Help:Watching pages

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File:Physicswiki video tutorial-2-Reliability-en.ogv
This four-minute video gives an overview of why a watchlist is useful.

Watching pages allows any logged-in user to keep a list of "watched" pages and to generate a list of recent changes made to those pages (and their associated talk pages). In this way you can keep track of and react to what's happening to pages you have created or are otherwise interested in.

Controlling which pages are watched

This screenshot shows a page that is not on the watchlist of the user. Clicking on the star will add it to the watchlist.
The star on this page is blue to indicate that it is on the watchlist of the user.

There are four ways to control which pages you have on your watchlist:

  1. When viewing a page, click the star sign between the 'View history' tab and the search box at the very top of the page (for the default appearance: in some other versions, click on the "watch" or "unwatch" tab), to respectively add or remove the page from your watchlist.[1]
  2. When editing a page, check or uncheck "Watch this page" before saving (above the 'Show preview' button).
  3. Click "View and edit watchlist" or "Edit raw watchlist" at the top of the watchlist page to view or alter the list of watched pages directly. The first option takes you to Special:Watchlist/edit, where the watched pages are listed with checkboxes which can be used to remove items. The second takes you to Special:Watchlist/raw, which has a text area with a list of watched pages, one title per line, sorted by namespace number and then alphabetically. You can edit the list directly, copy it to an external editor or replace it with a list created elsewhere. Duplicates are automatically removed on saving. In the list, redlinked (non-existent) pages are still watched, as are their talk pages, and this applies to subpages and their talk pages. When you click watch (star) on, for example, a User Talk: page, the link is canonicalized to User: in the list.
  4. If you have the popups gadget enabled, you can use it to watch or unwatch a linked page without having to view it.

If you check "Add pages I edit to my watchlist" on the "Watchlist" tab of your user preferences, then the "Watch this page" checkbox will always be checked by default when you edit pages. Other similar options are "Add pages I create to my watchlist", "Add pages I move to my watchlist", and (for administrators) "Add pages I delete to my watchlist".

It should also be noted that:

  • Because no one owns any article, there is no requirement to watch articles you have created or contributed to, so you are not expected to check to see whether your edits have been vandalised, challenged (e.g. for lack of sources), discussed on the article's talk page, and so forth. The only page you are expected to keep an eye on is your own talk page.
  • Talk pages are not listed at Special:Watchlist/edit or Special:Watchlist/raw, but they are automatically watched whenever their corresponding non-talk pages are watched.
  • It is not possible to watch automatically generated pages, such as Special pages. Watching a category page will pick up changes to the text of the category page itself, but not to the lists of subcategories and pages contained in the category (see also Help:Category). Similarly, watching an image will not detect uploads of new versions of the image.
  • Additional page titles may sometimes appear on your watchlist as a result of page moves (see Moves, creations and deletions below).
  • When a watched page contains transcluded text, such as templates, the form of the page may change as a result of changes to the transcluded pages. These changes will not show up on your watchlist unless you are watching the transcluded pages as well.

Hiding pages from a watchlist

It is possible to watch a page without watching its associated talk page; it is also possible to watch only a talk page. More information can be found at Physicswiki:Hide Pages in Watchlist.

How to read a watchlist

When you are logged in to Physicswiki, a link, My watchlist, appears at the top of every page. This links to the special page Special:Watchlist, reporting recent changes to your watched pages. It is a list separated by days, ordered backwards according to the time of the edit.

Each line shows details of each edit: whether minor (m), whether made by a bot (b), if a new page was created (N), the time, a link to the page, a link to the difference ("diff") made by the edit in question, a link to the page history ("hist"), the editor's user name or IP address, the increase (green) or decrease (red) in the number of bytes, e.g. (+76), (-490) and, if over 500, in bold: (+794), (-2,412), and the edit summary. Physicswiki:Added or removed characters has more about the green and red numbers.

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 30 days (the current value of the $wgRCMaxAge variable for Physicswiki).


