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According to this Office Support article, "Search limits for SharePoint Online", SP Online has a limit of 500 rows in a result set, and that is a hard boundary.

Is that really saying what I think it's saying? That SP Online search is only going to return 500 search results?

It then goes on to say: "To display the entire result set, issue more paging queries."

What is a paging query, and how does one construct and issue one?

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Looking at the wording, what the article is referencing is the case when you are using the Search API to return results. Paging can be implemented in your request by adding RowsPerPage and StartRow parameters to your query. (You can also use RowLimit if you don't need 500 results.)

You can review sample requests on the MSDN Site: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/office/jj163876(v=office.15).aspx

The standard SharePoint web parts in the search center implement paging already and return the results for more than 500 items. (I just did a query for "*" that returned over 2600 items and then jumped to page 60.)

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