Project Management Guide
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Why Should I Use Filters & Search in Project Management Software?

Filter and search functionalities allow you to quickly navigate your project management software to find exactly what you’re looking for. Whether it’s looking for a task folder, a custom field in a report or some other piece of information, filter and search options allow you to access the right info instantly, without having to navigate through huge hierarchies, drop-down menus, and project files.

Even with excellent folder structures and project hierarchies, it can take time to find what you’re looking for when you’re forced to wade through the entire list of available options. Project management software filters and search functions enable you to immediately remove the irrelevant options and hone in on exactly what you need.

As a project manager, it’s critical to filter out unnecessary information and communicate only the important information to project stakeholders. With filters and search, it takes just a couple of minutes to get the exact project perspective you need.

Basic search functions

Everyone inherently knows how a search bar works. After all, who hasn’t used Google to search for something at one time or another? But, what you may not realize is how the search function works behind the scenes to provide you with the right results.

The most common search method is a keyword search. When you type in a word or phrase, the system provides all tasks, folders, descriptions, and comments that include that keyword. This type of search should be available across the entire software, so you can look for tasks or folders of interest no matter the layout. 

If you want to narrow your search options, you can limit where the system will look for your keyword. For instance, you can choose any of the following:

  • Search in titles and descriptions of tasks in the current folder only
  • Search in titles and descriptions of tasks in all folders
  • Search in titles, descriptions, and comments on all tasks and folders

If you get a long list of results, you can further narrow the list with filters or sort your search results by different criteria such as due date, status, priority, etc.

Advanced search features

Sometimes, a basic keyword search is not enough to quickly and easily find results. Robust project management software should also offer the following search capabilities:

Recent search: You can easily navigate back to your most recent searches by clicking the top search box. If you don’t see what you were looking for, you can click on "More recent tasks" to view a longer list of recent items.

Employee search: You can search users by name, location, title, or user group to find team members and other stakeholders in the system. Once you find the right person, you can easily view their profile for their contact information.

Saved searches: There will likely be search criteria that you find yourself using on a regular basis. In this case, you may want to create a dashboard widget that allows you to navigate directly to those search results in the future.

Date-range searches: This functionality allows you to limit your search to results that fall within a chosen date range.

User group search: User group searches seek out tasks that are either assigned to or created by people within a selected user group. For instance, if you want to see all the tasks currently assigned to your design team, you can use this search option.  

Advanced search features may also include a long list of optional commands that help you narrow down results. For instance, an asterisk is commonly used to search using part of a keyword.

Search ranking

One of the biggest challenges in building a good search tool is finding the best way to sort results so that the ones most relevant to you show up first.

For example, search tools should weigh results with the keyword in the task title over results with the keyword in the comments. Therefore, results with the keyword in the title should show up first. In addition, more recent tasks, folders, and projects are likely more relevant than ones that are a year or two old. They should also be ranked higher in the results.

Ideally, your project management software should be able to sort results based on the following criteria:

  • The relative importance of the keyword location (in descending order of importance): task name, description, comments, files, and people’s names.
  • The majority of the search phrase found in a single field. For example, a task with all required words in the title should appear higher in the list than a task with one keyword in the description and the rest in comments.
  • The time of the latest activity. Recently updated tasks are more likely to be at the top of the list.

However, this is not always the case. Some software tools are not powerful enough to do this ranking, and you end up with a jumbled list of results. In this case, you will need to use filters or additional criteria to sort and narrow down your options.

Basic filter functions

Similar to search functionality, filters allow you to reduce long lists of options to only those that are relevant by using keywords, field selections, and categories. For example, you can use quick commands to filter on exact text or comments only.

Project management software filters should allow you to filter any list, project, folder, dashboard, or report.

Basic filters allow you to limit results based on additional criteria such as the following:

  • Work status: This allows you to view only tasks that match a chosen status such as “In Progress”
  • Date range: You can use date ranges to view current or upcoming work
  • Custom fields: You can choose to filter based on any of the custom fields you’ve created for projects, tasks, or reports

By default, an active status filter is typically applied so you only see tasks with an “Active” status or tasks in an active status group, if you have custom statuses.

When you apply a set of filters to one folder or project, those filters remain in place as you switch between different project views. You should be able to see all applied filters to confirm whether your results show everything you want. 

Advanced filter options

There are additional filter options that can help you manage and find information within your project management software.

Saved filters: As with searches, there will likely be criteria that you use on a regular basis. A dashboard widget will allow you to save these filters for later use. Plus, these widgets will automatically refresh and update so that you always see only the results that meet the applied filters.

Approval filters: Approval filters allow you to view tasks in the review and approval process easily. For example, you can filter tasks by reviewer assigned, review creator, review due date, and more. This allows you to quickly see tasks waiting for approval as well as who they’re waiting on. 

Task by assignee: Filters allow you to generate lists of tasks assigned to specific users. For instance, if you have a team member out sick, you can quickly see what they were meant to complete.

Activity streams: You can choose which updates and notifications you wish to receive by filtering your activity stream. If you include your conversations in your stream, it will automatically show you any changes to and discussions about tasks, folders, and projects that you created, updated or commented on at least once.

Comment streams: Comment filters allow you to select how you view comment updates. "All updates" shows all changes and comments related to the task, folder, or project, while “Only comments" shows you only comments and the history of file attachments.

Project management software filter & search tips

Here are some common filters and searches you will likely use on a regular basis:

  • Tasks due this week: Monitoring the tasks due to complete in the short term gives you and your team an accurate picture of what needs to be done and makes it easier for you to check ongoing progress. You can further filter the list to see tasks by team members.
  • Your team’s weekly results: A weekly performance report feature in your project management software allows you to evaluate team members’ productivity and make sure there are no stumbling blocks. You can see the total number of tasks completed during the given period and sort them by importance so the most important tasks are at the top.
  • Schedule issues: If things begin to go off schedule, you need to be the first one to know. To prevent serious delays, you can monitor tasks that are overdue or have a late start.
  • Important milestones: You can search or filter for project milestones to always know what big events are coming up and ensure everything is prepared in advance.
  • Unassigned tasks: Sometimes when not enough information is available, future tasks will be created but left unassigned. Monitoring unassigned tasks ensures nothing slips through the cracks and that additional information is added as it comes to light.

Further reading
blog post

Search & Collaborate Faster: New Integrated Search

blog post

Keep Approvals Organized With Updated Filters & Dashboards

blog post

New: Search for Tasks by User Groups