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.

The terms that are available to the autosuggest are limited by the list shortcode filter, so data from records that are prevented from getting displayed won’t show up in the suggestion 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

  • Hi, I am trying to set up multi search but the majority of the fields are greyed out. I made sure nothing was chosen in combo search but it still isn’t letting me add fields that I need for multi search.

    • Did you try saving the settings after taking all the fields out of Combo Search?

      • There’s actually no save button on the combo search settings tab, just the fields button

        • That’s unexpected… do you not see this button near the bottom of the Combination Search Settings tab?

          screenshot of the settings save button

          Anyway, it doesn’t matter which button you use, they all do the same thing.

        • It has resolved itself, but now I’m trying to import a CSV and it’s saying there’s only one column in the database, however I have a dozen or so built out. So I can’t import because my import CSV has a dozen columns but the plug in is saying I can only have one.


          Prepare a spreadsheet file with the correct format:
          To properly import your membership data, the columns in your spreadsheet must match exactly the columns in the database. Currently, the CSV export columns are as follows:


          This means your spreadsheet needs to have 1 columns, and the heading in each of those columns needs to match exactly the names above. If there is no data for a particular column, you can include it and leave it blank, or leave it out entirely. The order of the columns doesn’t matter.

        • This is based on the “CSV” setting for each field. This setting enables data export for the field, and the plugin assumes you’ll be using the same set of fields for export and import. This does not limit which fields can be imported, you can import any fields you want, as long as the field name is correct and the data valid.

  • Hello,
    Datas don’t display the same way in database and on my website :
    I use wp_update_post() with functions.php to update datas.
    And MySql displays the data updated, List of participants in backoffice often displays the data updated too.
    But data don’t updated on website with [pdb_list template=multisearch
    Or I have to wait a long time (days sometimes)
    Is there a specific cache system to clear or something I can change in order to have the datas updated just after using wp_update_post()?

    • If you are using an object cache on your server (such as LiteSpeed) you should clear the cache after making such changes. You should ask you hosting provider if you don’t know how to do this.

      This is partly due to the way you’re making the changes, when you are using custom code you often have to include code to clear the cache. How this is done depends on your server setup, I can’t be more specific.

  • Please help! A bit of a strange one. When logged in as an admin to WordPress, the multi search returns results. However, when a user who is not logged in to a WordPress profile tries to filter results, the table is cleared of any results. Any help on this would be great.
    Here’s a link to the website that I’m having issues with:
    Thanks in advance.

    • Whoops, I linked the wrong url – the actual one is:

      • When things work for logged-in users and not otherwise, the first thing to look at is caching, because caching is typically off for logged-in users. You should have all caching (or accelerator) plugins disabled while configuring your site, then once you have everything working, turn it on. If it causes problems, you know it’s the caching and can adjust the configuration so it works.

        • Awesome, you saved my day. I had to ship this product tomorrow, and was stressing a whole bunch. Disabling LightSpeedCache did the job. Thank you so much!

  • I’m trying to use yout plugin (with combo multi search extension). Unfortunately, on my genesis theme, the list is not properly formatted (see the page). I’ve also tried to uncheck the “Use the Plugin CSS” option, but I get the same result. Is there some problem with the CSS code? How can I try to fix it?
    Best, Gabriele

    • The plugin relies on the theme to provide the needed formatting, but some themes don’t format forms very well. You will need to add your own CSS rules to make the search form look the way you want. The plugin doesn’t have settings for formatting.

      There is a setting in the main plugin under the “Custom CSS” tab where you can place your CSS rules.

      • Thank you Roland.
        Can you please provide me a custom CSS sample? I’d need to know the main parameters to set.
        Best, Gabriele

        • The CSS rules you need to use all depend on what specific changes you want to make, you only said it wasn’t properly formatted, it’s up to you to determine what you want it to look like. So , I can’t make any specific recommendations with what I know.

        • If you have a look at the page you can see what I mean… thank you

        • I looked at the page, but I don’t see a problem. Yes, it doesn’t look great, but is up to you to decide what you want it to look like.

  • I see where the AND was causing the empty results. I’ve changed that.

    However, regarding the business_name field. I have the Multi Search Settings set to Whole Word Match Only and a Minimum Search Term Length of 5. I was expecting this to prevent a search of only a single character.

    • Yes, this is something I am fixing in the next release…as it is now, the “Combo” search input is considered valid if it contains a single character. After the update, it will follow the global minimum term length setting. You can expect this update in the next several days.

  • Sorry, but I need your support again.

    I have two problems:
    – the search fields are not aligned;
    – the labels of the buttons and the text are not localized, even if the Italian translation is present.

