Wikipedia has quietly been working on a variety of features behind the scenes as part of its beta program. If you're feeling adventurous, here's how you can make researching on Wikipedia even better.
How To Get Started With Wikipedia Beta
To use Wikipedia's beta features, start by setting up an account with Wikipedia. You'll need to be logged in for the features to work (obviously). You can set up a new account here. Once you've made an account and logged in, head to the beta features page here. There are a range of features you can enable (anyone who's ever used Google Labs will feel at home); we'll highlight some of the best ones.
Get Quick Information With Hover Cards
One of the most dangerous traps of the internet is the Wikipedia rabbit hole, where you endlessly click through related interesting links. Hover Cards makes it easier to sate your curiosity without opening a bunch of new tabs. When enabled, cards will appear when you hover over a link and display a summary of that page. If all you needed from that page was a quick primer or a picture, this saves you a click. Or twelve.
Get Related Content With The Other Projects Sidebar
Wikipedia isn't the only Wiki around. You may have stumbled on projects like Wikiquote or Wikimedia Commons, but they tend to be fairly segregated. The other projects sidebar adds links to related content. So, for example, if you're reading up on William Shakespeare, it will provide you with a quick link to Wikiquote's collection of quotes from Shakespeare's plays. Handy.
Load Large Pages Faster With HHVM
Wikipedia's tweaks aren't just user-facing. You can also enable HHVM (which stands for Hip Hop Virtual Machine), which claims to boost page loading times for large articles. Small articles and stubs probably won't be affected much, but larger pages like Ebola load much, much faster.
Get Better Search Results With New Search
Wikipedia hasn't always had the best track record with search results. In fact, most of us would probably prefer to use Google. The company is clearly aware as the New Search project aims to fix the problem. Sometimes it's just easier to click on the search box in Wikipedia itself if you're already there. If that's the case for you, enabling this beta feature should hopefully give you better results without substantially altering the interface itself.
Boost Your Editing Powers (For Hardcore Users)
Editing Wikipedia may not be for everyone, but if you contribute, you'll appreciate some tweaks to the interface. The Visual Editor adds something that Wikipedia has sorely needed: a WYSIWIG editor. Now, you can type and see how the page will look immediately. There are also additional plugins for the video editor that you can add to make managing languages or formulas easier.