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Feedback for the character inserter

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Please post your ideas about VisualEditor's character inserter tool here. It would be helpful if you said what language(s) or characters you tested it in. Thank you!

Fram (talkcontribs)

The same was asked at enwiki, , where a number of people left rather damning (but entirely correct) feedback. I'll repeat mine here:

I was going to test this and detail the individual shortcomings, but really, what's the point? Either you come here and ask for "what would you like to see and get in a 'special character insertion tool'", or you deliver us an at least half-finished but well-thought out product. Now, you present us with something that may not produce instant errors, but which has zero functionality for 99% of the wanted edits. The number of special characters, even for editors at enwiki, is minimal to the extreme; capital letters are missing; you can't add more than one character at a time; and so on.

Go back to the drawingboard, get some user expectations first (it looks as if you don't know what this tool is really supposed to do), look at the "special characters" insertion tool in normal editing mode, but don't bother use with this nonsense. You are only making a fool of yourselves, and aren't winning any souls for VE, while the actual practical benefit of these responses to you will be minimal. Really, you have developers, you always claim to have a QA team, you have enough people willing to give feedback if you simply ask "what would you like to get in this tool", you have an existing example, and still you dare to come here with this? Please, find the one who asked you to get input on this tool, and (assuming it is a paid WMF employee) fire him or her for gross incompetence. How many times will you (WMF) make the same errors before anything changes there? Just leave us alone and do your job. Fram (talk) 12:44, 24 January 2014 (UTC)

Baruneju (talkcontribs)

Hello, tested today on while writing a new article. I didn't know it was a new feature, our community liaison just linked this discussion page. I found the tool not useful for my purposes: I was looking for greek letters to add as plan text, in order to avoid mass usage of the math mode. The current layout is almost useless for an Italian user: we already have more than 50% of those characters on our keyboards. Thanks.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hi User:Baruneju,

Thanks for your note. The current tool is just a very, very simple one—to give people a starting point, and perhaps to help them see the concept if they haven't used one before (or, for those who don't speak English, if they didn't know what it was called).

You said you need Greek letters, and I think every Wikipedia will need them. How would you like to get to the Greek letters? Would you like a bigger box? (If the box is big enough to show all the characters someone might need, then it won't fit on your screen, but it could be bigger than this.) Would you like some sort of menu or button or collapsible sections? Do you think it would make sense for each Wikipedia to be able to define the ones that show first (so that Italian users won't have é put in front of them, but English users would)?

Baruneju (talkcontribs)

Hello, the size of the box is not a problem, but of course it would need a scrollbar and a floating index/collapsible sections. Having a per wiki/per user setting to rearrange the sections (i.e. greek letters before symbols and so on) is mandatory, in my opinion.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hi User:Baruneju,

There is a per-wiki setting. Would you like me to request a per-user setting as well? It might be possible (I don't know, but I could ask).

Gloria sah (talkcontribs)

Hallo, I'm from eml.wikipedia. I tested yesterday your new way to insert the special caracters: I find that they are in a small quantity, instead of the major one that we usually need. I hope that in a future there will be more special caracters in your new medium, end the maximum, I think, it will be that we can find all the beautiful special caracters that are in the olt wiki-editing. Bye,

Turb (talkcontribs)


I think the main need is customization:

  1. (the most important) by sysops for default character set on a given wiki
  2. by users for basic changes, with preferences
  3. by advanced users, with a js API will never have the right set for all regions/wikis, and never know who needs what. That is the main thing people will complain about. And yet they did.

Some needs:

  • uppercase equivalent for accents. In French keyboards most of it is on the keyboard, but it is painful for MS Windows users to have the capitalized equivalent (Linux and MacOS are fine on this)
  • propose localized quotes when a string is selected (« in French », „in German“, and so on).

Thanks for all the work!

Smihael (talkcontribs)

Carons are missing (č, š, ž)

Elitre (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hi everybody, and thanks for the feedback so far! I want to make clear that as far as I know the inserter can be customized by the single wikis in order to get exactly what is needed at each of them ;) So, I'd suggest that we test the tool and take notes of what works, of what could be added and of what should be changed, and after that, that each wiki makes its list of needed characters, possibly excluding items which would not work in VE. Thanks,

Fram (talkcontribs)

possibly excluding items which would not work in VE. Care to elaborate? I thought all characters were supposed to work in VE?

