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Sharepoint 2010 : Making Search Work - How SharePoint Search Works

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In addition to understanding how to use search functionality from an end-user perspective, it’s also helpful to understanding the moving parts behind the scenes. This section covers two key components: the front-end components that drive the user experience and the back-end components that power the indexing and search query results.

The User Experience

In a SharePoint Site Collection, search pages, search Web Parts, and navigation elements are combined to create the search user experience. From an end-user perspective, the search box might be considered the primary component of search. The search box Web Part is one of seventeen or more search Web Parts which ships with the product. There are search box Web Parts such as Advanced Search Box, People Search Box, and the Search Box, as well as search results Web Parts such as Federated Results, People Search Core Results, Search Core Results, and Top Federated Results. Each Web Part is configurable using a Web Part tool pane. In addition to search Web Parts, SharePoint also includes search page layouts for Advanced Search, People Search Results, Search Box, and Search Results.

Each search box is configured to point to a corresponding search results page, where the search results will display when an end user performs a query. The results page contains multiple Web Parts for displaying the results, as well as other elements, such as action links, to provide a rich user experience.

As the Site Collection components make up the user experience from a look-and-feel perspective, the search services actually determine which items are most relevant to a user’s search query. Relevance is a measure of how well items in the index meet the user’s criteria. With each search request, SharePoint retrieves matches, calculates a rank value for results from the index, and then returns the results to the search results Web Part in an XML format. The search results Web Part formats the raw XML into something more user-friendly by way of its XSL style sheet. The search results style sheet is configurable through the Web Part tool pane and customizable in SharePoint Designer. By default, search results are sorted in an order of rank value in descending order. In other words, the most relevant items display at the top of the search results page. Relevancy and rank are calculated by SharePoint using complex algorithms, which weigh and process a variety of ranking parameters such as frequency of search term, file type, click distance, URL depth, and language consistency.

Site Templates

SharePoint 2010 provides three site templates that can be used for search. These templates provide the navigation, page layouts, and Web Parts required to create a visual search experience. Figure 1 shows the search center site template options.

  • Enterprise Search Center. A site for delivering the search experience. The Welcome page includes a box with two tabs: one for general searches and another for searches for information about people. You can add and customize tabs to focus on other search scopes or results types.

  • Basic Search Center. A site for delivering the search experience. The site includes pages for search results and advanced searches.

  • FAST Search Center. A site for delivering the FAST search experience. The Welcome page includes a search box with two tabs: one for general searches and another for searches for information about people. You can add and customize tabs to focus on other search scopes or result types.

Figure 1. The three Search Center site templates are available in the Enterprise group of site templates

Index and Query Components

When a user performs a search query, SharePoint is able to locate and retrieve the content from an index. Acting much like an index you might find in the back of a text book, SharePoint maintains an index of text from the crawled content. By default, the index is located in the Windows file system of the servers, which are running either the SharePoint search index service or the SharePoint search query service. The default path to the directory is C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office Servers\14.0\Data\Applications\GUID. Within a subdirectory, files store the unique keywords from crawled items as well as other pointer information. Gather logs, noise word files, and thesaurus files can also be located within subfolders of this directory location.

Where the index files are stored in the file system, a SQL Server database, called the Metadata Property Store, stores property information (used in scopes and filters) as well as security definitions for the crawled content.

Content sources contain address information (URL, UNC, and so on) and instruct SharePoint where to crawl. The index and property stores are populated by the index engine when content sources are being crawled. Crawling can be initiated manually or according to a schedule. Content sources are configurable within the Search Service Application, which is accessible from the Central Administration Web application. SharePoint 2010 supports the following types of content sources:

  • SharePoint sites (this includes People)

  • Web sites

  • Fileshares

  • Exchange public folders

  • Line-of-business data

  • Custom repository

Other  
 
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