Teams Gets a New Search Results Page

Announced in message center notification MC289446 (October 5) and then released as a preview feature on October 11, a new Teams search results page(aka SERP) is on its way to Office 365 tenants. This is Microsoft 365 roadmap item 66583 and it’s due to reach general availability in mid-November. The folks with P beside their user photo can use the new search results now in both the desktop (Windows and Mac) and browser clients.

Better Use of Space, Clearer Results

With only a small helping of hyperbole, the new search results page promises to deliver “better context, faster results, improved filtering capabilities with AI-powered relevance based on the people and content you engage with most in Teams and other Microsoft 365 services.” A cynic might say “about time too” because the existing Teams search results page is cramped, inaccessible, and dramatically wasteful of space (Figure 1).

The old way to present Teams search results
Figure 1: The old way to present Teams search results

By comparison, the new search results page divides search results in different categories (people, messages, files, etc) and makes much better use of available screen estate (Figure 2). The results include bookmarks and acronyms (if configured by the tenant for Microsoft Search). Added to other improvements like showing Top Hits in search suggestions, the aim is to make the content available to Teams users more accessible. The results you see are those available in Microsoft Search, so they’re scoped to only show files, chats, and messages that the user can access. This includes spoken words captured in the transcripts of Teams meeting recordings.

The new way to present Teams search results
Figure 2: The new way to present Teams search results

The search results feature easier navigation to the underlying items, using deeplinks to allow users to go direct to a message (Figure 3) or to preview a file.

Previews and actionable buttons for Teams messages and files in search results
Figure 3: Previews and actionable buttons for Teams messages and files in search results

Interestingly, the new search results page doesn’t extend to contextual searches (CTRL/F), the results of which turn up in the old interface. This might simply be due to Microsoft not having the time to complete everything for the preview and it’s entirely possible that contextual searches will use the new interface when the feature is generally available.

Using Filters

Once you find something in a Teams search, you might want to apply a filter to focus on the information you really want to see. Filters have always been available to Teams search; the new interface seeks to make the filters more “discoverable” and the range of options have been expanded. To use a filter, select a type of data (like messages or files). Teams displays the available features at the top of the search results and it’s then a matter of choosing what filter to apply (Figure 4).

Filters to reduce the set of messages returned by a Teams search
Figure 4: Filters to reduce the set of messages returned by a Teams search

Intelligent Searches

Microsoft’s announcement makes a big thing about “AI powered relevance,” which is a pretty way to describe putting the highest-ranking search results at the top of the list (a gross simplification, but that’s what it means to most people). Humans can apply their own intelligence to searches by improving the quality of the queries used for searching. In a nutshell, the better the query, the better the search results.

Search queries use the Keyword Query Language (KQL) and can be very complicated if you get down into the weeds. However, simple queries are easy to master and can add a lot of value (when you apply filters, Teams constructs the filters with KQL and applies the filters to searches). For example, Figure 5 shows a simple KQL query looking for anything mentioning the keywords “Microsoft 365” and “Journey” found close to the keyword “pitfalls.”

Sometimes human intelligence creates the right KQL query to find the best results with a Teams search
Figure 5: Sometimes human intelligence creates the right KQL query to find the best results with a Teams search

Everyone Likes Good Searches

There’s no doubt that Teams search needed some tender loving care. Microsoft has improved the accuracy, presentation, and usefulness of search results, so this is a very welcome change. If you find bugs in the preview, note them as repllies on this page for the developers to see.


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