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Preferences are the seventy or so user options for browsing, editing, searching, notifications, and more. A link to your Preferences page is available at the top of every Wikipedia page when you have an account, alongside links to your other account services such as your Contributions. Another way to get there is by navigating to the Special:Preferences page.

Once at your Preferences page, you can control much of the Wikipedia user interface through the many feature settings provided by MediaWiki (the software of Wikipedia): skins, plug-ins, date formats, a signature, and more. For example, you can select to be prompted to enter an edit summary if you forget to. The Preferences page also presents a link to customize your CSS to adjust your page style details.

Plus, there are hundreds of user tools to explore, many listed at Wikipedia:Tools § Browsing and editing, that can override or tweak preferences provided by MediaWiki. Each account has its own Custom JavaScript page where the tools install themselves, and where you can help develop them.

At their site, MediaWiki maintains a browser compatibility matrix. The time you spend in getting an account, setting your preferences, finding tools and testing your browser (before you ever lose an edit) will pay off.

Feature requests can be made, and bugs reported, as described at Wikipedia:Phabricator. The current set of preferences are largely the result of issues raised by newcomers at places such as the Village pump, and driven by regulars who hold long discussions and collectively drive issues.

Preferences page

The Preferences page is accessible when you are logged-in, but you must have JavaScript enabled in your browser, since the page and all its tabs are an extensive JavaScript application.

You do not need to click Save on every tab on the Preferences page, as the Save button affects all changes on all Preferences tabs.[1] You can go from tab to tab setting all your preferences before saving, because Save remembers your changes on the other tabs. To forget unsaved changes, simply leave the page without saving. If you wish to undo your saved changes, you will need to reset them manually.

Clicking Restore all default settings will harmlessly load another page, which will then offer the button to reset all preferences in every tab to their default values. This includes a few items that are stored as a preference, but that aren't directly editable in Special:Preferences. If you do reset your preferences, you can restore your custom signature from the wikitext of a history page, update your custom CSS or JavaScript from Wikipedia:Tools § Browsing and editing, and then re-select and save your preferences.

The default settings are aimed at newcomers editing articles. Intermediate editors tend to activate more features, such as "warn me if I forgot an edit summary", and advanced editors and administrators use the special settings, gadgets, and editors for their tasks.

You have the same username and password on sister projects such as Wiktionary, at MediaWiki.org itself, and on the Wikipedia of other languages. Each of your account's preferences are independent because each wiki is a website, with their own administration (namespaces, settings, accounts, etc.). Even the word "Preferences" on the top may be set differently! On the Simple English Wikipedia, it says "My settings".

User profile

Preferences → User profile → Details = mw:Help:Preferences#User profile

Basic information

  • Lists your account details and the number of edits you have made.
  • Allows you to view/manage your global account info.
  • Provides a link to change your password.


  • Change the language of user-interface messages. It does not affect articles and other pages made by editors. Note that many interface messages have been customized at the English Wikipedia but usually only for the default "en - English" which may for example add links to relevant help pages, processes and policies. Editors are discouraged from selecting "en-GB - British English" or "en-CA - Canadian English", which make a few spelling changes but omit many useful customizations.[2] Foreign languages also omit customizations but may be preferred by users with poor English abilities.
  • Specify your preferred pronoun in order for the software to grammatically refer to you correctly. This is also visible to other users via certain tools, such as the they template and Navigation popups.
  • More language settings: allows you to set the language in which Wikipedia menus and fonts are displayed; additionally, an option to set the language you edit in (input tools must be enabled).


  • Displays the signature that will appear when you sign talk pages.
  • Allows you to edit the signature, either using wiki markup (the option must be checked), or just plain text.

Email options

  • An option to provide an email address. Although this is optional, please read the warning about losing your password and not having an email address on file.
  • Options about use of your email address: enabling email from other users, sending copies of emails you send to other users, and receiving email when a page or file on your watchlist is changed.
  • Before using email you must confirm your email address. See Help:Email confirmation
  • "Email me when a page or file on my watchlist is changed", see Help:Email notification

Newcomer homepage

See Wikipedia:Growth Team features § Newcomer homepage


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

Change the web browser experience.


