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Synergyonline > Blog > Posts > Designing Context Sensitive Search – Part 1
January 31

Designing Context Sensitive Search – Part 1

I recently had a request from a client to provide advanced, context sensitive search using specific metadata fields from a BCS connection. Let me set the stage since there are multiple things at play here. First, this particular organization maintains residences at multiple geographic locations and each residence/location has its own subsite within SharePoint. Secondly, personal information regarding the residents at all locations is maintained in an external system powered by a SQL database.

Context sensitive search capability was requested so that if a member of the organization resides at one location, they can search within their own subsite for other residents living at the same location and filter out results from other locations. In addition, they wanted to surface specific metadata fields in Advanced Search to help residents find one another more easily. In this example, the client wanted search available outside of the out-of-the-box Search Center within SharePoint in order to allow users to remain within the site in which they are accustomed to browsing.

The final solution had multiple aspects. A Business Connectivity Services (BCS) connection was put into place in order to allow external data to be surfaced within SharePoint via an external content type. TechNet has a series of technical articles that address how to do this:

Once the external content type was in place and being indexed the configuring of contextual search began. The overarching steps are as follows:

I. Create a search scope in Central Admin

II. Surface the search scope in the Site Collection

III. Create Managed Properties

IV. Create a custom Search page with customized Search Web Parts

Steps I. II. and III. will be covered in Part 1 of this blog and step IV. will be covered in Part 2.


I. Create a search scope in Central Administration

1. Navigate to Central Administration

2. Under Application Management select Manage service applications

3. Select Search Service Application (Search Service Application)



4. On the left navigation menu select Scopes

5. Select New Scope

6. Enter a Title and Description.
Note that if a custom search results page has been created already, it can be specified from this location. You can also return to this page later to specify a custom results page.



7. Click Add rules.

8. Select Content Source then choose the BCS content source previously created.



The scope will not be available until a timer job runs. You can either wait until the time job runs, or manually kick it off.



Once the timer job runs you are ready to add the scope to the Site Collection in which you are working.


II. Surface the search scope in the Site Collection

1. Navigate to the root of the appropriate site collection

2. Select Site Actions then Site Settings

3. Under Site Collection Administration, select Search Scopes



4. Select Display Groups

5. Select Search Dropdown.

6. Select the checkbox next to Residents to display the scope in the Search Dropdown menu.  



III. Create Managed Properties

The managed properties created in this step will be leveraged in the Advanced Search Web Part in order to surface specific properties to search on such as First Name and Last Name.

1. Navigate to Central Administration

2. Under Application Management select Manage service applications

3. Select Search Service Application (Search Service Application)

4. In the left navigation menu select Metadata Properties

5. Select New Managed Property

6. Give the Property a friendly name such as ResidentFirstName

7. Select the type of information in the property (such as Text or Decimal)

8. Select Add Mapping

9. Bring in the appropriate column for mapping



10. Select Allow this property to be used in scopes and click OK.

11. Repeat steps 5 to 10 for all columns that need to be added as Managed Properties in order to be surfaced in the Advanced Search Web Part.

Tune in for Part 2 when we create Custom Advanced Search pages and customize the Web Parts to make all of these background pieces work for us.


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