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Search Concepts

Backstage Search lets you find the right information you are looking for in the Backstage ecosystem.

To get started, you should get familiar with these core concepts:

Search Engines

Backstage Search isn't a search engine itself, rather, it provides an interface between your Backstage instance and a Search Engine of your choice. More concretely, a SearchEngine is an interface whose concrete implementations facilitate communication with different search engines (like Elasticsearch, Lunr, Solr, etc). This abstraction exists in order to support your organization's needs.

Out of the box, Backstage Search comes pre-packaged with an in-memory search engine implementation built on top of Lunr.

Query Translators

Because you can bring your own search engine, and because search engines have very unique and robust query languages themselves, there needs to be a translation layer between an abstract search query (containing search terms, filters, and document types) into a concrete search query that is specific to a search engine.

Search Engines come pre-packaged with simple translators that do rudimentary transformations of search terms and filters, but you may want to provide your own to help tune search results in the context of your organization.

Documents and Indices

"Document" is an abstract concept representing something that can be found by searching for it. A document can represent a software entity, a TechDocs page, etc. Documents are made up of metadata fields, at a minimum including a title, text, and location (as in a URL).

An index is a collection of such documents of a given type.


You need to be able to search something! Collators are the way to define what can be searched. Specifically, they're readable object streams of documents that conform to a minimum set of fields (including a document title, location, and text), but which can contain any other fields as defined by the collator itself. One collator is responsible for defining and collecting documents of a type.

Some plugins, like the Catalog Backend, provide so-called "default" collator factories which you can use out-of-the-box to start searching across Backstage quickly.


Sometimes you want to add extra information to a set of documents in your search index that the collator may not be aware of. For example, the Software Catalog knows about software entities, but it may not know about their usage or quality.

Decorators are transform streams which sit between a collator (read stream) and an indexer (write stream) during the indexing process. It can be used to add extra fields to documents as they are being collated and indexed. This extra metadata could then be used to bias search results or otherwise improve the search experience in your Backstage instance.

In addition to adding extra metadata, decorators (like any transform stream) can also be used to remove metadata, filter out, or even add extra documents at index-time.

The Scheduler

There are many ways a search index could be built and maintained, but Backstage Search chooses to completely rebuild indices on a schedule. Different collators can be configured to refresh at different intervals, depending on how often the source information is updated. When search indexing is distributed among multiple backend nodes, coordination to prevent clashes is typically handled by a distributed TaskRunner.

The Search Page

Search pages are very custom things. Not every Backstage instance will want the same interface! In order to allow you to customize your search experience to your heart's content, the Search Plugin takes care of state management and other search logic for you, but most of the layout of a search page lives in a search page component defined in your Backstage App.

For an example of a simple search page, check getting started

Search Context and Components

A search experience, like a page, is composed of any number of search components, which are all wired up using a search context.

Each search experience's context consists of details like a search term, filters, types, results, and a page cursor for handling pagination. Different components use this context in different ways. For example, the <SearchBar /> can set the search term, <SearchFilter /> components can set filters, and search results can be displayed using the <SearchResult /> component.

The <SearchResult /> and <SearchFilter /> components are special, in that they themselves are extensible. For an example of how to extend these components, check getting started.

If you need even more customization, you can use the search context like any other React context to create custom search components of your own.