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We have portal users who need to be able to search contacts but not just contacts for the account they are under but they also need to see contacts from "related" accounts (think corporate parent user wanting to administrate multiple child accounts. I thought I could do this through manual sharing but can’t seem to find a way. When I create a manual sharing rule on accounts the related contacts don’t show up for the users search. When I manually share contacts I can set a criteria but don’t see account id in the list of contact fields to choose from and not sure why. I would like to do something like this:

Select which contact records to be shared based on criteria: Contact AccountID equals 001M000000UR7sz OR contact AccountID equals 001M000000UPAhD

But AccountID does not show in the list of fields to select from. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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    Which portal? Most portals licenses are restricted to showing only the account they are attached to and cannot participate in the account sharing model. – sfdcfox Dec 9 '13 at 16:23
  • Customer portal sfdcfox. I was able to share the contacts by using criteria sharing on matching email domains but really wanted to share contacts based on their parent account. The problem is that field doesn't show up in the contact criteria field list. – AdamB Dec 9 '13 at 16:31
  • Ah I see now from this success.salesforce.com/ideaView?id=08730000000hDvDAAU that SF does not let you reference formula fields or lookups in sharing criteria. People get around this by trying to populate text fields with formula data that really sucks! – AdamB Dec 9 '13 at 18:49
  • I had a feeling that's where it was going when I took a look-see at this. It kind of makes sense, because that would be significant sharing overhead if you could reference lookups. Maybe you're better off with a sharing trigger? – sfdcfox Dec 9 '13 at 18:52
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As you discovered from the comments of others, you've encountered a limitation of most portal licenses except Partner Portal Licenses. About the only other option you'd have would be to "mirror" your Account Object and your Contact Object (or portions thereof) as custom objects using triggers (as part of a custom application) in order to make them available to your portal users.

In doing so, you obviously create a number of security risks for your organization. However, you could then establish sharing of the custom object records for your portal users.

That would be your only option beyond purchasing considerably more expensive licenses that I'm aware of.

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