Microsoft Search: Introduction

Microsoft Search may be the most underrated feature available as part of Microsoft 365. Maybe that’s because Microsoft themselves haven’t been promoting it that heavily, or maybe it’s because it is associated with Bing, the mention of which usually prompts the question “Bing still exists?” But those people are missing out on the potential productivity benefits that comes from having one search tool to find your data across all your Microsoft systems as well as yes, public Bing search.

This was a common scenario for me in my previous job: I’m trying to help a client with an error they’re encountering. I have an error code or message to work with. I copy the error text into a new tab in my browser and hit enter to run a search. My results will include any company resources, e.g. if we’ve documented this problem before, or chatted about it in Teams. It will also include public Bing results. This makes it a one-stop shop to check the work resources first and then move on to public results if there isn’t anything.

Man searching through binoculars
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

But that’s not all Microsoft Search can do. It starts with bringing together search results from many places into one, but also offers some more precise helpful tools.

Q&A

Microsoft Search supports an admin defining common questions and answers for their organization. This can be a great solution if you’re finding that people in your organization are asking the same questions over and over again. These could be common processes within a workday or could be common administrative questions.

Demo of Microsoft Search with Q&A
Demo of Microsoft Search answering the question on why Microsoft Search is so great, which was defined by the admin

Acronyms

Do you use a lot of acronyms within your workplace? Not everybody will always know what the acronym means. Defining those within the search will allow them to quickly see what the acronym stands for, possibly with some other extra context.

Bookmarks

Bookmarks allow you to specify other websites which are important for your users to be able to find. This is particularly helpful if the preferred search result is not at the top of the public rankings, so this way can make sure those answers stay at the top where users see them.

Demo of the Bookmark feature in search, showing a SharePoint bookmark
Demo of the bookmark feature in Microsoft Search, with a bookmark for SharePoint

Floor plans

I haven’t done a proper test of floor plans yet, but they allow loading office floor plans. Then users can search for another person in the company and see where in the floor plan their office is located. This can be helpful in larger offices where you may need to visit somebody for the first time.

Locations

If you find your users are regularly looking up certain locations, you can define them as a location with different search terms. The result will show with the map from Bing Maps.

Suppose you have another office in Vancouver. You could set up a location titled “Vancouver Office” and people would be able to find it quickly without needing to know the address or trusting the public search.

Microsoft Search demo with a location for Kitchener City Hall, with a map
Demo of Microsoft Search

Connectors

Connectors have the potential to make Microsoft Search far more powerful. This functionality is relatively new but allows for searching across other data systems as well, like a MediaWiki website, Azure DevOps, or a SQL Server. Without connectors, it’s already powerful to search across Bing and your company Microsoft 365 resources. This gets it a step further and lets you search data you control elsewhere, which eases any pain of keeping some data in non-Microsoft systems since you can still search them from Microsoft Search.

Conclusion

Many won’t seriously consider using the Bing component like I do. But even without that, there’s a lot of value in Microsoft Search to bring results across all of Microsoft 365 plus connectors plus custom search terms like acronyms into one place. It’s a great way to save time for your users searching and make sure they get to the right answers.

Leave a Reply