Quick Search Integration Tutorial

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This tutorial shows you how to write a module that plugs custom items into the NetBeans Quick Search feature.

For troubleshooting purposes, you are welcome to download the completed tutorial source code.

Introduction to Quick Search Integration

The Quick Search feature, introduced in NetBeans Platform 6.5, consists of a text field in the top right corner of applications on the NetBeans Platform. As a search string is typed in the field, a drop-down list appears, showing matching items. By default, the items come from the names of actions registered in the IDE, as well as help topics in the IDE’s Java Help. When an action item is selected, the action is invoked; when a help item is selected, the topic opens in JavaHelp.

In addition, however, the Quick Search API is exposed. You can use it to integrate your own search items into the Quick Search feature. You can use the feature either within the IDE or as part of your own application on top of the NetBeans Platform.

In this tutorial, you create a module that integrates items from NetBeans Zone with the Quick Search feature:

qsearch 72 result 2

Creating the Module Project

In this section, we use a wizard to create the source structure that every NetBeans module requires. The source structure consists of certain folders in specific places and a set of files that are always needed. For example, every NetBeans module requires a nbproject folder, which holds the project’s metadata.

  1. Choose File > New Project (Ctrl-Shift-N). Under Categories, select NetBeans Modules. Under Projects, select Module. Click Next.

  1. In the Name and Location panel, type NetBeansZoneSearch in Project Name. Change the Project Location to any directory on your computer. Click Next.

  1. In the Basic Module Configuration panel, type org.netbeans.modules.nbzone as the Code Name Base. Click Finish.

The IDE creates the NetBeansZoneSearch project. The project contains all of your sources and project metadata, such as the project’s Ant build script. The project opens in the IDE. You can view its logical structure in the Projects window (Ctrl-1) and its file structure in the Files window (Ctrl-2).

Using the Quick Search Provider Wizard

In this section, we use a wizard to create a stub Java class and layer entries necessary for beginning our integration with the Quick Search feature.

  1. Right-click the "NetBeansZoneSearch" project node and choose New > Other. In the New File dialog, choose Module Development > Quick Search Provider:

qsearch 72 newfilewizard
  1. In the Quick Search Provider panel, set the following:

    • Provider Class Name. Specifies the class name of the stub that the wizard will generate. Type "NBZoneSearchProvider" in this field.

    • Package. Specifies the package where the stub class will be generated. Select "org.netbeans.modules.nbzone" from the drop-down.

    • Category Display Name. Specifies the display name of the category that the stub will create. Type "NetBeans Zone" in this field.

    • Command Prefix. Specifies prefix for narrowing the search to the category that the stub will create. Type "nb" in this field.

    • Position in Popup. Specifies the position of the new category in within the Quick Search feature. Leave "0", so that the category will be first in the popup.

You should now see the following:

qsearch 72 newfilewizard2
  1. Click Finish. The Projects window should now look as follows:

qsearch 72 newproject

The Java stub that has been created is as follows:

package org.netbeans.modules.nbzone;

import org.netbeans.spi.quicksearch.SearchProvider;
import org.netbeans.spi.quicksearch.SearchRequest;
import org.netbeans.spi.quicksearch.SearchResponse;

public class NBZoneSearchProvider implements SearchProvider {

    public void evaluate(SearchRequest request, SearchResponse response) {
        //sample code
        //for (SearchedItem item : getAllItemsToSearchIn()) {
        //    if (isConditionSatisfied(item, request)) {
        //        if (!response.addResult(item.getRunnable(), item.getDisplayName(),
        //	      item.getShortcut(), item.getDisplayHint())) {
        //	      break;
        //	  }
        //    }

In the layer.xml file, you should see the following:

<folder name="QuickSearch">
    <folder name="NetBeansZone">
        <attr name="command" stringvalue="nb"/>
        <attr name="position" intvalue="0"/>
        <file name="org-netbeans-modules-nbzone-NBZoneSearchProvider.instance">
            <attr name="displayName" bundlevalue="org.netbeans.modules.nbzone.Bundle#QuickSearch/NetBeansZone/org-netbeans-modules-nbzone-NBZoneSearchProvider.instance"/>

Integrating an External HTML DOM Parser

In the next section, we will need an HTML DOM Parser so that we can parse NetBeans Zone. You can use any appropriate parser of your choice. For purposes of this tutorial, we will use JTidy.

There are two ways of making an external JAR file available to a module:

  • The first way is to put the JAR into a separate module, called a "library wrapper module", and have the functionality module depend on the library wrapper module, after putting both into a module suite. The advantage of having two separate modules is that, when a new version of the external JAR is released, you will only need to redistribute a small module containing only the external JAR, rather than a larger one that also contains the functionality code.

  • The second way is to add the JAR to the functionality module, which is what is done below. The advantage of this approach is that it is more convenient in the short term only, since you only have one module to distribute, while the disadvantage is that you are mixing your external library with the functionality code, which is not a strictly modular approach.

  1. Download JTidy and find the jtidy-xxx.jar that is within the download.

1. Right-click the project, choose Properties, and wrap the JAR as shown below:

qsearch 72 wrapjar
  1. Look in the Files window and notice that you have your Tidy.jar in a new folder, named release/modules/ext folder:

qsearch 72 wrapjar2

In addition, towards the end of the project.xml file, which is in the nbproject folder, notice the XML elements below, i.e., right near the end of the file:


The external HTML DOM Parser is now on your module’s classpath. Now you can use the classes within the JAR, as you will need to do in the next section.

