SharePoint Search and Metadata

An Introduction to Search and Metadata in SharePoint

October 30, 2018 by

One of the key uses of SharePoint is information sharing and collaboration. Whether you wish to build a knowledge base or simply justifying the ‘share’ in SharePoint, this blog post will walk you through a core aspect of these capabilities –  search and metadata.


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How to Search For Files in SharePoint

When it comes to search, you are provided with two methods of doing this: using the site search box or the document library search box.

Method 1: Site search box

Each site has this search box in the top right-hand corner, which allows you to source content according to what you have searched just like any search bar you have used before.

  • Click into the Search Box in the top right-hand corner of your SharePoint Site
  • Type the text/keyword you are looking for
  • Hit Enter



  • Works out of the box
  • Searches for the keyword typed in in a file name, metadata, and text inside of the files (Only MS Office and readable PDF files).



  • Results are found in a site + subsites that are located under the site where you typed in the search text. That means that sometimes, depending on keyword typed in, might return too many irrelevant results, as the scope is usually the whole site collection (unless the search has been specifically configured by your SharePoint Administrators).
  • Searches for all types of content, not just documents. The search results will display any content (events, folders, contacts, tasks entire sites and libraries) that match whatever keyword/term you typed in. So unless the search has been specifically configured by your SharePoint Administrators – the search results might be a bit overwhelming for end users.
  • May not return all the relevant results. On the other side of this issue, SharePoint makes an assumption about some of the files and might think they are duplicates of one another – so they will be excluded from the search results entirely.


Method 2: Document Library Search Box (The more effective method)

Every Document Library since SharePoint 2013 has a search box located just above the documents themselves. The beauty of this search box is that it allows you to search for documents just within the specific document library.

How to search files in SharePoint using Library Search Box

  • Navigate to the root of the Document Library
  • You will notice a search window present in the header portion of the document library (to the right of where all the views are
  • Type the text/keyword you are looking for
  • Hit Enter
  • Search box library.



  • Works out of the box
  • Just like the “global” search in Option 1, the document library search box sources content based on file name, metadata, and text inside the files themselves
  • More precise search results. Since you are searching within a specific document library, you will only get results that are documents and not other possibly less useful files located on your site.



  • If you have documents located in multiple libraries/sites, this option won’t help much. You will need to search separately in those document libraries or rely on Global search listed in Option 1.


What is SharePoint Metadata?

Metadata is data that describes additional information about an item. In SharePoint, the likely scenario would be found in the form of date created or the author of an item or document.

How to Create Metadata in SharePoint?

The easiest way to create drop-down choice metadata is to:

  1. Go to the list or library where you want to add metadata. For the purpose of this example, we will utilize a document library
  2. Go to Library Tab
  3. Click on Library Settings
  4. Click on Create Column
  5. In the Column, name field, type in the name for your Column (i.e. Department). Under the type of column, select Choice radio button. Once you do this, the page will refresh and allow you to customize our column further.
  6. Scroll down. In the middle of the screen, go ahead and type in your drop-down choices, one-by-one (1 choice at each row, do not use commas or anything else to separate them). It might also be a good idea to make the column mandatory (this way the user will be prompted to enter metadata when uploading a document and will not be able to leave the document untagged).
  7. Scroll down. You can default to a certain value of metadata when you upload a document, but you can leave it blank for simplicity. Click OK
  8. Upload a document now to the library. You will be prompted to enter metadata (tag documents). Remember to click Check-in, once you tag the document.



Darragh Broderick
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