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This is a how-to-guide on using MediaWiki. MediaWiki is the software that powers this and other wikis including the online encylclopedia Wikipedia


Editing Pages

To edit this wiki you are required to create an account / login.

Editing an Existing Page

  1. Start by clicking on the edit tab at the top of the page to open the Edit box
  2. Type text and make edits in the edit box. You can add formatting using wikitext and the Editing toolbar (see Basic Formatting below)
  3. Click the Show Preview button to see how your changes look
  4. To save your changes, click the Save Page button

Starting (& Editing) a New Page

Before adding a new page, search the wiki to see if any pages with a similar name already exist.

To add a new blank page you create an internal link to it:

  1. Start by editing an existing page
  2. Type the name of your new page in double square brackets like this [[New Blank Page]]
    You can either type the square brackets or use the internal link button in the editing toolbar (Select the text and then click the button)
  3. Save the page. You will now see the red text New Blank Page on your original page.
  4. Click on New Blank Page to go to that page and start editing it.

Edit Summary & Minor Edits

There are some optional fields to note before clicking the 'Save Page' button:

  1. The Edit Summary box - You can add a summary of your changes to the Summary field before saving. This is very useful for link building services anyone who is tracking changes.
  2. 'Minor Edit' tick box - tick minor edit for typos, formatting and small changes where the overall meaning has not changed. Again, minor edits are highlighted in the track changes features
  3. 'Watch this Page' tick box - See Watching Pages (below) for details.

Basic Formatting

Simple formatting in a wiki is easily acheived using the editing toolbar or wikitext in the editing box. More advanced formatting requires more detailed knowledge of wikitext and HTML and is covered in the official MediaWiki Handbook.

The MediaWiki Editing Toolbar found above the editing box includes some formatting options

Wikitext - Text on a wiki is formatted using wikitext. For example, 3 apostrophes in front of & after a word is bold in wikitext. So, in the editing box: '''word or phrase''' would generate word or phrase on the wiki page.


Headings are used to structure the page and generate a table of contents:

  • Wikitext - section & subsection headings are created using the = sign as follows:
== Section Heading ==
=== SubSection Heading ===
==== Smaller SubSection Heading ====
  • Toolbar - the capital A button can be used for the adding a == Section Heading ==. The button is labelled 'Level 2 Headline' (because the page title is the first level). For further subsection headings you must manually type the wikitext.

Lists - Bullets & Numbered

  • Wikitext - use * to create bulleted lists and # to create numbered lists. Add the * or # at the start of the line in the editing box.
    • Multiple *s & #s can be used for sub points (For example, this line starts **)
      • While this one starts ***
  • And back to one *
  • Mixing bullets (*) and numbers (#) doesn't work so stick to one or the other
  • Toolbar - not used for lists

Bold & Italic

  • Wikitext
    • Bold text is acheived with 3 apostophes before and after the word or phrase. '''BOLD''' displays as BOLD
    • Italic text is acheived with 2 apostophes before and after the word or phrase. ''ITALIC'' displays as ITALIC
  • Toolbar - the first two buttons are for BOLD and ITALIC


  • Wikitext
You can indent text by placing a colon (:) at the start of the line (this line is indented!)
  • Toolbar - not used for indenting

Horizontal Line

You can add a horizontal line

to divide text. But use it sparingly. It is usually better to use a == Section Heading == which will include a horizontal line.

  • Wikitext - type ---- on its own line to add a horizontal line
  • Toolbar - the last button of the toolbar is the horizontal line button

Preformatted Text

This is a preformatted box
It is designed to preserve formatting
But it can be used to emphasise a small amount of text
  • Wikitext - a space at the start of the line creates a preformatted box. Text doesn't wrap, so long paragraphs don't work!
  • Toolbar - not used for this


It's very easy to create hyperlinks in a wiki. They can be internal or external.

Internal links

Internal links are links are those within the wiki and they were partially explained in 'Starting (& Editing) a New Page' as new pages are created by creating an internal link.

