Wikipedia is one of those excellent no-signup websites you use every day and you probably never thought about registering for it. Well, you’re doing it wrong! Logging into Wikipedia should be your first move because of how much better that makes the online encyclopedia.
Here are the best benefits and features you can look forward to.
Hovercards for Links
Any article you read on Wikipedia usually contains several links to other articles. Some of these can be really interesting and weird, and deserve to be clicked and read independently. Some, however, are just good enough to understand the context and move on.
Hovercards save you a click. Hover your mouse cursor over the link and a preview pane will show up, that displays the introductory stub of the article along with the main image. It saves you a lot of trouble and enriches the Wikipedia experience greatly! It’s like a useful Wikipedia plug-in, but you don’t need to install anything.
Going forward, this feature will also incorporate Wikitionary to get instant definitions and other Wikipedia collaborations for more info.
Activate it by going to Preferences > Beta Features > Hovercards
As an endless encyclopedia of knowledge, there are plenty of ways to learn something new on Wikipedia every day. But how do you learn new things about topics you’re already interested in?
Related Pages is a super-useful addition that shows suggested articles at the bottom of any page you’re reading, linking you to other articles of interest. The reasoning is that if a user has got to the bottom of an article, he is obviously interested enough to read that topic fully. So when given another such topic, he’ll want to read more.
The team that made this feature say that tests showed that 25% of the users who saw such “read more” results clicked through at least once in a 1-day period.
Activate it by going to Preferences > Beta Features > Related Pages
Control How Links Open
Wikipedia depends upon citations from reliable external resources. But just because you want to check a citation doesn’t mean you’re done with the page. A simple trick is to set all external links to open in a new tab.
Activate it by going to Preferences > Gadgets > Browsing > Open external links in a new tab or window
Similarly, you might also be tempted to search new topics while you’re reading some insanely weird Wikipedia articles. Don’t get sidetracked. Go to the search bar, type your query, and press CTRL before you press Enter. This can open any search results in a new tab.
Activate it by going to Preferences > Gadgets > Browsing > Open search results in a new tab or window when pressing down the Ctrl key
Four Different Skins
Bored of how Wikipedia looks? Well, you’d be surprised to know that there are different skins available to customize its design! In fact, Wikipedia itself provides four different skins: Cologne Blue, Modern, Monobook, and Vector (the default skin you always see).
Not only do you get to customize the look with this, but you also don’t need fantastic free Wikipedia extensions, so the look will be consistent across different browsers and computers or mobiles.
Activate it by going to Preferences > Appearance > Skin
Hide Donation Banners
Wikipedia is completely free to use, but once a year, you’ll see a banner asking you to donate money so it continues to remain free. We aren’t going to argue about the ethics of why Wikipedia needs donations if it has millions already.
But if these banners annoy you, then the easiest way to suppress them is by signing in, whether you have donated or not. In fact, apart from donations, you can also curb other announcement banners that Wikipedia pushes sometimes.
Activate it by going to Preferences > Gadgets > Browsing > Suppress display of fundraiser banners
Activate it by going to Preferences > Gadgets > Browsing > Suppress display of CentralNotices
Create a Watchlist and Bookmark Articles
Since it’s a publicly editable encyclopedia, almost anyone has the ability to change information on a Wikipedia page. While moderators do a good job of ensuring the information is sound, when it comes to topics you care about or are directly related to, it’s best to check the data yourself. By adding a page to your “Watchlist”, you will be notified of any changes or edits made to it.
The cooler part is that this also serves as your personal bookmark system. Let’s say you read about one of the fascinating people on Wikipedia. You can add other such people to your Watchlist and return to it whenever you want. Plus, if you are tracking a topic — like say, you’re interested in the Steven Avery case — you will know if something new has happened by your Watchlist notifying you. Remember, Wikipedia editors are enthusiastic and prompt, so that will be one of the first places to issue a verified update!
Cicking the Watchlist (star) icon on any page to add it to your list.
Review your watchlist by going to Preferences > Watchlist > View and remove titles on your watchlist
Vote on Picture of the Year and Board Members
Wikimedia Commons, one of the essential Wikipedia sister sites, gets many images uploaded to it all the time. Every year, it holds a “Picture of the Year” (POTY) contest, and with a registered account, you can vote to choose it! Be a part of the two-round process. Good news: The 2015 POTY hasn’t been chosen yet, so register now and you’ll be ready for it.
Apart from POTY, you also get to vote in the Wikipedia board member’s election to choose who should get a seat at the big table.
There’s a Lot More…
These are just some of the many advantages of registering for a Wikipedia account and signing in to the site. There are plenty of other benefits, such as:
- Starting new pages
- Uploading images to Wikimedia Commons
- Using the same account on sister sites like Wikitionary
- Editing semi-protected pages
- Advanced editing tools
- Your personal talk page
- See the under-construction Main Page redesign by default
The point is simply that once you sign in and explore the Preferences section, you’ll find a wide range of tools and features that you might find useful.
Would You Edit Wikipedia?
The biggest benefit of registering for Wikipedia is the amount of control it gives those who like to edit the public encyclopedia. You get to be part of a worldwide community of volunteers. And who knows, it could be a great opportunity to build your online reputation by earning some barnstars.
Have you ever edited a Wikipedia article? Why, and how did it make you feel? Now that you’re convinced to sign up, would you want to edit it?