Operators and Special Characters

You can also use different operators and special characters in your search query to find documents and objects that strictly meet your search criteria. The table below lists the operators and special characters that can be used to broaden or narrow a search.

Note: M-Files Smart Search does not support wildcard characters, but you can use property conditions with the Contains operator. You can read more about Smart Search in M-Files Smart Search - Frequently Asked Questions.
Search type Operator or special character Description

Exact match

Quotation marks: "phrase"

Search words inside quotation marks find objects that contain all of the search terms in the given order.

Example search: "functional specification"

The exact match search operates differently with the different search engines available for M-Files. M-Files Smart Search always finds the exact form of the phrase inside the quotation marks. dtSearch and Micro Focus IDOL find the exact forms, inflected forms, and decompounded forms (for example, "smartphone" also finds "smart" and "phone"). To know which search engine your organization uses, contact your M-Files administrator or try different searches in the vault.

To have dtSearch and Micro Focus IDOL operate in the same manner as M-Files Smart Search, your M-Files admininistrator must disable the search engine's language analyzer. This can be done in the settings of the search index with Advanced Vault Settings.

Any single character

Question mark: appl?

The ? character matches any single character except a whitespace or underscore character (_) in its position.

Example search: appl? matches both "apply" and "apple".

Note: This character cannot be used as the first character in a search term.

Any single digit

Hash: 201#

The # character matches any single digit in its position.

Example search: 201# matches, for example, "2017" and "2018".

Note: This character cannot be used as the first character in a search term.

Any number of characters

Asterisk: market*

The * character matches any number of characters in its position.

Example search: market* matches "markets", "marketing", and so on.

Note: This character cannot be used as the first character in a search term.

Fuzzy search

Vertical bar: que|ry

Vertical bars can be used for searching for spelling variations of the search term. The number of | characters used indicates how many characters in the search term will be ignored. Characters to the left of the first vertical bar must have an exact match in the search results.

Example search: release s||chedule

Note: Fuzzy search is disabled by default and must be enabled by the M-Files system administrator. See Enabling Phonic and Fuzzy Searches for more information.

Phonic search

The grave accent mark ( ` ): `query

You can use the grave accent mark ( ` ) for searching for words that sound like the word in your search query and begins with the same letter. Add the ` character in front of the search word to search for its phonic matches.

Example search: `John Doe

Note: To use this feature, your search engine must be dtSearch.
Note: Phonic search is disabled by default and must be enabled by the M-Files system administrator. For more information, see Enabling Phonic and Fuzzy Searches.
Note: Phonic searches are inclusive by nature, and therefore they may occasionally produce too many search results or their search precision may be low.

Synonym search

Documents containing synonyms of a word included in your search query may also be listed in the search results.
For example, if you search for announcement, the search results may also list documents containing words such as notice, bulletin, publication, or statement, in addition to the word announcement.
Note: Synonym search is disabled by default and must be enabled by the M-Files system administrator. See Setting Up Synonym Search for more information.

Underscore: 2018_01

The _ character matches a whitespace. Consequently, the next character starts a search term and cannot be a wildcard character ?, #, or *.

Example search: 2018_01 matches both "2018_01" and "2018 01".

Boolean operators

Click the search options icon () and select Boolean to use the Boolean operators in your search.

Note: Boolean search is available in vaults that use dtSearch or Micro Focus IDOL as the search engine.
Search type Operator Description

All of the search terms must be found


The AND operator combines two search terms. Documents found contain both terms.

Example search: functional AND specification

One of the search terms must be found


The OR operator retrieves all documents which contain at least one of the terms entered.

Example search: agenda OR minutes

Exclude a search term


The NOT operator excludes a search term from the search results. It can be used in conjunction with AND, OR or W/N.

Example search: agenda AND NOT minutes

Required search term and an optional search term


The AndAny operator combines required search terms with optional ones. Search terms before the AndAny operator are required and terms appearing after the operator are optional. In other words, search terms after the AndAny operator are considered as matches only if the search terms before the operator are also found in the document.

Example search: agenda AndAny minutes

Faceted query

( )

Brackets are used to group search terms together.

Example search: (agenda OR minutes) AND market*

This search returns all objects which contain the word "agenda" or "minutes" and which also contain a word or words beginning with "market".

Proximity search


The W/N operator retrieves objects that contain two words or phrases within a certain distance of one another. The N value indicates the number of intervening words between the search words or phrases.

Example search: agenda W/4 2015