Welcome to the Community! :smileyhappy:
No. I think the issue was the messaging app itself. It didn't seem to update. I solved the problem by downloading Android messages from the Google play and switching to Gboard.
Now I can search gifs and get my messages in a timely manner.
Not sure what was up with the preinstalled app, but everything is fine now.
I have a new Note 8, use Texta with the stockboard but have been trying the Tenor Gif keyboard and cannot search either. I don't even have the mysteriously hidden search that you found and circled above . I thought I was stupid and just couldn't figure it out.
It definitely doesn't have a search bar
I was using a message app. But the original message app the fone came with has a search option as yu can see. Androd version 8.0 and Samsung experience version 9.0
Huge drop of the ball by Samsung, we shouldn't have to download an extra app to use gifs
You actually shouldn't need to, but it's definitely not obvious on how to search gifs. Hopefully these instructions will help you and anyone else with this problem.