Help:Parameter default

In non-substituted template expansion, an expression {{{p|q}}} inside the template is expanded to {{{p}}} if that is defined, and else to the default argument q. Thus the default can be specified independently for every occurrence of the parameter.

These results {{{p}}} and q can be end results, but they can also be in an expression for a parameter name (inside a pair of triple braces or in a template call or a switch), a parameter value (in the call of a template or parser function), or name of a template, parser function or variable.

Similarly, on substitution of a template, an expression {{{p|q}}} inside the template, where p is a parameter name (or an expression which is simultaneously substituted and results in a parameter name) and q is any wikitext (with restrictions regarding pipes and triple braces) is processed as follows:

  • if p is defined, {{{p|q}}} is changed to the wikitext of the value of p (or the wikitext to which that is changed if there is simultaneous substitution inside that wikitext)
  • if p is undefined, {{{p|q}}} is changed to q, possibly with simultaneous substitutions inside the wikitext for q.


In the case of multiple pipes, anything from the second pipe is ignored: {{{a|b|c|d}}} is equivalent with {{{a|b}}}. The default part can only contain "|" as part of full template, parser function, parameter, link, or image syntax within it, within nowiki-tags, and as content of a template, as in Template:!.

The expression for the parameter name can also contain "|", as part of full template, parser function, or parameter syntax within it.

Examples, in some cases using Template:3x containing "{{{1}}}{{{1}}}{{{1}}}<noinclude>{{documentation}}</noinclude>"
and Template:t2 containing "Parameter 1 is "{{{1}}}", parameter 2 is "{{{2}}}"<noinclude>[[Category:Demo template]]</noinclude>":

  • {{{a|b|c|d}}} gives b - second pipe onward is ignored
  • {{{a|{{3x|b}}}}} gives bbb
  • {{{a|{{{b|c}}}}}} gives c
  • {{{a|[[b|c]]}}} gives c
  • {{{{{3x|a}}|b}}} gives b - parameter aaa is undefined
  • {{{{{{a|b}}}|c}}} gives c - parameter b is undefined
  • {{{a|<nowiki>b|c</nowiki>}}} gives b|c - works fine for rendering text, but is not suitable for putting parameters b and c in a template call (there is no function for removing nowiki tags):
    {{t2|{{{a|<nowiki>b|c</nowiki>}}}}} gives Parameter 1 is "b|c", parameter 2 is "{{{2}}}"

Expressions containing a parameter, with defaultEdit

This section was written before the extension ParserFunctions existed, to allow branching without it.
Notation: from here the wikitext {{{a}}} is written as [a].

Consider the expression [a[b|c]|f([b])] occurring in a template, where f([b]) denotes an expression in [b].


  • [a[b]] is undefined for all applicable [b] (all values of parameter b for which the template is called)
  • [ac]=d (the template is called with ac=d)

Then the expression gives f([b]) if [b] is defined, and otherwise d.

Note that the conditions require that no applicable [b] has value c. If one wants to be able to use all letters and digits in [b], and also allow null (the empty string), then for c one can take e.g. "@".

If it is desirable or at least acceptable that if [b] is empty, the result is not f("") but "", and the same when [b] is undefined, we take d="", and can for example choose c to be the empty string too. Then we have the expression [a[b|]|f([b])] occurring in the template, giving f([b]) if [b] is defined, and otherwise the empty string, under the following conditions:

  • [a[b]] is undefined for all applicable [b] (all values of parameter b for which the template is called)
  • the template is called with "a="

The same template can contain several expressions [ai [bi | c ] | fi ([bi ])]. By choosing all ai equal we need only one "a=" in the template call. Then the expressions are [a [bi | c ] | fi ([bi ])].

A special case is with constant functions fi, i.e. not dependent on [bi ]. Then the expressions are [a [bi | c ] | fi ]. In the template call it only matters for each bi whether is gets a value, not which value. For convenience we can assign the empty string to those which are defined at all. Since no applicable [b] should have value c (see above), c should not be the empty string in this case. With d the empty string, the template serves as an array, where for index bi the array value is fi. It is called with "ac=" and "bi=", or even with a list of assignments "bi=", giving a list of the corresponding array values. See Template:Short DOW alt 2.

While normally a parameter specification in a template call represents a choice the user of the template has, the need to specify "ac=" is an unfortunate technical requirement imposed on the user of the template; it can be shielded from the user by putting the template call inside another template; on projects where server-strain is a concern this may not be desirable.

