Extending Enterprise Search to the Browser

After all of the effort we put into creating content sources, making sure our content is properly crawled and indexed, don’t you think we should go the extra mile and make our enterprise search available to as many users as possible? Modern browsers (IE 7+, FF 2+, Chrome, Opera) provide an option to search from a "search bar". The default is usually a major search engine, but we can expose our SharePoint installs to act as a search provider as well. There is a standard for describing your search provider called OpenSearch.

The easiest way to create an OpenSearch description document is to do this manually in your browser. IE7 tells you to copy the URL for the "TEST" query, and it will provide the xml file for download. You can tweak the Title, Description, and query URL as you see fit. This is a great time to add scope and managed properties. You can manually add this to your list of search providers, but what about all of those end users? I see two approaches.

  1. You can push the OpenSearch provider to all of your users with the IE Administration kit. This approach is most relevant for internal implementations where you control the end-user desktop.
  2. You can also add it to your master page. This is appropriate when you do not control the end-user desktop. When they visit your site, the search dropdown will glow and the user will have the opportunity to install your Search provider. To do this, you will need to add a link in your head like so
<link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" href="/opensearch.xml" title="Portal Search">

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