  • Wikitext - internal links are created by surrounding text with double square brackets. So [[Main_Page]] would link to the Main_Page (home) of this wiki. If the page doesn't already exist then it is created so take care when doing internal links!
  • Toolbar - the Ab button on the toolbar is the internal link button.

Variations for internal links

  1. Display different text (the link name) as the link - For example, [[Main_Page|Wiki Homepage]] will produce Wiki Homepage. The character separating the page name and the link name is the | (pipe). It's the <shift>+<\> on most keyboards.
  2. Link to a Section - You can link to a section heading on any page by using the section heading in the link. [[Help:Editing#Basic Formatting|Basic Formatting Section]] will link to Basic Formatting Section on this page.

External Links

External links are those going outside of the wiki. For example, links to other websites or email addresses.

  • Wikitext - external links can be simply typed in full like this: or can use single square brackets to display a link name, with a space between the URL and the link name. So [ ALT Homepage] will display as ALT Homepage.
  • Toolbar - the toolbar button for an external link is the globe. You will need to type the URL including the http:// and a space manually. The button only provides the square brackets around your link name.

Variations for external links:

  1. Numbered link - If the link name is omitted then the link is numbered. so [] will produce [1] (linking to
  2. Email Link - create an email (or mailto:) link as with other external links. Type [ Email ALT Publications] for Email ALT Publications



Table of contents

The Table of Contents is automatically generated. You can disable it by adding __NOTOC__ anywhere on the editing page (including the underlines).

Signing your contributions

You can add your username to your contribution by typing 3 tildes ~~~ The date & time can be included by using four tildes ~~~~. The signature button in the toolbar will also do this (2nd last button). For example, --Mattlingard 10:29, 13 August 2010 (BST)

Adding Footnotes

You can add a footnote by entering <ref>Your reference</ref> after the text requiring a footnote, and then <references /> at the end of the document to display the footnote.

For example, there is a linked footnote for this sentence[1]. It is linked to the full reference in the notes section below (usually this would go at the foot of the document!).


  1. Fastovsky, D.E. and Weishampel, D.B. 2005. The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Using the Discussion

Each wiki page has an associated discussion page. This can be used to discuss the development of the 'real' page but depending on the wiki this type of conversation could take place on the real page. It is recommended that you make use of the signature feature when discussing on a wiki. You can also use colons to ident your comments to make reading easier. For example,

I think we need to develop Section 3 further--Mattlingard 10:31, 13 August 2010 (BST)

I agree, and perhaps we could merge sections 4 & 6--SebSchmoller 10:50, 13 August 2010 (BST)

Tracking Changes

All edits made in a wiki are recorded allowing you to keep track of recent changes. This functionality also allows you to revert to earlier versions of a page if necessary but this is only recommended in extreme circumstances (e.g. vandalism). To encourage ongoing contributions it is generally better to edit rather than revert.

Recent Changes

A special page listing Recent Changes is automatically available. Look for a link in the left-hand navigation or in the list of Special pages. It lists all edits to all pages in reverse chronological order and includes the time and the user details.

Watching Pages

To keep track of changes to specific pages you can choose to watch a page. This, in effect, builds a custom Recent Changes page, just listing the pages you are interested in.

  • To view your custom list of watched pages, click on the "my watchlist" link (top-right when you are logged in) or go to Special:Watchlist
  • To add a page to your watchlist, either click on the Watch tab above the page OR tick the "Watch this page" box before saving an edit

Page History

You can view and compare older versions of any page via the History tab. If necessary you can also revert to an earlier version. Start by clicking on the History tab. Versions are displayed in reverse chronological order (newest first).

  • Viewing older versions - click on a date to view a specific version
  • Comparing versions - select the two versions to be compared with the radio buttons and click the 'Compare selected versions' button. (You can also use the cur and last links to view comparisons)
  • Reverting a Page - Remember: Edit where possible and reserve the use of 'reverting' for extreme cases such as vandalism. To revert a page, view the appropriate version via the History tab and then click the edit tab. Add an appropriate comment (e.g. revert) to the Edit Summary and click the 'Save Page' button.

Further Help

There is a lot of existing online help on using MediaWiki:

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