Product Support

Combo Multi-Search

A Participants Database Add-On providing two different configurable multiple-field search capabilities.

Product Setup

The Combo Multisearch Plugin offers two main search control types: a single text input (like a search engine) or a sets of selectors/checkboxes/text fields that set a search term for each field. Both search types may be used, but in most cases, you’ll be using one or the other.

Setting up the Combination Search

To set up the Combo Search, you’ll need the names of all the fields you want searched with the user’s input. Type the names as a comma-separated list into the “Combination Search Fields” setting. To disable the combo search, leave the setting blank.

The “label” and “placeholder” settings give you two ways to prompt the user. The “label” is shown alongside the text input, and remains visible when the user types in their search. The “placeholder” is shown inside the text input, and disappears when the user begins to type in a search. A placeholder is good when you don’t need to explain much and want a clean, simple interface. The label is good for situations where you want to explain a little bit what the search is for. You can use either, neither, or both if you want.

Combo Search Modifiers

The “combo search modifiers” are a set of radio buttons to allow the user to set the type of search desired: “any,” “all,” or “phrase.” When enabled, these radio buttons will be shown next to the combo search input. There is a default search type that will be initially selected, and this is also the search mode that will be used if the combo search modifiers are not shown.


“Autocomplete” is also known as “autosuggest” and provides the user with a list of suitable search terms. The list of suggested search terms is shown as a pop-up window when the user begins typing, and the list is pared down as the user types in more letters. The list of autosuggest words is drawn from the database, so it can reliably guide the user to search terms that will yield results.

The fields that the autocomplete terms are drawn from is defined in the “Combo Search Autocomplete Fields” setting. It is a list of field names like the “combination search fields” setting. This means that the combo search can search on fields that don’t contribute to the autosuggest. This is helpful in cases where some of the fields searched contain blocks of text, which could add a lot of useless terms to the autosuggest list.

Multi-search provides a comprehensive interface for searching on multiple fields. Each field included in the search is provided with a search control appropriate to the type of field. The search control generates five different types of search control: text input, checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdowns and multi-select dropdowns.

To configure the multi-search, put the list of field names you want included in the search in the “Multi Search Fields” settings as a comma-separated list.

For dropdown, checkbox and radio button controls, the selections shown can either be drawn from the field definition, or from the database entries. If “Use DB Values in Dropdowns” is checked, a list of unique values is gotten from the database entries and used as the selections presented, so every selection will find a match in the database.

It’s also possible to generate a dropdown selector for text fields, by enabling “Text Fields as Dropdown Selectors.” This provides the user with a set of words to choose from that are taken from database entries. For instance, if one of the fields in the multisearch is “First Name,” the search control would be a dropdown of all the unique first names in the database.

Filter Search Mode

The Combo Multisearch has two general modes of operation. With “filter mode” on, all chosen search values must be present in the record for it to be included in a search result. If filter mode is off, a record will be included in the results if any of the provided search terms is present in the record.

Each search type, combo or multi, has a “Whole Word Match Only” switch so that searches made will only match a complete word in the search, not portions of a word.

Returning to the Search Results

Under the General settings tab, is a checkbox to enable restoring the previous search when returning to the search page. This is convenient for users who need to navigate away from the search page and wish to return to the same page of results. If this is unchecked, the search page will be reset every time it is loaded.

Showing the Search Control

The Combo Multisearch Add-On provides it’s search capabilities through the use of a special template. There is a template for the list display and for the stand-alone search display. Once the plugin settingsĀ are defined, the template must be called in the shortcode like this:

[pdb_list template=multisearch ]

The plugin now also includes a table-less responsive template for the list multisearch shortcode:

[pdb_list template=multisearch-responsive ]

Or for the standalone search like this:

[pdb_search template=multisearch ]

This uses the plugin’s built-in template, but you can also add Combo Multisearch to any list or search shortcode template by using the template functions provided by the plugin.

It is also possible to define the list of fields to search in the shortcode, for instance:

[pdb_list template=multisearch search_fields='company,city,state']

If you need to have the search control in a different location then where the results are displayed, you can do that with the [pdb_search] shortcode. You need to use the “target_page” attribute to tell the search shortcode where the results are to be displayed. The [pdb_list] shortcode is used to display the results.

For example, if your results are displayed on a page named “listings” then your search control shortcode will be like this: [pdb_search template=multisearch target_page=listings]. That shortcode can be placed anywhere. If you want to put it into a sidebar widget, you’ll need a plugin that will allow a shortcode in a widget.

