Wikipedia is so vast that the features that usually facilitate navigating, like hypertext and a search box, are supplemented by portals and a page theme that features a toolbox, a search box, and the category of the page, on every page. The category of a page reflects the status of that page in the continuous categorization efforts all pages undergo. Navigation is a critical priority on a Wikipedia page layout. The search box will navigate directly to a page, but this search box is also an interface to a powerful search engine developed especially for Wikipedia. Wikipedia's search box allows readers to apply six different parameters to better refine the search results that a bare word search might produce alone.
All Wikipedia articles are linked or cross-referenced for ease of navigation through the encyclopedia. Where you see text like this, it means there is a link to another article or Wikipedia page with further information if you need it. Holding your mouse over the link will show you where a link will take you. This means articles do not need to cover common ground in depth; instead, you are always one click away from more information on any point that has a link attached.
The Manual of style documents the various footer sections on a page that will contain related articles, external web sites, and reference material. At the bottom line of the article are the relevant categories of related pages which you can search and traverse in an interconnected hierarchy. The category pages are hypertext, and a graphical tool is available at Special:CategoryTree.
Search results and articles themselves may also have interwiki links to sister projects such as dictionary definitions, audiobook readings, quotations, or the same article in other languages. You can contribute by adding further links if a relevant link is missing.
There's a browsing bar at the top of the Main Page with links to Portals. Portals bring you to sub-portals and portals, which are illustrated article summaries like on the Main Page. "Featured content", on the side bar, is the way to the best articles, pictures, lists and portals in the encyclopedia. And "Contents" has guides to browsing Wikipedia.
The English Wikipedia is one of many Wikimedia projects, and has the URL en.wikipedia.org. Versions in other languages have other two-letter labels, such as the Spanish Wikipedia at es.wikipedia.org. Other Wikimedia sister projects such as Wikisource and Wiktionary have different names in their URLs. Links to these projects (such as s:Main Page) usually appear in a different shade. Wikimedia Commons (commons.wikimedia.org) has a special role, housing many of the images accessed from Wikipedia. Many of the projects at the other URLs are organized in a way that is quite similar to Wikipedia, but you can always tell which project you are viewing by the logo and text at the top left of the page.
Within Wikipedia (and other projects), content is separated into namespaces, which appear before the page name. For example, Help:Editing is in the Help: namespace. Regular encyclopedia articles are in a namespace with no prefix added. Namespaces come in pairs, one for content and one for talk — for example, Help talk:Editing. Another example is your user page and associated talk page, which is added to the User: and User talk: namespaces. You can switch between content and talk pages using the first two tabs at the top of each page.
Contents and index browsing
To help you find your way around this world of knowledge, Wikipedia has many pages that organize its contents. These lists and indices use links to the articles that are organized by subject or alphabetically. Our best content also finds its way to one of the featured content lists. Links to all of Wikipedia's main contents pages are presented below, and they in turn link to all the rest.
Every article has a list at the bottom of all the major categories it belongs to. For example Albert Einstein is listed under:
- 1879 births, 1955 deaths, Cosmologists, German physicists, German-Americans, Naturalized citizens of the United States, Nobel laureates in Physics, Refugees, Vegetarians, World federalists.
Each of these categories can be browsed and is linked to related categories in an interconnected hierarchy or web.
Try browsing the various categories below right now:
For more information about using this feature, see Wikipedia:FAQ/Categories.
Here is the default theme of a Wikipedia page:
You can experiment with different skins that control the way some of your page is laid out. When you have a user account, the top line of the web page will then show navigation to your user page, your talk page, the sandbox, your editing watchlist, and your editing contributions. User options offer a generous amount of navigation customization to your buttons and panels.
To the left side of each article are some standard options for navigation and interaction, for tools, and, on some articles, for languages:
- Main page - the English Wikipedia home page
- Contents - an index of the various ways to find content within Wikipedia
- Featured content - a selection of the best of what Wikipedia has to offer
- Current events - latest world news reported within the Wikipedia community
- Random article - lucky dip, if you're ever bored or want to learn something new!
