How to create a search functionality with php mysql

Note: I wrote this post first on October , 2007 , nearly 3 years back and since then this post got a lot of audiences. Surely this topic is one of the good ones for the newbies. After reading the responses for this post I saw that users are facing some errors and after a long while I got some time to have a second look. So I have again installed PHP, APACHE, MYSQL and MYSQL WorkBench in my local machine and tested the script like a user. I have found some new bugs and made the modifications accordingly. Now the Script is completely new and tested fully.

To simplify I tried to use some out of box functionality so that one can run the example right away.

For the sample database I have used “SAKILA” database from MySQL. I have only used the “Customer” table for the example, but this can be extended to a bigger example. Hope you’ll find this useful.

First: Install the SAKILA Database to your local MySQL instance. You can download it from here. We will be using the CUSTOMER table. Here is the table for your reference:


first_name VARCHAR(45) NOT NULL,

last_name VARCHAR(45) NOT NULL,




create_date DATETIME NOT NULL,


PRIMARY KEY (customer_id),

KEY idx_fk_store_id (store_id),

KEY idx_fk_address_id (address_id),

KEY idx_last_name (last_name),

CONSTRAINT fk_customer_address FOREIGN KEY (address_id) REFERENCES address (address_id) ON DELETE RESTRICT ON UPDATE CASCADE,





Second: This table already have a lot of data. You can verify it by the simple select command.

Initially it has nearly 599 rows. A very good amount of data to test our code.

In this test we will use the CUSTOMER table and we’ll try to search a particular name from the three columns ‘First Name’, ‘Last Name’ and ‘Email’ and if found we’ll display the data. There are 2 ways to do it. I’ll first explain the easiest way and then a bit more advanced version of it. Both the scripts are tested by me using SAKILA database of MySQL and they are working fine. In case of any problem don’t forget to send me your queries.

So, lets get started.

In the first Example we’ll use a 2 page solution. The first page is the search page which is in plain HTML and will contain a Search box and a Submit button and it will post the data by GET method to the next page called ‘Search.php’

In the first Page, just after the <body> tag of your page, place the following HTML. This is for the form which will contain the textfield to enter our search string in.
<form name=”form” action=”search.php” method=”get”>
<input type=”text” name=”q” />
<input type=”submit” name=”Submit” value=”Search” />

Now, create a new page called ‘search.php’ and add the following into it. Follow the PHP comments for what the script is doing, if you get stuck, don’t forget to send me your queries!

<?php  // Get the search variable from URL
die(“Search Query not found”);$var = $_GET[‘q’];
$trimmed = trim($var); //trim whitespace from the stored variable

// rows to return

// check for an empty string and display a message.
if ($trimmed == “”){
echo “<p>Please enter a search…</p>”;

// check for a search parameter
if (!isset($var)){
echo “<p>We dont seem to have a search parameter!</p>”;

//connect to your database ** EDIT REQUIRED HERE **

//specify database ** EDIT REQUIRED HERE **
mysql_select_db(“sakila”) or die(“Unable to select database”);
// Build SQL Query
$query = “select * from customer where first_name like \”%$trimmed%\” or last_name like \”%$trimmed%\” or email like \”%$trimmed%\” order by first_name DESC”;

// EDIT the above SQL query and specify your table and field names


// If we have no results, offer a google search as an alternativethis is optional

if ($numrows == 0)
echo “<h4>Results</h4>”;
echo “<p>Sorry, your search: $trimmed returned zero results</p>”;

// google
echo “<p><a href=\”;
. $trimmed . “\” target=\”_blank\” title=\”Look up
” . $trimmed . ” on Google\”>Click here</a> to try the
search on google</p>”;

// next determine if s has been passed to script, if not use ZERO (0) to Limit the output
if (empty($s)) {

// get results
$query .= ” limit $s,$limit”;
$result = mysql_query($query) or die(“Couldn’t execute query”);

// display what the person searched for
echo “<p>You searched for: $var </p>”;

// begin to show results set
echo “Results: <br/>”;
$count = 1 + $s ;

// now you can display the results returned
while ($row= mysql_fetch_array($result)) {
$f_name = $row[“first_name”];
$l_name = $row[“last_name”];
$email = $row[“email”];

echo “$count.> $f_name $l_name $email<br/>” ;
$count++ ;

$currPage = (($s/$limit) + 1);

//break before paging
echo “<br />”;

// next we need to do the links to other results
if ($s>=1) {

// bypass PREV link if s is 0
print ” <a href=\”$PHP_SELF?s=$prevs&q=$var\”><<
Prev 10</a>  “;

// calculate number of pages needing links

// $pages now contains int of pages needed unless there is a remainder from division

if ($numrows%$limit) {
// has remainder so add one page

// check to see if last page
if (!((($s+$limit)/$limit)==$pages) && $pages!=1) {

// not last page so give NEXT link

echo ” <a href=\”$PHP_SELF?s=$news&q=$var\”>Next 10 >></a>”;

$a = $s + ($limit) ;
if ($a > $numrows) { $a = $numrows ; }
$b = $s + 1 ;
echo “<p>Showing results $b to $a of $numrows</p>”;


Three major areas are covered in this script, the first is selecting data from the database which matches your entered keyword, the second is displaying the results on the web page and the last is generating the paging, which displays results in chunks of 10 with next/previous links where they are necessary.
Important: This script requires numerous edits before it can be adapted for use. The SQL query in this example is only selecting 1 field from a hypothetical database for the training purpose. Further down the script, the value of that field is being displayed on the page. The major amendments that need to be performed are 1.) The SQL statement, and 2.) The PHP which displays the results.

