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You can change the look and layout of your Mediawiki site. The place to start is the wikimedia groups' meta pages.

There is the design document and the info on skins or just dive into all the examples of user styles

[edit | edit source]

You can change the Logo of the wiki by altering the $wgLogo variable in LocalSettings.php to the name of the image you want to use as a logo. Please note that this logo should be placed in the /skins/common/images/ folder.

$wgLogo             = "$wgStylePath/common/images/freephile_sm_logo.gif";

How to change the favicon[edit | edit source]

You can change the icon that is displayed in the address bar of your browser by setting a value for $wgFavicon in the LocalSettings.php file

$wgFavicon          =  "";

Styling[edit | edit source]

A user can completely affect the styling of the wiki they are using by applying user-defined styling to the site. meta:Help:User_style

This wiki[edit | edit source]

This wiki uses the Chameleon skin, which is based on Bootstrap and the Bootstrap extension. That is not synonymous with HTML5. Bootstrap is a specialized, modular, HTML/CSS/JS toolkit. The HTML5 Boilerplate (H5BP) is a starting project template that is designed to be adapted to your needs. In short, they can (and probably should) be used together.

HTML5[edit | edit source]

If you want to use HTML5 in your wiki, then you need at least version 1.16.0 of MediaWiki, which is the first version that includes the $wgHtml5 setting. See in general and also Richard Carter's website [1] for information specific to MediaWiki

OOUI - The Object Oriented User Interface[edit | edit source]

  1. Simulator Demos
  2. Docs
  3. Using OOUI in MediaWiki: Enter code like the following into the JavaScript console (Chrome DevTools)
 1 mw.loader.using( 'oojs-ui-core' ).done( function () {
 2 	$( function () {
 3 		var button = new OO.ui.ButtonWidget( { 
 4 			label: 'Click me!' 
 5 		} );
 6 		button.on( 'click', function () {
 7 			alert( 'You clicked the button!' );
 8 		} );
 9 		$( '#mw-content-text' ).append( button.$element );
10 	} );
11 } );

Icons and Graphics[edit | edit source]

For aspiring artists who want to create icons, see the Icon Guide on

If you know the ropes of creating good graphics, see the Nuvola2 project, which appears to be an effort in the mediawiki community to bring a whole set of scalable graphics to the project.


If you just want to have a bunch of good graphics available for use in your wiki, then there are image administration tools that you can use to batch import collections of graphics. Mediawiki can now handle Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) so with a little configuration, you can import a group of SVGs and use that as a basis for your theme.

In this wiki, I imported the Oxygen graphics (see below). Importing is handled by a 'maintenance' script. See details about how image assets are managed at mw:Manual:Image_Administration

As for complete icon sets, there are a few well-known sets in the Free Software community.

The KDE crystal set is nice, and you can find out more at Everaldo's website.
The standard icon theme for KDE4 You can also get scalable vector graphics from the oxygen set. If you
sudo apt-get install kde-icons-oxygen
, you should find them on your system in /usr/lib/kde4/share/icons/oxygen/ Note that you need an application (like Konqueror, Dolphin, Gwenview or Inkscape - but not Gqview) that can display SVG to view the svgz files.

Once you have all these graphics at your disposal, you'll probably want to use some of them as interface elements, rather than just as decoration / illustration of your articles. In that case, you'll want to use something like the Icon extension.

How to use Templates for information design, consistency, and utility[edit | edit source]

The template system allows you to create re-usable interface elements such as 'sidebars', 'callouts' or 'info boxes' and almost limitless utility. The Ambox template is an example of a template that you'll probably want to use in your local wiki system.

How to change the navigation[edit | edit source]

The navigation system is setup through a special type called an 'interface message'. (The interface message system is also used for many other aspects of the Mediawiki system.) This means that you don't actually have to change 'code' to affect the menu. You can simply edit a special page in the mediawiki system. Edits to this page get stored in the database like every other page edit which provides built-in versioning etc. However, it can also mean that pushing changes from a development machine to a server can be more challenging than pushing 'code' changes.

In any case, to change the nav, you will want to edit the MediaWiki:Sidebar page. The right to edit this page is normally restricted to administrators, so if you want to delegate the responsibility for this, you will want to look at the user permissions system. There are rules and conventions which apply here, and you can find more help in the documentation. In case you are going to change the location of blocks like the search box or toolbox (which normally show up in the sidebar) by making a custom theme, you'll want to coordinate those changes with the sidebar.

It is possible, using JavaScript, to customize the search or toolbox. (We did this for the Html2Wiki extension.) See the article here on MediaWiki/Toolbox.

Interface Messages[edit | edit source]

At Special:AllMessages, you can see the interface messages (sometimes referred to as System Messages) for the MediaWiki system. See mw:Help:System message

In MediaWiki 1.18 and above, you can find a message key by browsing a wiki in the special pseudo-language code qqx, which can be done by appending ?uselang=qqx to the URL, or &uselang=qqx if the URL already contains a ? character (example). All the messages will then be replaced by their message keys, so you can identify which message is responsible. Messages that are always in the content language will not be shown using qqx.

Aside from changing the Navigation bar, this is how we customized the ISBN message that is used in the 'Book Sources' special page e.g. Special:BookSources/1594200068. All these messages are in the MediaWiki namespace. So, if the message key is 'Requestaccount-acc-text', then you can change the content of the message by editing 'MediaWiki:Requestaccount-acc-text'.

Another option for finding the right message string, besides the 'uselang' hack, is to use the Translate Wiki (which is part of the system that provides translations for multiple software projects including MediaWiki). Visit and simply enter the "string you want to change". For example, if you're using the Special:UploadWizard and want to change the wording on the button that says "Select media files to share", you'd enter that phrase at Translate Wiki. Click 'search' and then in the results, click the link that says "Require all search words" (or add &match=all to the querystring). Presto, you've found that it's the MediaWiki:Mwe-upwiz-add-file-0-free string.

How to make your own skin[edit | edit source]

Daniel Friesen offers a good tutorial on how to subclass the Vector skin to create a new derivative skin. And his MediaWiki skinning tutorial is the basis for the official manual on skinning.

Making your Skin Available[edit | edit source]

To make your skin available sitewide, and the default skin, set it in LocalSettings.php e.g. set $wgDefaultSkin = 'happy'.

To let your users decide which skin they can use, you can enable user preferences.

Offering/Using multiple skins[edit | edit source]

If you have multiple skins available, you can preview and switch between them by visiting your user preferences. Since a given skin can be specified in the querystring, you can even bookmark a certain 'look' for easy comparison with a new theme. e.g.

Nice Examples[edit | edit source]

I've previously created a custom skin based on the excellent work of Paul Gu Developers should check out Wiki developers for more sites of people like Paul who develop wikis.

There are countless examples of MediaWiki installations across the Internet. We've started indexing all the wikis we can find, and you can see a list of the top wikis at Some of the ones that have actually customized the "look and feel" include

Resources[edit | edit source]

The skinning manual is probably the most comprehensive and best introduction to how the skin system works aside from digging into the code in the 'skins' directory. has one of the best 'howto's that I found.

The Layout Design Document might cover some relevant info, but a quick glance makes it seem that it's circa 2004.

References[edit source]