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Integrating SharePoint Search with the desktop

October 13, 2010 11 comments

I often get asked if it’s possible to integrate SharePoint search services with the users desktop. And yes of course it is! To summarize the features and how to get it up and running, follow the brief descriptions below.

Note that installing and integrating SharePoint search with the desktop is not equal to implementing “Enterprise search” as a concept. If an implementation of enterprise search is considered, be sure  to include topics like taxonomy tagging, topic maps, enterprise content management, metadata, information strategies and more. Making the search engine available for the user in different contexts is just a tiny little piece of the puzzle.

NOTE! Before you enable the desktop application’s ability to integrate with a search engine you will have to install and configure the search service. You may use SharePoint search features (both 2007 and 2010), Microsoft Search Server as well as FAST integrated search. However, this will not work with Windows SharePoint Services or SharePoint Foundation.

Microsoft Office research pane

The Microsoft Office research pane gives you the ability to search directly from within Office products. This feature has been available in Microsoft Office products since at least Office XP and is very easy to use. To add your SharePoint installation as a search provider in Office, do the following:

  1. Open the research pane
  2. Click the “Research options” at the bottom of the pane
  3. Click the “Add services” button in the Research options dialog
  4. Enter the URL to the SharePoint search service web service, similar to:
                  http://%5Byour_server%5D/_vti_bin/search.asmx
  5. Click your way out after the successful addition

And yes, it is possible to add search providers through centralized management, such as GPO’s. Read more at the xxx.

Internet Explorer 7+ search bar

When you use Internet Explorer 7 or newer you have a search bar integrated in IE. By default it’s pointed at Microsoft’s Bing and it’s possible to select additional search providers from a list. However, it’s more or less just as easy to add your SharePoint search service as a search provider within IE.

  1. With IE, navigate to http://www.ieaddons.com/en/createsearch.aspx
  2. Enter the URL to your search service including a query word “TEST” similar to:
                  http://%5Byour_server%5D/SearchCenter/Pages/results.aspx?k=TEST
  3. Give the search provider a name which will be displayed as the name of the service
  4. Select the proper character set the search service use
  5. Click the “Install provider” button to install the service in IE.

Read more on how to deploy this through GPO or other means of central administration.

Windows 7 Integrated Search

The Windows Search integrated in Windows 7 use OpenSearch to connect to different search providers. OpenSearch is a standard for query and result and is basically just XML and web services. With some quick steps you may add your SharePoint server search service as a possible search provider from Windows 7 search (available in Windows Explorer).

  1. Create an XML file containing information about where to find the search service. This XML file should look something like this (change highlighted content for customization):
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <OpenSearchDescription xmlns=”http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/” xmlns:ms-ose="http://schemas.microsoft.com/opensearchext/2009/">&#160;
      <ShortName>SharePoint Search</ShortName> 
      <Description>Search the local SharePoint installation</Description> 
      <Url type="application/rss+xml" template="http://[your_server]/searchcenter/_layouts/srchrss.aspx?k={searchTerms}&amp;web.count=50" />
      <Url type="text/html" template="http://[your_server]/searchcenter/Pages/results.aspx?k={searchTerms}"/>
    </OpenSearchDescription>
  2. Save the file as an .OSDX file
  3. Double click the file you created to import the settings into Windows and just follow the steps in the wizard.

Do note that Windows 7 supports OpenSearch and is able to integrate with any OpenSearch search provider. Both SharePoint Server 2007 and 2010 may be used as a search provider for OpenSearch connectors.

Another option with Windows Vista and Windows 7 is to define the Primary intranet search scope Url in the registry or through Group Policies. To implement this add the search provider URL use the Group Policy Editor or edit the registry key HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search\PrimaryIntranetSearchScopeUrl with the following string value modified with your appropriate values:
     [ScopeName],http://%5Byour_server%5D/SearchCenter/Pages/results.aspx?k=$w
This will enable the integrated search capabilities to involve the SharePoint search engine.

Windows Desktop Search (WDS)

As an addition to Windows XP it was possible to install “Desktop Search”, a client based indexer and search engine. Since it stole all resources on the client, no one actually used it, but when you connect the Desktop Search to a centralized search engine such as SharePoint, the use is a lot more efficient.

To use Windows Desktop Search you will have to install the software. It’s downloadable from Microsoft as a free package for genuine Windows users. Please remember to use release 3.x for Windows XP and release 4.x for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

After the software has been installed, follow these steps to configure WDS to use the SharePoint search provider. Please note that local administrative privileges is required to complete these steps. Procedural steps has not been verified.

  1. Open the registry editor (regedit.exe).
  2. Navigate to HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search.
  3. Add a new string value (REG_SZ) and name it “SecondaryIntranetSearchScopeUrl”.
  4. Set the value to “[ScopeName],[QueryUrl]?k=$w”, similar to:
             [ScopeName],http://%5Byour_server%5D/SearchCenter/Pages/results.aspx?k=$w
       
    For multiple providers separate each string with a semicolon.
  5. Save and close the registry editor

Since these settings are placed directly into the registry, it may be set by Group Policies as well. With Windows Vista the policy template (.adm file) is included with Windows. For Windows XP you will have to download the template from Microsoft.

Read also the MSDN blog article about enabling WDS for intranet search.

Recommended additional reading and resources

For further information on how to deploy search services I suggest you take a look at some of the following sites and pages:

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