Elitre (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I was talking about characters in the way they were used to create wikitext. For example, of course brackets would be ok, just not grouped as [[ ]].

Fram (talkcontribs)

Ah, like that... It sounded more ominous. Can you explain where people are able to change the characters in this inserter for their wiki? I would like to test this for enwiki, to see whether this works and what else we can configure locally for VE.

Elitre (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Yup Fram, as I said, I (or someone else) will follow-up ASAP about this!

Fram (talkcontribs)

Apparently it's at I have requested some rights, no idea if it are the correct ones since the page has no explanation of what is needed to get the rights to edit it.

And this gives some examples of characters not accepted, including non breaking spaces. How does one add these in VE?

Fram (talkcontribs)

Brilliant... I have now gotten the rights, and it turns out that I can change the insertor for every language... except English! Enwiki has to ask the devs at MediaWiki to change this for us...

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)
Fram (talkcontribs)

Changing them at Translatewiki doesn't produce any result anyway. I'll try the other solution.

Fram (talkcontribs)

Nothing works, no idea what the actual solution is supposed to be (or if there even is one).

Fram (talkcontribs)

Any news on what one really has to do to change this? The two answers I received so far (translatewiki and local wiki) both seem to be incorrect. So, can we (i.e. people from a local wiki version) change this ourselves or not? Seems a rather important issue, to which someone at WMF should know the (correct) answer.

Elitre (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hi again. I am not sure what is not working for you? I tested this at and it works, VE is already showing that letter.

Fram (talkcontribs)

Local wiki now works, Mdennis was kind enough to look at the problems (I had some missing comma's). Translatewiki doesn't work.

Elitre (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I wouldn't do anything over there actually, speaking of the character inserter. Localization is something that should only be done at local wikis, as per their rules (Sherry already pointed out that everything that concerns specific Wikipedia settings should only be done on Wikipedia). I should know because people yell at me when I don't just translate.

Fram (talkcontribs)

Well, WhatamIdoing pointed me (or rather everyone) to Translatewiki in some Newsletter concerning the character insertor. It turned out, after some searching, that even with translator rights I couldn't change the English settings as these were the default anyway and were not allowed to be overruled there. Not having the possibility to change them also meant that no one could yell at me for changing them :-)

So yes, I have now changed it an enwiki only, to see how it handles more characters. It seems that is wasn't designed with that (or anything else that could be useful) in mind. It just becomes one very long but rather narrow screen.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Some languages probably will want to make changes to the universal defaults (for all WMF and non-WMF wikis using MediaWiki), but that's something that I'd leave to experienced translators, since they will have a much better idea what the minimum set is for that language.

Cornel24 (talkcontribs)

Hi. I observed that for Romanian language letter "Ă", "Ș", "Ț" doesn't appear.

Cornel24 (talkcontribs)

Hi. I've tested in English. So, first I think it's a must to have a brief tutorial about how you can start to edit, where you can find basic tools. Why I say it is important? Because once you edit an article and during editing you find a new tool that makes your article and work on that article easier and better, you think: "Man, If I knew about it at start of my work!?". I consider that most people will start editing without exploring every new tool or feature. It's my opinion. What you think about it?

I think it's great that toolbar just scrolls down or up while you're surfing through the article. Another great feature is that media, transclusion etc. appear under insert. Stuff in transclusion is just amazing. Also, great that special characters panel appears relative to cursor present position. Amazing possibilities with media, I like it.

I'll continue to test it and forward to you my impressions and other suggestions.

Thanks! :)

Cornel24 (talkcontribs)


I observed that for Romanian language letter "Ă", "Ș", "Ț" doesn't appear.

Klipe (talkcontribs)

I guess that one main intended usage of this is for users of a certain wiki to insert characters that are not part of the standard character set for the language of that wiki since that's typically a situation where users may not have an appropriate keyboard layout at hands. In many cases, such usage would be as part of a template: an article title in its original language within {{Cite journal}}, a {{Quote}} in original language, just some foreign language words with {{Lang}} in the regular text, etc.

