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. 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.

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 ths shows an option that will allow for any value in the fields: this is essentially a “reset” for the selector, removing it from the search.
  • “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.

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.

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 Roland,

    Thank you very much for your last update! It fixes all issues.

    I’m sorry for writing you so often)) I have one more problem, and I cannot find what causes it. When I perform search on Currency fields, the search values disappear from the input fields on form submit.

    I use “Ocean WP” child theme and display the shortcode through theme’s page template like so:
    echo do_shortcode(“[pdb_list template=fitters filter='role=user&approved=yes']“);
    While debugging, I removed everything else from this template (no footer, no header, no styles, no JS). On search form submit Currency fields become empty; the selected options for other field types are still there.

    If I place shortcode [pdb_list template=custom filter='role=user&approved=yes'] directly to the page content through admin’s panel, everything works as expected.

    Not sure if it relates to your plugin in any way, but I hoped you could give me a hint where to look to resolve this issue.

    Thank you!

    • There is a typo in my previous post. Of course I use the same template name in the shortcode [pdb_list template=custom filter='role=user&approved=yes'].

      Also tried to use default one [pdb_list template=multisearch filter='role=user&approved=yes'] .

      It seems that when a shortcode is placed to the page content in admin’s panel and search is performed, only filtered list of participants is refreshed. But, when it’s used in child theme’s template with do_shortcode() function, the whole page reloads.

      • The plugin only loads it javascript on pages that have a plugin shortcode, so if you use do_shortcode to place plugin content it doesn’t know the shortcode is there, and so the javascript is not loaded.

        You can add a filter to your code so that it lets the plugin know the shortcode is present. For example:

        add_filter( 'pdb-shortcode_in_content', function ($in_content) {
        return true;

        You can put that where you have the do_shortcode in most cases, but be aware that if this happens too late in the page load, it won’t work.

        • Hello Roland,

          Thank you for the example. I tried to put your code at the top of the page template, right before the header is printed. Actually, also tried to move this code around the page without luck. Probably, just like you said it’s to late for this filter to apply.

          Do you think there is another workaround? I can think only of to store these values somewhere using JS on form post, and then put them back to input fields when page is loaded.


        • That filter is the correct way to tell the plugin to load the javascript, but if it gets executed too late, to doesn’t work. I wrote up an article on how to deal with this so that other users can benefit if they need it.

          Placing Dynamic Shortcodes using do_shortcode()

  • Hi Roland,

    After your recent update I’m experiencing following behavior using the search form.

    First, I deselected “-Any-” option and selected one option under my Multiselect Checkbox field. The search term has been applied and the list showed the correct results, but the feedback message is displayed using the format string “Found %d records” from the first block under IF-statement “if ( empty( $search_term ) && $PDb_Combo_Multi_Search->is_search_result() )”. It supposed to tell number of found records AND the search term that has been applied, in this case the option from Multiselect Checkbox. (It worked correctly before this update)

    Second, I have a Currency field on my search form that is represented by two input field as a range. On first page load, or when “Clear” is clicked, the ‘from’ field has ‘0’ (zero) as a default input, the second input field ‘to’ is empty. When search is performed, the feedback message has ‘€0 – €’ as a search term string for this field. If I manually clear ‘from’ input field, the message has ‘€ – €’. I would expect nothing in the feedback message for both cases. Also, it would be nice to begin search when all fields are empty, no default values as ‘0’ for Currency field.


    • Thanks, Alex, I’ll take a look.

    • So far I have been unable to duplicate the problem you’re seeing in the search results feedback. Does this problem come up only when a specific value is selected in the checkboxes? Trying to see how this could happen.

      For your second issue, it’s not supposed to do that, I will release another update to fix that, thanks.

      • No, it doesn’t matter which option is selected. Actually, you may select more than one option under this field, the result is the same – no search terms appear in the feedback message. But, if you make a selection in any other field on the form as well, the feedback message contains the search terms for all fields.
        This behavior is related only to a Multiselect Checkbox field. I tried to change the type of this field from Multiselect Checkbox to Multiselect Dropdown, and the problem disappeared.

        Some additional information:
        – “Combo Multi Search” following settings
        * Add an “Any” Option – ON
        * Text For the “Any” Option – “-Any-”

        – Search form contains following fields: Mutiselect Checkbox, Dropdown field, Multiselect Dropdown and Currency.

