USearch File Format Specification#

⚠️ Important Note: The file format is slated for updates in the upcoming 3.0 release. These changes aim to support sparse indexes and enhance startup performance when loading large indexes from disk using the view command.

Upcoming Version: v3#

The v3 file format is designed for compatibility with Apache Arrow arrays and consists of an array of variable-length binary strings. The structure for a file with N entries is as follows:

File Structure#

  1. File Header: Metadata and other essential information.

  2. Offset Array: An array of N+1 eight-byte unsigned integers (uint64_t).

    • The entry at index 0 <= i < N indicates the byte-level offset of the i-th vector in the file.

    • The entry at index N specifies the total length of the binary file.

  3. Data Chunks: N binary data chunks, each starting with the vector itself, followed by index system data.

Data Retrieval#

To retrieve the Binary Large Object (BLOB) corresponding to a specific vector, subtract the consecutive offsets indicated in the Offset Array.

Advantages of the v3 Format#

The v3 format offers several benefits, making it more future-proof:

  • Flexibility: Easily accommodates variable-length strings.

  • Performance: Co-locates vectors with proximity graph entries for optimized data access.

  • Compatibility: Simplifies memory-mapping and casting to an Apache Arrow array of vectors or strings.

  • Extensibility: Enables external storage systems to reuse the underlying index_gt more extensively, particularly in database systems.

Current: v2#

Dense Indexes#

Dense index files consist of two main parts: a binary matrix of all vectors and the index itself.

Matrix BLOB#

The matrix BLOB is optionally prepended to the index file. It starts with the number of rows and columns, which can be either 32-bit or 64-bit unsigned integers.

  • The number of rows corresponds to the number of vectors in the index.

  • The number of columns corresponds to the number of bytes in a single vector.

Index BLOB#

The index BLOB is composed of three main sections:

  1. Metadata: Occupies 64 bytes and contains the following fields:

    1. 7-byte magic string usearch to infer the MIME type of the file.

    2. 3-byte version number, containing the major, minor, and patch release numbers.

    3. 1-byte enums for metric, scalar, key, and compressed_slot types.

    4. 8-byte integers for the number of present vectors, number of deleted vectors, and number of dimensions.

    5. 1-byte flags for multi-vector support.

  2. Levels: Contains 1-byte integers representing the level each node occupies. This information is used to estimate memory requirements and to enable memory-mapping of the entire file.

  3. Core: Detailed in the Core section. This format is consistent across all types of indexes.

Fragmented Storage#

The matrix BLOB can be stored separately and is not required to successfully open the file.


The core section of the index is serialized as a sequence of nodes, each representing a point in the index. This section immediately follows the levels block in the serialized format.


Following the header, the levels block contains a sequence of 1-byte integers. Each integer represents the level of a node in the index. The number of levels is equal to the size field in the header.


After the levels block, the nodes are serialized. Each node is represented as a contiguous block of bytes. The size and format of these blocks are implementation-specific. Nodes are serialized in the same order as their corresponding levels in the levels block.