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The preferences dialog allows you to personalize some aspects of MediaWiki. They will apply only when you are logged in.
The quickbar is the list of links to the special and maintenance pages. On some skins, you have the option to have the quickbar appear on the right or left side of the window. For these settings, the quickbar must be enabled to allow you access to certain features such as moving a page or uploading a file.
To change your password, enter your old password, the new password, and the new password a second time. (If you're merely changing the other preferences, you do not need to enter your password.)
A "skin" is a style of page display in MediaWiki. The changes are mainly cosmetic and alter only the appearance, not the functionality. However, some skins may override certain other settings in your preferences (such as the quickbar) — some users consider this a bug rather than a feature.
Rendering math formulas
MediaWiki allows you to enter mathematical equations as LaTeX code. These options let you control how that code is rendered into PNG images.
- Always render PNG: Always make a PNG image from the TeX code.
- HTML if very simple or else PNG: If the TeX code is very simple, like "x = 3", render it as HTML. For more complex code, render as PNG.
- HTML if possible or else PNG: This option tries really hard to use HTML, but if it's too complicated, then it renders it as PNG.
- Leave it as TeX: Don't convert the TeX code, just show it. This is primarily for text-based browsers like Lynx.
- Recommended for modern browsers. If you use a web browser that was released in the past year or so, use this option.
These options cover various other settings that control how MediaWiki renders article pages and presents editing functions.
- Show hoverbox over wiki links. On some browsers, putting the mouse pointer over a hyperlink can display the name of the link. This option's setting seems to have little or no control over this feature, at least with some browsers.
- Format broken links like this. This option is enabled by default. Normally, links to articles which do not yet exist (like the weather in London) will appear in red. You may optionally make these appear as a trailing question mark link (something like this?). This makes them stand out less, but it's kind of confusing to some people (it may be interpreted as indicating that the information is uncertain).
- Justify paragraphs. You may choose to have paragraphs displayed with full justification.
- Hide minor edits in recent changes. Registered users may choose to mark edits as being minor (meaning fixes too trivial for trusting users to check up on). It applies to Recent Changes, but not to the Watchlist.
- Enhanced recent changes (not for all browsers). Group recent changes per day by article, display the titles of the changed articles in order from new to old latest change, or in the case of hiding minor edits, latest major change.
- Auto-number headings. This adds hierarchical outline-style numbering to headers in articles.
- Remember password across sessions. Enabling this feature will place a HTTP cookie in your browser's cache, which will allow MediaWiki to recognize you each time you visit the page. You will not have to log in each time you visit. (This function will be nullified when you log out.)
- Edit box has full width. If this box is checked, the edit box (when you click "Edit this page") will be the width of the browser window, minus the QuickBar width.
- Enable section editing via  links. When this setting is enabled, an "edit" link will appear to the right of each section header. This feature makes the editing of long articles easier.
- Show table of contents (for articles with more than 3 headings).
- Watch new and modified articles. If this option is selected, any articles that you create or modify will be automatically added to your watchlist.
- Mark all edits minor by default. This option automatically selects the "This is a minor edit" checkbox when you edit pages. (Not recommended for new contributors.)
- Show preview before edit box and not after it. If you select this option, the preview will be displayed above the exit box when you click the "Show preview" button while editing a page.
- Disable page caching. This turns off page caching. This is useful if you're experiencing problems of seeing outdated versions of pages, but this comes at a cost of longer loading times.
Textbox and Time
- Textbox dimensions. Here you can set up your preferred dimensions for the textbox used for editing page text.
- Time diff. This is the number of hours to be added or subtracted from Coordinated Universal Time to find your time zone. This time zone is used when calculating displayed page update timestamps, and may become temporarily incorrect from time to time if you observe daylight saving time — don't forget to update it to match your local time, because MediaWiki doesn't know where you are or precisely when you celebrate DST. (Also, the server's clock may be slightly offset from reality, much as the articles may be.) A scattering of typical time diff values are below. If yours isn't listed, try this list of time zones and abbreviations or add and subtract a few hours as needed.
- -8 (DST -7) Pacific Time (North America)
- -5 (DST -4) Eastern Time (North America)
- -4 (DST -3) Atlantic Time (Canada's Martime provinces)
- 0 (DST +1) Greenwich Mean Time (Western Europe)
- +1 (DST +2) Central European Time
- +3 Eastern European Time
- +9 Japan
- +10 (DST +11) Australian Eastern Time
- +12 Pago Pago (American Samoa)
- -9 (DST -8) Alaska Time
- -10 (DST -9) Hawaii-Aleutian Time
The time is displayed in local time, according to the set preferences, in:
- Recent changes
- Related changes
- Page history, Image history
- User contributions
- New pages
- "This page was last modified" at the bottom of pages
The UTC time is applicable:
- In the signing of Talk pages
- In referring to non-localized events, including things that happen on the wiki.
Keep this in mind when copying an excerpt from Recent Changes, a revision history listing, etc. to a Talk page. Convert manually to UTC or temporarily set the preferences to a zero offset before producing the revision history etc. to be copied.
E-mail, Search, etc.
- Your e-mail: You may optionally register your e-mail address (it will not be shown publicly on the site). This will enable you to reset your password by clicking the "Mail me a new password" box on the log in screen, if you forget it. Additionally, it will enable other registered users to send e-mail to you from the "E-mail this user" link on your user page unless you've checked the disable box (see below).
- Disable e-mail from other users: If you check this, users will not be able to send you e-mail by way of the "E-mail this user" feature.
- Your nickname: You may optionally specify a nickname that is different from your username when you enter your signature with ~~~ or ~~~~.
- Number of titles on recent changes: You may select the number of changes which will be shown by default on the Recent Changes and Watchlist page. Once on those pages, links are provided for other options.
- Threshold for stub display: Links to articles with fewer characters than the amount you may specify here (e.g. 500, 1000, etc.) will be displayed in a different color. Helpful for identifying stubs.
- Hits to show per page: You may choose the number of results returned on each page of search results.
- Lines to show per hit is somewhat cryptic; specifying a number n means: "do not show any context if the search term occurs beyond line n in the page"; here a paragraph, as well as the blank line between two paragrahs, each count as one "line"; line breaks in the source, even when not affecting the lay-out of the page (and even when not directly visible in the edit box of the article), affect the line count. Setting the parameter to 5000 or more gives context for every occurrence.
- Characters of context per line: the number of characters of context per occurrence; however, the context is anyway restricted to the "line" (see above) it occurs in. To get the whole line, put a large number like 5000.
You cannot indicate personal information (such as your real name) here, but you may do so on a page named after your username in the User: namespace. (That's available as a link on the line which says "You are logged in as user WhatsYourName" above the preferences panel. Feel free to start your own page with anything you want to say about yourself on it.)
Browsers usually also allow you to specify preferences, e.g. font size and font type. The standard skin is compatible with your browser setting of font size and font type. The Cologne Blue skin has most text in a fixed font size, ignoring your browser setting. Some browsers, e.g. Internet Explorer, allow you to specify that font size specified in the web page is ignored. In that case the font size in Cologne Blue is as specified in the browser, but with the line height not adjusted accordingly. Therefore a large font gives a messy result.
The font size in the edit box is independent of the font size of the other text, and it does not seem to be adjustable at all, except by choosing the screen resolution.
Specifying that the colors specified in the web page are ignored is not recommended, because they are useful in the diff feature.