Well... I didn't find a way to use this tool within templates. Is it well hidden somewhere?

Other griefs include

  • Such a big tool for so few characters...
  • No apparent support for multiple characters sets (I mean switching the whole list of characters from a Latin set to a Greek or Cyrilic one)...
  • Insertion of just 1 character at a time...

At best, I'd say that this tool seems useless in such an early stage. I even fear that some fundamental requirements may have been overlooked and that this early stage is not even a good basis to make the tool evolve into something really useful.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hi Klipe,

The inserter isn't hidden in the templates; it isn't there yet. It needs to be there, and in many other places, too. I've got a list at bugzilla:60657, and if you think of any that I missed, please feel free to add them there (or to ask me to add them for you).

NicoV (talkcontribs)

I completely agree with Fram and Klipe about their feedback.

What's the point of bothering us with feedback when developers didn't even look at the existing tools for the wikitext editor ?

One extra remark on the configuration for defining character sets and characters in each set. There are currently 3 different informations in the configuration:

	"symbols": {
		"−": "−",

The first one seems to be the set's name, the second I'm not sure (maybe what is displayed in the button), the third one probably the character(s) that will be inserted. It would be nice to have 3 different informations for each special character: what is displayed in the button, a tooltip (would be useful for example for the various dashes), and the characters that will be really inserted.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

What's the point of bothering us with feedback when developers didn't even look at the existing tools for the wikitext editor ?

The devs did look at the existing systems. However, they did not want to automatically assume that they way it's been done in the past is the best possible solution. There were pretty significant technical limitations in what could be done in the wikitext editor (e.g., no possibility of floating palettes—which we might not want in the end, but which simply were impossible in the old editor).

Fram (talkcontribs)

They did look at the existing system, and decided to ignore it completely and make sure that the new one couldn't do anything the old one could. And then they and you were surprised when the feedback was so scathing?

That you wanted to add possibilities not available in wikitext is fine, but that is not an excuse to remove the most basic needs of a character insertor. Or was there some bugzilla entry that said "please make the character insertor single entry only"?

Did anyone, at any time, make an analysis of what a character insertor is needed for? What the few basic functionalities are? Can you link to that document?

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I'm not the least bit surprised that people have identified deficiencies in the existing iteration; identifying them (and seeing which "missing" items and which "new" items people don't call out as deficiencies) is the point of this discussion.

As far as I know, none of the original design documents are available online.

Fram (talkcontribs)

Perhaps it's time that the WMF changes it appraoch then, and puts its discussions, documentation, ... online? It can't be that you have anything to hide, surely? Or worse, that there is nothing to show?

Anyway, as long as you have no evidence for your claims about prior discussions and so on, I don't believe anything of it.

And the point of this discussion is to get the WMF to change their approach drastically, so that they don't come across as a bunch of totally incompetent losers. Which is the effect you have with putting things into production which have no useful new features, but has abandoned all the useful old features for no good reason at all, and then come here afterwards to ask for feedback.

But I'm glad to see that if we haven't made our list of deficiencies exhaustive, then you consider the things that haven't made our listed as "not important", "not needed", "not wanted" apparently. Yes, you totally have the right idea there, everything we haven't yet complained about is a real gem to treasure, and everything we haven't said is missing can be safely discarded.

Have you perhaps considered that most people give up after noting the few most glaring deficiencies and realising that the WMF hasn't put any thought at all into this? Comments like "At best, I'd say that this tool seems useless in such an early stage. I even fear that some fundamental requirements may have been overlooked and that this early stage is not even a good basis to make the tool evolve into something really useful." say it all, really.

Elitre (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Greetings, here's what our French-speaking friends noted so far.