Skin Preferences

  • Choose the "skin", or "theme" of how Wikipedia is displayed.
  • Access your Custom CSS or Custom JavaScript for individual skins and for global settings that apply to all skins. If the links are blue, you have created these special pages and this is a quick way to access and edit them. If the links are red, clicking the link will create the special page. You can also access your cross-wiki CSS and JavaScript pages from this section, but the color of the links will always be that of external links.

Reading Preferences

Date format

  • Option to set your date and time preferences; this is how dates will appear in article History pages, logs, etc. If set to "No preference", the format is HH:MM, DD MMMM YYYY (UTC), for example: 02:14, 15 June 2024 (UTC).

Time offset

  • Shows the server time (UTC) and the local time based on the optional Time zone setting. You may opt to use the server time (UTC), have the offset calculated by the clock in your computer, or specify an offset from UTC in hours or by location.
  • This does not affect times saved in editable pages, such as timestamps in signatures. For that, see Wikipedia:Comments in Local Time.


  • The images in an article are just a thumbnail (a preview). These will always be one of eight possible Thumbnail sizes. For the larger screen sizes choose the maximum, and for the smaller screen sizes choose the minimum thumbnail size. The default 220px is a midrange thumbnail-size. Have you changed your font size? Then you should match that font size to your chosen thumbnail size to increase caption readability.
  • While viewing an article, if you click a thumbnail you will activate Media Viewer. Media Viewer is JavaScript, and it uses processing resources. It loads all the images in the article at high resolution, and this uses networking resources. This is the default. You can turn off Media Viewer to save resources: 1) to control all image sizing, 2) to navigate directly to a file page (instead) when you click on a thumbnail.
  • You can target the Image size limit of the file page main image, (displayed in the front matter). On a faster network choose a larger size, and on a slower network choose a smaller Image size limit. The default 800×600px is a midrange Image size limit. File pages are on Commons wiki, and if logged in there, going there overrides your settings here.
  • Note that you can both turn off Media Viewer and set a small Image size limit, and yet you will not limit your ability to avail yourself of any high resolution images listed at the bottom of that file page, when wanted. Doing so you can get full manual control of any unwanted, automatic bogging-down of your surfing speed caused by automated choices concerning File namespace interactions initiated by clicking on an image.


  • Option to not show page content below the diffs; checking this will suppress the page preview of the difference you're viewing.
  • Option to omit a diff after performing a rollback

Advanced options

  • Choose to display hyperlinks with underlines in your browser window always, never, or by browser or Wikipedia-skin default.
  • Format links as stub links when the article they link to is smaller than the threshold you set on file size. Stub link formatting changes the link color to the dark brown displayed in this option's text. This option can help you see links to small articles (more likely to be stubs) so that you might expand them. It is also useful for spotting links to disambiguation pages, which are also relatively small. They are usually linked to in error, but often contain on their list a link to the correct article, making this error easy to fix.
  • Show hidden categories.



  • Choose to display a more compacted language list.


Preferences → Editing → Details = mw:Help:Preferences#Editing

Concerning the edit page, its initiation, and look and feel, Wikipedia offers a high number of options. Some of them are:

  • "Prompt me when entering a blank edit summary (or the default undo summary)" into the database. (Habit-forming.)
  • "Enable VisualEditor". Get a word processor interface. No markup language at all.
  • "Show preview without reloading the page". Get a dynamic web page. Browser reloading now gives a glimpse at the live original without having to leave the edit page. And there is no longer any need to create an entirely new page for each preview requested; live preview just reloads parts of its page, and so it offers no browser history backwards, but disturbs no history forward either. Saves some network bandwidth and lots of browser cache. Just save your edits before disabling JavaScript.[3] (First-time users should perform a simple compatibility test.[4])

The font size for the edit box can be set in Wikipedia editing preferences or in the browser. In Firefox, there are two font-size settings at Options → Content → "Default font" Advanced…, one for the edit box, and one for the rest of the page. If you just want uniformity, check to see if it allows Wikipedia to choose its own font; then you set Wikipedia's "Edit Area Font Style" to "Serif" or "Sans Serif", and the font size in the edit box will match the rest of the page.

