Become a Wikipedia master by accessing special pages and other practical tips

A man on his white sofa with a cup of tea or coffee, smiling while using his laptop
Just a normal weekend: relax on the couch, surf the old Wiki.Valuavitaly via Depositphotos

Wikipedia now has more than 5.5 million articles in English on everything from the Uruguay War in the 19th century to the final episode of Game of Thrones. It is an extremely useful resource, but you will get even more from it if you know some tips that will help you get around the site faster.

Use the special pages of Wikipedia

Read Wikipedia with Wikiwand

a screenshot of the Wikiwand browser extension, for Wikipedia
Wikiwand makes reading Wikipedia easy in your browser.David Nield

Wikiwand is a free extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox that transforms the reading experience of Wikipedia online. It improves page layout by enlarging images and moving navigation links to the left, allows you to quickly share and edit pages, and makes it easy to switch between languages. If you want to read offline, you can also export pages to PDF export.

Install the Wikipedia app

Don't just read Wikipedia on your phone with a mobile browser. Instead, install the official app for Android and iOS. The app allows you to customize the size of the text and other layout options, switch to an easier-to-see night mode in the dark, view items by location and save an organized feed of your favorite pages. If you're on Android, you can install the Wikipedia Beta app to get new features first.

Give something back

a screenshot of the edit tab of the Wikipedia page for Twin Peaks, the TV show
The edit page is just a click away.David Nield

If you end up with a few spare minutes during the day, consider bringing your own knowledge to Wikipedia for others to benefit from. Just open pages you know something about – whether it's Twin peaks the TV show or Twin Peaks the Antarctic mountain range and open the Edit tongue. If you want suggestions for pages that might use help, try SuggestBot.

Visit the talk page

At the top of each Wikipedia page, there is a Speak , which will show you the most discussed proposed changes for this page. Opening the tab can tell you about controversies you've never experienced before, and it's a good idea to read an article's talk page before submit your own changes.

Read Wikipedia offline

You are not always assured of a solid and stable Internet connection, and this is where Kiwix comes in: it can store all or part of Wikipedia on your computer, tablet or smartphone, pictures and everything. Obviously, the articles will not be updated in offline mode, but if you have research to do while traveling, this is a tool that can really be useful.

Turn Wikipedia into a book

The Book Creator allows you to transform selected Wikipedia pages into ODF format for reading on an electronic reader or offline on virtually any device. When you click Start book creator, a new widget will appear on each page that allows you to add it to your book, and you can then export all saved pages to a single file (you can export entire categories if you need to). If you are particularly interested in PDF, you can use the Download as PDF option for individual articles: it is in the main navigation pane on the left.

Go beyond the text

a screenshot of a bunch of images on Wikipedia.
Check out the Wikipedia image collection to find out when you really need a visual.David Nield

Wikipedia is much more than text – check out the featured pages for sounds and images, for example. From 12th century music to satellite imagery, you have a lot to explore, and these are just the sounds and photos that Wikipedia has deemed particularly remarkable. Use the content areas of each page to browse through the different categories.

Open a Wikipedia account

You can read and edit Wikipedia without signing up for an account, but if you sign up for free, you'll have access to a few additional features: your own profile page (with all the changes you've made), the ability to create new ones pages and edit semi-protected ones, features for interacting with other users, your own list of items to watch, the ability to upload images and, optionally, the ability to apply to be an administrator.

Switch to simple Wikipedia

Simple Wikipedia is a great resource for topics you're struggling to understand, and it can also help young people and those learning English. It has a smaller selection of articles, but they are written using shorter sentences and simpler words. Check out the article on architecture, for example, and compare it to the standard Wikipedia page on the same subject.

Improve your Wikipedia searches

The search box in the upper right corner of each Wikipedia page is pretty basic, but the advanced search page gives you a few more options. You can search for exact phrases, exclude certain words, search for matches that only appear in page titles, restrict searches to certain categories, etc. Your preferred web search engine will also search Wikipedia. Simply type your request followed by "site:".