Whenever an article or other page is created on the wiki, a corresponding history of events is created along with it. This history will track all changes made to that page (and all the users who made those changes), even if the page is deleted, re-created, and deleted again. Even moving a page will cause its history to go with it. The only way to break up the history of a page is to copy and paste its contents into a new page, and this is generally not done unless a clean break with the past is desired (and that's usually not necessary).
Editors can take advantage of the page history to find out in specific detail what changes were made to articles, and recover information that may have otherwise been removed from the page by ne'er-do-wells or well-meaning but inexperienced editors. This article will serve to teach editors how to use the page history in detail, explaining all of the essential functions that can be called along the way.
Which pages have history?
Put simply, any page that can be edited through the wiki itself (instead of through only the server) has a history. This includes articles, files, project pages, talk pages, user pages, categories, redirects, and the like. As such, no amount of editing will hide what changes have been made to a page. The ability to hide specific edits is possible, however, but that power is reserved only for Admins and above, and will not be covered here.
Page history overview
There are two ways to access the history of a page. The first way is to click the "history" (sometimes shortened to "hist") link next to the appropriate article in the Recent Changes page. The other more direct way is to visit the article in question and click on its "history" tab, which can be found to the right of the "edit" tab.
Once inside, the editor will be greeted with a page that looks something like this:
Accessing the history page will bring up something resembling the above image. The history details each individual edit made to the page, along with other actions such as moves and deletions. As such, an article's history may be shorter or longer, depending on how many times the page has been adjusted since its initial creation.
The history page primarily consists of a list of individual entry logs which represent each action performed on the page. It consists of the following sections, in order from left to right:
- "(cur/prev)" - This is a set of commands ahead of the log which allows the editor to view the particular edit more directly on the page. Clicking on "cur" takes the editor to a version of the page current to that edit, excluding any future edits that were made to the page, and compares it to the most recent edit selected (which defaults to the latest revision). Clicking on "prev" also does this, but compares it to the previous edit.
- selection circles and box - Two or three icons exist for the purpose of selecting logs, one (or two) shaped as a circle and the last as a box. The circular icons are used to select two disparate edit tabs, with the circle on the left representing the "cur" for that entry, and the second representing a "prev". Due to the page's configuration, it is not possible to select a "prev" on an entry that comes before the selected "cur". Once two are selected, the editor may compare them using the box up top labeled "Compare selected revisions". The boxes on the other hand are used to select entries for the purpose of using the box "Change visibility of selected revisions" on the right. This latter action can only be done by Admins+.
- date - This displays the time and date the revision was made. Clicking on it has the same effect as clicking the "cur" link, but does not compare it with other revisions.
- user - The following section displays the user who performed the revision, along with links to their user page, talk page, and block link, similar to the Recent Changes page.
- m - After the user information, a bold m may appear. If this is present, it indicates that the edit was marked as a minor one by the editor.
- page size - The following two numbers show numbers which represent (in order) the total byte size of the page as of the revision and the change in that number from the previous page. Particularly large changes (greater than 500 bytes) are always highlighted in bold. (for reference, a byte is equal to a single character or letter, whether that be part of text or part of coding, and the total byte size does not factor in the files or other links that may be present in a page)
- notes - After that, a statement in gray and parentheses may or may not be present, which contains notes regarding the nature of the revision. This may include notes left behind by the editor in the summary, and may also specify which section was changed.
- (rollback/undo) - These last options allow the editor to rollback or undo revisions made to bring the page back to a previous state. Standard users only have limited access to these commands, with full rollback and undo options reserved for staff only. The main difference between a rollback and an undo is that rollbacks can revert all edits made by a particular user on that page, while undos only revert a particular edit, regardless of its place in the history. This can cause issues with the history, however, and typically isn't done except to quickly remove spam and/or vandalism.
Using the search bar
Each history page comes with a search bar at the top, which can be handy for finding specific edits. There are only a handful of search parameters, however, as follows:
- from year and/or month - This allows the editor to specify a limit on how recent the shown revisions should be.
- Tag filter - This allows the editor to search for more specific types of edits, and only take a few parameters. These can be found here.
- When viewing a specific revision by clicking on the date, the editor is given a series of links at the top of the page which allows him/her to access functions from the history page or navigate to adjacent revisions in the history.
- When attempting to re-create a page that was deleted, the editor will be prompted to check the revision history of the page to learn more about why the page was deleted in the first place. This is largely meant to allow editors to learn more, so as to potentially not end up creating a page that will need to be deleted again.