The number of rows in the edit box is no longer set in preferences. For a temporary change, when the edit box is displayed, drag up or down the small square in the bottom right corner of the edit box. Alternatively, make the change stick by adding this line to your CSS file (in Preferences, Appearance), usually Special:MyPage/common.css:

#wpTextbox1 {height: 25em;}

where 25em is an example (and typical), height.

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

Preferences → Recent changes → Display options & Advanced options = mw:Help:Preferences#Recent changes

Recent changes refer to changes of 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.

More information about these various histories can be found at the following places. For global changes to Wikipedia pages, see Help:Recent changes. For user contributions, see Help:User contributions. For page histories, see Help:Page history. For other types of logs see Help:Log.

Pending changes

Preferences → Recent changes → Pending changes = mw:Help:Preferences#Pending changes/Edit review

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.


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

The watchlist options include which pages, and what "recent" means to you. If your Preferences has "Email me when a page or file on my watchlist is changed" set (at the bottom of the "User profile" tab), then only by visiting a page will you actually set its email notification flag. Once you miss the email for a particular page change or don't visit the page (or ignore the email), you will not receive any more emails for that page. You can still dutifully monitor that page by its watchlist edit-summaries, but its particular email notification flag will remain unset until you visit it. This facilitates monitoring a large watchlist while preventing potentially useless emails to you.

In case you want to set all email notifications anyway, you can at any time mark all pages "visited". If your Preferences → Gadgets has "Display pages on your watchlist that have changed since your last visit in bold", then your watchlist will have a button labeled "Mark all pages visited". That button will effectively set all of your email notification flags.


Preferences → Notifications

These settings alter the Special:Notifications tool. 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.

For a full explanation of the specific preferences, see Wikipedia:Notifications § Preferences and settings.

Email options
  • Choose whether to opt-in or opt-out of email notifications (you must confirm your email address on your Preferences → User profile → Email options). You can also choose how often to receive email notifications, from single emails for each event to daily or weekly digests.
  • Choose whether to receive plain text or HTML email.
Notify me about these events

You can enable (or disable) individual types of notifications by checking (or unchecking) the boxes next to it. You can enable (or disable) notifications on the web or by email for most notification types (note that some notifications cannot be disabled, such as changes to your user rights or new talk page messages: these notifications are too important to be dismissed).

Wikipedia:Notifications § Types of notifications has a general list of the types of notifications. Special:DisplayNotificationsConfiguration lists all notification types available and how they are configured.

Muted users

You can mute on-site notifications from individual users by enter their username into the box. You will still receive notifications if a muted user writes on your user talk page or reviews a page you have created. The muted user will still receive a successful mention notification, if they've enabled that preference.

Muting pages

You can mute "page linked" notifications for specific pages by typing each page's name into the box.


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. A 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
  • Mousing over or hovering over 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.
  • Justifying paragraphs
  • 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.

Beta features

Preferences → Beta features → Details = mw:Beta Features

Beta Features is a way for users to test new features on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites before they are released for everyone.

Other tools

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 Wikipedia: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


  1. ^ It is true that each tab will create a URL in the browser history, but these URLs do not represent historical differences in the JavaScript instance that loaded with the Preferences page itself. The per-tab URLs only purpose is to serve the browser's back- and forward-navigation.
  2. ^ Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)/Archive 184#Discourage en-xx UI variants
  3. ^ If you disable JavaScript for any page on MediaWiki.org or Wikipedia.org, you will lose all unsaved edits in all tabs; yet disabling JavaScript is a common troubleshooting technique when diagnosing some preference-related browser behaviors.
  4. ^ The danger in using Live preview is on first use with an incompatible browser. Try a simple test: make a change to the edit box, then reload the page.
  5. ^ Compiled by the Mozilla Contributors.