Help:Wikipedia: The Missing Manual/Appendixes/A tour of the Wikipedia page

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Wikipedia: The Missing Manual (Discuss)

When you're registered (Why register?), and logged into Wikipedia, you'll see links in a number of places: at the screen's top right; across the top in tabs; on the left side in boxes, and at the bottom of the page in disclaimers and other boilerplate text.

These features are discussed in detail where they come up throughout this book. This appendix serves as a quick reference when you have a question about what an onscreen element does.

The placement of the links and tabs described in this appendix are based on the use of the Vector skin, the standard way that all new editors see Wikipedia. If you're using one of the other eight skins that you can choose from, some of these elements will be in a different place on your screen, and some may not be visible at all. (If you're not sure which skin you're using, see the section about xx.)

The six upper-right links[edit]

The upper-right corner of your screen contains six links when you're logged in. If you're not logged in, it says, "Sign in / create account". Each of these links takes you to one of your personal account pages.

If you have windows open to multiple Wikipedia pages, logging out on one page logs you out completely. Each of the other open pages continues to display the six links in the upper-right corner until you refresh the page. Beware: If you edit one of those pages—whether you refresh the page or not—you're editing anonymously (the section about xx), since you're not logged in.

[Your username][edit]

Opens your user page; User:Your username goes here. If the page doesn't yet exist, the link is red. "Setting Up Your User Page" describes how to create and use this page.


Opens your user talk page; User talk:Your username goes here. If the page doesn't yet exist, the link is red. "User talk page postings" discusses user talk pages.


Opens a page with 10 tabs. Starts out showing the contents of the first tab, User Profile. The options listed on these 10 tabs let you customize how you experience Wikipedia, as both a reader and an editor. Chapter 20 discusses this customization in detail ("Customizing with preferences").


Shows the Special:Watchlist report, used for monitoring edits by other editors to pages you're interested in. A lengthy discussion of the use of this report begins on "Wikipedia's standard watchlist".


Shows the Special:Contributions report, preloaded with your user name in the "IP Address or username" field. The report lists all your edits in reverse chronological order, going back to the first edit you ever did. "Monitoring changes" shows what the report looks like.

If you edited a page that was subsequently deleted, you don't see the edit listed in this report. Only administrators get to see such edits.

Log out[edit]

Clicking this link logs you out of Wikipedia immediately. If you continue editing while logged out, Wikipedia records the edits under the IP address of the computer you're using, rather than under your user name. ("Why register?" discusses implications of editing using an IP address.)

The top tabs[edit]

At the top of every page in Wikipedia, you can expect to see six tabs (seven tabs if it's a talk page). These tabs let you switch between the main article page, the talk (discussion) page, the page history, and so on.

Pages with the "Special:" prefix, such as the Special:Watchlist page, don't have tabs. Special pages, which Wikipedia's software automatically generates, don't have a history, and you can't edit them. Think of them as one-time reports.

Article, category, or project page[edit]

The name of the leftmost tab indicates the namespace you're in. For example, if you're looking at an article, it says "article". If you're looking at a WikiProject page, it says "project page". (All WikiProject pages have the prefix "Wikipedia:".) if you're looking at a Category page (Chapter 18: Better articles: A systematic approach), it says "category", and so on.

You may hear other editors use the term projectspace. That just means all WikiProject pages. If the leftmost tab says, "project page", you're in projectspace. If you want to get the terminology right, articles are in mainspace, not "articlespace" (though if you slip up and use the latter word, other editors will understand what you're talking about).


Displays the talk page associated with an article, Wikipedia instructional page, category, or whatever. (See the section about xx for details on how to properly use talk pages.)

Edit (or View source)[edit]

Clicking this tab takes you to the page's editing screen (the section about xx). The vast majority of Wikipedia pages have an "Edit" tab, and you're free to do so.

If you see "View source" rather than "Edit", the page is protected against editing. If you click that tab, you see the page's wikicode (with a shaded background, not the usual white background). You can see how the page was created, even though you can't edit it, and you can even copy the wikitext.

