There are many manual methods for making a central search center available across your SharePoint implementation:
· Adding to either Global (Top Nav Bar) or Local (Quick Launch) navigation in each site collection and/or site.
· Adding Links to pages
· Teaching Users to add to My Links list
In this post, I would like to suggest three methods of automating the publication of centralized search center access without having to touch individual SharePoint sites. The first two preferably use Active Directory group policies but are achievable for users on machines that are not members of your domain.
Add as Search Provider for Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer now supports multiple Search Providers for its built-in search box as shown in the figure below.
Your users can use the built-in tools to create a search provider for your central search center or you can provide a file which they can use to place the correct settings in their local registry.
To create this file, place the following test in Notepad:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
Replace “Portal” with the name you want displayed. Quotes are required.
In the URL, replace http://moss01/search/Pages/results.aspx with the location of your search results page. You could also change or remove the default scope (&s=All%20Sites).
The save the file with a .REG extension.
To share the file via email or in a document library, you may need to save the file with a .TXT extension and instruct your users how to download the file, change the extension back to .REG and import into their registry.
Add to Internet Explorer Links Toolbar
Although some users do not like to give up the space occupied by Internet Explorer’s Links toolbar, I am addicted to it for the sites that I use frequently. Also, it can quickly be activated / deactivated from the Tools menu as needed as well as collapsed / expanded.
Like most configurations of Internet Explorer, the contents of the Links toolbar can be pushed out to members of the domain using group policies. I find the easiest method of creating this policy is to configure IE in the desired format on a machine from which I can open the domain (or OU) group policy. Then I can simply import the local settings into the group policy and tweak them within the policy.
However, for those users whose machines are not members of your domain, the links shortcuts are contained in a folder in their favorites (C:\Documents and Settings\username\Favorites\Links). So your options are to train them how to go to the site and create the shortcut on the links toolbar or save as a Favorite in the Links folder. I suppose that zipping a links folder and sending out to users to place in the Favorites folder but that would probably be harder to teach them than saving as a favorite.
Add Link to Site Actions
Making the link to the site available to all users globally across your SharePoint farm is relatively easy even for administrators who do not normally write code.
Additions to the Site Actions menu are deployed as features. For the non-programmers, do not stop reading at this point. We are just going to do some simple cut and paste.
As long as we understand the basic components of a feature and have the basic code for two XML files, we can easily modify the menu.
A feature requires a folder containing two files, Elements.xml and Feature.xml. The folder should have a name that identifies the feature to administrators and must be unique within the C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12\TEMPLATE\FEATURES folder. In my example, the folder (and feature) is named EntSearch for Enterprise Search.
The contents of the Elements.xml file are:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
Title="Enterprise Search Site"
Description="Use this site for Enterprise and Internet Searches.">
The Sequence entry controls the placement of the link on the menu list.
The Title controls the menu item name and the Description text appears below the menu item name as shown in the figure below.
The UrlAction Url is the link that is opened when the menu item is selected.
The contents of the Feature.xml are:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Feature xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/sharepoint/" Id="BEA70765-63BB-4bd1-927C-E72C3559D07D" Title="Enterprise Search Site" Description="This site is customized for Enterprise and Internet Searches." Scope="Farm">
<ElementManifest Location="Elements.xml" />
The crucial line in this file is the Feature xmlns= line. In this line the Id must be a unique guid. Since we are not developers and probably do not have Visual Studio installed, we can use http://createguid.com/ to generate a new guid. The Title and Description need to be identical to those in the Elements.xml. for this feature, we want the scope to be Farm so that it does not need to be activated at lower levels. Farm level features are automatically activated.
Place the folder containing your two modified files in the C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\12\TEMPLATE\FEATURES folder. The feature is then deployed with the following command line:
"c:\program files\common files\microsoft shared\web server extensions\12\bin\stsadm.exe" -o installfeature -name "EntSearch" –force
Now across all sites and pages in your farm, your Site Actions menu contains an item as shown below:
Remember that a Site Actions menu does not appear unless a user has access to a link in the menu due to security trimming. So, for many of your users this may be the first time they have seen this item.
Hopefully, this post will at least cause you to think about some options for making your central search center more accessible for all your users.