Getting Started

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This guide will walk you through the few steps needed to start a project with InstantSearch iOS. We will start from an empty iOS project, and create from scratch a full search interface!

Another thing to point out is that this getting started guide will show you how to build your search experience using storyboards (or xibs). However, if you prefer to write your UI programatically, you can follow the programmatic getting started guide.

Before we start

To use InstantSearch iOS, you need an Algolia account. You can create one by clicking here, or use the following credentials:

  • APP ID: latency
  • Search API Key: 3d9875e51fbd20c7754e65422f7ce5e1
  • Index name: bestbuy_promo

These credentials will let you use a preloaded dataset of products appropriate for this guide.

Create a new project

Let’s get started! In Xcode, create a new Project:

  • On the Template screen, select Single View Application and click next
  • Specify your Product name, select Swift as the language, and iPhone as the Device. Then create.

We will use CocoaPods for adding the dependency to InstantSearch.

  • If you don’t have CocoaPods installed on your machine, open your terminal and run sudo gem install cocoapods.
  • Go to the root of your project then type pod init. A Podfile will be created for you.
  • Open your Podfile and add pod 'InstantSearch-iOS', '~> 1.0.0' below your target.
  • On your terminal, run pod update.
  • Close you Xcode project and then at the root of your project, open projectName.xcworkspace.

Initialize InstantSearch

To initialize InstantSearch, you need an Algolia account with a configured non-empty index.

Go to your AppDelegate.swift file and then add import InstantSearch at the top. Then inside your application(_:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:) method, add the following:

InstantSearch.shared.configure(appID: "latency", apiKey: "1f6fd3a6fb973cb08419fe7d288fa4db", index: "bestbuy_promo")
InstantSearch.shared.params.attributesToRetrieve = ["name", "salePrice"]
InstantSearch.shared.params.attributesToHighlight = ["name"]

This will initialize InstantSearch with the credentials proposed at the beginning. You can also chose to replace them with the credentials of your own app.

To understand the above, we are using the singleton InstantSearch.shared to configure InstantSearch with our Algolia credentials. InstantSearch.shared will be used throughout our app to easily deal with InstantSearch. You could also have created your own instance of InstantSearch and passed it around your controllers, but we won’t do that in this guide.

Next, we added the attributes that we want to retrieve and highlight. As a side note, some search parameters can be defaulted in the Algolia dashboard by going to Indices -> Display tab. If you add the configuration there, then you do not need to specify the attributesToRetrieve and attributesToHighlight as shown above.

InstantSearch iOS is based on a system of widgets that constitute your search interface. The first widget we’ll add is a SearchBar since any search experience requires one. InstantSearch will automatically recognize your SearchBar as a source of search queries. We will also add a Stats widget to show how the number of results change when you type a query in your SearchBar.

  • Start by going to your ViewController.swift file and then add import InstantSearch at the top.
  • Then inside your viewDidLoad method, add the following:
// Register all widgets in view to InstantSearch
InstantSearch.shared.registerAllWidgets(in: self.view)

Here, we’re telling InstantSearch to inspect all the subviews in the ViewController's view. So what we need to do now is add the widgets to our view!

  • Open your Main.storyboard file, and on the Utility Tab on your right, go to the Object Library at the bottom.
  • Drag and drop a Search Bar to your view. Click on it and then on the identity inspector, add the custom class SearchBarWidget.
  • Now repeat the process but this time add a Label to the view, and then let the custom class be a StatsLabelWidget.
  • Finally, make the width of the label bigger so that the text can clearly appear.

Build and run your application: you now have the most basic search experience! You should see that the results are changing on each key stroke. Fantastic!


You just used your very first widgets from InstantSearch. In this part, you’ve learned:

  • How to create a SearchBar Widget.
  • How to create a StatsLabel Widget.
  • How to register widgets to InstantSearch.

Display your data: Hits

The whole point of a search experience is to display the dataset that matches best the query entered by the user. That’s what we will implement in this section with the hits widget.

  • In your Main.Storyboard, drag and drop a Table View from the Object Library and resize it to make it bigger.
  • Select the Table View and change its custom class to HitsTableWidget.

If you go to the attributes inspector, you will see that at the top, there are 4 configuration parameters that you can change, like Hits Pet Page and Infinite Scrolling. Feel free to change them to your needs, or keep the default values.

  • Click on your Table View, and in the attributes inspector, add a prototype cell under the Table View section by replacing 0 with 1.
  • You should now be able to see a Table View Cell (under your Table View) in the Document Outline on the left of the storyboard file. Select that, and in the attributes inspector, specify hitCell as the identifier.
  • Finally, we need to have a reference to the HitsTableView in your ViewController. For that, go ahead and create an IBOutlet and call it tableView.

Now that we have our Table View setup, we still need to specify what fields from the Algolia response we want to show, as well as the layout of our cells. InstantSearch provides both base classes and helper classes in order to achieve this. Here, we will look at the easiest and most flexible way: using the base class HitsTableViewController.

  • In your ViewController class, replace UIViewController with HitsTableViewController. This class will help you setup a lot of boilerplate code for you.
  • Next, in your viewDidLoad method, before registering your widgets to InstantSearch, add the following:
hitsTableView = tableView

This will associate the hitsTableView in the base class to the tableView that we just created. Behind the scenes, your ViewController class will become the delegate and dataSource of the tableView, the same way the UIKit base class UITableViewController does that for you.

Next, we can specify our cells with a method provided by the base class, which contains the hit for the specific row.

override func tableView(_ tableView: UITableView, cellForRowAt indexPath: IndexPath, containing hit: [String : Any]) -> UITableViewCell {
    let cell = tableView.dequeueReusableCell(withIdentifier: "hitCell", for: indexPath)
    cell.textLabel?.text = hit["name"] as? String
    return cell

Here we use the json hit, extract the name of the product, and assign it to the text property of the cell’s textLabel.

Build and run your application: you now have an InstantSearch iOS app displaying your data! You can also enjoy the infinite scrolling of the table as well if you set it to true!

In this part, you’ve learned:

  • How to build your interface with widgets by adding the Hits widget.
  • How to configure widgets.
  • How to specify the look and feel of your hit cells.

Go Further

Your application now displays your data, lets your users enter a query and displays search results as-they-type. That is pretty nice already! However, we can go further and improve on that.

  • In the getting started part 2, you will learn about properly highlighting results, as well as filtering results which is essential for a complete search experience.
  • You can also have a look at our examples to see more complex examples of applications built with InstantSearch.
  • Finally, You can head to our widgets page to see other components that you could use.