WMDE Technical Wishes/ReferencePreviews

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Reference Previews[edit]

Example of a Reference Preview.png

The Reference Previews feature shows a preview of a footnote when you hover over its footnote marker. The feature is currently under development and will become a beta feature on first wikis soon.


Jumping down to the footnote section makes you lose the reading position, and it is sometimes hard to get back up and find the position where you came from. An idea to solve this problem is to have previews for footnotes.

This wish was request no 1 from the German-speaking community's wishlist survey in summer 2017, but it has been discussed since 2014 on Phabricator (T67114) and the functionality exists as a gadget in many wikis.

Please note that this project is scoped to desktop only, since there is a mobile solution already.


Gadget for previewing footnotes on en.wikipedia.org
Gadget for previewing footnotes on nl.wikipedia.org

Current situation[edit]

Several wikis, like en-wiki, nl-wiki or de-wiki have gadgets that create pop-ups when you hover over a footnote marker (sometimes configured as a default feature for all users). Many of them are based on the Reference Tooltips gadget, developed by Yair rand.

Without a gadget, you have to click on the footnote number to find out more.

  • On desktop, you jump to the bottom of the page, which can disturb your reading flow. You can get back to your previous position, but you still leave the article section to look at the footnote.
  • On mobile, you see the footnote at the bottom of the screen. This feature is available in the mobile view of all wikis.

Related projects[edit]

  • Page Previews are activated on all Wikipedias and Wikivoyages. Several wikis have gadgets for page previews.
  • Footnote highlighting, implemented by the Technical Wishes team, makes it easier to find your way back up from a footnote.

Conversations with Wikipedians[edit]

We gathered insights and feedback around the project idea at Wikimania and German WikiCon 2017. Main outcome:

  • This wish isn’t considered controversial. It would be good to have pop-ups as a feature for everyone, several wikis already have gadgets for that.
  • The en-wiki and nl-wiki gadgets were named as good examples several times (see screenshots).

Tests with readers[edit]

The look and behavior described below were received well in first tests with readers. We’re hoping to get lots of feedback from contributors during the upcoming beta phase.


The feature will be a part of the MediaWiki extension Popups, which is used for Page Previews.

Coordination and implementation of this wish is done by the Technical Wishes team at Wikimedia Deutschland, with support from the WMF’s Reading Web team. The design for this feature is being developed by the WMF.

Look and behavior[edit]

Reference Previews elements.png

This is the scope of the very first version of this feature. More functionality will be added in the course of the beta phase.

  • The pop-up opens when you hover over a footnote marker.
  • It gives a preview of the footnote as it is shown at the bottom of the page. Inside the preview, all kinds of footnote content (text, images, tables, …) can be displayed.
  • Reference Previews look like Page Previews. This way, all pop-ups have the same design, no matter if you hover over a page link or a footnote marker.
  • At the top of the pop-up, it's indicated which type of footnote is shown. There are five types: Footnote, Web Reference, Journal Reference, Book Reference and News Reference.
    The type of a footnote is determined by a class on a <cite> element in the footnote’s content. E.g. <cite class="journal"> categorizes the footnote as "Journal Reference" (more info). This classification is usually done by using templates. The English {{cite}} templates for example specify their class already. The classes can be added to other templates as well. Footnotes that use plain <ref> tags without templates are shown as "Footnote".
  • For short footnotes, the pop-up window adjusts to a smaller size. If the footnote size exceeds the maximum pop-up size, you can scroll to read the whole footnote.
  • Clicking on the link "Jump to footnote" brings you to the actual footnote in the footnote section.
  • Links that are part of a footnote open in a new tab.


The preview uses JavaScript. If you don't have JavaScript activated, you'll get the current view: Footnote markers are jump marks and there's no preview.

Deployment roadmap[edit]

As always, we’ll deploy the beta feature to a handful of first wikis who want to try it before it becomes a beta feature on all Wikipedias. If you want to test it at an early stage, let us know on the central talk page, or you can give it a try on testwiki:

  • YesY test.wikipedia.org: 2019-02-28
  • first Wikipedias (small beta): tba
    • German Wikipedia and 1-2 RTL wikis
  • all Wikipedias (full beta): tba

Try the beta feature[edit]

If you want to try the beta feature, you have to

Reference Previews and gadgets[edit]

Please note:

  • If you’re using the Navigation Popups gadget, you won’t see Reference Previews.
  • If you’re using the Reference Tooltips gadget, both pop-ups from Reference Tooltips and from Reference Previews will appear.

It’s recommended you turn these gadgets off in order to try Reference Previews.



As always, your feedback is welcome on the talk page!