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As a power user of SharePoint you may wonder how to make the most of all of the search features in SharePoint 2013. We covered Continuous Crawl, Content Search Web Part and Query Rules previously, so let's take a deep dive into Search Schema and the new Refinement Panel.

Search Schema: The Blueprint

The search schema is vital to how content is indexed by SharePoint search. The schema is made up of a few different components including crawled properties, crawled property categories and managed properties. Understanding each of these and why crawled properties are mapped to managed properties will take you far with your understanding of many of the search features in SharePoint.

Crawled properties can be thought of as the metadata of crawled search items. For example, the crawled properties of a document may include things like Title and Creation Date. When you create new site columns and add them to a list or library, they will become crawled properties. As these properties are crawled they are organized into categories such as Business Data, SharePoint, People, etc.

The content must be mapped to managed properties in order to be available to users that are searching or configuring search-related web parts. SharePoint out of the box includes many mappings, but as you dig deeper into all of the possibilities of search, you will at some point need to map a crawled property.

The Search Schema can be accessed from the Site Settings page of your site collection. There you can either create a new managed property or use one of the many refinable managed properties available. Once you have a managed property selected, simply edit it and scroll to the Mappings to crawled properties section. Click "Add A Mapping," then find and select the applicable crawled property. When finished click OK.

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So how can this knowledge be used to create a real business solution?

Refinement Panel Web Part

Refinement panels are a familiar part of the SharePoint search results page. SharePoint 2013 updated the overall feel of the out-of-the-box refinement panel. It contains refinement options for Result Type (i.e. PowerPoint vs. Word Document), Author and Modified Date. The updated Modified Date refiner now utilizes a visual date slider.

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When performing a people search in SharePoint 2013, users will also notice refiners for Department and Job Title. Additional refiners can be added on the search results page by users with editing permissions. For example, My Site profiles include the field Skills. This field could be mapped to a managed property and added to the refinement panel, making it much easier to locate subject matter experts across the enterprise.

Changing the default search results page may require several iterations of design and approval, and many power users may not have permissions to change it. So how can a power user use the refinement panel to build better business solutions?

The Refinement Panel Web Part can be used on any page in conjunction with either a Search Results Web Part or, better yet, a Content Search Web Part. Adding the Refinement Panel Web Part to the page automatically connects it to any existing search web parts. Users can then edit the properties of the web part and pick the appropriate refiners and settings. Keep in mind that only managed properties can be added as refiners -- crawled properties will need to be mapped to a managed property before being available for use as a refiner.

A good use case for this would be if a specific content type was in use across an entire site collection (e.g. Company Form). It would allow users to see a rollup of all of these items without having to sort through regular search results. A Content Search Web Part (CSWP) could be added to that page that queries across the site collection for all items of the specified content type. Issues arise when the CSWP pulls back 100 or more forms -- it would still be difficult to quickly locate what you need.

This is where the Refinement Panel Web Part comes into play. It can be added to the page and configured to show Department and Keywords as refiners (both of which are columns on the Company Form content type). This gives users an efficient way of getting to relevant content without the need for a search box.

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These are just two of the many new functions and capabilities of SharePoint 2013 search. More information and best practices for planning SharePoint 2013 search are available here.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  The Nick Page