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Tips and tricks

Become a keyboard ninja

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By EpicPupper
Tip of the Day (TOTD) is an effort organized by contributors to "provide useful daily advice on how to use or develop Wikipedia more effectively." These tips are selected from the week before publication.

Running MediaWiki on your own computer

MediaWiki is the software that runs Wikipedia. It is open source and is available for download for free. You can use it for offline access to the Wikipedia database, or to set up a wiki of your own.

However, MediaWiki requires other software to be able to run. The prerequisite programs are Apache/IIS, MySQL4 or later (5 or later as of version 1.19) and PHP5. When bundled together, these are referred to as AMP. They are also open source and free.

The Manual Installation Guide explains how to install MediaWiki from scratch. Note that some users may find MediaWiki software bundles and MediaWiki hosting services with one-click installation and wiki farms to be convenient alternatives to manual installation.

Navigate faster using Wikipedia shortcuts

Many of the pages in the Wikipedia namespace have specialized redirects called "shortcuts" that can be entered into the search box. Most shortcuts start with "WP:" followed by a capitalized abbreviation of the page name. Some common shortcuts are: WP:HELP, WP:WELCOME, WP:IMAGE, WP:5P, and of course, WP:TIP. A semi-complete list of shortcuts is available at Wikipedia:Shortcuts.

A shortcut can be used in the search box or in a link. To jump to the talk page of a page with a shortcut, start with "WT:" instead of "WP:".

Searching Wikipedia with regular expressions (regex)

Searching with regex online

To search Wikipedia live with regular expressions, use the insource: parameter, followed by your regex search string enclosed in forward slashes, like this: /regular expression/. Here is an example:

insource:/(Abraham|Abe) Lincoln/

Insource searches the wikitext version of articles; thus, wikiformatting codes can be included in the search string. If any characters you wish to find are used as special characters within regex, they will need to be "escaped" by preceding each with a backslash. For a cheat sheet on writing regexes, see Wikipedia:AutoWikiBrowser/Regular expression.

For case insensitive searches, include an "i" after the closing forward slash.

Searching with regex offline

To search all of Wikipedia offline using regex, you need to download the Wikipedia database and do the search offline with AutoWikiBrowser's Database Scanner. Activate it from the tools menu in AutoWikiBrowser (AWB). It returns the names of the pages that match your query, which you can have sent directly to AWB's list maker (then you can use AWB to view them all). The Database Scanner has many features, and each query can be easily configured to match, exclude, specify namespaces, ignore redirects, etc. as you see fit.

Other methods of searching Wikipedia with regular expressions

Getting your edit count

Instead of counting your edits 500 at a time in your contributions list, you could look up your grand total on your Preferences page. Your number of edits is listed under "Basic information", near the top of the page.

To get more details about your edits, try XTools Edit Counter, which tallies up all your edits of each area of Wikipedia, and displays the totals for each and the grand total. It also shows the number of unique pages edited, the average edits per page, number of edits still active, and how many edits have been deleted.

Transclusion vs. Substitution

There are two main ways to use templates on articles:

Transclusion will include the content of "Template Name" on the fly whenever the article is loaded, while the latter will permanently insert the content of the template into the article. With substitution, even if the template content is modified at a later date, the article's content will not change.

Substitution is the preferred method for long-term, permanent notices because it is less confusing, and it even helps to lighten the load on the database. Substitution has the further advantage in that a template's content may be de-linked from any associated category or slightly modified to suit the circumstances, such as when the template is used on a talk page. Transclusion is preferred for displaying material that is normally updated; that way, all the places it appears are updated in a single operation.

Link to Wiktionary word definitions using "Wikt:"

You've come across a word that is crucial to understanding the article you are working on, and you want to create a link to its definition. But you find the encyclopedia article for that word would be overkill. So you want to link to its Wiktionary definition. How? It's easy. Here's an example using the word "understanding":

both [[wiktionary:understanding|]] and [[wikt:understanding|]] will look like this:


and link to the definition of the word "understanding".

Notice that the "pipe trick" (|) was used in the links above.

SuggestBot is a fun way to pick pages to edit

Let SuggestBot point the way. SuggestBot is a program that attempts to help Wikipedia users find pages to edit. It matches people with pages they might like to contribute to based on their past contributions. It uses a variety of algorithms, including standard information retrieval and collaborative filtering techniques, to make suggestions. It also sometimes points people to the Community portal, or their past edits, as a source of inspiration.

If you are looking for SuggestBot recommendations, you have these options.

  1. To get a single set of suggestions:
    1. …based on articles you've edited, please follow the instructions at User:SuggestBot/Requests.
    2. …using WikiProjects you are interested in, go to the Teahouse's SuggestBot page, click on "Get suggestions", and follow the instructions.
    3. …based on a specific set of articles or categories of articles, see our SuggestBot instructions for that.
  2. You can also get suggestions posted periodically to your talk page (or another page of your choosing). The instructions are described here.

Work faster with keyboard shortcuts

Wikipedia has keystroke combinations that can speed up your work, like ⇧ Shift+Alt+F to "focus" on (jump to) the search box, ⇧ Shift+Alt+M to move the current page and its talk page, ⇧ Shift+Alt+T to open the current article's talk page, ⇧ Shift+Alt+Y to open a list of your user's contributions, and many more. Those are for Microsoft Windows users. On macOS, press Control instead of ⇧ Shift+Alt. For some browsers, the access key is the Alt key instead. For details see Keyboard shortcuts.

Tips and Tricks is a general editing advice column written by experienced editors. If you have suggestions for a topic, or want to submit your own advice, follow these links and let us know (or comment below)!

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