SharePoint Search Tips and Tricks

We fervently promote well-structured SharePoint sites, a well designed information architecture, and good training and governance…but search is always an important piece of the end-user success puzzle, so here are some tips for getting better results.

1. Is the content indexed?

Remember that content (files and items) that is recently uploaded or updated in SharePoint may not yet be indexed. In other words, the search engine may not yet know about it. The process of the SharePoint search engine looking at the content and creating an index is called “crawling”. Depending on how your servers are configured, content may be crawled every few hours or once a day. Check with your administrator for details. (For Office 365 the crawl occurs approximately hourly.)

2. Use whole words for search.

SharePoint’s not Google. Searching for train will not match the words training, trainer, retrain, or even trains. See tip #3 to relax a little.

3. Use prefix matching wildcard *.

You can use a wild card asterisk (*, meaning any characters) at the end of a word, not the beginning or the middle. So if you are looking for a file and you’re not sure if it’s named training, trainer or trained, you can search for train*. HOWEVER, *train and tr*in are not valid; the asterisk is only supported at the end of the word.

4. Search simple, then refine.

Refiners are your friend: those “filters” on the left hand side of the search page allow you to reduce the set of results and home in on the content you are seeking. I usually do a quick one- or two-word search, press <enter>, and then use the refiners . Or, similarly, I may add or change search terms as well as refiners while narrowing down the content on the results page.

5. Use special operators “OR”,”AND”,and “-“.

Using OR, AND (capitalized), and the minus sign (, which means NOT) can help you build more complex queries. For example, the search string “train OR teach AND -work” will find content that contains the word train, or the word teach, but not the word work. Note that AND is redundant for simple queries: “teach AND train” is the same as “teach train“.

6. Use field names and advanced Keyword queries

We can use field names in our queries, like title:train which means “the title field contains the string train”. Which is different than title=train which means “the title field is exactly train”. Note that there are no spaces between the fieldname, the operator, and the keyword. If your keyword includes space, use quotes around them like this: title:”war and”. The fields we commonly use are:

  • title
  • filename
  • author
  • filetype

Want more? Here’s a Microsoft article on structuring Keyword Query Language queries.

May your search end well,
And you find what you seek!
Fortune favours the bold,
Search favours the geek!

Gerry Brimacombe