-recoll retrieves its title, full file name and mime type, and shows, by default, a line with the first two in the minibuffer, using the customizable faces consult-recoll-title-face and consult-recoll-url-face. You can provide your own formatting function (perhaps stripping common prefixes of the file name, or displaying also the MIME) as the value of the customizable variable consult-recoll-format-candidate.

By default, consult-recoll uses consult's live previews to show, for each selected candidate hit, a buffer with further information, including snippets of the file (when provided by recoll). The title, path and mime type of the document are also shown in previews.

See Opening search results below for ways of customizing how Emacs will open selected results.

3.1 Example: formatting results list

As mentioned, one can use consult-recoll-format-candidate to customize how search results are shown in the minibufer. For instance, i like to shorten paths removing common prefixes and to show MIME types, so i use a formatter similar to this one:

(defun jao-recoll-format (title url mime-type)
  ;; remove from url the common prefixes /home/jao/{org/doc,doc,...}
  (let* ((u (replace-regexp-in-string "/home/jao/" "" url))
	 (u (replace-regexp-in-string
	     "\\(doc\\|org/doc\\|.emacs.d/gnus/Mail\\|var/mail\\)/" "" u)))
    (format "%s (%s, %s)"
	    (propertize title 'face 'consult-recoll-title-face)
	    (propertize u 'face 'consult-recoll-url-face)
	    (propertize mime-type 'face 'consult-recoll-mime-face))))

(setq consult-recoll-format-candidate #'jao-recoll-format)

3.2 Integration with embark-collect

If you use embark, you can use embark-collect to export the list of search results in the minibuffer to an Embark collect buffer. To allow opening buffer in that buffer as if they had been selected in the minibuffer, enable integration with embark adding this call to your init file:


3.3 Tip: displaying snippets in results list

Instead of relying on a separate preview buffer to display snippets, you can set consult-recoll-inline-snippets to t to show them in the minibuffer, as individual candidates.


3.4 Tip: disabling mime type groups

By default, results are listed grouped by their mime type. You can disable grouping by setting the customizable variable consult-recoll-group-by-mime to nil.


4 Opening search results

When a search result candidate is selected, its MIME type is used to look up a function to open its associated file in the customizable variable consult-recoll-open-fns. If no entry is found, consult-recoll uses the value of consult-open-fn as a default. If the latter is not set, eww-open-file is used for HTML files and find-file for the rest.

If consult-recoll-inline-snippets is set, the functions above take two arguments: the URL of the file to open and, if present, the snippet page number (or nil if it is not available, e.g., because the selected candidate is the one showing the document data).

If the selected candidate is a snippet corresponding to a text MIME and the page number of the snippet is 0 (as is often the case, since text files are normally not paginated), consult-recoll will perform a search for the snippet text after opening the file.

See also Integration with embark-collect for an alternative way of listing and opening search results using embark.

4.1 Example: opening PDFs with external viewer

For instance, if you want to use zathura to open PDF documents, you could define an elisp helper like:

(defun open-with-zathura (file &optional page)
  (shell-command (format "zathura %s -P %s" file (or page 1))))

and then add it to consult-recoll-open-fns:

(add-to-list 'consult-recoll-open-fns '("application/pdf" . open-with-zathura))

4.2 Example: Opening emails with notmuch

If you use notmuch and include your maildirs in recoll's indexed directories, a simple way to open a candidate result given its file name is to find out the message's ID and use notmuch.el's function notmuch-show to open it:

(defun open-with-notmuch (file &optional _page)
    (insert-file-contents-literally file)
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (and (re-search-forward "^Message-ID: <\\([^>]+\\)>$" nil t)
	 (notmuch-show (concat "id:" (match-string 1))))))

(add-to-list 'consult-recoll-open-fns '("message/rfc822" . open-with-notmuch))

5 Thanks

Thanks to

  • Nicholas P. Rougier for useful discussions and suggestions, including actual fixes.
  • Stefan Monnier for setting up the GNU ELPA package.
  • Johan Widén for tips on using consult-recoll with helm.

Old versions

consult-recoll-0.6.2.tar.lz2022-Aug-08 180 KiB