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This page is an overview of user preferences. For more details see Meta:Help:Preferences.

Preferences are the user options for browsing, editing, searching, notifications, and more. Along with Preferences, services such as list of your Contributions are available at the top of every page when you have an account. Preferences offers an extraordinary number of feature settings.

Special:Preferences offers skins, plug-ins, date formats, a signature, and more; and it provides easy access to install other plug-ins into your custom JavaScript and CSS profiles. (See Appearance below.) The overall effect of those settings is a virtually comprehensive control of one's interface to Wikipedia for personal affect. For example, you may want to be prompted to enter an edit summary if you forget to. To access the preferences page, click "Preferences" at the top of any page, or from the search box navigate to Special:Preferences.

This page mainly serves the Special:Preferences page. That page is a JavaScript-driven interface to simplify altering the default settings. These features and the Preferences page that sets them are provided by MediaWiki—the software of Wikipedia. (For the Special:Preferences talk page see Wikipedia talk: Special:Preferences.) New settings for preferences are automatic, whereas certain other tools, that are similar to some preferences but not provided by MediaWiki, require installation to your custom JavaScript file. Special:Preferences is a result of consensus (for example, at the Village pump) on about seventy choices for you to explore, but there are also hundreds of other user scripts to explore at Wikipedia:Tools#Browsing and editing.

Preferences page

The preferences page is accessible when you are logged-in. It has numerous tabs along the top (requires JavaScript). Save is not required for every tab; it is for the preferences page itself.[1] Save applies the changes made in all tabs. If you only wish to bail out of all changes made during the current session, click "Preferences" again before pressing Save.

"Restore all default settings" will harmlessly load another page which will then offer the button to reset all preferences in every tab to their default values. If you do decide to reset your preferences, you can restore your custom signature from the wikitext of a history page.

The default settings are aimed at beginning readers and editors of articles. Intermediate editors tend to make more rules for themselves, such as "warn me if I forgot an edit summary", and advanced editors and administrators use the special settings, gadgets and editors for their tasks.

If you have chosen to have accounts automatically created on all MediaWiki wikis (See "global" accounts on your User profile), then each account's preferences are independent from any other of your accounts. This is because each wiki has its own software, so the options may differ from account to account, just as they can with Wikipedia software versions. For similar reasons the word "Preferences" on the top of any page may be different. At Simple Wikipedia it says "My settings".

User profile

Preferences → User profile → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#User profile

Basic information

  • Lists your account details and some statistics.
  • Allows you to view/manage your global account info.
  • This is where you change your password.
  • Option to always connect to Wikipedia via a secure (https://) connection.


  • Change the language of user-interface messages. Many messages have been customized at the English Wikipedia but usually only for the default "en - English". It is therefore not recommended to select "en-GB - British English" or "en-CA - Canadian English".
  • Option to specify your preferred pronoun in order for the software to grammatically refer to you correctly.
  • More language settings: allows you to set the language in which Wikipedia menus and fonts are displayed; additionally, an option to set the language you edit in (input tools must be enabled).


  • Displays the signature that will appear when you sign talk pages.
  • Allows you to edit the signature, either using wiki markup (the option must be checked), or just plain text.

Email options

Further information: Wikipedia:Emailing users
  • An option to provide an email address. Although this is optional, please read the warning about losing your password and not having an email address on file.
  • Options about use of your email address: enabling email from other users, sending copies of emails you send to other users, and receiving email when a page or file on your watchlist is changed.
  • Before using email you must confirm your email address. See Help:Email confirmation
  • "Email me when a page or file on my watchlist is changed", see Help:Email notification


Preferences → Appearance → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#Appearance

Change the web browser experience.


  • Choose the "skin", or "theme" of how Wikipedia is displayed.
  • Access your Custom CSS or Custom JavaScript for individual skins and for global settings that apply to all skins. If the links are blue; you have created these special pages and this is a quick way to access and edit them. If the links are red, clicking the link will create the special page. You can also access your cross-wiki CSS and JavaScript pages from this section, but the color of the links will always be that of external links.

