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Web Apps with Tiger: MediaWiki
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Exploring MediaWiki's Features

While I certainly can't run you through every feature of MediaWiki in my remaining word count, I can give you a taste of some of my favorites. You can read more about these, as well as everything else possible, over at MediaWiki.org.



  • Categorize content with [[Category:CategoryName]]. Did you just finish a big page about your favorite video game moment? Add [[Category:Games]] to the bottom of that page's content, save it, and that page is now categorized in "Games." You can add more than one category, [[Category:Religion]], perhaps, to indicate it deals in theistic content. Categories spring into existence once they've been assigned to a page; you don't have to worry about defining them beforehand. You can see all content assigned to a particular category by clicking the category name, or get an overview of all categories by visiting Special:Categories. Category pages themselves can also be edited, described, and assigned to other categories in the same way, creating a browseable hierarchy. For instance, you could create a Category:PS2 page and add [[Category:Games]] to indicate it is a child of "Games."
  • MediaWiki's change tracking is one of the best I've seen. In addition to the "Recent changes" page mentioned above, there's also the ability to "enhance" its display via a user preference: when enabled, all daily changes to a single document are condensed into an expandable group, which substantially reduces the clutter of an undecided and frequent content editor. Also, the ability to include a comment summarizing your changes creates a readable changelog, and the visual display of each individual "diff" is quite nice too.
  • The use of templates can help standardize and reduce the amount of work you need to do: templates allow you to include one page inside another (a process known as transclusion). As a quick example, create a page called Template:Example, write and save some gobbledygook in there, and then edit your main page to include the text {{Example}}. Once you save your changes, {{Example}} will always be replaced with the latest contents of Template:Example. There's a lot more possible with templates than I can delve into here.
  • User notifications allow you to leave a message on a particular user's Talk: page. Talk: is a MediaWiki namespace reserved for discussions about the corresponding topic. Every relevant page has a "talk" tab that you can use for this purpose. The next time that user logs in, he'll receive a notification that he has a message to address. This feature allows you to alert someone far more obviously than expecting they'll keep track of the "Recent changes" on a heavily-trafficked site.

And more. If there's one document that should be treasured like a million-dollar lifeline, then it's the MediaWiki FAQ, which includes answers to such common concerns as changing the links in the sidebar, that blasted logo, allowing edits for authenticated users only, messing with the various bits of text sprinkled through the interface, et cetera, et cetera.

Final Thoughts

This article was finished whilst listening to Bernard Herrmann's North by Northwest soundtrack. (Yes, that revelation had even less meaning or import than the bungling comparison I made in the introduction.) In my next article, I'll backpedal a bit to explore some further helper monkeys for our server. As always, wax poetic in the comments below. Particularly, some folks desire an Apache/PHP compiling tutorial--to that, I ask, what needs are you missing with the various precompiled OS X versions available?

Kevin Hemenway is the coauthor of Mac OS X Hacks, author of Spidering Hacks, and the alter ego of the pervasively strange Morbus Iff, creator of disobey.com, which bills itself as "content for the discontented."


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