Wikipedia:Editing on mobile devices

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This page being edited on an iPad

The 21st century has brought a very wide range of technology that we can use to access the Internet far from home or desk. This lets us edit Wikipedia anywhere we are. On the bus. On the train. In the waiting room. By the poolside. Even while away on vacation.

First came the laptop computer. Laptops vary in weight and ease to transport, but regardless, can be moved around between places without hooking and unhooking wires.

Then came the smartphone. All smartphones are easy to transport, but the tiny glass screen is hard to type on, and the ease of editing Wikipedia varies, being impossible on some. But this has improved over time.

And now there are tablet computers. They have existed for some time, but the iPad made tablets popular, providing a screen and keyboard as big as on a small laptop computer, in a handy lightweight package now outsold by its many imitators.

The ability to edit anywhere may bring more editing. The volume of editing has declined as Wikipedia becomes more "finished", and there's no knowing whether greater access in editing will counter this loss.

Some mobile devices, including most smartphones, allow editing Wikipedia (see Wikipedia:Mobile access for more details). This enables many people to use otherwise wasted time while on the go. This convenience, however, comes with limitations and may leave poorer results. (For a more positive point of view and tips for effective smartphone editing, see Cullen328's essay Smartphone editing.)

Limitations[edit]

Common limitations include:

  • Most devices have only a clumsy copy-paste; some have none. They cannot easily place references or templates on a page.
  • History and Talk Pages may be more difficult to access than article text, or even inaccessible. As of spring 2015, in the mobile interface most or all pages have history and talk links at the foot of the page. The history link is on the phrase "This page last edited by ___".
  • While most devices contain cameras, some cannot upload an image to Wikipedia or Wikimedia commons.
  • Mobile devices lack a mouse, and some may not have the kind of touch screen interface that allows selecting toolbar icons. Some kinds of formatting may be tricky or impossible, but basic wikicode is always available.
  • Some devices may not allow the user to see what they are typing, thus making it virtually impossible to properly edit pages.
  • Compatibility is limited. Mobile View does not show categories, nor some templates. Visual Editor does not work with iPad's default browser. Most Wikipedia videos do not move when seen in Windows RT phones and tablets.

Edits you may want to do on your mobile device[edit]

Although most editing can wait until you are at your regular computer, there are some edits that you may want to do on your mobile device:

  • Deletion – if a deletion nomination occurs to an article that you are interested in keeping, you may wish to comment as soon as possible. Because there is a tendency for others to follow the leader and for the earlier comments to strongly influence the outcome, being the "early bird to get the worm" is important.
  • Things you may forget – If you remember some small detail while you have your smartphone but will likely forget it later, and the edit is small, this is a good time to make the edit.

Issues[edit]

IP editing[edit]

Anonymous editing, also known as IP editing, produces a long number tying the edit to other contributions. IP edits make up a significant percentage of edits, but provide no way to know whether the same person made all these edits, especially if some time has passed between them.

An IP editor who "gets around" may produce edits under a lot of different IP addresses and leave no way of tracing them all to a single person. This is especially the case when an IP editor uses Wi-Fi to connect in many places. For one who uses a 3G connection, all the edits may appear to come from one or two IP ranges.

Of course, this is not a major problem when editing is done in good faith. When it is disruptive, the "mobile vandal" becomes a problem.

Uploading[edit]

With the advent of iOS 6, it is now possible to upload an image to Wikipedia with any iOS device (iPhones and iPads). Android devices have long been able to do this. The user must first log-in using the Desktop view.

References[edit]

Some smartphones lack the ability to copy-paste (though Apple devices with iOS 3 or newer, and many other devices, can). This makes it hard to include references in an article.

If you make an edit or create an article and plan to add sources later, try to leave a note on the discussion page or in hidden text to let others know of your intentions. This may not be accepted by all, but at least if others know of your plans, your edit may stick.

Slowness[edit]

Editing from a phone is slow. With small screen and no mouse, it can be hard to manipulate text onscreen. Editing text, cut and pasting - even reading is slow. Make small edits, to reduce edit conflicts which can lead to losing all your new text. Losing a half-hour's typing can seriously sap your Wiki-morale. More frequent saves can reduce the risk.

Scrolling[edit]

Scrolling is common in the edit window. To reduce the amount of scrolling required, log in and enlarge the editing window in your preferences. The setting is found in the 'Editing' tab of 'Preferences', labeled 'Set size of editing window'. Set the number of Rows to a large amount such as 80.

Wikipedia apps[edit]

On many devices, apps for Wikipedia are available that enable the reading of the most recent version of any article in the presence of an Internet connection. Some, such as the official Wikipedia app, enable both reading and editing; others reading only.

See also[edit]