Microsoft Upgrades Search for SharePoint Online

In keeping with its push to be the productivity suite of choice, Microsoft announced today two new search features for SharePoint Online, which will be rolled out globally over the next few days. The new Content Search Web Part (CSWP) enhances overall search functionality and result displays, while Cross-Site Collection Publishing (CCP) gives users the ability to publish content on multiple sites from the same content source.

The new releases follow up on the full enterprise search Microsoft released earlier in the year. This shows a commitment to search that many users will find reassuring given the difficulties some users experience when trying to finding and managing content in SharePoint.

Building on Enterprise Search

The Content Search Web Part, according to a blog post by Mark Kashman, product manager with SharePoint, builds on the enterprise search and provides a way of carrying out searches quicker, while displaying only results directly related to the user’s query.

It differs from conventional search in two ways. The first way is the way a search is carried out. Kashman gives the example of Bing and the number of times a day a user puts a search term into the search box. Unlike conventional search, the query is contained in the web part so that queries automatically start when you browse pages that contain CSWP.

SharePoint Content Search Web Part
SharePoint Content Search Web Part

Results are the other differentiator. SharePoint Online now displays search results within the CSWP itself rather than separate pages and uses pre-set configurations to feature specific kinds of content.

The result gives SharePoint administrators the ability to decide on what content is displayed when they land on a page that contains a CSWP. If these settings are not configured, the CSWP will automatically display the last three items changed in the site.

Content Controls with Cross-Site Publishing

The other upgrade Microsoft introduced today is Cross-Site Collection Publishing (CCP). This enables users to create content in one location, or site, and publish it in several different site collections by using Search Web Parts. While Kashman offers a number of reasons why you might be interested in this, there are a few obvious ones.

SharePoint Cross Site Publishing
SharePoint Cross-Site Publishing
From a content creator’s point of view it works because it separates content authoring from branding, which means that a single pack of content can be used in several different places regardless of the branding used around the content.

Kashman also explains how it works for the end user — the Search Web Part creates settings that enable the content as catalogs, facilitating its “findability” and publishing. Changes to the catalog will result in changes to content no matter where it appears on the site.

Improved User Experience

The create-once-use-multiple-time principal will be a substantial addition to SharePoint Online and should eliminate issues that arise with duplication of content.

For that alone these upgrades are worth it, but add into the mix the fact that it should also be easier to find content and you have two upgrades that are going to make the SharePoint Online user experience a lot easier.

Both improvements come with all Office 365 for Enterprise plans and are available for intranet and external sharing portals only, meaning you won’t be able to use these upgrades on public facing websites.