Lets Look at another example which is a bit complex than the previous one. It uses some PHP inbuilt functions which might be new for you. So I have added some documentation for you:

  • trim() –  Strip whitespace (or other characters) from the beginning and end of a string
  • explode() –  Split a string by string
  • array_unique() –   Removes duplicate values from an array
  • preg_replace() –  Perform a regular expression search and replace

Other functions used include common database access functions like mysql_connect,mysql_num_rows, etc. Please see code comments for more detailed explanation of the script. If you have questions or suggestions please use the comment box on the bottom of the page.

Open your favorite editor and create search.php file as shown below.

<?php//This is a working script

//Make sure to go through it and edit database table fields that you are searching

//This script assumes you are searching 3 fields

$hostname_logon = “localhost” ;

$database_logon = “sakila” ;

$username_logon = “username” ;

$password_logon = “password” ;

//open database connection

$connections = mysql_connect($hostname_logon, $username_logon, $password_logon) or die ( “Unable to connect to the database” );

//select database

mysql_select_db($database_logon) or die ( “Unable to select database!” );

//specify how many results to display per page

$limit = 10;

// Get the search variable from URL

$var = @$_GET[‘q’] ;

//trim whitespace from the stored variable

$trimmed = trim($var);

//separate key-phrases into keywords

$trimmed_array = explode(” “,$trimmed); // check for an empty string and display a message.

if ($trimmed == “”) {

$resultmsg =  “<p>Search Error</p><p>Please enter a search…</p>” ;

}// check for a search parameter

if (!isset($var)){

$resultmsg =  “<p>Search Error</p><p>We don’t seem to have a search parameter! </p>” ;


// Build SQL Query for each keyword entered

foreach ($trimmed_array as $trimm){

// EDIT the following SQL Query and specify your table and field names

$query = “SELECT * FROM customer WHERE first_name LIKE \”%$trimm%\” OR last_name LIKE  \”%$trimm%\” OR email LIKE  \”%$trimm%\” ORDER BY first_name DESC” ;

// Execute the query to  get number of rows that contain search kewords

$numresults = mysql_query($query);

$row_num_links_main = mysql_num_rows($numresults);     // next determine if ‘s’ has been passed to script, if not use 0.

// ‘s’ is a variable that gets set as we navigate the search result pages.

if (empty($s)) {


}      // now let’s get results.

$query .= ” LIMIT $s,$limit” ;

$numresults = mysql_query ($query) or die ( “Couldn’t execute query” );

$row= mysql_fetch_array ($numresults);

//store record id of every item that contains the keyword in the array we need to do this to avoid display of duplicate search result.


//EDIT HERE and specify your field name that is primary key

$adid_array[] = $row[ ‘customer_id’ ];

}while( $row= mysql_fetch_array($numresults));

} //end foreach

if($row_num_links_main == 0 && $row_set_num == 0){

$resultmsg = “<p>Search results for: $trimmed </p><p>Sorry, your search returned zero results</p>” ;


//delete duplicate record id’s from the array. To do this we will use array_unique function

$tmparr = array_unique($adid_array);


foreach ($tmparr as $v) {

$newarr[$i] = $v;


} // now you can display the results returned. But first we will display the search form on the top of the page


<form action=”search.php” method=”get” name=”search”>

<div align=”center”>

<input name=”q” type=”text” value=”<?php echo $var;?>” size=”15″>

<input name=”search” type=”submit” value=”Search”>




// display what the person searched for.

if( isset ($resultmsg)){

echo $resultmsg;



echo “Search results for: ” . $var;


foreach($newarr as $value){

// EDIT the following SQL Query and specify your table and field names

$query_value = “SELECT * FROM customer WHERE customer_id = ‘$value'”;

$num_value = mysql_query($query_value);

$row_linkcat = mysql_fetch_array($num_value);

$row_num_links = mysql_num_rows($num_value);

//now let’s make the keywods bold. To do that we will use preg_replace function.

//EDIT parts of the lines below that have fields names like $row_linkcat[ ‘field1’ ]

//This script assumes you are searching only 3 fields. If you are searching more fileds make sure that add appropriate line.

$first_name = preg_replace ( “‘($var)’si” , “<b>\\1</b>” , $row_linkcat[ ‘first_name’ ] );

$last_name = preg_replace ( “‘($var)’si” , “<b>\\1</b>” , $row_linkcat[ ‘last_name’ ] );

$email = preg_replace ( “‘($var)’si” , “<b>\\1</b>” , $row_linkcat[ ’email’ ] );

foreach($trimmed_array as $trimm){

if($trimm != ‘b’ ){

//IF you added more fields to search make sure to add them below as well.

$first_name = preg_replace( “‘($trimm)’si” ,  “<b>\\1</b>” , $first_name);

$last_name = preg_replace( “‘($trimm)’si” , “<b>\\1</b>” , $last_name);

$email = preg_replace( “‘($trimm)’si” ,  “<b>\\1</b>” , $email);


//end highlight?>


<?php echo $first_name; ?><br>

<?php echo $last_name; ?><br>

<?php echo $email; ?>



}   //end foreach $trimmed_array

if($row_num_links_main > $limit){

// next we need to do the links to other search result pages

if ($s>=1) { // do not display previous link if ‘s’ is ‘0’


echo “<div align=’left’><a href=’$PHP_SELF?s=$prevs&q=$var&catid=$catid’>Previous ” .$limit. “</a></div>”;


// check to see if last page

$slimit =$s+$limit;

if (!($slimit >= $row_num_links_main) && $row_num_links_main!=1) {

// not last page so display next link


echo “<div align=’right’><a href=’$PHP_SELF?s=$n&q=$var&catid=$catid’>Next ” .$limit. “</a></div>”;



}  //end foreach $newarr


The search code is now available for Download. Hope this helps.