SharePoint Contextual Search – Updated

Web Design & Development

In a recent project created a page that features several Data View Web Parts pulling information from multiple lists within the site to create a dashboard-like experience. The stakeholders also wanted to be able to quickly search within each list, so I decided to include a custom search box at the top of each data view web part.

At first I thought I could use my custom search box that I wrote about in a previous post. The problem with that solution is that the JavaScript I created only works for a single search box because the ID is hard-coded into the functions. Therefore I modified the function to accept an ID attribute so it would accommodate multiple search boxes on the same page.

Updated Script and HTML

Here is the updated script:

// Search for the terms when the Search button is clicked

function customSearch(inputId,type,site,scope) {

	var searchUrl = site + "/_layouts/OSSSearchResults.aspx?" // Or "/_layouts/SearchResults.aspx?" if WSS 2003 or SP2010 Foundation
	var searchTerm = "&k=" + document.getElementById(inputId).value;
	var listParams = "&cs=This%20" + type + "&u=" + scope;
	window.location.href = searchUrl + searchTerm + listParams;

// Initiate the customSearch function when the Enter key is pressed

function searchKeyPress(buttonId,e) {
	// look for window.event in case event isn't passed in
	if (window.event) {
		e = window.event;
	if (e.keyCode == 13) {

In order for the new functions to work properly, each search button must include the ID of the text input in the onclick attribute. Also, each text input must include the ID of the search button in the onkeypress attribute:

<input id="searchBox1" onkeypress="searchKeyPress('searchButton1',event);" name="searchBox1" type="text" />;
<input id="searchButton1" onclick="customSearch( 'searchBox1', 'List', 'http://server/site', 'http://server/site/lists/projects' );" name="searchButton1" type="button" value="Search" />

When using more than one search box on a page, give each text input and button input a unique ID, and include those IDs in the appropriate onclick and onkeypress attributes.

As I mentioned in my previous article, you also need to specify the type of search context, the URL of the site for the search results to appear on, and the URL of the list or site context.

<input id="searchBox1" onkeypress="searchKeyPress('searchButton1',event);" name="searchBox1" type="text" />;
<input id="searchButton1" onclick="customSearch( '[id of text input]', '[Type of search context - Site or List]', '[URL of site to display results]', '[URL of site or list/library to search]' );" name="searchButton1" type="button" value="Search" />

Parameters Explained

  1. On the text box <input>, the first parameter is the ID of the search button for that text box. The second parameter (‘event’) is the keypress event and should be left alone.
  2. On the button <input>, the first parameter is the ID of the text box <input>. You can give the text box input any ID that you want, but you must specify that ID as the first parameter when calling the customSearch function from the onkeypress attribute of the search button.
  3. Next is the type of contextual search. Searches can be scoped to a specific site, or they can be scoped to a specific list/library.  Use either “Site” or “List” to set the type of context for the search (lists and libraries both use “List”).
  4. Then comes the URL of the site to display search results on. This is a really cool feature in SharePoint because it lets you perform cross-site searches. You can have your custom search box display search results for a list that’s on a completely different sub-site, and those results can be displayed on the search results page for the current site, which can make the user experience better, particularly if the sites are branded differently. This even works across collections (at least in my test environment).
  5. The last parameter is the URL of the site or list/library to search within. If your search scope is an entire site, enter the base URL for the site (do not include a specific page such as “default.aspx” or “Pages/default.aspx”). If your search scope is a specific list or library, enter the base URL for that list or library (do not include a specific page such as “AllItems.aspx” or “Forms/AllItems.aspx”).


The following examples will use a fictional Marketing sub-site located at “http://myserver/departments/marketing/.”

Search the Announcements list that is located on the Marketing sub-site:

<input id="searchBoxAnnouncements" onkeypress="searchKeyPress('searchButtonAnnouncements',event);" name="searchBoxAnnouncements" type="text" />
<input id="searchButtonAnnouncements" onclick="customSearch( 'searchBoxAnnouncements', 'List', 'http://myserver/departments/marketing/', 'http://myserver/departments/marketing/lists/announcements/' );" name="searchButtonAnnouncements" type="button" value="Search" />

Search the entire Marketing sub-site:

<input id="searchBoxMarketing" onkeypress="searchKeyPress('searchButtonMarketing',event);" name="searchBoxMarketing" type="text" />
<input id="searchButtonMarketing" onclick="customSearch( 'searchBoxMarketing', 'Site', 'http://myserver/departments/marketing/', 'http://myserver/departments/marketing/' );" name="searchButtonMarketing" type="button" value="Search" />

Search the Tasks list of the Marketing sub-site from the Human Resources sub-site, and display the results on a search results page within the Human Resources sub-site:

<input id="searchBoxTasks" onkeypress="searchKeyPress('searchButtonTasks',event);" name="searchBoxTasks" type="text" />
<input id="searchButtonTasks" onclick="customSearch( 'searchBoxTasks', 'List', 'http://myserver/departments/humanresources/', 'http://myserver/departments/marketing/tasks/' );" name="searchButtonTasks" type="button" value="Search" />

Final Thoughts

All of the above examples can be implemented by substituting your own values for the parameters. The code can then be added to a Content Editor Web Part or embedded within a Data View Web Part on your page, which gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of placement and styling.

I’ve used this technique many times over the past few months to create a better user experience by “embedding” the search box into the dvt_1.empty template that is displayed when a Data View Web Part does not have any rows to display. Typically this happens when the DVWP uses filters and the user selects filter criteria that aren’t matched by any of the list items. This way the user can enter a simple text search and see if that works rather than having to try one filter after another.


  1. Actually I tried creating Custom scope from CA and delete All Content scope and specify s="My CustomScope" but though it was returning cross site results, it started spinning my head and then I found your solution. It works grrr8 without creating custom scope and changing site settings too... Thanks Josh you saved my day... Thanks a lot...
  2. Can this code work for searching specific column in the list rather than the entire list. Thanks
    1. Hi Van, This script "piggybacks" on SharePoint's built-in search capabilities, so it can't search a specific column in the list as-is. If your SharePoint environment's search has been augmented by custom code or a third-party search product that accepts a URL query string parameter to narrow the search scope to a specific column, you'd just need to add that parameter to the JavaScript to make it work.
  3. Hi Josh, I have gone through your instructions, however, I seem to be struggling a bit. I'm using office 365 SharePoint (e3). You show two elements of code, are they to be kept separate or saved as a single script. I'm also struggling to add the code to a Content Editor Web Part as it only allows me to link to a file. My site is "" and the document library is "" Your help would be appreciated. Gavin
    1. Hi Gavin, Those two elements of code can be combined; just wrap the JavaScript in tags. Then put the JavaScript above the HTML code. Save all of that code into a .txt file, upload the .txt file to a Document Library on your SharePoint site, and link the Content Editor Web Part to that .txt file. Let me know if that works!
  4. This works great! I changed what I needed and it worked, but when I entered in new entries into my form, then search for them, it does not return any results. Any ideas?
    1. This solution just piggybacks on the SharePoint search capabilities. If the new entries in your site have not been indexed by the search crawler yet, they won't show up in any search (whether it uses this solution or the default search field in SharePoint).
      1. I am leaning towards this and my guess is that the search only indexes once a day. The item I entered in yesterday is indexed, but today's items do not. I'll have to set the crawler to crawl more frequently. Thank you for the prompt response!!
  5. can i use a scope created in CA with your solution? I am trying to create a search box that only searches a scope for a file share. thanks for this post and any help you can give.

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