This post was written by two recipients of Individual Engagement Grants. These grants are awarded by the Wikimedia Foundation and aim to support Wikimedians in completing projects that benefit the Wikimedia movement. The grantees of this project work independently from the Foundation in the creation of their project.
Many gadgets and scripts have been created by volunteers across Wikimedia projects. Many of them are intended for an improved editing experience. For the past few months there has been a new VisualEditor interface for editing articles. The interface is still in “beta,” so Wikipedians have not yet adapted it in a large scale. We believe there are many missing features, that if incorporated, can expand the VisualEditor user base. The known non-supported features are core features and extension features (such as timelines), but there are many unknown non-supported features – gadgets. Gadgets can extend and customize the visual editor and introduce new functionalities: to let more advanced users use more features (such as timeline), to introduce work-flows that are project specific (such as deletion proposals), or to easily insert popular templates such as those for citing sources. Since there is no central repository for gadgets, there is no easy way to tell what gadgets exist across all wikis.
Our project aims to organize this mess: improve gadgets sharing among communities and help push gadgets improvements for edit interface to VisualEditor. As part of this project we already:
- Mapped all the gadgets (in any language) and created a list of all the gadgets in various projects, with popularity rating across projects.
- Based on this list we selected key gadgets, and rewrote them to support the new VisualEditor:
- Spell checker (Rechtschreibpruefung) – Spell checking for common errors. Spelling mistakes are highlighted in red while writing!
- Reftoolbar – helps editors add citation templates to articles.
- Directionality tool – Adds button to add RTL mark useful in RTL languages such as Arabic and Hebrew.
- Common summaries – Added two new drop-down boxes below the edit summary box in save dialog with some useful default summaries.
- Based on our experience with writing VE gadgets, we created a guide for VE gadgets writers, which should help them extend the VisualEditor with custom features. We hope it helps develop support for Visual Editor by making it more integrated with existing tools.
We believe the VisualEditor is very important tool: it lowers the learning curve for editing Wikipedia (compared to wikitext), and it can help newcomers get into Wikipedia. It may also be useful for experienced editors, as it provides almost all wikitext features in user friendly way (no need for “Show preview” anymore) and it is being improved all the time (it has greatly improved since its first deployment. try it!).
We call the gadgets writers and developers to use our guide to learn how to extend the VisualEditor, and comment on it. If you think of a cool feature that may help Wikipedia community, or a customization for a specific Wikipedia language, don’t hesitate to write it!
We invite the Wikipedians to test, comment and use the VisualEditor and the gadgets that we wrote. You are welcome to suggest missing features and gadgets for the VisualEditor in our project talk page.