Wow Employees with Extraordinary SharePoint Document Search: Part 1

SharePoint document search can be simple or complex, depending on the nature of what you are looking for and how large your SharePoint intranet is.

By Cathy Dew

You have thousands of files in your SharePoint libraries, and you need to find a particular document at a moment’s notice. What do you do?

Luckily, thanks to the SharePoint document search capabilities that Microsoft has created for libraries and lists, finding just what you need to find when you need to find it is a simple task. This post will explain how to leverage SharePoint’s considerable search functionality to locate the file you need—even if your SharePoint document library is currently hosting 10,000 documents or more. 

In this two-part series, we’ll cover the most important parts of making your search extraordinary and an asset for your company. In this first part we are covering on of the most often question we encounter when training people how to use search: where to search – site collection or in-place within a library?

Site Collection Search Versus In-Place Search

Some SharePoint document search capabilities are about configuring your SharePoint libraries to make them more search friendly. Others are more about choosing the right search strategy for what you are trying to find and more. To start, we will look at the two main ways to search files in SharePoint—as well as the pros and cons behind both.

The first way to find files in SharePoint is with the site collection search function. No matter where you are in your SharePoint environment, you should see a search box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. This search box is also known as the site collection search. It allows you to perform a search of all files hosted throughout your entire SharePoint site collection.

The site collection search works as a standard website search function. You can navigate to the upper right-hand corner of your SharePoint screen, click on the search bar that says, “Search this site,” and type in the keyword or keyword string that relates to the document you are trying to find. When you hit Enter, SharePoint will perform a search of the entire site collection, looking for matching text in file names, metadata tags, and even text inside the document itself (if the document is in a readable PDF or Office document).

There are clear pros and cons to this kind of SharePoint document search. The biggest advantage is that this strategy performs a complete search of your entire site collection. If you have multiple SharePoint libraries and aren’t sure where you saved the document you are looking for, the site collection search can help you find your file more quickly. You don’t have to jump from one SharePoint document library to the next, entering the same search repeatedly until you find what you need.

The flip side of this perk is that the site collection search is comprehensive. Not only does it look in all your document libraries, but it also explores other content throughout your SharePoint environment—such as contacts, folders, events, tasks, and more. As a result, unless your search is quite specific, you are likely to get a lot of search results back for anything you type into the search bar. Many of these results probably won’t be relevant, but you’ll have to spend time sorting through them to get to what you need. SharePoint also filters out what it thinks are duplicates, so if multiple files or folders have the same name, they might not show up in the search at all.

These disadvantages bring us to the in-place search function or the document library search. Though many users are only aware of the site collection search, every SharePoint document library also includes its own search function. This search box — which you will find just above the documents in your library while viewing that specific library — allows you to search only files that are “in-place,” or stored just in that library.

If you are viewing the root page of your document library, look for the search window in the header — just to the right of the views section. Here, you can enter and activate a search of all the files stored in that library. Like site collection search, this search function will search for text matches in metadata, file names, and file text. Unlike site collection searches, in-place searches don’t give you a huge, broad array of search results. Instead, in-place searches only search for files in the selected document library and only pull up results that are documents, as opposed to searching all kinds of content.

The pros and cons here are essentially the exact opposites of the ones for site collection search. The big advantage of in-place search is that it gives you more streamlined and relevant search results. Because you are only looking within a specific document library instead of searching your entire SharePoint environment, you get fewer results to wade through. The drawback is that, if you don’t know which document library holds the file you need, a search function that only searches individual libraries might not help you much. In such a case, you will likely need to use the site collection search and deal with the irrelevant search results to find the SharePoint document you need.

Stay tuned...

There are several other important methods to setting up an extraordinary search for your company, in the next post we’ll cover: Making custom columns searchable, faceted search, and learning the basics of the advanced search syntax. In the meantime, see how a SharePoint Document Center can elevate the level of your document managment. Or step back and get an intro to organizing your SharePoint Document Library with folders and metadata.

SharePoint document search can be quite simple or quite complex, depending on the nature of what you are looking for and how large your SharePoint intranet is. If you need help learning the basics of these features or configuring your SharePoint libraries and intranet for more effective searching, 2Plus2 is here. Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.
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