Community Wishlist Survey 2017/Editing/VisualEditor: Allow references to be named

VisualEditor: Allow references to be namedEdit

  • Problem: One cannot enter a name for a reference in the VisualEditor which will assign ":0", ":1" automatically to references used multiple times.
  • Who would benefit: Everyone using VE
  • Proposed solution: Allow editors to assign individual names to references when clicking on a reference in the VE
  • More comments: According to the Phab ticket, it was deemed too complicated for Q3 back in 2015 but since then there was no further updates. I'm certainly not a master coder but I don't see how this is really a complicated problem, considering that apparently this was once possible and has been removed.
  • Proposer: SoWhy 19:26, 10 November 2017 (UTC)


Endorse. A piece of code of type <ref name=":0"> is ugly and very unhelpful (especially when editing in wikitext mode). --Vachovec1 (talk) 10:48, 11 November 2017 (UTC)

Agree with above. Maybe take the first authors last name and add the year of publication to it? Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 21:52, 13 November 2017 (UTC)
Endorse. A user came into -help with this exact concern and some ideas were discussed around it, eluding to the auto-generation Doc James is mentioning. There seems to be some good suggestions in the comments of the phab tickets. Although it gets a bit iffy for online references. One person suggested domain, underscore, page name (If only a bare url is given) (e.g. bbc_magazine-23969607), which isn't horrible but not a ton better than just [domain]-[sequential number]. Either way, this is a vast improvement over the current system. Drewmutt (^ᴥ^) talk 03:37, 14 November 2017 (UTC)

Endorse. If there's one thing I hate, it's reffing an article in VE then having to tediously go back through in source mode to rename all the refs. Premeditated Chaos (talk) 23:30, 14 November 2017 (UTC)

There are two problems being conflated here:

  1. Allowing manual addition of reference names
  2. Automatically generating a reference name based on properties of the reference

The difficulty of solving the first problem depends on the class of user you're aiming the solution at. If you're aiming it at advanced users, it doesn't seem to difficult, for example, to add a reference name field to the dialogue shown when you edit a reference. I don't know exactly where it'd go, but that doesn't seem too complex to figure out. If you're aiming it at new users, it's significantly more complex. Newer users using visual editor probably won't understand what a "reference name" is given that it doesn't affect anything about the article layout in visual editing mode, so you'd need to explain it to them. Putting it in the edit dialogue is probably too late for them, so you'd need to add it earlier in the workflow, which would increase the complexity of the basic workflow of adding a citation, which does not seem like an acceptable tradeoff. So, designing it for newer users would involve a lot of time and thought, since the risks of disrupting their workflows are much higher.

The second problem isn't too complicated in principle, but the devil is in the details. The biggest issues are hash collisions and incorrect assumptions about the structure of references, see phab:T169841#3411881 for more details on that. A fallback would be necessary, which would likely be the numerical system. These problems can be mitigated of course, but we might end up with a situation that isn't much better than the current one. That could be acceptable if the current situation is suboptimal enough.

A combination of these two solutions might be nice; use some automated system to generate nice(ish) reference names to solve the problem with newer users, and add a reference name field to the edit reference dialogue for advanced users. That means the workflows of new users are not changed at all, and advanced users have nice ways of changing things in the visual editing environment.

For the record, since I've often had people quote thinking-out-loud brainstorming like this like it's some form of immutable truth, I want to point out quite clearly that brainstorming is exactly what this post was. Things could turn out to be more simpler or more complex than I imagine, or the solutions I brainstormed here might not be the ones that are worked on, if the item is worked on at all. :-)

--Dan Garry, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 12:55, 17 November 2017 (UTC)