Then, on the “listings” page, put [pdb_list]. There is no need to set the template to multisearch unless you want another search control to appear at the top of the results.

Target Instance

In cases where the [pdb_list] shortcode is on a page with other Participants Database shortcodes, you may need to set the “target_instance” attribute to target the specific list shortcode where you want the results to appear. To find the target instance value, you must inspect the HTML. At the top of the list display, you will see a classname in the wrapper such as “pdb-instance-2” That means the list is instance 2, and you would need to put that value as the target instance in the search control shortcode, like this: [pdb_search template=multisearch target_page=listings target_instance=2].


Can I use both the Combo Search and Multi Search at the same time?

Yes, you can, but the set of fields selected for the Combo Search Fields should be different than the fields configured in Multi Search Fields. It will still work, but the results might not be as expected because the combo search will override the multi search if both are searching on the same field.

Is it possible for the user's last used search to be restored when they return to the search page?

Yes, there is a setting under the “General” tab in the Combo Multisearch settings called “Remember the Last Search” and if checked, it will store the search parameters for the last search on the user’s browser. This means that even if they leave the site and come back later, the last search they used will still be there. If “Clear” is clicked the stored search is erased.

I want to pre-load the search terms when linking to the search page. How do I do that?

Yes, it is possible to place the search terms in the URL, and they will pre-load into the search form.

For Multi Search, each field you want to preload a search term into needs to be named and given a value. For example, you want to take the user to the search page set up to find all the brewpubs in Seattle. Your link would look something like this:

The “city” and “business_type” fields would then be filled with the vales in the URL. Of course, the fields named must be configured to appear in the Multi Search inputs.

You can do the same for the Combo Search, but there is only one field, named “combo_search” so if you wanted to do the same kind of thing as our example above, you could use a URL like this:

You’ll notice the %20 in the search term: this is code for a space, this is needed because URL’s cannot contain spaces. Take a look at this reference to learn more about using query strings in URL’s.

I want to combine Combo Multisearch with Locations Map to show search result locations in the map. How can this be done?

Right now this doesn’t work using the “auto placement” of the locations map. You can get it all working together using a custom template I’ve created a template that will do the job here:

You’ll need to download that template, and place it where Participants Database can find it. This is explained here:

Using Participants Database Custom Templates

Once that’s done, change your shortcode to something like this:

[pdb_list template=multisearch-map]

Support Discussions for Combo Multisearch

  • Hi Roland,

    First, thanks for your awesome plugin and for being so ready to answer support questions. I’ve learned a ton through your documentation.

    I’ve got a question about creating a custom search form. Do you have the equivalent of “PDB_Template” class for fields? Basically, I would like to create a search form and an entry form where I can control exactly how and where each field appears, and I think having the equivalent of the “PDB_Template” class that allows me to easily access the properties of each field might be the best way. If you have other suggestions as well, I’d be interested in those too.


    • A useful method to use here is:

      $field = new PDb_Form_Field_Def( $name );

      where $name is the name of the field. That will give you an object where you can access the properties of the field and also several useful methods for displaying the field.

      • Thanks! I’ll try it out.

        • After trying out this suggestion, I’m unsure how to access the field properties.

          For example, I tried:

          <tr class="print_element_class() ?>”>

          The page writes: ‘<tr class=' and then fails. Do I need to access the field properties in a different way?

        • It looks like you need to familiarize yourself with the use of php class instances. When you instantiate a class on a variable (which is what the code I showed you does), you need to use that variable to access the class methods. Also, the method you’re calling is in the PDb_Field_Item class, which is different from the class I suggested you use.

          I suggest you set up your php error log so you can get more detail on what problems you’re running in to, it’s very helpful.

        • Sorry, the snipped didn’t come through:

          <tr class="print_element_class() ?>”>

        • Sorry, I did initiate an instance of the class as you suggested…but the comment section seems to keep gobbling up my PHP. Let me try one more time:

                  <tr class="print_element_class() ?>”>“

          That being said, what are the methods associate with the PDb_Form_Field_Def (I can’t find the documentation on it)?

        • Okay, one more time…this time I won’t type the PHP brackets..

            $field = new PDb_Form_Field_Def( ‘city’ ); 
                  print_element_class() “>“
        • Well, I seem unable to show my code in the comments…but if you have documentation on the methods available in PDb_Form_Field_Def, that would be great.

        • I’m sorry, I don’t have separate documentation, but the plugin code is well documented.

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