Date format

Preferences → Date and time → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#Date and time
  • Option to set your date and time preferences; this is how dates will appear in article History pages, logs, etc. If set to "No preference", the format is HH:MM, DD MMMM YYYY (UTC), for example: 13:45, 4 July 2015 (UTC).

Time offset

  • Shows the server time (UTC) and the local time based on the optional Time zone setting. You may opt to use the server time (UTC), have the offset calculated by the clock in your computer, or specify an offset from UTC in hours or by location.
  • This does not affect times saved in editable pages such as timestamps in signatures. For that, see Wikipedia:Comments in Local Time.


These are useful in limiting strain on your computer's resources; if you specify smaller file sizes, your computer won't have to work as hard.

  • Set the maximum image size that will display by default when you click on an image file.
  • Set the default size for "thumbnails" in articles.
  • Enable or disable the Media Viewer, which displays images you click on in a floating, modal window in front of what you're viewing. The default is for this to be enabled; if you don't like it, you can easily turn it off by un-checking the box.


  • Option to not show page content below the diffs; checking this will suppress the page preview of the difference you're viewing.
  • Option to omit a diff after performing a rollback

Advanced options

  • Optionally show hyperlinks with underlines in your browser window.
  • Set a threshold, based on file size, for stub link formatting.
  • Show hidden categories.
  • Number section headings.



  • Option to show a link to courses in which you've enrolled.


Preferences → Editing → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#Editing

Concerning the edit page, its initiation, look and feel, Wikipedia offers a remarkable number of options. Some of them are:

  • The size of the edit box, in rows and columns.
  • "Prompt me when entering a blank edit summary" into the database. (Habit forming.)
  • "Enable VisualEditor". Get a word processor interface. No markup language at all.
  • "Use live preview". Get a dynamic web page. Reloading the page now shows the live (pre-edited) version in the preview area. "Show preview" works as before, and so does "Show changes", but now they preserve any pages forward in the browser history, and save on network bandwidth and browser cache. (For Wikipedia editing outside of Firefox, this feature requires a safety test.[2])

The font size for edit box can be set in Wikipedia editing preferences or in the browser. In Firefox there are two font-size settings at Options-->Content-->"Default font" Advanced..., one for the edit box, and one for the rest of the page. If you just want uniformity, check to see if it allows Wikipedia to choose its own font; then you set Wikipedia's "Edit Area Font Style" to "Serif" or "Sans Serif", and the font size in the edit box will match the rest of the page.

Two editing toolbars are offered that will span the top of the edit box. (Wikipedia:Reftoolbar shows versions.)

To use more of your favorite text editor instead of just the edit box and toolbars, see Wikipedia:Text editor support. Also see the Gadgets tab.

Recent changes

Preferences → Recent changes → Display options & Advanced options = meta:Help:Preferences#Recent changes

Recent changes refer to changes of pages in the database. Every time a wiki page is edited, and changes were actually made, a record is kept of the difference. For example, a page history shows the revisions for that particular page. But recent changes can report on more than just the revisions of a page, or an entire wiki, they can also report on the recent changes of an editor (their contributions). The user preferences for recent changes are the style in which these lists of revisions will appear:

  • Length of the list
  • Time window of the list
  • Grouping methods of the list

The watchlist has even more finely tuned preferences, because like the edit window, it is often a core tool for editors.

More information about these various histories can be found at the following places. For global changes to Wikipedia pages, see Help:Recent changes. For user contributions, see Help:User contributions. For page histories, see Help:Page history. For other types of logs see Help:Log.

Pending changes

Preferences → Recent changes → Pending changes = meta:Help:Preferences#Pending changes
For an explanation of what pending changes are, see Wikipedia:Pending changes.

These settings are for advanced editors who have a detailed understanding of the five pillars and of the templates used to mark judgments on the page. Pending changes refers to the style of the presentation of

  • new page "curation" tools: curation toolbar and new pages feed, and
  • how recent changes appear on the page history of certain pages that have been configured for protection by reviewing any changes before they are applied to the public version of the page.

For an example of a page history showing the pending changes feature, click on the history of a page listed at Special:PendingChanges.


