Help:Watching pages

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MediaWiki Handbook: Contents, Readers, Editors, Moderators, System admins +/-

Watching pages feature allows any logged in user to keep a list of "watched" pages and to be notified of recent edits to these pages.

MediaWiki does not let people "own" pages; however, the "watchlist" feature, along with the ability to revert changes, keeps interested users involved in particular pages without the drawbacks of giving someone absolute control over a page.

In addition to the built-in watchlist, there is a multi-wiki watchlist available at http://tools.wikimedia.de/~luxo/gwatch/ that will allow you to simultaneously display changes to watched pages on as many Wikimedia projects as you wish.

Controlling which pages are watched[edit]

Only non-dynamically-generated pages can be watched.

The page is always watched together with its talk page. All additions to and deletions from the list of watched pages apply to the non-talk page / talk page combination: it's not possible to watch one without watching the other.

While viewing a page
Link "Watch" (or in Vector skin the white star), located at the margin of each page, adds the current page to your watchlist, and turns the link into "Unwatch" (or in Vector skin a blue star).
The message with id 'addedwatchtext' (talk) or message with id 'removedwatchtext' (talk), respectively, is shown above the page, and "Watch" is changed to Unwatch or conversely. Depending on the browser this is done without reloading the whole page, using AJAX with ajaxwatch.js.
While saving a page
When saving an edited page, the new watch status (do or do not watch) is determined by the "Watch this page" checkbox.
If one activates the user preference "Add pages I edit to my watchlist", the checkbox on the edit page will automatically be checked, so unless it is unchecked before saving, the page will be watched upon saving. Additional options are
  • "Add pages I create to my watchlist" (if the previous is checked this need not be checked, because creation counts also as an edit),
  • "Add pages I move to my watchlist" ,
  • "Add pages I delete to my watchlist".
Editing the whole list
Two additional links are available on top of Special:Watchlist page:
Special:Watchlist/edit produces a full list of linked watched pages (including the talk pages). Selecting one or several checkboxes and then clicking "Remove titles" button will remove selected pages from the list.
Special:Watchlist/raw provides a textarea with a list of watched pages (without listing the talk pages), with one title on every line, sorted by namespace number and then in alphabetic order. This allows editing the list directly, copying it to an external editor, or replacing it with one created elsewhere. Duplicates are automatically removed on saving.

Watchlist[edit]

When the user is logged in, every page has a link to the user's watchlist, also accessible by the link Special:Watchlist. This page shows a list of all recently changed watched pages, separated by days, ordered backward according to the time of the edit.

Each line shows details of each edit: whether minor (m) or major, whether made by a bot (b), the time, a link to the page, the difference between the current version and the last one, the history, the increase or decrease of the number of bytes, the user name, the user's talk page, the user's contributions and the edit summary. Depending on site configuration, the page name is bolded if the page has changed after the last time the user viewed the page (while logged in).

Technically, the watchlist is just another way to filter recent changes. The entries come from the recentchanges table and are therefore restricted to edits not older than $wgRCMaxAge (30 days in most WMF projects).

Options[edit]

One can hide or show the following types of edits, using the corresponding links: minor edits, bot edits, one's own edits. These can also be set in preferences as initial options when the user comes to Special:Watchlist page.

Another preference option, although named "Maximum number of days to show in watchlist", also sets only the initial value for a period of time for which changes are shown. This period can be easily changed with corresponding links.

There is also a drop-down box that allows to see the changes only in one specific namespace.

Unlike recent changes, watchlist cannot hide edits by logged in/logged out users, there are no links to show only specific number of edits, and there is no way to show all namespaces except one.

Simple Watchlist[edit]

By default watchlist only shows the last edit to each watched page.

There are two possible problems if a page had a non-minor recent edit, but the last edit was marked as minor:

  • non-minor edits will not be shown. Since one is typically interested in all changes since one last checked, in this case the history of the page needs to be checked.
  • if watchlist is set not to show minor changes, then the page will not appear in the watchlist at all.

