Ability to search messages in chat

A number of folks have asked about whether it is possible to search messages in chat.

We don’t have any immediate plans to add search, but we have already heard it requested several times. I think it’s something we will likely do at some point, but it’s not at the top of our list at this time.

Regardless, our recommendation is to strongly encourage capturing things in topics once it’s clear that they are worth tracking or returning to.

We understand that’s not always obvious up front, and that search could help in those scenarios, but in many cases, it can be beneficial to nudge users to do so and to model the same behavior.

Two existing features that can help here are 1) “Bookmark reminders” - to return to something to capture in a topic later, and 2) “Quote in Topic” - to capture a transcript of part of a chat discussion in a new or existing topic.


I’ve suspected such myself - I’m a little wary about it, if I’m honest. I like the two features you mention later in the post (which work well together), as they feel like they compliment the ephemeral of channel chat - whereas I fear search trains people to rely on channels as a more permanent medium than they are. I’m not arguing against search being added - mostly because I think it’ll happen eventually regardless - but I wonder if it would be worth exposing a toggle for chat search as a site setting?

As an aside - do chat comments stick around in the database after the time limit is reached? I’m curious if it’s possible to retrieve them somehow. (I don’t really have a preference; I’m just wondering.)



We’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves (no suprise – such is the nature of this topic), but another approach to discourage reliance on chat as long term memory is to reduce the retention period (which defaults to 90 days).

Nope, see: Are chat messages hard deleted after the retention period?

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Our group has started investigating chat and the issue of search has come up. I get the argument for converting anything to a topic if it becomes clear we are into ‘searchable’ territory.

“Quote in Topic” seemed like a good compromise but I found that it tries to inject the quote into the current open topic, when I really want to start a new topic.

Would a compromise be to add a 'Quote in New topic" option?

and thanks for a great product - it is working well for our global non-profit community


Would, That is one line more and mobiles start to be a little bit crowded already. But… that would be a bit confusing if there is no topic to reply.

It adds that quote as reply if there is a topic open. If one is looking at category it starts a new topic. One solutions would be it starts everytime new topic.

As you mentioned, it only does this if you have a topic open already. If you’re in full screen chat, it creates a new topic by default. You also have the option to click “Copy” which adds the text to your clipboard. So you could do that and then click the + button in the sidebar near “Community” to create a new topic, and then paste it in there.

These are pretty fine grained details of the interaction design that are certainly not set in stone, but I’m not sure we want to add another button here. But if you do start using chat regularly and find that you’re bumping into this all the time, or have other ideas, please let us know.

Thanks for quick responses.

Appreciate this is new territory and that some communities will often by jumping into chat in response to a topic, so current behaviour makes sense.

I’ll work with your suggestions and feed back, how I and others at discourse.openehr.org are getting on. Like many, I suspect, we are gently trying alternatives to Slack, as our non-profit does not fall under their subsidy rules.


Please do keep us informed and let us know if there are things that you think can help smooth the transition if you decide to continue with chat in Discourse.

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I like the idea but as I experienced it many times it has never worked to “educate” people how to use a software system because NO ONE reads manuals, instructions and guidelines except power users.

And if the targeted audience is just a regular user they will use your system in that way they are used to.

As you are mimicing a chat messenger with this functionality everyone expects a search function like whatsapp, telegram, signal, slack has.

So my vision would be for the not so far future for that feature: it should replace the old message system (based on a somewhat unintuitive mail metaphor) completely.

Yes a subject in an email is nice but common no one uses it right and everyone uses it a little bit different so you always get a totally cluttered inbox which you have to sort regularly or search it with more effort afterwards.

With a proper chat you get an automatically sorted inbox per user and per group. Inside these chats it should be possible to search for information to move it out in to an organized, structured and standardized thread.

Next thing is: a private message in discourse just looks like a normal thread (or topic) so the casual user doesn’t really get the difference.


You’re right that you shouldn’t expect a new user to read a manual or a guide.

But the whole “educating” notion in Discourse is not about that. It’s about your core users showing how to behave and new users gradually learning that. The first time you suggest moving the conversation to a topic and explaining why. Next time they’ll do the same for other newcoming users.


Is this on the roadmap? I have tons of things in chats I am unable to find back due to the lack of a search function for chats.

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It is on a roadmap, but we don’t have a date for it. More voices asking for it will certainly help us push it up the list.


I am one such voice. Also, on our site we archive the chat. Surely it saves a text file on disk somewhere, would it be possible to just search in that?


We’d appreciate the ability to search for chats too.

Right now, I’m trying to move a community off Discord. Discord content is searchable though, so it is only of the reasons the group doesn’t want to make the move.

I feel that very few in our community will make the effort to move something into a topic. Especially since that is a multi-step process buried several layers deep.


We are having an internal conversation about this right now… we will report back once we are done discussing, we have nothing against adding this feature but it is not trivial to build.


Hi, is there any News on this?

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No news yet. Our primary focus for chat has been threads. We just released iteration 0 of that so I expect it’ll remain our focus for some time as we continue to respond to some of the early feedback. But search is high on our list to consider picking up next (along with some other things).


It’s requested in my community as well. Is there a way we can show that there are more of us that would love this function? :heart:

Btw. the chat is amazing and really took my community to the next level. Didn’t even know it was requested before we tried it out. So there are lot of people in a swedish community that are grateful for the work you guys are doing.


We just released v3.1, and search is certainly at the top of our list for things to consider prioritizing in this next release cycle. In the next couple weeks I expect to know more about where we think it stacks up against other priorities for chat.


Thanks for the updates on this topic.

We’ve had some requests to enable search in chat.

We’ve moved to simplify (reduce) our categories list and now encourage our community to use tags. And as part of this, we’ve moved a lot of discussion “categories” over to new and existing chat channels.

We’d defo welcome the ability to search messages in chat.