There are various options available to control how the list of changes is displayed:

  • You may choose to hide or show minor edits, bot edits, one's own edits, edits by anonymous users and edits by logged-in users (links for this purpose appear at the top of the watchlist page). Initially the default behavior for all of these is "show"; this can be changed using the options available on the "Watchlist" tab of your user preferences.
  • You can choose how many hours or days you want the list of changes to go back, using the links at the top of the watchlist. For the maximum (30 days), select "all". For non-standard values, select one of the available links and then edit the value after "days=" in the URL. The default value, which must be a number of days not greater than 7, is set on the "Watchlist" tab of user preferences. Note that there may be a later cut-off due to the limit on the number of displayed changes, described below.
  • You can restrict the list to changes in a specified namespace, using the "Namespace" drop-down box (check "Invert selection" to exclude the specified namespace).
  • You can elect to display only the last edit to each watched page ("Simple watchlist"). This is currently the default, but can produce misleading results (for example, if the last edit to a page was minor, then there is no indication that a previous non-minor edit occurred). To ensure that all changes are displayed, check the "Expand watchlist..." option on the "Watchlist" tab of your user preferences.
  • Having selected the expanded watchlist, you can choose "enhanced" display mode, which groups together all changes made to each page on a given day. Click on the blue arrows to the left of the list to expand or collapse each group. This option applies to both the watchlist and recent changes, and for this reason appears on the "Recent changes" tab of user preferences, not the "Watchlist" tab.
  • You may choose to set the "Maximum number of changes to show in expanded watchlist" (on the "Watchlist" tab of user preferences). The maximum possible number of changes to display is currently 1000. If this causes a later time cutoff than you desired, you can see earlier changes by filtering by type or namespace, as described above.

Other effects of watching a page

When you view Recent Changes, Enhanced Recent Changes or Related Changes, entries relating to pages you are watching appear bolded. This means that it may be beneficial to mark pages as "watched" even if you do not intend viewing the Special:Watchlist page.

Another watchlist-related MediaWiki function is e-mail notification of watched changes, as described here. However this is not currently enabled for the English Physicswiki (as explained here).

Moves, creations and deletions

Actions affecting watched pages (page moves, page creations and deletions, protection) also appear in the watchlist. For example, if you watch a page that does not yet have a talk page, you will see on your watchlist when someone creates that 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 first).

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 (and even if the page at the new title is deleted), the new title will remain in your watchlist along with the old one. If you notice mysterious nonexistent pages appearing on your watchlist, this is the most likely explanation.

RSS feed

See Physicswiki:Syndication.

Alternatives to watchlists

An account can have only one watchlist. However, it is possible to set up watchlist-like functionality using the "Related changes" feature, in a way that effectively enables a user to achieve multiple watchlists. To do this, create a page (normally in your own user space) containing links to the pages you wish to watch. Changes to those pages can then be monitored by going to the user page and clicking "Related changes". Note that in this case the talk pages corresponding to "watched" pages are not automatically included, and that changes to the user page itself will not be picked up.

Related Changes can also be used to monitor changes to pages belonging to a category, including the addition of pages to the category (which is not picked up by placing the category on a watchlist). However, the removal of pages from the category is not detected.


As an alternative or in addition to using the watchlist feature, you 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.

Size limitation

If you have a very large watchlist, bringing up the edit interface (Special:Watchlist/edit) can take a very long time. It may take so long that the server may terminate the query before any data has been returned to you,[2] resulting in a completely blank page. How big your watchlist can be before you start having problems depends on the server load, so no exact threshold can be safely given. As of January 27, 2006, some highly unscientific testing has shown that watchlists bigger than ~9800 pages on the English Physicswiki will usually cause problems. This value may be used as a tentative upper limit. If you still have problems at that size, manually reduce the number of watched pages until it works reliably again, and prune your watchlist regularly to avoid running into the limitation again.

Privacy of watchlists

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

Watchlist notices

Watchlist notices are messages which are posted at the top of all users' watchlists, for example to publicize changes or discussions which are of importance for the whole editing community. Users are able to dismiss these messages when they have read them. The messages are placed via the message page MediaWiki:Watchlist-details (editable by administrators only).

Multi-project watchlists

A standard watchlist covers only one Physicswiki project (so your English Physicswiki watchlist can contain only pages on English Physicswiki). However, there is a multi-wiki watchlist available at that will allow you to simultaneously display changes to watched pages on as many Physicswiki projects as you want.

You can also watch multiple projects with RSS feeds.

See also


Cite error: Invalid parameter: use the {{reflist}} template with the group parameter (see the help page).

External links

  1. When the star (or in other appearances "watch" or "unwatch") is clicked, the message with id 'addedwatchtext' (talk) or message with id 'removedwatchtext' (talk) message 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.