  • Not enough groups of characters, and not enough characters per group;
  • the window should not close automatically;
  • the feature can't be used to add s.c. inside templates, external and internal links and so on;
  • The screenshot shows about only 40 characters right now and the window is already of a noticeable size. The [...] tool in the wikitext editor shows about 200 characters just for "Latin", and "Latin" is only one of the 18 character sets currently managed (which is probably only a portion of Unicode character sets). The current "mockup" doesn't address this basic issue of scalability, and the tool should grow in width;
  • The special characters tool shouldn't be a window, rather a kind of tab just like the wikitext tool or like tabs in Microsoft Word;
  • Where can one translate the labels of the groups, and why are the sets different (including their order; fr.wp lacks the Math one for example, but MediaWiki:Visualeditor-specialcharinspector-characterlist-insert wasn't changed locally)?
Quiddity (talkcontribs)

Re: Missing math: The list at translatewiki wasn't replicated from the English version - whoever did it clearly made their own choices. Compare with . HTH.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Here is a summary of the suggestions and needs expressed at the English Wikipedia:

  • Must be able to switch between multiple character sets (access to math symbols, Greek, Hebrew, etc., depending on what you need). At the English Wikipedia w:en:MediaWiki:Gadget-charinsert.js has 11 charsets and the wikieditor toolbar has 18; about 34 sets exist.
  • Must support multiple character insertion, even if it's not the default mode. (Not mentioned: it's probably necessary to be able to insert multiple characters from different character sets, e.g., mathematical symbols plus Greek letters or anything plus IPA.)
  • Must be able to use within transclusions, language settings, or any other dialog/tool that you can type into (bug 60657).
  • Prefer having the dialog near the menu rather than floating with the cursor. If the cursor is near the bottom of the screen, then the character selector menu is mostly below the screen.
  • Prefer having a menu attached to the main toolbar in VisualEditor that uses the full width of the screen to maximize the number of characters that can be seen at once (bug 60770).
Stryn (talkcontribs)

Sorry if this has been told already, but why not use the same special characters submenu as in WikiEditor? To be honest, I've never used it, but it looks good. So when choosing Insert -> Special character it could open same kind of submenu like in WikiEditor.

Keegan (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hey Stryn! The character inserter for VisualEditor is meant to be and is customizable for local wikis. We want communities to be able to populate it with what they need, rather than what we think they want. For example, since you're a admin on the Finnish Wikipedia you can adapt the character inserter directly on the MediaWiki page, just like I believe you can do for WikiEditor. VisualEditor should mimic as many functions as source editing as possible, and that includes local customization.

Keegan (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I see that James kind of gave the same answer below about Annotation buttons. I hope the link to the Finnish Wikipedia page helps you adapt the inserter.

Joetaras (talkcontribs)

Hi, IMHO, I think the V.E. special characters tool, I prefer a priority section with most used special characters.

Arrange of sections: I think:

  1. Accents
  2. Symbols
  3. Math
  4. others

The tool must remains visible until I want to hide it, I prefer the tool in a fixed position on screen (as startup) but I can drag it.

I hope my comment can be useful about develop of this cool tool.

See you soon! (talkcontribs)

Just wondering if it would be better to have the accents aligned with the letter going down and the accents across, and leaving space where the accents doesn't exist for that character. Test1

Figureskatingfan (talkcontribs)

I've been using VisualEditor for about 80% of the content I've added, and it's improving more and more. I like that the character inserter has been added; it makes things much, much easier. I don't use special characters very often, except for the em-and-en dashes, which I use almost every session, and sometimes a few times each session. I also like how the inserter has been set up thus far. IOW, I only have positive feedback for you. Nice work, and keep it up! Figureskatingfan (talk) 17:37, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

Keegan (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Great to hear that you're finding constant improvement, Figureskatingfan. Any feedback you have to build VisualEditor is always welcome.

Wikiuser13 (talkcontribs)

Please add Devanagari character.

Keegan (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Thanks for the request, Wikiuser13. We'll see about adding them to the default inserter. In the mean time, if you can help we'd like to make sure that local wikis are getting the support that they need, including proper characters for the Hindi Wikipedia.

Euterpia (talkcontribs)

Hi, french editor here :)

Firsts things first: the actual characters we have nowadays are useless in french (most of the accented characters already exist on the french AZERTY keybord, and the symbols are not the oft used symbols we need like the french quotation marks). Also I am not a big user of the Visual Editor, but I have tried it some, and even if I am still not convinced by its purpose, I think improving it is important.