Coding the Quick Search Integration

Next, we will implement the API. The API’s classes are as follows:

Class Description


The main interface of the Quick Search API. Implement this interface to provide a new group of results for your quick search.


The description of the quick search request.


The response object for collecting the results of the SearchRequest.

Below, we set dependencies on the required modules and then implement them in our own module.

  1. Right-click the Libraries node, choose Add Module Dependency, and set dependencies on the UI Utilities API and the Utilities API.

  1. Code the "NBZoneSearchProvider" class as follows:

public class NBZoneSearchProvider implements SearchProvider {

    public void evaluate(SearchRequest request, SearchResponse response) {
        try {

            //The URL that we are providing a search for:
            URL url = new URL("http://netbeans.dzone.com");
            //Stuff needed by Tidy:
            Tidy tidy = new Tidy();

            //Get the org.w3c.dom.Document from Tidy,
            //or use a different parser of your choice:
            Document doc = tidy.parseDOM(url.openStream(), null);

            //Get all "a" elements:
            NodeList list = doc.getElementsByTagName("a");

            //Get the number of elements:
            int length = list.getLength();

            //Loop through all the "a" elements:
            for (int i = 0; i < length; i++) {

                String href = null;
                if (null != list.item(i).getAttributes().getNamedItem("href")) {
                    //Get the "href" attribute from the current "a" element:
                    href = list.item(i).getAttributes().getNamedItem("href").getNodeValue();

                //Get the "title" attribute from the current "a" element:
                if (null != list.item(i).getAttributes().getNamedItem("title")) {
                    String title = list.item(i).getAttributes().getNamedItem("title").getNodeValue();

                    //If the title matches the requested text:
                    if (title.toLowerCase().indexOf(request.getText().toLowerCase()) != -1) {

                        //Add the runnable and the title to the response
                        //and return if nothing is added:
                        if (!response.addResult(new OpenFoundArticle(href), title)) {




        } catch (IOException ex) {


    private static class OpenFoundArticle implements Runnable {

        private String article;

        public OpenFoundArticle(String article) {
            this.article = article;

        public void run() {
            try {
                URL url = new URL("http://netbeans.dzone.com" + article);
            } catch (MalformedURLException ex) {
                Logger.getLogger(NBZoneSearchProvider.class.getName()).log(Level.SEVERE, null, ex);


  1. Make sure the following import statements are declared at the top of the class:

import java.io.IOException;
import java.net.MalformedURLException;
import java.net.URL;
import java.util.logging.Level;
import java.util.logging.Logger;
import org.netbeans.spi.quicksearch.SearchProvider;
import org.netbeans.spi.quicksearch.SearchRequest;
import org.netbeans.spi.quicksearch.SearchResponse;
import org.openide.awt.HtmlBrowser.URLDisplayer;
import org.openide.awt.StatusDisplayer;
import org.openide.util.Exceptions;
import org.w3c.dom.Document;
import org.w3c.dom.NodeList;
import org.w3c.tidy.Tidy;

Installing and Trying Out the Functionality

Let’s now install the module and then use the quick search feature integration. The IDE uses an Ant build script to build and install your module. The build script is created for you when you create the project.

  1. In the Projects window, right-click the project and choose Run. A new instance of the IDE starts up and installs the Quick Search integration module. In the top-right of the IDE, you will find your Quick Search feature:

qsearch 72 result 1
  1. Type a string in the Quick Search feature and, if the string matches the title of something on NetBeans Zone, the item from NetBeans Zone is included in the result:

qsearch 72 result 2

If you type the command prefix that you defined in the layer.xml , followed by a space, then only the related category is searched:

qsearch 72 result 3
  1. Click an item and, if you have set a browser in the IDE, it opens, displaying the selected article.

Using the Quick Search Feature on the NetBeans Platform

The previous sections assumed that you were creating a module for NetBeans IDE. The two topics that follow are applicable if, instead of creating a module for NetBeans IDE, you are creating your own application on top of the NetBeans Platform. In that case, you will need to take steps to include the Quick Search feature in your own application, as described below.

  1. Add the following tags to the layer.xml file:

<folder name="Toolbars">
    <folder name="QuickSearch">
        <file name="org-netbeans-modules-quicksearch-QuickSearchAction.shadow">
            <attr name="originalFile" stringvalue="Actions/Edit/org-netbeans-modules-quicksearch-QuickSearchAction.instance"/>
  1. Run the NetBeans Platform application and you should see that the Quick Search feature is now available and functioning:

qsearch 72 app result 1
  1. Alternatively, you can show the Quick Search feature right-aligned in the menu bar:

<folder name="Menu">
    <file name="Spacer.instance">
        <attr name="instanceCreate" methodvalue="javax.swing.Box.createHorizontalGlue"/>
        <attr name="position" intvalue="9005"/>
    <file name="org-netbeans-modules-quicksearch-QuickSearchAction.shadow">
        <attr name="originalFile" stringvalue="Actions/Edit/org-netbeans-modules-quicksearch-QuickSearchAction.instance"/>
        <attr name="position" intvalue="9010"/>
  1. Run the NetBeans Platform application and you should see that the Quick Search feature is now in the menu bar:

qsearch 72 app result 2

Next Steps

For more information about creating and developing NetBeans modules, see the following resources: