Searches vs. Filters

When working with Guided Search you’ll see the terms “searches” and “filters” used over and over again. What’s the difference between a search and a filter? Well, depending on how you want to look at it, there’s not much difference at all: both searches and filters use the Console query language to search for user profiles. For example, try this exercise. From the Manage Profiles page, in the Search profiles field, type the following query:

displayName = "Bob*"

That’s a search: a query that you typed into the Search profiles field. Click the Search button, and you’ll get back a list of all the users who have a display name that begins with the string value Bob:

So much for searches. Next, click the Show Filters link:

When you do that, your screen should look similar to this (from now on we’ll refer to the newly-visible section as the Guided Search pane):

As you can see, the new filter (which the Console automatically constructed for you), exactly matches the query you typed into the Search profiles field: the Search profiles field displays the query displayName = “Bob*“ and the Guided Search pane shows the exact same thing.

But wait: it gets even better. In the filter, click the is equal to operator (=) and change it to the is not equal to operator (!=):

Your filter now looks like this:

And what about the query that you originally typed into the Search profiles field? As it turns out, modifying the filter automatically modifies the search query as well:

Here’s one more thing to try. In the Guided Search pane, click the Clear button. When you do that, both the search query and the filter are deleted:

To make a long story short, if you type a query in the Search profiles field, a new filter is automatically created for you. If you create a filter using Guided Search, a new search query is automatically added to the Search profiles field. The two are inseparable: you cannot have a search query without Guided Search creating a corresponding filter, and you cannot use Guided Search to create a filter without having a corresponding search query show up in the Search profiles field.

Of course, that leads to an obvious question: if searches and filters are pretty much the same thing, then why have both of them? Why not have just searches or just filters?

To answer that question, it helps to think of searches and filters as being two means to the same end. For example, suppose you need to leave a note to a coworker, asking him to notify you when a particular job is done. If you want to you can write this note in manuscript (i.e., printing):

Alternatively, you can use cursive writing to create the note:

Does it matter whether you use manuscript or cursive? No, it doesn’t: either way, Bob knows that he’s supposed to call you when he’s finished. All that really matters is whether you’re more comfortable writing in manuscript or more comfortable writing in cursive. Likewise, when it comes to searching for user profiles, are you more comfortable writing queries yourself, or would you prefer to have the Console help you write those queries. If it’s the latter, then you’ll want to read more about the Console’s new Guided Search feature.