Search for files in SharePoint Online

I was going to leave the title as Search, then realised it’s a rather big topic. Today, I’m only going to touch on the ways to search for files in SharePoint Online (2013 build).

1. Standard ‘search this site’ search box

This has always been around in previous versions of SharePoint. Situated in the top right corner, it searches text in file name, metadata and text inside of the files (Only Office and readable PDF files). By default, it searches in a site and its subsites, and searches all types of content, not just files.


2. New ‘find a file’ document library search box

The first day I opened SharePoint Online, I noticed this search box in a document library. It’s located in a document library, next to the views. My users have been always wanted this feature, and finally, we have it in SharePoint Online. It’s also available in SharePoint 2013.

Classic experience


With this search box, you can easily narrow down your search scope to just this document library, or even a folder in the library. It also searches text in file name, metadata and text inside documents.

New experience

Recently, we have changed to ‘modern document library’. The search box is moved to the top right corner. Noticed here it only says ‘Search’, not ‘find a file’ or ‘search the site’. I suspect (without further readings), this search is going to replace both search boxes and becomes contextual based.


The new experience search box now comes with a result preview pane. It starts searching after you typed in the 2nd letter, and returns results. You can click on See more results at the bottom to bring up the full results found in the library. You also have the option to expand search to all of SharePoint once you are on the results page.


An interesting finding here. I only noticed the folder is also surfaced in the ‘modern’ search box, but when I switched back to ‘classic’, it appears to be the same. So, in fact, the document library search box surfaces not only files, but any folders that contain files with the keyword.

The article I read before doing this post: 2 ways to search for files in SharePoint


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