To introduce my reasoning on the special character question, I would like to remind you that while templates can be mostly skipped when writing, and references are useful but most often added at a rate of 1 ref/multiple sentences, special chars on the other hand are part of the writing. If we need easy access to templates and references, then we doubly need twice easyer access to the special chararacters because if putting refs can be done afterwards, adding little [1] at the end of the sentences, writing your regular lengthy article will require the use of all those pesky little «» ± ó æ Á É right in the middle of the sentences we write.

So, answering some of the questions asked in the dedicated section of the VisualEditor french suggestion page:

  • Yes we would need the whole wikieditor special character toolbar. For one, nobody can predict what characters they will need while editing. I might need greek letters for a physics article, then edit some article about some czech woman or something and need some accents non accessible on the french AZERTY keyboard.
    • The whole toolbar won't be too much, it will just be enough. Even in the french community keyboard-related problems about apostrophes are a reoccuring matter because people won't have access to the same keyboard in a language community.
    • The pop-up sorta thing should go down the drain : special characters are too plentyful to be used as a pop-up. Microsoft Word is an example of the sort of thing a pop-up would become : a huge jumble of signs, symbols and letters, all together in a invasive pop-up window in the middle of the text frame, superimposed on the text, making it unnerving when we want to add just a single character, or multiple characters in different places in the text. Please, prettty please don't do that.
    • A good vertical or horizontal toolbar/tab, taking the whole length/width of the editing window would be good, that you can wrap/unwrap so as to have easy and quick access to the characters without the thing blocking your view from the text. Different tabs would allow us to go from one set to the other, since the worst possible thing would be to have all the characters in the same frame, making users go crazy finding the right character (Microsoft Word, again...)
    • For users without enough place to store all the characters in a few lines, two things should be done in my opinion:
      • For starters reduce the size of the little buttons to click. Seriously, being user friendly slash omg so cool and design doesn't mean we should have small letters/symbols encapsulated in huge squarish buttons. Reduce the size or use the whole space of those squares, because for the time being it feels like a ot of free empty unused space. That way, more special characters will be encompassed in the pop-up/tab/navigation bar/whatever
      • Second add a scroll. Really, scrolling is like, the basics. Not enough place to store everything ? Scroll.
  • A special section with the ten/twenty or so most used characters would be so so nice.
  • La barre d'outils a déjà trop d'options. Comment la simplifier ?/The toolbar has already too many options. How do we simplify it? Well... You have to ways of figuring this out:
    • The VisualEditor is only some sort of simplified editing tool, sorta like Wikipedia-for-dummies thing, adapted for people unfamiliar with the internet/the computers/whatever. Then you can already scratch all those template-adding, special characters and such, because this should be made simple and would be a tool designed for occasional editors
    • The VisualEditor is destined to be some sort of alternative for all the editors: well then you're screwed because the actual, nowadays, code-like interface does a humonguous number of different things, so the VE toolbar will reflect this state of things and be a humonguous thing. And thus, the VE won't be easy to use even for people unfamiliar with code editing: no amount of nice little buttons with cutesy little logos and images will be able to simplify the understanding of a newbie in front of Wikipedia. It takes time, practice, and help from humans... (Help that is made kinda hard to give since you just never know what tool the newbies will use...) Anyway, I am rambling and straying on another path here, sorry ;)

Good luck implementing the special characters in VE

NemesisIII (talkcontribs)


Here is my feedback. I totally agree with Euterpia (just above). I proposed the idea of a tab on fr.wp a few weeks ago, I think using a vertical tab on the right side of the screen is better as it takes less place than horizontal tabs,if it it not too wide. One user on the French Wikipedia (TigH) suggested that VE should be able to analyse the characters of the page which is edited, so that special characters which are used the most on that page are displayed in a special "priority" section. It could be mixed with a general "priority" section, with special characters that are needed most often in the language of the wiki.

Then, reducing the size of the buttons would also be useful (and not only for the special character inserter): the toolbar on the top of the page has two drop-down menus, a few icons, and a veeeery large blank space on my computer. So you should add an "advanced" mode, in which only icons are displayed in the toolbar: this could avoid drop-down menus and allow a faster access to the different features. Keep it up !

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