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Many of you use Google™ to find our content. This is good and we try to optimize our content to be found by Google as much as possible.
And you certainly know that you can use expressions like site:help.sap.com <query> to restrict your search to the SAP Help Portal. You can also create your own search provider for your browser.

Yet I think that you can get better results using SAP’s search engine.

1.   Choose the right source

First, you should know that search on SCN and search on SAP Help Portal is basically the same. They use the same indexes, thus retrieving the same results for the same query – theoretically. Practically, search on SCN and SAP Help Portal are configured differently. Both sites use faceted search and both sites have set the “Source” filter to show only content residing on their respective sites. You just need to remove the “Source” filter to see results from more sites.
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To see all available content, you must be logged on to SCN and use search there, because some content is restricted to authenticated users. SAP Help Portal does not provide authentication, so restricted content such as SAP Notes cannot be found there.
In case you want to get an overview about what kind of information is available for a given product you should start your journey from the respective documentation overview page. Just enter the product name or its abbreviations into the search box. Usually, a so called best bet appears as the topmost search result. The best bet directly opens the overview page.

2.    Filters are your friend

Let’s get back to the advantages of faceted search for documentation. The filters enable you to narrow your search results to specific products and even to release level. Admittedly, the filters could be a bit more user-friendly. But if you keep in mind that you need to start filtering using the “Solution Suite” filter and continue to “Solution” and finally “Version” you quickly get used to it.
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Spoiler Alert

The Help Portal search is pre-configured to filter the result set for content in English-only. Although this is a usability advantage for most Help Portal users, some of you may struggle because you don’t find the topic you are looking for when entering search queries in other languages. Of course you can quickly switch off that behavior. Unfortunately, you cannot set this as a permanent default.

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If you are already on a documentation page and use the search function there, the release-specific filter is activated by default. This is indicated by the ghost text “Search within this release”. To search all content, choose “Global Search”.
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3.    Use operators to refine your search

I don’t have a complete list of all supported operators, but I know at least about these:
This operator…
Has this effect…
“  “
If a query is put in quotes the search engine only retrieves results that exactly match that string. Please note that the maximum length of queries is limited to 50 characters (including spaces). Longer queries are truncated. As this includes the end quotes this can lead to unexpected results.
Example:    “Configuring the BI Integration of CPH”
You can also use wildcard operators (* ?) within phrases.

Example:    “Config* the BI Integration of C?H”

AND

Capitalized AND ensures that all words connected with this operator must appear in the result. As this is the default search behavior you can leave it out.
Example:    Configuring AND Integration           or simply
                        Configuring  Integration

OR

Capitalized OR retrieves results that contain either of the words you have entered.
Example:    “Configuring OR Integration”

If you type a hyphen directly in front of a word, you only see results that do not contain that word.
Example:    “Configuring -Integration”

*

The asterisk is a placeholder for one or more characters. Please note that it cannot be used to replace an entire word.
Example:    “Config* the BI Integration of CPH”                 valid
“Configuring the * Integration of CPH”          invalid

?

  ?  is a placeholder for single characters.
  Please note that it cannot be used to replace an entire word
Example:    “Configuring the B? Integration of CPH”         valid

                           “Configuring ? new System”                         invalid

If you apply some of these tips regularly, I’m sure you will get your answers faster. Just stick the following checklist next to your screen as a reminder.

Checklist

  • Start your search at http://help.sap.com
    • Alternatively, enter product names or common abbreviations into the search. Choose the respective best bet on the search result page.
  • Use SAP Help Portal search to get to specific topics.
    • Use filters to narrow down your result set.
    • Remove filters to expand your result set to include content from other SAP sites or to include results in other languages
  • Provide feedback: there are multiple ways to contact us if you run into problems with our content. Don’t hesitate to make use of them. We appreciate your help in improving our help.
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7 Comments

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  1. John Appleby

    Nice article Sven, very informative.

    I’ve got to say though, even as a 10-year veteran of SCN and SMP, I find the search results baffling, I can only imagine what it must be like for newbies 🙂

    Your search is a great example, you searched for SAP NetWeaver and it came up with SAP Jam 😀

    The search engine I came to love over years of practice, is the SAP Notes search. It’s a very peculiar search engine but it’s quite effective when used right. It’s definitely worth spending some time getting to know and I much prefer it to the XSearch.

    Search is definitely one area that the community would sorely love improvements in, as part of the 1DX program.

    The thing that I’m afraid of right now is that SAP removes the trusty SAP Notes search as part of 1DX.

