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 edit

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 undo unsaved changes during the current session, click "Preferences" again. "Restore all default settings" will harmlessly load another page which will then offer the button to restore all preferences in every tab, to default values.

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 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 edit

Preferences → User profile → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#User profile
  • Change your password.
  • Stay logged in for 30 days at a time.
  • Change your signature.
  • 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".

Appearance edit

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

Change the web browser experience, including:

  • Change your skin.
  • Access your Custom CSS or Custom JavaScript. The red-lettered version of the link knows the filename to create.
  • Show hidden categories
  • Bail out of features and experiments, such as banners and other page behaviors.
  • Change the default "thumbnail" size.
  • Make paragraphs justified.
  • Number section headings.
  • Choose PNG, TeX, or MathJax for displaying mathematical formulas

Date and time edit

Preferences → Date and time → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#Date and time

Change the date format and time zone in automatically generated pages like logs. It does not affect times saved in editable pages such as timestamps in signatures. For that, see Wikipedia:Comments in Local Time.

Editing edit

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 browser page now shows the "live" online version in the "preview" area. Preview displays 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.

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 edit

Preferences → Recent changes → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#Recent changes

Recent changes refer to 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.

Watchlist edit

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

The watchlist preferences are both recent change preferences and offer controls on types of edits, users, and pages, and the time window of "recent" changes that show up.

Search edit

Preferences → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#Search options
  • Choose the namespaces to search.
  • Choose how the search box buttons and frame appear.
  • Change whether the drop-down-list appears suggesting existing page names.

Misc edit

Preferences → Misc → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#Misc
  • Change whether "diffs" are accompanied by an actual page view of the earlier version or not.
  • Make WikiLove messages easy to send. These will post a pleasant picture and provide an edit summary for your message on a user's talk page.
  • Make course pages more or less prominent while you surf Wikipedia.

Gadgets edit

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.

Notifications edit

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.

Pending changes edit

Preferences → Pending changes → Details = meta:Help:Preferences#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.

Other tools edit

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 edit

Notes edit

  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. ^ Compiled by the Mozilla Contributors.