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[Spike] Review behaviour of wiki customization of Sidebar and propose next steps
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NOTE: Blockers T318434

Historically admins have been able to edit MediaWiki:Sidebar to customize the sidebar that appears on the left of the page. With the new article tools menu, Vector 2022 is now opinionated on where these menus should go.


MediaWiki:Sidebar makes it possible for communities to configure which items appear in the main menu, with the following caveats:

  • Some menus are user-generated, and some are hardcoded and cannot be edited (but can still be rearranged).
  • The hardcoded menus are generate by mediawiki core and are represented by the following uppercase keywords:


  • Users can rearrange these value on the page, but if they are deleted, they will still be rendered underneath the custom menus. SEARCH is hidden by default and only shown in the Monobook skin.
  • The custom menu links themselves can also be either translation messages, or regular wiki links. (more on Manual:Interface/Sidebar).

With the The Page Tools menu, Vector 2022 has removed the hardcoded menus from the main menu and placed them in an entirely new menu. The goal of this task is to determine whether we can create a page similar to MediaWiki:Sidebar for the new Page Tools menu.


  • Locally, add a new bullet point to MediaWiki:Sidebar and review where the links default to
  • Ask Alex where he would expect such a menu to go by default
  • Review how this is handled in Timeless
  • Ask the question if the main menu (top left hamburger) should be extendable using this page
  • Think about what modifications to the sidebar we might be able to make if the sidebar to give editors control of adding to it. See T306519#8078671 for one idea (thanks @Iniquity)
  • Understand the caching aspects of MediaWiki:Sidebar
  • Explore the pros and cons of the following options 1) adding a new wiki page using the same format 2) extending the existing format 3) working within the constraints of the existing format.

Event Timeline

Izno added a subscriber: Iniquity.

(While I generally appreciate being cited for ideas, I can't take credit for that one. ;)

On the note of customizing the sidebar, consider review of what Timeless is doing. There's probably also prior closed Phab tasks on the topic.

Jdlrobson updated the task description. (Show Details)
Jdlrobson set the point value for this task to 1.Sep 28 2022, 4:43 PM
ovasileva raised the priority of this task from Low to Medium.Oct 5 2022, 7:10 AM
ovasileva moved this task from Incoming to Current Fiscal Year on the Web-Team-Backlog board.
Jdlrobson set Due Date to Oct 31 2022, 7:00 AM.Oct 21 2022, 11:05 PM
Jdlrobson changed the subtype of this task from "Task" to "Deadline".
Jdlrobson changed Due Date from Oct 31 2022, 7:00 AM to Nov 7 2022, 8:00 AM.Oct 24 2022, 10:04 PM
Jdlrobson renamed this task from [Spike] Review behaviour wiki customization of Sidebar and propose next steps to [Spike] Review behaviour of wiki customization of Sidebar and propose next steps.Oct 31 2022, 5:22 PM
Jdlrobson changed Due Date from Nov 7 2022, 8:00 AM to Nov 28 2022, 8:00 AM.

I'd like to add my thoughts:

The format of Mediawiki:sidebar is odd, presumably because of its age.
It must've been one of the earliest written parts of mediawiki.

Whatever it is, it's not wikitext, like e.g. Mediawiki: Lastmodifieddat -- which is also displayed separately from the main block.

Not being wikitext means that variables can’t be called in MediaWiki:Sidebar, and even if they could be, said variables then can’t be parsed using parser functions. This means that the sidebar isn't easily customisable e.g. to different namespaces, or for different user groups.

Generally wiki readers have different needs to wiki editors. The former outnumber the latter by orders of magnitude, but the latter are important as they produce content. And then the admins need access to extra tools. All groups should be accommodated.

Propose therefore to switch the sidebar to wikitext.

It's quite a simple solution really, and that's what makes it elegant.

OK, so yes, it'd probably break downstream things like skins, but these can be rewritten to accommodate. And it'll break things on update time. But that would be a one-off break that would then be robust and future-proof. If you have to break it at some point, might as well break it now. My prediction is that if you give the community the chance to easily program the sidebar with parser functions, they'll sort it out pretty quickly.

It would also allow users to modify their own links E.g. user:example could have user:example/vector-sidebar and use that to override the defaults without having to use JS/CSS which isn't super user-friendly. But that's for the future.

Thanks for reading/considering.

PS I don't see how this blocks T318434. Moving the tools to a toolbox allows the sidebar to be used for 1 purpose, which is navigation links. 1 purpose is better than 2-3 that it does now. Makes things simpler.

Jdlrobson removed the point value for this task.Feb 23 2023, 1:04 AM

As emerged on this talk on frwiki, the link of Help pages for newcomers (Aide:Débuter) is hidden by default for logged out users. To improve discovery and access to help pages it should be useful to deplace this link in an other place.