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 set of selectors/checkboxes/text fields that provide 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

Combo Search provides a single-input search that will look in multiple fields for a match to a single input. Use this search type in situations where a simple easy-to-use interface is desired to search the database.

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 using a separate input for each field. This is best for situations where a precise, complex search is needed (such as a technical database) or in situations where you want to show the viewer what kind of information they can search by (for example, a services directory).

Starting with version 2.0, the multisearch fields are defined in a special interface under the “Multi Search Fields” tab in the plugin’s settings. In this new interface, each field in the multisearch can be customized in several different ways, changing how it looks, how the user may interact with it, and how it finds matches. Which options are available to a field depends on the type of field it is as defined in Participants Database.

If you already had Combo Multisearch set up and are updating from an older version, your fields will still be configured as before, only now you can fine-tune how each field works.

shows how to interact with the multisearch fields interface
Configuring the Multi Search Fields

On this page, you configure which fields will appear in the multisearch and in what order. The display shows a list of all the fields configured for the Multi Search so you can edit the parameters of each one. You can add as many fields here as you want, you can also also delete and re-order them.

Note that fields that are included in the Combo Search configuration are not available for Multi Search; remove them from Combo Search to make them available in the “Add Field” selector.

Field Parameters

Each field in the list of fields has its own parameters where you can change how it is presented or how it works. There are several parameters, and which ones are available to each field depends on the field type. Here is a description of the parameters:

  • Label – This defaults to the normal field title, but if you want to give it a different label in the search interface, you can do that here.
  • Help Text – defaults to the field’s help text, but you can choose a different help text for the search interface.
  • Attributes – allows the addition of HTML element attributes, such as the “required” attribute to selectively make fields required in the search interface.
  • Input Type – depending on the original field type, there will be several different ways the field can be shown in the search interface.
  • Include Label in Result Summary – when checked, the field’s label will be shown along with the searched-for value in the search result summary.
  • Database Values in Selector – for any kind of selector input type, instead of showing the configured field options, the options shown in the control will be drawn from the database.
  • Show “Any” Option – for selector input types, enabling this shows an option that will match any value in the database: this is essentially a “reset” for the selector, removing it from the search. Uncheck this if you want to force the user to make a selection.
  • “Any” Option Label – when the “any” option is shown, this is how it will be labeled. You can leave it blank for a blank option.
  • Multiselect “Or” Mode – (only for multiselect input types) if this is checked, the search result can match any of the values selected, instead of needing to match all of them when using “filter” mode. This setting makes no difference when not using filter mode because the values will be treated as an “or” in that case anyway.

Multi Search Field Input Type

Some field types will have several options available for the “Input Type” selected in the Multi Search Fields interface. A text field can be shown as a text input (of course) but also as a dropdown selector that shows a list of values taken from the database entries. Dropdown fields can be shown as a dropdown or as a multiselect, giving the user the ability to select several possible matches for that field.

Normally, a list shortcode configured to show the Combo Multisearch control will show all the fields you have configured in the Multi Search Fields interface. It is possible to determine on a per-shortcode basis which fields will be shown in the interface, as explained in the “Showing the Search Control” section. If you want to do this, you must configure all the fields you will show in all shortcodes, and then use the “search_fields” attribute in the shortcode to determine which of the configured fields to show in that particular display. In other words, you cannot add a field in the shortcode that has not been added to the Multi Search Fields configuration.

Filter Search Mode

The Combo Multisearch has two general modes of operation: Filter Mode on or off. With filter mode “on,” all chosen search values must match the record’s values 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 matches the record’s values.

When filter mode is on, any multi search fields that are configured with the “multiselect or” option will only require that one of the selected values in that field is a match. With “multiselect or” deselected, all the options selected for that field in the search must match.

Each search type, combo or multi, has a “Whole Word Match Only” switch so that text searches will only match a complete word in the search, not portions of a word. For multi-search controls, this only affects text inputs where the user types in the search term.

Searching on Date Fields

“Date” type fields can be presented as a single input or as a range with two inputs.

When using a single input, the search will attempt to include all records that correspond to the entered date.

When using the ranged inputs, the range will always include the date entered for the end of the range. For example, if the range is entered as “June 1, 2020” through “June 10, 2020” records that have a date of June 10, 2020 will be included in the result.

