Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Search and modern multilingual pages in SharePoint Online

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The ability to create SharePoint pages in multiple languages was/is a popular feature for classic SharePoint publishing pages. If you work in an organization where your employees use multiple languages, for example English and Norwegian, creating side by side pages in native languages is beneficial both from a communication point of view and also helps to tailor the information related to countries/regions based on language.

Back in SharePoint 2013 the functionality was called variations. This time around it’s more aptly named the “multilingual feature”. You can read the feature announcement from June 2020 at the Microsoft Tech Community.

While variations were an option for sites using the classic SharePoint publishing feature, the ability to create multilingual pages is currently enabled by default for Communication sites only.

If you want to enable multilingual page support on a Team site you can do so by activating a hidden feature called SitePagePublishing using for example PnP PowerShell as a site owner.

Connect-PnPOnline https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/mysite
Enable-PnPFeature -Identity f39dad74-ea79-46ef-9ef7-fe2370754f6f

If you want to take advantage of the ability to author multilingual pages, head over to Create multilingual communication sites, pages, and news which describes in detail how to turn on the capability as well as how to author the pages.

Details needed for search

What happens behind the scenes when you create multilingual pages? For one, each language copy is stored in its separate folder. In my case English is the primary site language, and I opted to have Norwegian as a secondary language.

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Two pages in the original language.

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One of the pages is translated.

Secondly, to connect and keep track of the original vs. the translated pages there are some internal properties in SharePoint per item keeping track of this.

SharePoint Column

Search Managed Property

Description

_SPTranslatedLanguages

SPTranslatedLanguages

Source page stores a list of the language of all translated languages.
E.g. nb-no.

_SPTranslationLanguage

SPTranslatedLanguage

Translated page stores the language of the page.

E.g.: nb-no

_SPTranslationSourceItemId

SPTranslationSourceItemId

Translates page stores a reference to the original page.

E.g: 1f50aa8b-d31e-415a-bc4a-4ced38f5cdc4

_SPIsTranslation

SPIsTranslation

The translated page stores the boolean value true to indicate it’s a translation and not the original. The original article has no value.

The desired behavior when searching is to return a page in the users’ display language if it exists. If a translation does not exist, fall back to the original language – which follows the default language of a site set at site creation.

The examples below explain the logic used by Microsoft Search, and you can replicate this yourself as well in custom solutions.

To return English pages returned the query would be:

(SPTranslationLanguage:en-us OR (NOT SPTranslatedLanguages:en-us AND NOT SPIsTranslation:true))

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Both pages returned in the original language - English.

To return Norwegian pages the query would be:

(SPTranslationLanguage:nb-no OR (NOT SPTranslatedLanguages:nb-no AND NOT SPIsTranslation:true))

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One translated page and one non-translated returned.

If you are using the PnP Modern Search web parts you can use the query variable {PageContext.currentUICultureName} to substitute the correct display language into the query.

Easy as pie :)

PS! For the KQL savvy, you can not replace the NOT operator with the (minus) operator for boolean values – for some weird reason that fails.

Cover photo by Mat Reding @ Unsplash

Monday, September 14, 2020

Microsoft Search vs. PnP Modern Search – a clash of titans!

man standing and walking going on boxing ring surrounded with people

Sorry for the clickbait title. I have been meaning to write about how I think about the out-of-the-box Microsoft Search vs. the PnP Modern Search web parts for a while, so here goes.

Disclaimer: I have been working with search for 20 years, enterprise search for 15 years and SharePoint and search for almost just as long. The opinions stated are my own and they are based on my experience with search in FAST ESP, SharePoint and Office 365 over the years and are not influenced by my role as a program manager on Microsoft Search. No money or breaking of fingers were involved in writing this post :)

A little history

With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft shipped many ways to customize how search worked. Both from a technical and user experience perspective. The more important one being the ability to use arbitrary HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in custom display templates with the Search Result web part and the Content by Search web part (CSWP).

Fast forward to SharePoint Online and the release of modern SharePoint pages late 2016. Modern pages came with a new set of web parts and lacked the super-flexible CSWP. Modern pages did introduce the Highlighted Content web part (HCWP), positioned as “...the newer, simplified version of the Content Search web part.”

When customer transitioned from classic to modern a gap had been formed between the CSWP and the HCWP which needed filling. And this is where the awesome sharing in the SharePoint community comes in, put into a sharable system with Microsoft 365 Patterns and Practices (PnP).

The first version of the PnP Modern Search web parts (MSWP) were added as a SharePoint Framework sample by Franck Cornu back in October of 2017. My first contribution to the sample was made in January of 2018 to include additions needed for a customer project I had at the time.

Back then MSWP was one web part; the result web part which included an optional built-in refinement panel. The search box web part got introduced late February of 2018, with the vertical web part following later. My main reason for looking at the sample web part in the first place was the need of a roll-up web part for a project. The Highlighted Content web part (HCWP) lacked the needed templating required – and still does, and why bother develop something if it already exists? Much easier to add to a maintained code base compared to owning it completely on my own #lazyprogrammer.

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Image by Zhang Kenny @ Unsplash.

And this is where I believe the PnP Modern Search web parts has its sweet spot – bridge the gap between the classic Content by Search web part and the new Highlighted Content web part. This was my opinion back in 2018, and it still is in 2020. I actually formed the opinion back in 2016. That is 4 years and counting.