SharePoint Federated Search

One of the new features introduced with the recent SharePoint Infrastructure Update are the Enterprise Search Features that were shipped with Search Server 2008 and Search Server 2008 Express, that were not included in the original release of SharePoint 2007.  This includes some Search core platform performance updates, a unified administration dashboard and Federated Search.  The latter of these updates is the one I’d like to discuss briefly here.

SharePoint always had the facility to allow you to index external sources of data (e.g. an external web site), however the new Federated Search capability of SharePoint 2007 also allows you to include sites that use the OpenSearch 1.0/1.1 standard.  The Federated Results web part allows you to display the results in a separate section of your search results page.

To make sue of the Federated Search capabilities, you need to add Federated Locations, then add the Federated Search web part to the search results page and modify the settings of the web part.  The web part is typically added to the SharePoint search results page to provide extra sections at the right-hand-side of the page showing results from the Federated Locations.

I won’t go through the steps to set up a Federated Location here, as there is a Microsoft video which describes the process very well.  Note however that you can modify the look and feel of the returned results from within the Add Federated Location page by modifying the XML shown on the page and that you can restrict the use of the Federated Location you are setting up to specific sites within your farm.  You can also pass credentials to the Federated Location if you need to do so.

Microsoft have also provided an online gallery of pre-configured Federated Search Connectors (Locations) at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=95798.  There is a link to this gallery at the top of the Manage Federated Locations page within the Search Administration area of the SSP on your farm. By default, Microsoft provide the following Federated Locations installed with the Infrastructure update:

  • Internet Search Results (Live Search)
  • Internet Search Suggestions (Live Search)
  • Local Search (unscoped local search index)

The following Federated Locations are available (as at 1st August 2008) from the online gallery:

  • Live.com News
  • Yahoo News
  • Wired
  • The Register
  • MSDN
  • Technet
  • Wikipedia
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Yahoo
  • Flickr
  • Yahoo Images
  • YouTube
  • PodScope
  • Technorati
  • Google Blog Search

These are available for download and import directly from the online gallery; just follow the instructions at the bottom of the page!

Once you have the Federated Locations you wish to use set up, the Federated Results web part needs to be added to your search results page.  Navigate to your search results page and add the Federated Results web part the a web part zone on the page as you would any other web part. To change the Federated Locations the web part uses, modify the shared web part and drop down the listbox at the top of the settings; this contains the items in your Federated Locations list.

Using these settings, you can

also modify the number of results that are returned, the number of characters displayed in the summary and URL, whether to return results asynchronously, whether to show the loading image (a miniature version if the standard SharePoint ‘processing’ animation) etc.  As usual you can also target the web part via the Audience controls.

We use the TechNet and MSDN Locations provided on the online gallery, and very useful we find them too!

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