Many experienced users prefer to use Expanded Watchlist.

Expanded Watchlist[edit]

With the preference "Expand watchlist to show all changes, not just the most recent" the watchlist will show all recent edits, listed in chronological order.

In this case the preference "Group changes by page in recent changes and watchlist", which toggles enhanced recent changes, also affects the watchlist the same way: recent changes of watched pages are grouped by day, and within a day by page.

Another preference option is "Maximum number of changes to show in expanded watchlist". A site can limit the maximum value for this option, for example the maximum seems to be 1000 on WMF projects. To show pages with older edits, view the changes by namespaces or use the non-enhanced watchlist, and/or reduce the number of watched pages.

Other effects of watching a page[edit]

The watchlist is only one of the features with regard to watching pages; even without ever using it, specifying pages to watch is useful.

Recent and related changes, page history[edit]

In Recent Changes, Enhanced Recent Changes, and Related Changes, watched pages are bolded.

If one views the history of a watched page directly, without first viewing the page, the edit at the top (the most recent one) may be marked with update marker "updated (since my last visit)" (or the message with id 'updatedmarker' (talk)); this applies if the edit was made by someone else and you have not viewed the page (while logged in) since it was made. This is actually enabled together with e-mail notification.

E-mail notification[edit]

See also mw:Notifications for the 2013 extension.

From MediaWiki 1.5, you can get an e-mail after a watched page has been edited by somebody else. This will not be repeated until you view the page. Note that you have to be logged in when viewing the page, otherwise you will not be notified of further changes. Optionally this notification system can ignore minor changes (this is the default).

Whether the feature is enabled on a wiki can be seen in the preferences: if it is, the message with id 'tog-enotifwatchlistpages' (talk) (default: "E-mail me when a page on my watchlist is changed") will be one of the options of the main section. The notifications for user talk edits are enabled by another preference option.

Having a separate email for every edited page that one likes to watch in the sense of the other watch features, may be too much. New features are being proposed and developed to deal with this: the option to have e-mails sent, after a delay, with a list of edited pages, and/or the possibility to specify a subset of watched pages for e-mail notification. See also mw:Echo (Notifications).

For the latter, as a workaround, one may be tempted to log in under a different username just to specify a different (typically smaller) watchlist for e-mail notification. However, after viewing a page under one username, one would have to clear the notification flag for that page for the other username too.

Technical details: to enable it on a wiki, $wgEnotifWatchlisthttp://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Manual:$wgEnotifWatchlist is set to true, and it still depends on preference settings. The email-message is the message with id 'enotif body' (talk). See Email notification. Since May 2011 the feature is enabled on all Wikimedia projects for the user talk notifications, and since April 2012 for watchlist edits too. From early May 2012, the preference for edited pages to be added to watchlist is the default.

User preferences[edit]

The following options are (or can be) available in Preferences >> User Profile tab

  • Enable e-mail from other users
  • Send me copies of e-mails I send to other users
  • E-mail me when a page on my watchlist is changed
  • E-mail me when my user talk page is changed
  • E-mail me also for minor edits of pages
  • E-mail me on replies to a thread I am watching

Common misunderstandings[edit]

E-mail notification has many settings, so if you think you've missed something check them carefully.

  • The notifications about a page that "has been created" may be about any log action (such as protection) on the page, see bug 14901 and sons.
  • If you don't click the link in the notification, you won't receive it next time. Look for bolded items in your Special:Watchlist: they're pages you've not yet seen after recent changes and you won't be notified about them (note: your wiki may have hidden this essential highlighting feature).
  • Edits by authorised bots sometimes don't cause an email notification even if you've configured your preferences to receive one for that kind of action: namely, if they make a minor edit on your talk and you've set (only?) "E-mail me when my user talk page is changed". This behaviour is not documented nor configurable and has some bugs; see bug 38874.

See also the list of known bugs.

What you cannot watch[edit]

Watchlist only detects actual edits to the wikitext of the page.

