SharePoint Search doesn't have Wildcard searching

Yesterday I described Search Stemming and how to set it up. I thought I’d have a look at Wildcard searching and discovered (to my shock) SharePoint Search doesn’t have general wildcard searching.

This isn’t news – the normally evangalistic Patrick Tisseghem posted about this a year and a half ago, and plenty of folks have expressed their surprise at this. I can’t say I blame them. There are third party products that given general wildcard searching, but I’ve not see or used any of them, and some of them get mixed reviews.

You might have noticed that I spoke specifically about general wildcard searching. Well, you can do wildcard searching when you’re search for a property of a particular value. For example, a search for Title:Water would return results about water, waterloo, watergate, watering, Muddy Waters, etc.. Perhaps a comparison would be useful to make things clearer.

A normal unstemmed search for Apple:

Results screen with results for Apple

A Stemmed Search for Apple:

A Stemmed results page showing results matching Apple and Apples

Notice how it returns both Apple and Apples as matching results

A Wildcard search:

A results page when trying to do a general wildcard search - results are as a normal search

Well, that’s just an example really; it doesn’t work. The results are for a normal search for Apple

A Wildcard Property Search:

Results page for a Title property search showing results including Apple and Applegate

Here we’re searching for things with a Title that includes Apple and we get a result for an item called Apple.jpg, and also we get a hit on Applegate too (and who wouldn’t like to hit on Christina Applegate?) Clearly ‘Applegate’ is not a stemmed form of ‘Apple’, so even if stemming were turned on (it wasn’t) you wouldn’t expect a match.

So there sort of is some wildcard searching. However, it’s completely unreasonable to expect your typical user to be able to use that – heck, I get confused about some of the fields and field names, so a user doesn’t stand much of a change. Plus, you have to know what field you’re searching over – my example wouldn’t have matched items which had a Keyword column containing Apple, and you can’t really search fields until you stumble on the right one for the results you’re after!

I guess I’m with Patrick on this one – Microsoft, sort it out! Give us general wildcard searching!

EDIT: Corey Roth has given us Wildcard search… with a bit of work (not much). Not tried it yet. His explanation is very interesting too – the search engine does does support wildcard searching, but only with one type of query – and the out-of-box web parts use the other.

EDIT 2: See also my post ‘SharePoint Can Have Wildcard Searching

SharePoint Search doesn't have Wildcard searching

3 thoughts on “SharePoint Search doesn't have Wildcard searching

  1. Ontolica Wildcard Search will allow for use of wildcards* in SharePoint and Search Server among other features. In addition there are some free options available for MOSS but they have restricted wildcard ability unlike Ontolica.

  2. Indeed, and that certainly looked like the prime option for wildcard search – but it means spending money on something that many customers expect out-of-box.

    Also, as Jeremy linked, it did seem that there were problems with getting support for Ontolica. I’d heard/read as much elsewhere. I don’t know if that was just one reseller – I note that the site you are from also selling Ontolica, so if the support problems have been dealt with, then great!

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