The name "a" can be chosen such that no other parameters of the template have a name starting with it, then the first condition is fulfilled (apart from the case, already discussed, that [b] is the empty string). A good choice is "if". Thus

[if [bi | c ] | fi ([bi ])]


if bi is defined then fi ([bi ])

c="" gives the if-statement which is shortest and with the best appearance, while e.g. c="u" (for "undefined") allows for the shortest specification in the template call to define bi ("bi=") in cases where the value is irrelevant. The latter may be confusing in contexts where "empty" and "undefined" are usually treated as equivalent.

If the result, f([b]) or the empty string, is for final display only, i.e., not for use in expressions for template names, parameter names, parameter values, page names in links, etc., an alternative is using CSS, see MediaWiki talk:Common.css.

For comparison using a="if" and c=d="", and also the shorter class name "if" instead of "HiddenStructure", the two lines are:

<span class=" if{{{b|}}} "> ... </span>
{{{           if{{{b|}}} |  ... }}}

In the second method the wikitext in the template is 15 characters shorter for each optional item, but each call is 4 characters ("if=|") longer.

In the first method conflicts with other class names have to be avoided, in the second method conflicts with other parameter names.


A "for-loop" is achieved using

Template:Fors, containing:


with Template:Fors/aux, containing:


In short form the latter consists of components

[ v[i] | [s] {{[c]|[pc1]|[pc2]|[pc3]|[pc4]|[pv]=[i]}} ] (i = 1, 2, 3, for i = 1 without [s])

or in terms of the parameters of the first template:

[v[i|@] | [sep|] {{[call]|[pc1|]|[pc2|]|[pc3|]|[pc4|]|[pv|1]=[i]}} ]

This is indeed of the above-mentioned form [a[b|c]|f([b])], with a=v, b=i, c=@, and

f(x) = [sep|] {{[call]|[pc1|]|[pc2|]|[pc3|]|[pc4|]|[pv|1]=x}}

The assumptions mentioned above apply for d equal to null, and provided that no [i] is equal to "@".


Since v@=null we can also take make the concatenation the outer operation: [v[i|@] | [sep|]] [v[i|@] | {{[call]|[pc1|]|[pc2|]|[pc3|]|[pc4|]|[pv|1]=[i]}} ]

Conditional statementEdit

This section was written before the extension ParserFunctions existed, to allow branching without it.

Template:Ifold contains:


or in short form:

[ else[test|] | [ test[test|] | [then|] ] ]

If [test] is defined this reduces to:

[ else[test] | [ test[test] | [then|] ] ]

For test equal to null this reduces to [else|]; otherwise, if no parameter name starting with "test" or "else" applies except these themselves, then this reduces to [then|].

If [test] is undefined we get:

[ else | [then|] ]

Last-but techniqueEdit

Sometimes the last or last but x parameter value may be needed, but the numbers of supplied parameters is unknown. The following is a technique to get last "assigned" parameter value without using a template:

Then last but one can be achieved like this: ("ifu" is preassigned with empty)

   [[if[1|u]|0]|*] //this line is actually useless, can be replaced by "*".

I.e., to replace "4", "3", "2", "1" with D4, D3, D2, D1. And Dx=[if[x|u]|x-1]. Like this, you can get "last but x" parameter value.
Examples using Template:Lastbut0 and Template:Lastbut1:

  • {{lastbut0}} gives no input.
  • {{lastbut0|a}} gives a.
  • {{lastbut0|a|b|c|d|e|f|g|h|i|j}} gives j.
  • {{lastbut1|ifu=}} gives no input.
  • {{lastbut1|ifu=|a}} gives no input.
  • {{lastbut1|ifu=|a|b}} gives a.
  • {{lastbut1|ifu=|a|b|c|d|e|f|g|h|i|j}} gives i.
  • {{lastbut0|53=53|81=81|28=28}} gives 81 (finds maximum of a list of integers in the range 1 - 100)

See also: Template:max (talk, backlinks, edit) containing:


Server efficiencyEdit

Parameter default constructs are said to be more efficiently executed by the server than similar constructs using extra layers of templates.


Information on this page relates to MediaWiki versions 1.6 and later.


Parameter defaults were introduced before parser functions, and therefore used ingeniously for branching, see above and e.g. Template:T opt par.

See alsoEdit

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