The primary question I keep getting these days is what Search options organizations have these days, what’s coming, and how to be ready?

First of all, let’s see what options we have today:

  1. Classic search
  2. Out-of-the-box “modern” search (Microsoft Search)
  3. Highlighted Content Web Part
  4. PnP ModernSearch

Let’s see each other’s pros and cons, and how to make it work.

1 – “Classic” Search in SharePoint Online

“Classic” Search is still an option, and many organizations use this.

However, Microsoft made it clear, that this is the “legacy” Search in Office 365. No improvements have been made in the last 5+ years at all, all the focus and investments went to the “Modern” Search (see below).

The reason “Classic” Search is still popular is that this is the one that can be customized: we can create our own refiners, custom Display Templates, Result Sources, etc. – You name it. Everything I have been teaching in the last years about (SharePoint) Search can be applied here.

2 – “Modern” Search (out-of-the-box Microsoft Search)

“Modern” Search can be accessed from the default Search box on the suite bar:

This default Search box provides query suggestions, but if we enter a query and hit Enter, it redirects us to the default search results page:

“Modern” is Microsoft Search today.

It is context-sensitive, which means if’s scope is defaulted to where the user runs the query from: if you’re on SharePoint Home, you get the results from the whole tenant; if you are in a specific site, you get the results from that site only; if you’re on the home of a Hub site, you get the results from that hub.

Microsoft Search provides personalized results, using Microsoft Graph behind.

However, this User Interface cannot be customized today: no custom filters, no custom Display Templates, no custom verticals, etc. – This has been one of the biggest show-stopped for most of the organizations: if the results are not predictable, if search is not configurable, if the UI is not customizable, then they resist using it.

This is the primary reason why most of the organizations are still using “Classic” Search in Office 365.

However, by now we have other options, too.

3 – Highlighted Content Web Part

Although not a “real” and complete search feature, Highlighted Content Web Part displays results by using Search. You can customize where you want to get the results from (This Site, All Site, Specific sites, This site collection, etc.), what kind of results you want to get (Documents, News, Pages, Tasks, Videos, etc.), as well as additional filters, based on the Title, Created by, Modified by, and the coolest thing is: you can filter by any Managed Property, too!

While this is a great option to display Search-driven content, it also has limitations:

  • There is no search box. The query is “hardcoded” into the web part’s settings. Also, no refiners.
  • Beyond a few out-of-the-box options to the layout, we cannot define how the results should be displayed. No custom “display templates”.
  • We cannot display custom properties either.

4 – PnP ModernSearch

Drumbeat, please!

If you want it all: “modern” UI, customizable UI, but also all the “classic” web parts and customization options, PnP ModernSearch library is here!

As you can see, we have it all here:

  • Query suggestions;
  • Custom refiners (can be “classic”-like refiners on the left side, or “modern” filters on a right-side panel);
  • Custom search verticals;
  • Promoted results;
  • Result set (can be displayed as a list of results, as well as tiles – or custom!);
  • Drop-down to re-order the results;

And many more! We can also configure synonyms, multi-lingual search, NLP enhancements, etc.

You can watch a full demo video about the PnP ModernSearch library HERE.

The PnP ModernSearch library can be downloaded from GitHub HERE.

More to come, stay tuned!

Meanwhile, if you would like to see my recent webinar about this topic, please watch the recording below: