Most Valuable Yak (Rob Volk) Blog

…and other neat SQL Server tricks

Full-text Indexing Books Online

While preparing for a recent SQL Saturday presentation, I was struck by a crazy idea (shocking, I know): Could someone import the content of SQL Server Books Online into a database and apply full-text indexing to it?  The answer is yes, and it's really quite easy to do.

The first step is finding the installed help files.  If you have SQL Server 2012, BOL is installed under the Microsoft Help Library.  You can find the install location by opening SQL Server Books Online and clicking the gear icon for the Help Library Manager.  When the new window pops up click the Settings link, you'll get the following:

You'll see the path under Library Location.

Once you navigate to that path you'll have to drill down a little further, to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\HelpLibrary\content\Microsoft\store.  This is where the help file content is kept if you downloaded it for offline use.

Depending on which products you've downloaded help for, you may see a few hundred files.  Fortunately they're named well and you can easily find the "SQL_Server_Denali_Books_Online_" files.  We are interested in the .MSHC files only, and can skip the Installation and Developer Reference files.

Despite the .MHSC extension, these files are compressed with the standard Zip format, so your favorite archive utility (WinZip, 7Zip, WinRar, etc.) can open them.  When you do, you'll see a few thousand files in the archive.  We are only interested in the .htm files, but there's no harm in extracting all of them to a folder.  7zip provides a command-line utility and the following will extract to a D:\SQLHelp folder previously created:

7z e –oD:\SQLHelp "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\HelpLibrary\content\Microsoft\store\SQL_Server_Denali_Books_Online_B780_SQL_110_en-us_1.2.mshc" *.htm

Well that's great Rob, but how do I put all those files into a full-text index?

I'll tell you in a second, but first we have to set up a few things on the database side.  I'll be using a database named Explore (you can certainly change that) and the following setup is a fragment of the script I used in my presentation:

USE Explore;

– Create default fulltext catalog for later FT indexes CREATE FULLTEXT CATALOG FTC AS DEFAULT; GO

CREATE TABLE help.files(file_id int not null IDENTITY(1,1) CONSTRAINT PK_help_files PRIMARY KEY, path varchar(256) not null CONSTRAINT UNQ_help_files_path UNIQUE, doc_type varchar(6) DEFAULT('.xml'), content varbinary(max) not null);

CREATE FULLTEXT INDEX ON help.files(content TYPE COLUMN doc_type LANGUAGE 1033) KEY INDEX PK_help_files;

This will give you a table, default full-text catalog, and full-text index on that table for the content you're going to insert.  I'll be using the command line again for this, it's the easiest method I know:

for %a in (D:\SQLHelp\*.htm) do sqlcmd -S. -E -d Explore -Q"set nocount on;insert help.files(path,content) select '%a', cast(c as varbinary(max)) from openrowset(bulk '%a', SINGLE_CLOB) as c(c)"

You'll need to copy and run that as one line in a command prompt.  I'll explain what this does while you run it and watch several thousand files get imported:

The "for" command allows you to loop over a collection of items.  In this case we want all the .htm files in the D:\SQLHelp folder.  For each file it finds, it will assign the full path and file name to the %a variable.  In the "do" clause, we'll specify another command to be run for each iteration of the loop.  I make a call to "sqlcmd" in order to run a SQL statement.  I pass in the name of the server (-S.), where "." represents the local default instance. I specify -d Explore as the database, and -E for trusted connection.  I then use -Q to run a query that I enclose in double quotes.

The query uses OPENROWSET(BULK…SINGLE_CLOB) to open the file as a data source, and to treat it as a single character large object.  In order for full-text indexing to work properly, I have to convert the text content to varbinary. I then INSERT these contents along with the full path of the file into the help.files table created earlier.  This process continues for each file in the folder, creating one new row in the table.

And that's it! 5 SQL Statements and 2 command line statements to unzip and import SQL Server Books Online!  In case you're wondering why I didn't use FILESTREAM or FILETABLE, it's simply because I haven't learned them…yet. I may return to this blog after I figure that out and update it with the steps to do so.  I believe that will make it even easier.

In the spirit of exploration, I'll leave you to work on some fulltext queries of this content.  I also recommend playing around with the sys.dm_fts_xxxx DMVs (I particularly like sys.dm_fts_index_keywords, it's pretty interesting).  There are additional example queries in the download material for my presentation linked above.

Many thanks to Kevin Boles (t) for his advice on (re)checking the content of the help files.  Don't let that .htm extension fool you! The 2012 help files are actually XML, and you'd need to specify '.xml' in your document type column in order to extract the full-text keywords.  (You probably noticed this in the default definition for the doc_type column.)  You can query sys.fulltext_document_types to get a complete list of the types that can be full-text indexed.

I also need to thank Hilary Cotter for giving me the original idea. I believe he used MSDN content in a full-text index for an article from waaaaaaaaaaay back, that I can't find now, and had forgotten about until just a few days ago.  He is also co-author of Pro Full-Text Search in SQL Server 2008, which I highly recommend.  He also has some FTS articles on Simple Talk:,-part-2/

Legacy Comments

John Miner (Crafty DBA)
re: Full-text Indexing Books Online
Just look at my Full Text Indexing Slide deck. I will be presenting it again at SQL SAT 235.