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    1. Sven Gierse Post author

      Thanks for the cudos John,

      And you’re right: there is still room for improvement. What you say about the SAP Notes search is basically one of my main messages. Carefully select your source and use specific filters on that content. Instead of searching across all availbale repositories at once I rather suggest searching them one by one.

      Regarding your concerns that 1DX may worsen the search experience I can say that 1DX also aims to improve the metadata tagging of the entire content. So even if a particular search does not work as you expect in the beginning I think over time the overall search experience should become significantly better.

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    2. Matt Fraser

      I have to second what John says about the old Notes search tool, which is different from the SCN or cross-search. It only searches Notes and KBAs, of course, but within that subset it allows much more fine-grained filtering than the SCN search. For instance, I can filter a Notes search not only by application area (and this is not the same as filtering by SCN space), but also by software release and support pack level. I can filter by dates the Note was released. It also gives a reasonable (but not perfect, unfortunately) “relevance” ranking, though I go back and forth between wanting to see what the tool thinks is most relevant to simply seeing what the most recent Notes on a particular keyword are. I do find it odd, though, in the Notes search, that when choosing to sort by date, it defaults to showing the oldest Notes first, when I’m pretty sure most people would want to see the newest ones first.

      That said, I use the SCN search a lot as well — I often have both up in different tabs — and use the filters the way you describe, which can be very helpful. However, I find it seems a bit buggy at times, in that it will return an error, or tell me no hits were found (when clearly there should be hundreds), or scramble the filters I had set.

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  2. Jelena Perfiljeva

    I agree with John that the good old note search worked quite well for its purposes. Personally I don’t like the search on new support portal a single bit.

    No disrespect to Sven and it’s otherwise good and helpful blog but I’ve been saying it since 2008 that SAP should just fold it and outsource all the search to Google. Why are you guys even spending time on it? 7 years later Google still does a better job.

    For example, just recently I had a question about the geography hierarchy in Lumira. Google finds this article:  Creating geography and time hierarchies – SAP Lumira – a quick overview – SAP Library and it’s the top link.

    But if I go to the SAP Help portal, this is what I get:

    Image.jpg

    Why is it assuming I’m looking for latitude (I’m not)? Why there are 4 items with exactly the same name? If I hover over I can see those are for different Lumira versions, but there is no filter for the version as in the Netweaver example. And they are not even sorted by version. Wouldn’t it be logical to put the most recent one on top?

    And don’t get me started on the content. Here is step 1:

    Click the down arrow in a column header, or the properties cogwheel for a dimension

    What the heck is ‘cogwheel’ and where are those ‘down arrows’. What screen are these instructions for? Why is there not a single picture? I came to this page with a question and now I’m even more confused and have to google what a cogwheel looks like (oh, it’s just a gear!)

    P.S. Also indexes seem to be rebuilding 75% of the time when I visit SAP pages. Hmm, I’ve never seen Google rebuild theirs…

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    1. Sven Gierse Post author

      Thanks for your feedback, Jelena,

      Believe me: also Google re-indexes its content – they are just doing it smarter 😉

      This, but also the redundant search result records that popped up in your example are also a nuisance to us. So we try our best to improve it on a continuous basis. This is again where 1DX should result in some improvements. As said in my comment to John, we want to switch to a better metadata concept, so we can better identify the redundant result records and also provide the release filters consistently.

      But we have also tried using Google Search Appliance. And believe me or not: it did not provide the desired outcome. On the other hand, we also want to use our own products, get feedback and improve them. SAP Enterprise Search and TREX are such technologies. Unfortunately, we cannot spend as much capacity into fine-tuning settings and algorithms for our own web site as we wish to – and as Google does.

      And also thanks for your feedback on the terminology regarding gear vs. cogwheel. I think we have so far rather used an academic approach for some of our terminology. Cogwheel is simply less ambiguous. Yet, gear is far more common. We have just decided to write our documentation more people-centric. This includes using more common terms. So I hope that you will also see a difference on this mid-term.

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      1. Jelena Perfiljeva

        Sven, thank you for a thorough response!

        Interestingly, today [marks the calendar with a red Sharpie] I found one advantage of the search on SAP Support portal. When searching for the elusive error message ‘VF055’, it found this SCN discussion and it was only the second one on Google. The top result on Google was a related discussion but it had no solution and just one reply. It seemed odd that SAP search found just one entry vs. many others on Google (when will the people of SCN search, arrrgh!!!), but since this was the one of value, no complaints here. So you’re getting there apparently. 🙂

        If you need any guinea pigs of moderate intelligence for a next project, let me know! 🙂

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