The Smart Search core extension

Being disabled by default, this very powerful new core component shipped with Joomla 2.5 remains unnoticed by many Joomla site owners. It's time to began to use it and unleash the power hidden here.

Joomla core search feature was often criticized lately. Even if was at the beginning a revolutionary feature among other CMS-es began to show his age. The response for this from the developers of Joomla is the Smart Search component, built into the Joomla core. Even if supports only Joomla core components at the time this is written (Spring of 2012), probably will be embraced quickly by the community and you can expect soon to be supported by more and more components. It's a big improvement over the standard com_search component, and you should use it, especially if your site is content-centered, as this one.

Where to start?

  • First of all, enable the Smart Search plugin by going to Extensions > Plug-in Manager and enable the Smart Search plugin.
  • Next go to Components > Smart Search and click Index in the toolbar. You'll see a progress bar as Joomla indexes your site. This is the first and last time you'll need to run this indexer. When you're finished, you'll see all of the indexed content in the component interface.
  • Now that your content is in Smart Search, go to Extensions > Module Manager and publish your Smart Search module live on your site in a convenient position, and disable the default search module, to avoid confusion. The Smart Search module will look exactly the same as the normal Search module. However, when you use the module, the Smart Search results will look very different.
    • First difference is the advanced Search link on the top of the results.
    • Below, the search term is highlighted in the results, and the full path to result pages is shown also in clear. Click on Author, for example, and you'll information about each one. You can unpublish any of these if you don't want them included in the filters.Click on the Advanced Search and you'll be presented with the ability to filter your search by Author, Category, Country, Language, Region and Type.
    • These settings can be edited in the administrator area of the extension. Go to Components > Smart Search and click Content Maps.
    • Click on Type and you'll see your site content divided into Articles, Categories, Contacts, News feeds and Web links.
    • Click on Author, for example, and you'll information about each one. You can unpublish any of these if you don't want them included in the filters.
  • Smart Search also allows you to create pre-defined filters so you can provide your users with a specific set of results. Go to Components > Smart Search > Search Filters and click New. You can create a filters with any or all of the Authors, Categories, Countries, Languages, Regions and Types that we saw before. You can also filter by date.
  • In order to allow people to use the filter, make a menu link. Go to Menus > Main Menu and click New. Choose Smart Search > Search. Your Filter settings are on the right-hand side. Choose the filter that you wish to provide to your users and save the menu link. Users will now only be able to search within those results.
  • Inside Components > Smart Search > Options there are a lot of configuration settings available. Just one example: click on Index and you can also change the weight given to different factors in the search results.

You may ask, why is not enabled by default, and why is not THE search tool for Joomla 2.5 yet? There are at least 2 reasons:

  1. Smart Search currently only support the Joomla core extensions, unlike the old Joomla Search component. That's why Smart Search is still turned off by default. Hopefully enough developers will make their extensions work with Smart Search that it will be come the default for Joomla 3.0 later this year.
  2. It's not been heavily tested on large sites. It's a new feature and some bugs will inevitably emerge.
It won't be long however before Smart Search is ready for prime time and becomes the default Joomla search extension. Go, give it a try and give your feedback to the developers!