Preferences → Watchlist → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#Watchlist

The watchlist options include which pages, and what "recent" means to you.

If your Preferences has "Email me when a page or file on my watchlist is changed" set, then only by visiting a page will you actually set its email notification flag.

Once you miss the email for a particular page change or don't visit the page (or ignore the email), you will not receive any more emails for that page. You can still dutifully monitor that page by its watchlist edit-summaries, but its particular email notification flag will remain unset until you visit it. This facilitates monitoring a large watchlist while preventing potentially useless emails to you.

In case you want to set all email notifications anyway, you can at any time mark all pages "visited". If your Preferences → Gadgets has "Display pages on your watchlist that have changed since your last visit in bold", then your watchlist will have a button labeled "Mark all pages visited". That button will effectively set all of your email notification flags.


Preferences → Notifications

These settings alter the new-messages bar, Special:Notifications, and the "(thank)" buttons:

  • [x] Display a floating alert when I have new talk page messages   (to show  new-messages bar )
  • [x] Exclude me from feature experiments  (to remove "thank" buttons)
  • Section: Notify me about these events
           Web   Email
Talk page post
          (click one or both)
Page link
Page review
Edit revert

The options for Notifications were first added in May 2013. See Wikipedia Signpost topic "English-language Wikipedia to be first to receive Echo deployment" for a brief overview.

There is also options to allow email notification, tick the appropriate boxes to enable this feature.


Preferences → Gadgets → Details = Wikipedia:Gadget#Currently installed gadgets

Gadgets are the software contributed by users, not the software that runs Wikipedia, and so you'll see the group names Editing and Appearance are the same as the tab names on the preferences page. If you see tabs on the preferences page your web-browsers already has JavaScript enabled. The gadgets go through an authoritative process before they appear on the list. There are gadgets for, browsing, editing, appearance and for compatibility. An general overview of the select gadgetry available there is as follows.


  • Language translating
  • Media files, search results, and diffs
  • Twinkle admin tools for the advancing editor
  • Teahouse for the new editor question
  • Mouseing-over on an inline citation to read it


  • Citation modifying/expediting/proving
  • Colorizing wikitext; Character toolsets
  • Categorizing; Reviewing new articles; Filing disputes
  • The Wiki Editor, WikEd, and WikEdDiff


  • Editing the introductory section.
  • Admin tools; Changing and adding to page layouts and controls
  • Displaying diffs, or animations, or your very own local time on all timestamps
  • Enabling an external search engine for searching Wikipedia
  • Show the assessed class of an article, Featured, A, B, C, etc.


  • Font and JavaScript support


  • Regular expression tools
  • Tracking software bugs
  • Patrolling recent changes

See much more customization available in the pages in the See also section, such as a search and replace dialog that understands JavaScript regular expressions.

Beta features

Preferences → Beta features → Details = mw:Beta Features

Beta Features is a way for to test new features on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites before they are released for everyone.

Other tools

The MediaWiki preferences page offers a set of options for the generic user. If you discover a special role on Wikipedia, there is probably a powerful tool for it at WP:Tools#Browsing and editing.

Operating an account with a tool may carry side effects, such as popups, toolbars and frame objects on your browsing or editing page space that are sometimes burdensome, yet sometimes powerfully necessary. Rather than uninstalling, it is possible to just switch skins, because there are four skins, each with a pair of customizations. 1) Custom JavaScript has the tools. 2) Custom CSS can carry over your preferred fonts, colors, and frame borders to each skin, no matter what tools that skin may also be loaded with.

See also


  1. ^ It is true that each tab will create a URL in the browser history, but these do not represent historical differences in the JavaScript instance that loaded with the page itself. They only serve the browser's back-arrow and forward-arrow navigation.
  2. ^ With Live Preview reloading reverts only the preview area to the original version of that edit session, right? Well, for all other browsers users must test that reloading will not also reload the edit box to its original version. Edits lost in this manner are irretrievable (destroyed)! (As with all MediaWiki features, Live Preview is developed and tested around Firefox.)
  3. ^ Compiled by the Mozilla Contributors.

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