FastIndex is a Web server which manages a small online library. It's written in lisp. It never crashes. Visit

The library currently contains all Sherlock Holmes stories readily available from online sources, plus a few miscellaneous works which I added for testing purposes and then saw no good reason to remove. I'm thinking of adding either Dickens or Shakespeare when I have the time.

The central feature of the site is its search engine, written specifically for this application. To get you started you might want to type the words "impossible improbable" into the search bar and press the Go! button.

All users have a personal bookshelf on which they can place volumes in which they are interested. Passages located through the search engine may be bookmarked and these too can be accessed via the bookshelf.

The website was originally built in the winter of 2000 as a commercial demo, to help some friends raise capital prior to the launch of a new "dot-com". The business idea failed (for the time being, anyway) without the demonstration ever being demonstrated and I was left holding four or five thousand lines of working code and wondering quite what I really had to show for all the effort. However, I had learned a certain amount along the way, about

  • the limitations of pure html as a vehicle for delivering a non-trivial application over the web
  • the restrictions inherent in a user interface which is based on text only - the only graphical signals which this interface gives the user are either (i) positional or (ii) changes in font and colour (the one exception I have allowed to this is the inclusion of various eponymous gifs in Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Dancing Men)
  • how to build a fully indexed search engine from scratch
I therefore decided that I would adapt the software into an academic site: an "open demonstration" of the above technology which may in some small way contribute to knowledge and understanding in these areas. I may decide later to write this up as a paper for potential publication.

Full source code for the FastIndex site has been released under the Lesser General Public License (LGPL). Portability note: Code would need some porting work to run on lisps other than LispWorks.