How SharePoint 2010 FAST Search got blended into SharePoint 2013 Search?

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Introduction

This blog highlights new features in SharePoint 2013 and it describes about how FAST search 2010 features became integral part of it.

In SharePoint 2010 we had the options between regular SharePoint Search and FAST Search. Customers would choose FAST for its deep refinement panel (amazing to see count of search results categories), document preview (preview for all MS documents), advanced ranking and sorting capabilities. Regular SharePoint Search was cheaper but it had a small advantage of being more tightly integrated with the rest of the product.

For 2013 Search Microsoft have taken major efforts to merge FAST capabilities into its integrated search component. It’s now called as ‘SharePoint Search’. About 80% of FAST Search features are embedded in the SharePoint Search platform. Now we have tightly integrated search component with power of FAST content and query processing achieving a more scalable and highly configurable platform. Enterprise CAL of SharePoint includes all features of FAST search where as Standard CAL of SharePoint only integrates a subset of the FAST search features.

How FAST search merged into SharePoint 2013 Search

Below table shows list features of SharePoint 2010 FAST search and their presence in SharePoint 2013 search. This indicates that almost every feature of FAST search has been integrated into SP 2013 Search. Microsoft has taken really good decision by making FAST an integral part of SharePoint product.

FAST 2010 Features Present in SP 2013 Search Reason for change (as per MSDN blog)
Entity/Property Extraction Yes This is supported with some changes; predefined extractors won’t work so you need to create your own custom extractor.This feature has limited usage and usually requires extensive customization. So generally Microsoft recommends that you use customer-specific dictionaries.
Visual Best Bets Yes These are now called as Promoted Results
Shallow and Deep Search Refiners Yes The shallow search refiners are replaced with an improved implementation of deep search refiners.
Thumbnails and Previews Yes
Sort Results on Managed Properties or Rank Profiles Yes
User Contextual Search Yes
Promotions and Demotions of site or document Yes
Advanced FAST Query Language Yes
Similar Results No MS SharePoint team says that it does not provide good results consistently in many scenarios.
Extreme Scale Search Yes
Rich Web Indexing Yes
Two Way Synonyms Yes
Multiple Language Support No
Anti-phrasing No
Offensive Content filtering No The feature has limited usage

Search User Interface Enhancements

There are lot enhancements and new features included in SP 2013 Search from user interface perspective.

Now user don’t need to open a search result item to see its details, he can just quickly identify useful information by following ways

  • Users can hover the pointer over a search result to preview the document content in the hover panelto the right of the result
  • Users can quickly differentiate the search results based on their type with the help of icons and presentation way for each type of item

We have very nice visual refinement available like the new Date range slider

SharePoint search helps users to quickly return to important sites, items and documents by remembering what they have previously searched and viewed. Earlier searched and viewed items are displayed as query suggestions at the top of the results page.

Display your search result in way you like to

In addition to the default manner in which search results are differentiated, site collection administrators can create and use result types and display templates to customize how results are displayed for important items/document/sites. A result type is a rule that identifies a type of result and associate a display template to those.

Below screens shows how I have modified an Item_Default template to show check box against each search result item, this helps me to select the search result items and perform my own logic on it

New things for Search Administrators

For administrators, there are a number of improvements to search WebParts and their configuration via WebParts properties. New Content Search WebPart (CSWP) is an amazing addition to search customization WebParts.

Most importantly the CSWP contains a highly featured and versatile Query Builder for constructing the query which defines the results to be displayed. There is quick and advanced mode, depending on how complex query you want to write. This interface walks us through filtering, sorting, refinement, configuration and test of the query generated. The Test window is really useful for providing the administrator immediate output on whether their query is working as expected or not.

Below example shows how we can filter to show only particular content type items

This window really makes life of administrator easy to configure or I would say develop a search WebParts the way he wants. It gives you full control on what items you want to display and what items to restrict.

The CSWP WebPart is not to be confused with the Content Query WebPart (CQWP). The CSWP uses the search index, the CQWP queries SharePoint directly. Scope of CQWP is limited to site collection whereas as CSWP uses search functionality its scope includes whole SharePoint Farm.

Search Refinement Panel

Search Refinement is also made much easier to configure. Earlier, we had to define refiners by writing XML configuration but now there is a ‘Choose Refiners…’ button on the Refiner WebPart launching a ‘Refinement configuration’ interface. The below example shows adding a refinement property called ContentType

Real world scenario

Let’s have a look at how we can create online shopping portal using SharePoint search capabilities

See below example where I have used “Popular Items webpart” – this will make sure that mostly searched mobile will appear on the top. Users can again search into this webpart further.

I have modified the display template to include “Add to Cart” button against each mobile product.

Below screen shows how I have modified the display template in a way that user can select multiple products and add them to cart at a time

As per the properties we save for each product we can set the refinement using Managed Metadata properties show as below

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