Partial Dates Supported

When using “date” fields in multisearch, it’s possible for users to enter partial dates, such as just the year, a month and a year, or just a month. For example “2010” will return all results with dates within that year. Entries like “March 2010” would return all dates within the month of March 2010. It’s als possible to enter a month: an entry of “May” will return all records with dates that are within the month of May in the current year. Partial dates can be used with ranged searches also: for example a search of “2000” through “2010” will return all dates between 2000 and 2010, inclusive.

When using a ranged input, if one of the inputs is left blank, it is assumed to be the current date. You can override this behavior by adding “required” to the attributes setting for the date field in the multisearch fields configuration.

Returning to the Search Results

Under the General settings tab is an option 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 Combo Multi-Search Control

The Combo Multisearch Add-On provides its 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 settings 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 ]

If you are using the pdb_search shortcode, be sure to read Using the Search Shortcode as it can be tricky to configure.

It is possible to define the list of multisearch fields to search in the shortcode, drawn from the list of fields configured in the mutisearch fields setup. For example:

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

If you have both combo and multi searches configured, the combo search will only show if “combo_search” is included in the field list.

If you want a particular shortcode to show the combo search only, you can set that up like this:

[pdb_list template=multisearch search_fields='combo_search']

It is not possible to determine which fields are included in the combo search in the shortcode due to search optimization.

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. (Check this page for more on using the search shortcode…) 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]

I've got a very large database, are there any problems with this plugin with large databases?

Mostly, the size of the database is not going to matter at all, MySQL is pretty efficient with large databases.

There is one setting that will be affected, that’s the “Autocomplete” feature of the Combo search. For a very large database, you could get some memory errors with this feature. Two things you can try for that problem: limit the number of of fields that are going into the autocomplete (using the “Combo Search Autocomplete Fields” setting) which will cut down on the number of terms loaded into the autosuggest. Second, if your database is realy, really large, you may need to turn autocomplete off altogether.

If you are concerned with database performance issues, it’s a good idea to tune your server for better performance. You may want to ask your web hosting provider about that, it is a fairly technical subject and requires server configurations you may not have access to.

Support Discussions for Combo Multisearch

  • Hello Roland,
    now a new problem occures: When I use the search plugin the found posts are not shown as they should: Under the first lines of the first entry found there is the whole page embedded again (also the search appears a second time)… I could send you a screenshot as private content, if possible.
    The template I use for the list with the search form is:
    [pdb_list template=multisearch-responsive sort=true search=true display_count=true list_limit=10 filter="land=Danmark"]
    Thank you for help.

    • Did you alter the template at all? This is a symptom of a template that is incorrectly structured.

      • No, I didn’t. I thought about a mistake with my shortcodes and target sites, but wanted to make sure that it is not in the template. This problem didn’t occure some weeks before…

        • Hello Roland,
          could you find something out about that template problem?

        • I need to see it to get a better idea what’s going wrong in your case.

  • Hello Roland,
    I think I need your help again.
    Is it possible to make the Combo Multisearch Plugin work with polylingual content? In the moment it is
    ->> not possible to find matching posts for expressions like [:de]Zeit[:en]time, because in the search form / front end the expression is just monolingual… And
    –> because of no matching posts could be found there ist a error notification – and this is put out in both languages (together) as well :-( [:da]Ingen post fundet.[:de]Es wurde kein Datensatz gefunden.

    And I have another problem (before working with multilingual content): When I want to change the Multi Search settings and Save them I get a “critical WordPress error”…
    Best regards,

    • Multilingual search is supported for selector-type fields. It will also work for text fields, but only in the language searched for.

      For selector-type fields, the search term is used to match the “value title” of the option, so it can match the same option in multiple languages.

      The best way to analyze the search results is to turn plugin debugging on (this is in the Participants Database settings under the advanced tab) then test your search. The debugging log will show the query that was used, which will help you understand the results.

      More importantly, the critical error: when an error like that happens, an email is sent to the site administrator. The content of that email will have important information to solve the problem. Without additional information, I can’t help much. If the email can’t be found, you will need to set up your php error log so we can see the specific problem you’re running into.