- Donate to Wikipedia
- Help - the main menu for all the help pages
- About Wikipedia - an introduction to the Wikipedia project for visitors
- Community portal - as a community building an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has a portal for users, giving easy access to many of the useful pages within Wikipedia
- Recent changes - articles that are being edited at this moment
- Contact Wikipedia
- What links here - useful for tracing where this article is referenced from
- Related changes - list of changes made recently to pages linked from the specified page
- Upload file - help with properly uploading images and other files to Wikipedia
- Special pages - all the special functions and administration options can be found here
- Permanent link - used to link to a specific version of a page. See Permalink for an encyclopedic explanation of permanent links.
- Cite this page - generates a set of copyable sample citations for the article, in different styles
- Create a book - for making a page collection
- Download as PDF - for getting a PDF of the page to read offline.
- Printable version - displays the article by itself, without all the site navigation. See Help:Printable for details.
Other languages - if an article exists on the same subject in any of the other hundred languages in Wikipedia, it should usually appear on a list of other language links in the sidebar too.
Top tabs (above the article)
Each page in Wikipedia contains an article, and a discussion page (usually called "Talk...")
You can see these above: the article is labelled "project page", the discussion page is the tab to the right of it. These are treated as two separate pages in Wikipedia, but are shown side by side on the tab bar, for ease of use.
Whether you are looking at the article or project page, or the discussion page, you will see there is a button marked "edit this page", possibly a "new section" button, and a button labelled "watch" or "unwatch".
- edit this page - this is the key to contributing to Wikipedia. When you click this button, you change from viewing an article or discussion about an article, to being able to edit the article, or add comments to the discussion that is going on.
- Occasionally, pages that are important or may be vandalized are locked, in which case the "edit" will show "view source", and you will not be able to edit the article at that time.
- Page editing is simple with Wikipedia, and you cannot harm a page if you make a mistake, since all changes can be undone. This is part of Wikipedia's vandal protection.
- "new section" - adds a new section to a discussion page, without changing what is already there.
- history - All editable pages on Wikipedia have an associated page history, which consists of the old versions of the wikitext, as well as a record of the date and time (in UTC) of every edit, the username or IP address of the user who wrote it, and their edit summary. See Help:Page history for details.
- watch/unwatch - adds or removes a page from your watchlist, the list of pages you are tracking. You can view your watchlist with the user option button "my watchlist" at the top right of the screen. See Help:Watching pages for details.
While typing into the search box to navigate, the drop-down list of suggestions that occur while you type are guaranteed to be page names. You can also use the mouse or the arrow keys to access that selection, or use the list for spelling and identification purposes. The navigation tactic that does not need the mouse is the search box, and it works similar to how you markup links. (To move the cursor to the search box, use the F-key, according to WP:Keyboard shortcuts.)
Basically, to use the search box to navigate directly to a page or section of a page name:
- Enter the page name (the entire title shown on the top line).
- Enter the redirect name, shortcut name, or pseudo-pagename.
- Navigate to a section of a page by appending the "#" character, as in Page name#section heading.
- Navigate directly to any of the special pages, including those requiring a parameter to issue the report. For example, Special:Contributions/Jimbo Wales.
(To get search results instead of navigating, prepend the "~" character.)
More advanced navigating:
- Enter an IPv4 address to go to that user's contributions page.
- Use interlanguage prefixes to navigate directly to a page on another Wikipedia. For example fr:Wikipedia:Principes fondateurs goes to the French version of Wikipedia's Five pillars.
- Use interwiki prefixes to a navigate directly to a page on a sister project. For example, to use Wiktionary to find the definition of the word foundation, type wikt:foundation.
- Other Wikipedia's have the same sister projects, so to go to the French definition of foundateurs, type fr:wikt:foundatueurs.