Using and contributing to Searchkit

2021-08-09 00:50
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If you’re a CiviCRM administrator or an end user, you know that there are quite a few built in CiviCRM screens that don’t show exactly the information you would want to see. They are hardcoded and not particularly flexible. But, Search kit enables you to customise them.

SearchKit is a new core team initiative that is under fairly heavy development. As its name suggests, you can use it to create searches but it also comes in handy in lots of other ways, for example to create listings according to certain criteria and even create content for use in tokens.

Our client Omega Research Foundation needed some fairly extensive customisation of their contact screens so that they could quickly access key information for their contacts - we wanted to:

  • hide lots of the default content from the summary screen
  • add some key listings to the summary screen
  • create new tabs based on particular relationships and activities

The Contact Summary extension can do some of this, and so can the Data processor extension, but neither were powerful enough for our needs.

We knew that Searchkit could make the displays we wanted, but that it lacked the ability to add these displays as tabs or as blocks on the summary screen. A couple of options sprang to mind. We could either try and add this functionality to searchkit ourselves, or reach out to the core team to ask them to do so on our behalf. Since searchkit is under heavy development at the moment, and the core team are the ones that are doing the development, we decided to reach out to them in the first instance to see if they could help - and they could!

It actually only took three days of Colemans’ time to implement the features we needed. Now anyone can use searchkit displays to create blocks on the contact summary screen and as the basis for new contact tabs.

Comparing this to the alternative approach of writing our own extension to provide this functionality from scratch, it would have taken a similar amount of time but it would be limited in scope and likely no-one else would have found it useful. Instead we have now contributed the functionality to searchkit, where it can be used by the entire CiviCRM community.

We plan to continue to add features to Searchkit, either by coding them ourselves or by paying the core team to do so, and we encourage you to do the same. Wherever possible, think about who you can improve as a whole as well as satisfying your own requirements. Communicating and working with the core team was very easy and we got the functionality we needed really quickly. In the past, people have organised Make It Happens as a way of funding new features. While these can be useful, if you have the budget and the work that you want to do will be generally useful to others, we definitely recommend talking with the core team and seeing if they would be interested in taking on the work. PS. this is not a paid promotion! - just our honest assessment of how it worked.

To get started with searchkit, find and enable it in the Administer Extensions page in your CiviCRM. Be sure to upgrade your CiviCRM to the latest version so that you have access to the new features.

There are also a few videos and screencasts that you might find useful to get you started. The SearchKit channel is a good place to ask questions: You could also tag one of us @farzandalal, @rebeccatregenna, @kurund and we’ll be happy to help you.

You could also help with documentation by contacting Coleman Watts from the Core Team, help test the latest version of Search Kit. Furthermore, fund the core team to do a customisation and develop searchkit, rather than write your own customisation. Let’s help improve CiviCRM as a whole.

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I did a quick test of the new features. It's very impressive. Thank you for contributing!