2013 Search: It’s free and it’s FAST

We’ve covered most of the buzz features of SharePoint 2013 in our recent blog reviews, but there is another new addition to the out-of-the-box suite that’s set to deliver huge ROI.

FAST Search. Acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion in 2008 and now fully integrated into SharePoint 2013, the latest release of FAST has powerful capabilities that will take search to the next level.

How? Let’s take a high level look at some of the best new or enhanced search features:

Simplified central searchconnecty

SharePoint’s people search capabilities and FAST’s content search capacity are now combined in one dynamic, easy to navigate and more social user interface – which is a big tick under the User Experience column. From a search architecture perspective there is also now a single query language which combines Fast Query Language and Keyword Query Language.

Improvements to search results

SP 2013 has brand new Content by Search functionality which has been designed to reinforce its existing Web Content Management (WCM) capacity. This feature works against indexed content in a manner similar to the Content Query Web Part, by taking the input of a query term and identifying exact queries that will drive content into the Web Part. However unlike Content Query Web Parts content can be sourced from anywhere the search can find it – no more site collection boundaries! Display templates also make it easy for anyone with some HTML and CSS skills to format how the web part will display the content.

Document preview with Office Web Apps

No more opening and closing file after file to find the one you want. Users can now see a live preview of documents or web pages listed in their search results by simply hovering over them. The Office Web Apps preview even renders the file in the same formatting as the original document – another User Experience plus.

Video and conversation results

SharePoint 2013 provides much more powerful video asset management. The standard videos search scope provides more meaningful display of video results. While the conversations scope provides an easy way to focus on content that has been created using SharePoint’s new social features.

Changes to crawling and content processing

When it comes to content being absorbed into the search framework, SP 2013 shows a number of improvements from features originally deployed in SP 2010. For example: an anonymous crawling feature is now supported in SP 2013 (in the past all crawls had to be authenticated via a user account), and visual metadata extraction is now possible through the use of Format Handlers which have the power to extract data (such as author names and titles) from a range of different file formats. The introduction of continuous crawling also allows for more timely indexing of content.

All of these enhancements go a long way towards what we believe is the defining factor of any successful SharePoint project – the power to connect people and information quickly, and in a meaningful way. If you would like to drill down into more detail about FAST Search, get in touch with someone from our office and we’ll talk you through it.

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