@Deskana (WMF): My post was about the first one, which should be easy. Useful autogenerated names would be neat but it would usually be sufficient to be able to name them manually. I do think the auto-generate problem should be a separate post here to avoid said conflating. Regards SoWhy 18:06, 18 November 2017 (UTC)
I'd use a manual field myself, but a simple automatic one shouldn't be difficult--such as the first character of the title field if present followed by a number, or the year field similarly. DGG (talk) 02:13, 20 November 2017 (UTC)
Hi, Deskana (WMF). There is no conflatulence. We mortal editors are not permitted to create named references that are numerical only, and nor should VE be allowed to do it with a colonic workaround. Having fun! Cheers! Checkingfax (talk) 21:05, 4 December 2017 (UTC)


  •   Support Strainu (talk) 22:39, 27 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support NMaia (talk) 23:54, 27 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Dvorapa (talk) 09:01, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support β16 - (talk) 10:28, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support --Liuxinyu970226 (talk) 13:04, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Sadads (talk) 13:41, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support — Draceane talkcontrib. 18:01, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Rcsprinter123 (talk) 20:00, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Thomas Obermair 4 (talk) 21:46, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Really needed. Jules78120 (talk) 00:13, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 06:38, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Sebastian Wallroth (talk) 07:25, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   SupportTheDJ (talkcontribs) 17:38, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Natureium (talk) 19:15, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Slafayette (talk) 19:29, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Mathieugp (talk) 19:44, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Luan (discussão) 20:16, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Patar knightchat/contributions 20:56, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Nick Moyes (talk) 22:22, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Daylen (talk) 04:21, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Nihlus 05:08, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support AWossink (talk) 08:58, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Andrew D. (talk) 13:06, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support JzG (talk) 15:25, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support this would help source editors not be as annoyed by VE editors Rachel Helps (BYU) (talk) 16:43, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Spinster (talk) 16:56, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Vachovec1 (talk) 17:44, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support AugusteBlanqui (talk) 19:05, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Trizek from FR 20:15, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Nabla (talk) 21:17, 30 November 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support StarryGrandma (talk) 03:22, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Premeditated Chaos (talk) 13:24, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support --Superchilum(talk to me!) 16:28, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Justynian I Cesarz Rzymski (talk) 17:30, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Theklan (talk) 18:36, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Ckoerner (talk) 21:32, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support MGChecker (talk) 00:06, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Gnom (talk) Let's make Wikipedia green! 10:19, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Wostr (talk) 10:54, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk, contributions) 11:22, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Wolbo (talk) 13:10, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support ديفيد عادل وهبة خليل 2 (talk) 14:22, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support TheCatalyst31 (talk) 17:13, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Docosong (talk) 23:49, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Joshualouie711 (talk) 02:16, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support The ability to modify ref names is an absolutely must-have IMO, but the requirement to do this is rather controversial (and what to do with cases where a ref is used only once?). Improving the autogenerated names is not so important for me, although I would appreciate it if someone has really much time to develop it. :) Tacsipacsi (talk) 12:13, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Gryllida 00:45, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support GoEThe (talk) 11:56, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support I want this. Anthonyhcole (talk) 12:30, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Proposal by Doc James seems the most natural Halibutt (talk) 15:02, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support - named references need to have names that represent the content of the reference. Having fun! Cheers! Checkingfax (talk) 21:01, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Strongly support this. Simple fix but easier for those doing follow up. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 02:21, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support please do make reference cleanup easier Elmidae (talk) 18:38, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support We really need this! EMsmile (talk) 11:24, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Ahm masum (talk) 08:33, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support PamD (talk) 10:10, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support I'm happy to leave the nature of the fix to the judgment of others, but something would be good. HLHJ (talk) 06:23, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
  • 15:33, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Hienafant (talk) 12:52, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Strong support. Vätte (talk) 13:50, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Ecritures (talk) 14:02, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Stobaios (talk) 01:32, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support BugWarp (talk) 12:49, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support Carwil (talk) 13:26, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support. I am not actively using VE but this also impacts edits made by other users as I have seen VE replace reasonable names with hard to understand ":0"'s — NickK (talk) 16:19, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
  •   Support. Ed [talk] [en] 17:30, 11 December 2017 (UTC)