Don't confuse "View source" with your Web browser's Source or Page Source command (which is usually under the View menu). That command shows you the page's HTML code, not the wikisource.

"+" or "New section" (discussion pages only)[edit]

The "+" tab is for adding a new section to talk pages and a few project pages, such as noticeboards and the Help desk. When you click on it, Wikipedia starts a new section at the bottom of a page. As discussed on the section about xx, use this tab when starting a discussion of a new topic (rather than clicking "edit this page" or editing the existing bottom section, and adding a new heading). User preferences offer the display choice "+" or "New Section".

View history[edit]

Shows all edits of the page, going back to the first edit that created the page. (In Wikipedia, an edit is simply the difference between one version of a page and the previous version.) You can also use this page to see all previous versions of the page, with the most recent listed at the top, going back to the very first version. Chapter 5: Who did what: Page histories and reverting explains in detail how to interpret the history pages of articles.

Two things to keep in mind when you're looking at a history page:

  • As a regular editor, you don't see any versions of a page that an administrator (the section about xx) or Oversight (the section about xx) deleted. Pages are very rarely deleted in this way—it only happens in cases such as libel, copyright violations, or violations of personal privacy—but Wikipedia takes such problems very seriously.
  • The "edit this page", "move", and "watch" tabs don't apply to history pages—you can't edit them, rename them, or put them on your watchlist. If you click one of these three tabs, you're really acting on the page whose history you were looking at, not the history page itself. That's why when you select the "history" tab, the "article" or "discussion" tab is selected as well, so you can tell what the history page pertains to. Also, that selected tab shows you what page is affected when you click, say, the "move" tab.

Watch/Unwatch (star)[edit]

Watching a page means adding it to the list of pages in your Special:Watchlist report. Chapter 6: Monitoring changes explains how to monitor pages using your watchlist.


Starts the process of renaming a page. Renaming is extensively discussed in Chapter 17: Categorizing articles.

If you don't see a "Move" tab, the page is protected against being renamed. For example, you can't rename Wikipedia's Main Page. Move protection normally happens when pages have been vandalized by renaming, or where there's been a big controversy over the name.

Search box[edit]

Wikipedia's search box is handy for the shortcuts mentioned throughout this book, but, frankly, the underlying search engine isn't very good for general searches. If you don't get to the page you want when you click the magnifying glass, and don't see what you're looking for in the search results, it's time for plan B—using an external search engine—as described in the box on the section about xx.

Left boxes and links[edit]

The left side of every Wikipedia page has four boxes, three containing a number of links. The links in some of the boxes change depending on what type of page you're looking at (article, user, and so on). If you come across technical documentation, you'll find that these boxes and links are referred to, collectively, as the Quickbar or the sidebar.

This section describes the state of the links on the left side in late 2007. Wikipedia is quite configurable, and that includes the left-side links. The links are likely to stay the same for a while, unless Wikipedia adds any big new features that require new links.

Navigation box links[edit]

These five links take you to various Wikipedia entry points. They're intended more for readers than for editors.

Main page[edit]

Takes you to Wikipedia's Main Page, which changes daily. You see the day's featured article and picture, lists of new articles and hot news topics, a "this day in history" section, and links to other parts of Wikipedia.

Although the page's left tab says "Main Page", not "article", the Main Page is in mainspace, where all articles reside. (Occasionally editors propose that the Main Page be moved to portalspace, since it has portal-like aspects.)


This page describes all the reference lists (overviews, lists, glossaries, and so on) and indices available to browse Wikipedia. It's lengthy, comprehensive, and fairly boring.

Featured content[edit]

Here's where you can see a randomly chosen selection of featured content—a featured article, picture, list, portal, topic, and sound. The page also has links to the six pages with compete lists of such featured items, a list of new featured content, a section on feature content procedures (criteria, candidates, and so on). For good measure, there's a navigational template at the bottom ("Content listings") that, while useful, has absolutely nothing to do with featured content.