Included pages
Changes to transcluded pages can also change the way the watched page is rendered, however these changes do not appear in the watchlist. For more information see Help:Page history#Linking to a specific version of a page. One may choose to watch all the templates used, and the templates used by these templates, etc.
Images and Categories
Watching an image or a category means watching only the editable part. Watchlist will not show uploads of new versions of images. It is not possible to watch a category in the sense of being notified if pages are added or removed. With "related changes," additions to categories can be detected; for removals, one has to watch all pages in the category (also see Help:Category#Detection of additions to a category).

Watching a nonexistent page[edit]

One can watch a nonexistent page. This page will appear in the watchlist changes when somebody creates it.

For example, if you watch a page that does not yet have a talk page, you will be notified when someone starts a new discussion on the talk page.

You can watch a page even if neither the content page nor the talk page exists. To do that, go to the page's URL, either by typing the URL directly or following a (broken) link, and then press "Watch" (depending on the skin you may have to press Cancel before getting the link Watch).

Page moves and the watchlist[edit]

If a page you have watched is moved to a new title, the new title will be automatically added to your watchlist. Even if the page is later moved back, the new title will remain in your watchlist along with the old one.

Even if the new title is deleted after the page has been moved back, a note about the deletion will appear on your watchlist and the title will remain in your list of watched pages. If you notice mysterious nonexistent pages appearing on your watchlist, this is the most likely explanation.

Related changes feature[edit]

The "Related changes" can be used to set up watchlist-like functionality, as explained below.

Pages with links (possibly specially created for this purpose, e.g. as subpages of one's user page) can be used with Related Changes as a collection of separate "watchlists". Note however that unlike My Watchlist, Related Changes does not automatically include talk pages; to watch also the corresponding talk pages, links to them also have to be in the page on which Related Changes is applied. If the links to the talk pages are put just for this purpose, a blank space as link label can be used, which makes the link invisible and ineffective, except for Related Changes. Also, using Related Changes there is not the convenience of pressing a "watch" link to add the current page to the list of "watched pages".

Note that Related Changes does not detect an edit in the page itself and its talk page. Either include a self-link and a link to the talk page in the page, or put the page in another "special watchlist", or in one's standard watchlist.

Such pages can use the template mechanism to include other pages. However, see Pollution of categories.

Watching pages in a category by applying Related Changes to the category has a major drawback: removal of a page from the category is not detected.

An advantage of using Related Changes as alternative for the list of watched pages is that a revision history of the page(s) with links is available, while the system does not keep a record of pages that one has watched. However, Special:Watchlist/raw allows storage of the list: locally, or in a user subpage on the wiki.

If privacy is a concern, an advantage of the watchlist feature (if the list is not stored in a page on the wiki) is that it does not publicly reveal one's interest in a page (if one does not edit it). See also below.

CSS[edit]

As an alternative or in addition to using the watchlist feature, one can also define a user style for links to selected pages, putting in one's CSS a list of lines like:

a[title ="pagename"] {color:  white; background: red; font-size: 150% } 

This works in Opera, but not in IE.

On the (Enhanced) Recent Changes page it works like the bolding feature mentioned above, but it is more versatile, e.g. allowing extra emphasis on pages one is very interested in, or different styles for different categories of interesting pages. Furthermore, it also works on user contributions pages, and on regular pages (also for piped links, but not for indirect links through a redirect). It also applies, less usefully, for the section editing links in the page itself.

To highlight links to the given page also from other websites, including interlanguage links, use instead of the above:

a[href ="full URL "] { .. }

Note that the full URL is needed, even to highlight links from the same project, even though the HTML code uses the relative URL /wiki/pagename.

Privacy of watchlists[edit]

Ordinary users or administrators cannot tell what is in your watchlist, or who is watching any particular page. Developers who have access to the servers that hold the Wikipedia database can figure out this kind of information. Publicly available database dumps do not include this kind of information.

See also[edit]


Links to other help pages[edit]

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