The whole point of putting information into your CRM system is so you can get information out again. Searches are one of the key ways of doing this. They are useful both for retrieving specific information and as a form of ad hoc reporting.
For example, you might do a search because you want to find out the phone number of someone in your database. Or you might do a search because you are considering running an event targeted at youth, and want to find out how many people in your database are under 18 years old.
You can search for different types of information within CiviCRM. Some examples are:
The main types of search for finding contacts are:
Understanding wildcards really opens up your options when you want to search. In CiviCRM when we refer to a wildcard we are talking about the % symbol. You may be familiar with other symbols such as '*' from other applications.
A wildcard is a symbol we use to mean 'any character' (letter or number or punctuation mark). It is most easily understood through examples.
If we search on the first name 'Michael' we will find all the people with the first name 'Michael'. If, however, we search on 'Mich%' we might find 'Michelle', 'Michał', 'Micheal' and 'Michele'. This is really useful if we don't know how 'Michael's' name is spelled, or we think it might have been mispelled. Wildcards can be used before, after or even within words. For example, searching on 'Mich%el' will exclude 'Michał' and 'Micheal' but still shows 'Michelle', and 'Michael'.
You can see that this search is not case sensitive. In other words even though we entered 'mi%el' in lower case, it found people that had upper case 'M's in their name.
The contact search is very easy to use and looks like the image above. It uses the format 'Last name, First name' so if you want to find Michelle Smith you should search for 'Smith, Michelle'. You can change how your search behaves but we will assume you have left it at the default settings in the next couple of paragraphs. Search settings can be changed under CiviCRM >> Administer CiviCRM>>Global Settings >>Settings - Miscellaneous.
By default the Contact Search has an implicit wildcard. This means that if you enter Mich it will treat it as %mich% and find anyone with 'mich' anywhere in their full name. As you type you will see possible names presented to you. If you see the one you want you can select it and click on 'Go' or press 'Enter' to go into that contact's summary screen. Or you can just type in the text you are searching for and click on 'Go' to see all the people who have that text in their name.
If you type in a partial or complete email address, the search box will not offer you any options while you type. However, under the default setting, the results screen will show contacts with email addresses matching your input. For example, if you type 'gmail.com' and click 'Go' your search results will include any contact with a gmail.com email address.
If you are using Drupal and don't see the Contact Search box while you are on a CiviCRM page you may need to enable it in your Drupal blocks menu. You will not see this box on non-CiviCRM pages such as your Drupal home page unless you modify the configuration of this block (from Administer » Site Building » Blocks).
This simple search form is at CiviCRM > Find Contacts. From this screen you can still enter part or all of a name or email address, but you can also narrow down your search by selecting a specific type of contact (Individual, Household or Organisation), as well as selecting a specific Group and / or Tag.
The search shown below will find all "Individuals" in the group "Volunteers" who have the letters "rich" somewhere in their name or e-mail address.
Once you have your search results, there are many useful things you can do. First click the "All records" radio button, or mark the specific rows you want to take action on by clicking the checkbox on the left side of each row. Then click the "- more actions -" dropdown as shown in the picture below.
Some of the most commonly used actions are "Add Contacts to Group", "Export Contacts", create and print "Mailing Labels" and "Map Contacts".
For example, you might want to view the locations of a number of contacts on a map to help you plan a route for home visits. To do this, mark the contacts you are interested in and then select "Map Contacts".
This simple search form is quick and useful. However, if you need to search on contact attributes other than those offered here (such as address fields or custom data), the Advanced Search screen provides many more options. You'll also need to use Advanced Search if you want to select contacts in more than one group.
Advanced Search allows you to choose from (and combine) a broad range of search criteria, and allows you to select more than one option within some criteria. For example, you can use Advanced Search to get a list of contacts you have tagged as "Outdoorsy" or "Environmentally Aware", who are between 16 and 18 years old, live in "Vancouver", and have a "Student" membership.
In this screen the choices for contact type, groups and tags are shown as checkboxes rather than as a dropdown. This allows you to select more than one option. In the case below, your search results will include contacts who have been tagged with either "Outdoorsy" OR "Volunteer" (or both). If you did not check any tags, then the results would show contacts with any tag or indeed those with no tags at all.
You will also see several gray bars on this screen. If you click on a gray bar it expands to reveal more options. For example, if you wanted to search for all people in your database between 16 and 18 years old you would click on the "Demographics" bar and select the Birth Date range you are interested in.
If you want to combine this with searching by membership type, you can click on the "Memberships" bar. You can continue refining and narrowing your search by selecting or entering additional criteria in any of the search panes. For example, if you want to narrow this search to contacts living in a specific city, click on the "Address Fields" bar and enter the city name.
Advanced Searches also allow you to use to change the columns that are displayed in your search results. The default columns are Name, Street Address, City, State, Postal Code, Country, Email and Phone. If you want to display a different set of columns (perhaps including a custom field and removing the Country column) you can create a Profile with the "Search Results" option selected. Make sure that the fields in this Profile are set to "Public User Pages and Listings" visibility, and are marked as "Results Columns". The Profile will appear in the "Search Views" dropdown in the upper right corner of the form - as shown below.
Combining this feature with the "Batch Update via Profile" action provides a powerful method of viewing and updating a specific set of fields for a batch of contact records.
You may want to familiarise yourself with the steps for creating Profiles which are described in detail in another section.
Advanced Search lets you choose from a wide range of criteria but it has one important limitation. As noted above, most of the search criteria you select in advanced search are combined as AND criteria. For example, if you select a birth date AND select female for gender in the "Demographics" section, your results will include only contacts who are born after that date AND who are also female.
The Search Builder tool provides an alternative when you need to do a search using OR for some criteria. Continuing the example above, you can build a search for contacts who are born within a range of dates OR who are female.
Search Builder is intended for advanced users and requires you to use specific formats for your search values. Refer to the online documentation at http://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/display/CRMDOC/Search+Builder before you try to create your own searches.
Custom searches are special searches to meet special needs. The CiviCRM developers recognise that some people may need additional ways of collecting and aggregating data, so they have created a framework that people can use to create their own searches. When properly constructed, custom searches allow users access to the same powerful action options that are available from the built-in search screens described earlier. This includes Export, Mapping, saving searches as Smart Groups, and more.
Take a look at the list of available custom searches from CiviCRM > Find Contacts > Custom Searches. These have been written by members of the CiviCRM community to meet their own needs, and then contributed back to the community. It's worth spending some time exploring these searches as some of them may be useful to you, and they give you an idea of the sorts of things that are possible.
The Proximity Search is an excellent example of the power of custom searches:
You can use this search to locate contacts within a specific radius of a specific location.
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