Current events[edit]

Shows the "Current events" portal, which has links to new or updated Wikipedia stories about headline news and other current events.

Wikipedia's mission isn't to supply breaking news, so there's a link to a separate project, Wikinews, for those who want to write news stories. The news coverage at Wikinews is much less than at Wikipedia, though, due to the relatively few active editors at Wikinews.

Random article[edit]

Takes you to a completely random article among the three million-odd articles on Wikipedia. Clicking the link 20 or so times will give you a pretty good idea of the range of Wikipedia articles, in terms of both topic and quality.


Wikipedia runs solely on donations. Credit cards and other forms of payment are gladly accepted.

Interaction box links[edit]

This box has a grab bag of links, all loosely related to different ways you can interact with Wikipedia, from reading about it to editing it.


Goes to the Help:Contents page, an organized overview of Wikipedia for editors. This page is discussed extensively in Appendix C (the section about xx).

About Wikipedia[edit]

This page has all the facts and figures about Wikipedia. This information may interest readers and potential editors, but it's especially good if you want to use Wikipedia for research or citation, or if you're just curious about Wikipedia's history and ownership. You can learn more about these topics in this book's Introduction, and Appendix C: Learning more and D.

Community portal[edit]

Clicking this link is like going backstage at Wikipedia. Just as if you wander backstage at a busy theater, someone's sure to put a prop in your hand or ask you to help raise the curtain, the Community portal page is buzzing with gobs of links to projects that need a hand, groups that want help with articles, and more. There are also links to Wikipedia's internal newsletter—The Wikipedia Signpost—and weekly podcast.

Recent changes[edit]

The Recent changes page (Special:Recentchanges) takes a dip into the stream of Wikipedia edits—the more than 100,000 daily changes to Wikipedia. You can change the namespace to limit what you see; for example, you can choose "(Main)" to see just edits to articles. You can narrow which edits you see; for example, showing only edits by IP (anonymous) editors, in case you're on the prowl for vandals. In fact, the Recent changes page is primarily for vandal-fighting, as discussed on the section about xx.

Contact Wikipedia[edit]

A wide range of links for the press, readers, and editors. (No, Wikipedia doesn't have an 800 number to call with complaints. Neither does the Wikimedia Foundation.)

Toolbox links[edit]

The first four links in the Toolbox are primarily for editors, the last three for readers.

What links here[edit]

Lists all the incoming links to the page where you are. As an editor, you'll find this useful in several ways:

  • When you're creating an article (the section about xx) or improving one (the section about xx), you can identify outgoing links to improve the article.
  • When looking at a disambiguation page, you can identify incoming links that need to be fixed (the section about xx).
  • When you're trying to figure out how a template works by looking at pages that use it. (All pages that use a template link to the template page.)
  • When you're trying to figure out whether a Wikipedia instructional page is often cited or virtually ignored.

Related changes[edit]

Shows the page Special:Recentchangeslinked. Here's an example of how it works: Suppose you're looking at article A, which has wikilinks to articles X, Y, and Z. Clicking the "Related changes" link displays a report showing recent edits to those three articles. The section about xx describes using this page as part of an additional watchlist.

If you type Special:Recentchangeslinked into the search box on the left, then you get a "No target" error page. The search box doesn't know what page you're looking at in the window.

Upload file[edit]

Starts the process of uploading an image to Wikipedia (for details, see the section about xx).

Special pages[edit]

Lists about 60 of these pages, essentially one-time reports, which are like snapshots and can't be edited. Among the most common that you'll use as an editor is the Special:Contributions report (the section about xx) and the Special:Watchlist report (the section about xx).

Permanent link[edit]

Equivalent to clicking the most recent version of a page in the page's history tab. The URL points to that version, so you can use it as a permanent link.

Cite this article[edit]

Appears only when a page is an article. It provides a cut-and-paste citation for that article in a wide variety of formats (APA style, MLA style, BibTeX entry, and so on).