      • Hello Roland,
        sorry for writing so late, it was not possible earlier.
        Regarding the critical error: I have changed the admin mail now and reveiced the error notice from WP. Is there a possibility to send private content? I don’t want to post the error details from the mail publicly…
        The strange thing is that the website continues to run after the critical error page was shown and the changes are ultimately accepted, only the navigation is very complicated due to the occurrence of the critical error … And when I want to add a new search field the waiting symbol works and works and works … but when I leave and come back the new Search field is there…
        For the other topic your tipp with the debugging was helpful – thank you – but I have to work on it and check it again later on … best would be if the other topic could be solved before…

  • Hi Roland,

    I can’t figure out how to add fields from ‘Personal Information’ into Multi Search. The only field that is available to add is ’Notes’. I want to add ‘Last Name’. ‘First Name’, ‘Yearbook Date’, ect.

    Please see attached screenshot.

  • I’m not sure what happened but for some reason my county and city fields in the multi search are blank. I see the data in the backend. They are set as “database dropdown” in the multi search field settings.

    • What is the full shortcode you are using on that page?

      • Hi! It’s:

        [pdb_list template=multisearch-responsive search="true" search_fields='type, company_name,city,st,county' list_limit=-1 class="pdb-list-grid" fields="company_name,city,st" filter="member_type=Active"]

        • Ok, we’ll need to take a look at the database query that is used to generate the dropdown. Turn plugin debugging on (Participants Database settings under the advanced tab) then go to the debugging log and clear it. Load the search page, then go back to the log and look for the queries, they will be labeled:

          “pdbcms\Search\Control_Element::get_unique_recorded_values query:”

          There may be several of them, we need to see if there is a problem with one of those queries.

        • I tried removing filter=”member_type=Active” from the shortcode and now County and City are working properly now.

  • I thought I asked this question already but I can’t find it! I’m sorry!

    I’m using the Participants Database Locations Map and was wondering if there is a way to create a field that calculates distance from a city — so after a user selects a city they could then select an option from another dropdown with options like within 10 miles of, between 11 and 20 miles of, etc.

    • No, not possible, that is a different API and it is not used by the plugin. If you’ve got some coding skills, you can add it yourself, but the plugin doesn’t have this.

  • Is it possible to limit the state dropdown to just four states? I have more states in my database but I only need to display four in the dropdown search on this page:

    • It’s possible with some custom code, but you may find you get what you want by using the “Database Values in Selector” option for your state dropdown.

  • The “search” and “clear” buttons text is not getting translated as it correctly does in the main plugin, how can I fix that?

    • The Combo Multisearch add-on uses its own translation files. You can add a translation file for your language (using Poedit or similar) or use a Custom Template to set the button text.

  • Is it possible to have the template=multisearch-responsive also be in grid format?

    • I realize this is possible with template=multisearch-responsive


    • Yes, you can create your own CSS rules to change the layout to a grid. You will need to be pretty comfortable with CSS to get this to work the way you want, laying out CSS grids is an advanced application. You can start with a rule like this, you’ll need to add more rules to actually get your grid:

      .pdb-list-responsive .list-container {
         display: grid;

      Check this page for information on using CSS grid: A Complete Guide to Grid

  • Hi Roland,
    is there any way to get the filter set on short code i.e. I have [pdb_list filter='lang=en'] ? I need the value ‘lang=en’. I need it in class Control_Element so in the function get_unique_recorded_values() to be able to limit the query results by the filer applied for the list.

    • Yes, you would add this to the query for getting the unique values using the ‘pdbcms_get_unique_values_query’ filter. You’ll see the filter in the Control_Element””get_unique_recorded_values method.

      • Hi Roland,
        I think you didn’t understand my question. Let me explain again:
        I have the following short code in my page: [pdb_list filter="lang=en" template=multisearch]. In my Combo Multisearch fields I use the option ” Database Values in Selector”. But showing these options from the database I need to filter them by the filter set in the short code pdb_list. In fact to the SQL query in get_unique_recorded_values method I need to add a WHERE clause to filtering them. So my question is how to get the value of the filter setup in the pdb_list shortcode?

        • OK, if you’ve got some coding skills, there is a filter you can use pdbcms_get_unique_values_query that allows you to alter the query that is used to get the values. It is in the pdbcms/Search/Control_Element::get_unique_recorded_values method, you can see how it works there. You need to write a bit of code to use that filter to add your “WHERE” clauses.

          I am planning to release this in the next update to Combo Multisearch, it should automatically apply the list filter to the options for the search input.

  • I purchased the Combo Multi-search plugin, but for some reason the updates will not auto install through WordPress. How can I download the update in order to FTP it ? Thanks!

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