Help:Basic Editing Tips

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Basic Editing Tips

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Basic Editing Tips


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Here is a very basic how-to on the mechanics of contributing to You may also find an explanation of the component structure of pages on the site to be helpful.

When you first arrive at, the top-right of your screen will look something like this:


Before you can do anything of substance on the site, other than read pages, you need to log in, which you do by clicking the link the little hand is pointing to. You log in with your User Name and the initial password given to you. After you have logged in, the top right of the screen will look something like this:


Note the Edit tab. MediaWiki is unusual in that every page has two modes, read and edit, and in order to enter anything on a page, you need to be in edit mode, which will call up a word processor for editing what is called wikitext, which is the the text you are entering plus the wiki markup that will format the text (i.e., '''this is bold text''' instead of this is bold text). For beginners, and forgetful experts, it is useful to print out and keep at hand a copy of the Wikipedia Cheatsheet, which gives the basics of MediaWiki markup.

Before we start editing, adding substance and formatting it with MediaWiki markup, there is one more little complication -- on our wiki, you can use two different editors in edit mode, a simple one or a more complicated one. Until you feel you understand the editing process pretty well and are ready for fairly complicated formatting, it is probably best to choose the simple editor. You do that with the little pencil and page icon at the very top right of your screen. It will be either dark Simple-Editor.png for the simple editor, or light Fancy-Editor.png for the fancy editor.

If you have the simple editor active, when you click the edit tab, or better for your purposes now, click the Sandbox link at the top of your screen, you will enter edit mode. Your screen will change and you will see something like this:


There are three tabs at the middle-left (the top of the editing box). The Wikitext tab (white, meaning active, in the image) is for entering your text and its markup. Clicking on the Preview tab will allow you to see what your text will look like. You can switch back to edit mode by clicking on Wikitext and switch back and forth as much as you like. The Changes tab, which you probably won't use very often, will show you the specific differences between the current text and the text as it was the last time it was saved. Over to the right, there are two buttons, Publish and Cancel. Publish does the same thing as the Save page button at the bottom left of the edit box (you may need to scroll down to see it), but Publish does saves the page in a jazzed up way that is time consuming and doesn't accomplish much, so it is best to use the Save page button down below. Cancel, up top or down below, will in effect erase whatever you have entered since the last time the page was saved -- it can be useful, sometimes, but be careful that you really want to erase your new work!

A good way to see what the icons below the tabs will do is to hover your cursor over them -- a tool tip will show. Click on Advanced and you will get another row of icons to experiment with. And don't miss the icon of the magnifying glass and pencil to the far right Search-and-Replace.png. It calls up a quite useful search and replace tool. Click on Special characters, which gives you a list of languages on the left, and a matrix of characters for entering text in those languages in the center. The help given by the Help button is very elementary and you will be better off printing out a copy of the Wikipedia Cheatsheet and keeping it nearby. An way to upload files, usually images, is to drag the filename into the dark green Drop files here bar and then click on the upload symbol when it appears, but the results sometimes do not display correctly. It is better to use the Upload file link under Tools at the left of your screen, following the directions in the form. The markup for displaying images and other media types in your pages can be a little complicated. For images, consult the MediaWiki Help:Images page. You can embed YouTube clips and the like, but it is often simpler to just insert a link to the clip on YouTube (or wherever) and hope your reader will remember to come back after viewing the video.

Should you want to explore the fancier editor, here is what the top of the edit box will look like.


Each icon has a tool tip that will appear on hovering over it with your cursor, and at the bottom of the edit box (see picture below) there is a link to wikEd help, which gives a reasonably full guide to the editor.

That's enough for now, folks -- good editing,