    See attached screenshots for a better description


    • You can use some CSS to align the search fields. What is happening is the labels have different widths, you can use CSS to set them to the same width. For example:

      .search-control label {
          width: 200px;

      But you will need to adjust this to get the alignment you want.

      The untranslated terms will be in the Italian translation file for the plugin, but it doesn’t have one for Italian, so you will need to create it. Its not difficult, take a look at these articles for how to do that:

      Changing the Labels or Names in Participants Database
      WordPress Plugin Localization

      Using Poedit is the easiest way to generate the translation file. You will find the translation template in plugins/pdb-combo-multisearch/languages/pdb-combo-multisearch.pot

  • Hi, I need two different search form in two different pages.

    In the first one I need to place two search field, let me say name and plate number, and in the other page I need to search for a date range.

    Is it supported?

    • Yes, you can do this.

      In the Multisearch config, addl all the fields you want to search on. Then, in the shortcode you can determine which field are shown using the “search_fields” attribute…for example:

      [pdb_list template=multisearch search_fields="city"]

      You can’t do this with “combo” search, this only works for “multi” search.

  • I turned it on and then went to the page and first searched with only a “^” and received no results (expected,) then with a “^” and choosing “Agency” from the drop down and received all records (not expected)

    Log file initiated at: March 19, 2022 1:47 pm UTC
    [03/19/22 1:47pm UTC]
    PDb_List::_setup_iteration list query: SELECT, p.business_name FROM ills_participants_database p WHERE = “0” ORDER BY p.business_name ASC
    [03/19/22 1:47pm UTC]
    PDb_List::_setup_iteration list query: SELECT, p.business_name FROM ills_participants_database p WHERE = “0” ORDER BY p.business_name ASC
    [03/19/22 1:47pm UTC]
    PDb_List::_setup_iteration list query: SELECT, p.business_name FROM ills_participants_database p WHERE p.category = “Agency” ORDER BY p.business_name ASC

    • According to the log, it got all the records with category “agency” but you’re also seeing records that don’t have that value for the category field? I can’t say why that would happen, the query is correct. It is ignoring the input to the combo search in all cases, as it should.

      • My expectation is that when searched, both fields are required and that only records that meet both conditions will be shown. As an example, if I search on the zip code 57401 and “Agency” from the drop down, it should show about nine records. That used to work, now it doesn’t.

        As it is now, if I search on a “^” in the first field and “Agency” in the drop down, it shows all 827 “Agency” records. It is almost as if it is looking for the first condition to be not true.

        • It is clear that the “^” in the combo search input is ignored in the queries as it should be. Is it true, that without typing anything into the combo search, you get the correct result, but typing “^” into there shows all records? If that is true, we are not seeing that in the query, so that is not something I can explain with what I know.

          You say that searching with a “57401” in the combo search used to work, but now is not returning the correct result. What changed on your site? Was there an update, or a new plugin installed? This will be a clue to what’s going wrong. I suggest you take a look at the query that is generated by that search to see why you’re getting the result.

          To require the user to type something into both the combo search input and the multi search inputs, use the “Require all Search Fields” setting.

  • I should also add that my shortcode is [pdb_list template=multisearch-responsive-custom suppress=true]

  • My Combination Search Settings are Result Level 1, yet I can pull up all 827 records by searching on a ^ symbol and choosing any of the choices in the drop down.


    • Let me start over. My Combo Multi Search settings that are on are:
      General: Enable Filter Mode
      Combinations Search Settings: Result level 1
      Multi Search Settings: Alphabetical Value Sorting, Require all Search Fields, minimum Search Term Length=5, Use Field Default Value
      Multi Search Fields: It only shows Category as a drop-down with the Sow “Any” Opton checked.

      With those options I’m able to search on an obscure character such as ^, pick a category, and see all of the records.

      • OK, I find I’m unable to duplicate your result, but I may not be setting up my test exactly as you have it. I suggest you turn plugin debugging on, clear the log, then test your search. The log will contain the database query that was generated, which will help you understand the result you’re getting.

        Make sure you are using the latest versions of Participants Database and Combo Multisearch.

        • Roland,
          I’m using version 2.4.9 of combo seard and the functionality still doesn’t work as I expect it to.

          I’ve entered Trouble shooting mode and only enabled the Participants Database and Multi Search plugins. Searching on “Agency” and “54701” I get no results. If I search on “Agency” and “^” I get all the agencies (827 records).

          Where do I start?

        • So what you need to do is look at the query that is generated by each of the two examples you provided. Compare the query to the contents of the database, that will explain the results.

          The “^” search is ignored in the query, however it does qualify as valid input if the plugin is configured with “Require all Search Fields”

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