When you use "Cite this article", you see a disclaimer advising you not to use Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia) as your only source for information in professional or academic settings, like published articles and term papers. As the disclaimer says, "Citing an encyclopedia as an important reference in footnotes or bibliographies may result in censure or a failing grade."

Page information[edit]

Takes you to a page with a summary of information about the page you are viewing. This includes the page's size, how many redirects point to it, who created it, when it was last modified, the number of distinct users who have edited it, and a list of the templates used by the page.

Print/export Links[edit]

Create a book[edit]

Starts the book creator tool. This allows you to make a book from a list of Wikipedia pages, which you can arrange into chapters. You can download your book for free in various formats such as PDF, or pay to have your book printed, bound and mailed to you.

Download as PDF[edit]

Downloads the current page as a PDF file, which you can read or print using software such as Adobe Reader.

Printable version[edit]

Generates a page without all of the tabs, boxes, and links described in this Appendix, which is more suitable for printing.


This link appears only when an editor has included at least one link within the English Wikipedia page to a comparable page in another language version of Wikipedia. Such links are called interlanguage links, and they're at the bottom of the page's wikicode. Most articles in the English Wikipedia don't have a link to a comparable page on another language Wikipedia. Most of the larger articles, such as featured articles, do have such links.

Links in the body of the page[edit]

The body of a Wikipedia page is where the content goes. It's a blank page Wikipedia provides for editors to fill in. On regular Wikipedia pages, category links always appear at the very bottom of a page's body. All other types of links, including the table of contents, can show up wherever the editor wants to put them.

However, as discussed in Chapter 14: Creating lists and tables, there are standards for article pages: which sections go where, and how sections should be named, and where the table of contents goes. Still, these are human-monitored standards, not software-determined formats, so if you see something unusual, take a look—it may be something that needs fixing.

There are two kinds of pages where human editors can't add or edit links:

  • Special pages. Special pages are automatically generated one-time reports. Since you can't edit these pages, you can't add links to them.
  • Category pages. The body of a Category page is essentially a bunch of links that the software has kept track of.

Bottom links[edit]

At the bottom of every Wikipedia page you'll find a standard set of links, as shown in Figure 22-1. These links take you to Wikipedia's five disclaimers—general, risk, medical, legal, and content.

The standard links at the bottom of each Wikipedia page include ones to the license (GNDL) under which content can be legally copied, to the home page of the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, and to Wikipedia's privacy policy and disclaimers.

Additional features in edit mode[edit]

When you click the "edit" link, the page's format changes.

Edit toolbar[edit]

At the top of the page when you're in editing mode, you see the edit toolbar (Figure 22-1).

The edit toolbar is always just above the edit box, near the top of the page. If you're not sure what an icon does, just move your mouse pointer to one of the icons and see what the tooltip says.

Most icons on the toolbar work in either of two ways:

  • If you select text and then click an icon, then you format the selected text.
  • If you don't select any text, then when you click on an icon, the software adds and formats some sample text for you, highlighting it so you can be replace it with your own text.

Exceptions to this are the signature icon, the horizontal line, the line break, and the table insertion icon, which aren't formatting actions. Instead, they insert specific text into the edit box, wherever the cursor is.

Don't highlight text before clicking the table icon, because the resulting table is probably going to be too simple for your needs. See the section about xx for more detail on creating tables.

One preference lets you hide the edit toolbar if you never use it (see the section about xx). If you haven't turned the toolbar off, but you don't see it, or it doesn't function correctly, then you may not have JavaScript turned on (see the section about xx).

Edit box[edit]

The edit box is where you find (or enter) the wikicode that creates content for a Wikipedia page. If you're creating a page, it starts out as a big, empty box. You can specify the size of the edit box in your preferences (see the section about xx).

Below the edit box[edit]

A number of essential things are located just below the edit box (Figure 22-1).