        – The shortcode also has filter attribute.
        [pdb_list template=custom filter='role=user&approved=yes']

  • Hi Roland,

    I think there is a bug in your plugin.
    I have in “Combo Multi Search” following settings
    * Add an “Any” Option – ON
    * Text For the “Any” Option – “-Any-”
    On the filter form I have a Dropdown field, a Multi-select Dropdown and a Mutiselect Checkbox. All of them have an “-Any-” option according to the settings mentioned above. If you set a search value in any of these fields and perform search on that criteria, you will see some result and a search result feedback message. This message contains search terms from the current search. Now, if you select “-Any-” option in the field you just searched on, the list of participants contains new search results matching “-Any-” option, but the search result feedback message still have the search terms from previous search. This message gets updated only if other than “-Any-” option is selected.

    I have a recent version installed 1.5.9

    Best regards,

  • Hello. I’m quite impressed with the documentation you have provided for the Participant’s Database plugin and its add-ons.

    I’m working on a specific use case where customers can come to a page, enter an old order number and zip code which pulls up the rest of their information to edit. We’re essentially using the order number and zip code as validation before they can view or change their info.

    Is it possible to switch off auto-complete on the Combo Multisearch add-on? We want it to exactly match both fields, but don’t want to give users a hint as to the matching info.

    Or, is there possibly a better way to accomplish the same objective. I’ve just started using this plugin today.

    Thanks so much.

  • Roland,
    I’m still having an issue using Combo Muti-Search with a Chosen DropDown option if it has been checked as “read-only”

    View my issue here:

    The “Job Title(s)” field…

  • Hello, when I put the multisearch shortcode onto a page, it looks like this (linked to screenshot I took)

    The search function works great, but the search fields are so far apart and way down on the page.
    Thank you for your assistance

  • I am trying to add this to a specific page, where I want them to be able to search for their item number or model of product, and have the results return on that same page.

    When I add the code to my page (built with Elementor), it’s going between not working at all, or telling me there are 2 results and not showing anything… and it’s HUGE – takes up SO much more space than it needs to.

    Is this add-on not compatible with Elementor?

    • I don’t know specifically if there are any incompatibilities with Elementor, I have not tested it. Can you provide a link so I can see what it’s doing?

  • Hi Roland,

    i have a small issue using multisearch. I have a multiselect checkbox. There are several options + checkbox “-Any-“. However from my point of view option “-Any-” is equivalent to situation when all checkboxes are not selected. Can I remove somehow “-Any-” from the search list?


    • Take a look at the Combo Multisearch settings under the Multi Search tab: Add an “Any” Option

      you can turn it off there

      • Thanks a lot for your answer.

        I’ve checked this option. It works, but not in my case. I have several fields – multiselect checkbox, multiselect dropdowns etc. I need option “-Any-” in multiselect dropdowns. But I don’t need “-Any-” in multiselect checkbox. Can I specify somehow where this option have to work?

        • To do something specific to a single field like that, you’ll need some custom code. Probably easiest to add a bit of javascript that takes out the “any” option for that one field. You can use a Custom Template for that.

  • Hello,
    I’m sorry for possible duplicate, but I couldn’t find this topic.
    I have in “Combo Multi Search” settings
    * Add an “Any” Option – ON
    * Text For the “Any” Option – “-Any-”
    The DB has a couple of Dropdown fields and a couple of Multi-select Dropdowns. So, in the search area I have “-Any-” options for dropdown fields, but multi-select dropdowns contain blank line as a first choice and then values from the records in the DB. I was expecting to see “-Any-” value instead of blank line for multi-selects as well .
    Any thoughts how to fix it?
    I have the recent update installed 1.5.6.

    Best regards,

    • I forgot to mention the settings for multi-select fields in DB.
      The fields are required, they have a default value set and the first value in the options list is “null_select::false”.


    • I see in my tests that the multi-dropdown field does not get the “any” option configuration from the Combo Multisearch plugin. Not sure exactly what the problem is yet, but I will probably need to issue an update to fix the bug.

  • Hi Roland. Great product. I am using the Combo Multi-Search plugin. For some odd reason, my dropdowns have stopped working. I have comma separated lists in the options group for the dropdown lists and multi-select dropdowns. But, the lists in the options are no longer showing up on the page. I have successfully used your product for over a year. Recent changes include moving the site from a Windows Server to an Ubuntu server.

    • Roland,

      I should note that I have tried everything I can think of, including deleting the field and re-adding it. Nothing seems to work. However, if I set it to draw values from the database, it works fine. But, I don’t want the values coming from the database, I want them to come from the Options group.


    • Hi Kurt,

      Thanks for letting me know about this problem. There was a bug related to using the “alpha sort” option. I just issued an update to Combo Multisearch that should fix your issue.

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