If you want your search feature to be more intuitive than comparing a query with the
LIKE operator, the Levenshtein distance string metric is what you are looking for. Simply put, it assigns a number to the amount of edits it takes to get from one word to another. This way, you can return an array of matches within however many edits you’d like, to provide a search that better understands typos and mispellings.
Don’t Try to Write It Yourself
If like me, you are using a MySQL database, there are numerous resources online with already written Levenshtein Distance functions. There is no reason to have to write one yourself, but if you’re ambitious, I’m not stopping you. Here is a link for the main and helper functions that I used. The trouble for me wasn’t finding the solution; it was how to implement it in Navicat and call it from my codebase. Maybe I’m just dumb and it’s common knowledge, but for some reason there is a dearth of information on the topic, so I hope to provide the details here.
Within your Navicat database, there is a tab called Functions. You can either right-click -> New Function or left-click and use the + function button underneath the objects tab to create your function. The above screenshot shows my function called
levenshtein. Underneath the Functions tab there is a helper function
levenshtein_ratio that references this function and converts the edit amount to a percentage. This is what I will be calling directly within my query.
The simplest part and what took the most time to figure out, was how to use one of these functions within a query. The
levenshtein_ratio function takes 2 parameters - both strings. What I wanted was for 1 to be the search query from the user, and the other to be each name within the
User table of my database. Again, maybe I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I could find no examples of this and couldn’t wrap my head around how to do it myself. But it really is as easy as placing it within the
SELECT query as shown below. I found that a distance of 40 was a good threshold for similarity, but you can finagle with the exact number.