Below the edit box is a box to enter the edit summary for the change you're making to the page you're editing, plus two checkboxes, three buttons, and three links.
  • Cancel. Cancels your edit and goes back to reading mode.
  • Edit summary. As explained on the section about xx, always explain your edit by putting something into the edit summary box.
  • "This is a minor edit" checkbox. Turn on this box if you're making an edit that's so tiny it could never be the subject of dispute—like changing a misspelling or punctuation. The section about xx has more details about when to turn on this box.
You can change a setting so this box is always checked by default (and you uncheck it only as needed). See the section about xx.
  • "Watch this page" checkbox. Adds a page to your watchlist (the section about xx).
  • "Publish changes" button. Click here when you've finished your edit. (Don't forget to enter an edit summary and preview the page first.)
  • "Show preview" button. It's always a good idea to check your work before publishing it (the section about xx).
  • "Show changes" button. Shows the difference, above the edit box, between the current version of the section or page you're editing and the section or page as you've changed it. (In other words, it's a diff of your yet-to-be-published edit.) It's useful if you've forgotten what you've done; or to check whether you've deleted some text by mistake; or to recover some deleted text without having to go back to the article, in another window, and copy from there.

Insertable text[edit]

Moving further down the page, you find a large amount of text in blue, as shown in Figure 22-1. Clicking one of these items inserts something into the edit box—something that would otherwise require a lot of typing or cryptic codes.

There are hundreds of symbols and other text below the edit summary box, which appear in the edit box when you click them. These include wiki markup, symbols, special characters, the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets, International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, and so on.


"By publishing changes, you agree to the Terms of Use, and you irrevocably agree to release your contribution under the CC BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL. You agree that a hyperlink or URL is sufficient attribution under the Creative Commons license."

List of transcluded pages[edit]

Finally, at the very bottom of the edit window is a list of transcluded pages—generally, but not always, these are templates (the section about xx). This list is extremely helpful in figuring out, on the rare occasions that page displays are odd, whether the problem might be in the wikicode that a template adds to a page.

Additional options on user pages[edit]

When you're viewing a user page or user talk page, you'll see three more links in the middle of the toolbox.

User contributions[edit]

Shows all edits by the editor whose user or user talk page you're looking at. The section about xx shows what the report looks like. This report lets you check for unreverted vandalism or spam by someone who just vandalized or spammed an article. It also help you get a more general sense of whether an editor is doing constructive edits or not.

Chapter 7: Dealing with vandalism and spam discusses a "revert, review, report or warn" process for vandalism; this report is one of the major parts of the review step. It also has a link to a page that shows whether the editor has been previously blocked.


Shows a combined display of a number of different logs: upload, patrol, page move, user creation, deletion, protection, user block, user renaming, and user rights. (The last five are logs of actions that normal editors can't do.)

You can narrow the list of edits in three ways:

  • By selecting a log type
  • By selecting the user name for a user of interest
  • By selecting a page name ("Article", or "User talk:Username", for example)

Normal edits aren't in any of those logs; for those, see the Recent changes special page (filterable by namespace), or use the User contributions special page, or use a page history.

Email this user[edit]

If an editor has not set up email with Wikipedia (the section about xx), you don't see this link. If you do see it and you've also turned on email, then you can email that editor. Details on this email process are on the section about xx.

Keyboard shortcuts[edit]

If you like to keep your hands on your keyboard, typing key combinations to save time rather than using the mouse, you may be surprised not to find many keyboard shortcuts sprinkled throughout this book. Wikipedia does have such shortcuts, but the exact key combinations depend not only on your operating system (Mac or Windows) and your Web browser, but even the version of the Web browser you're using.

The page Wikipedia:Keyboard shortcuts (shortcut: WP:K) tells you what special keys to press in combination letter or number keys to do something. For example, in Internet Explorer for Windows, Shift+Alt+Z takes you to the Main Page. A number of the keystrokes work for administrators (sysops) only. But you'll find keyboard shortcuts for the Wikipedia features in the following locations:

  • The search box
  • Buttons below the edit box, like "Show preview" and "Publish changes"
  • The standard tabs along the top of the page
  • The six links at the upper-right of the screen