Semantic MediaWiki provides various simple interfaces for browsing the data contained in the wiki. In addition, there are two other ways to browse through a wiki's data: using one or more additional extensions that offer browsing of SMW data; and using an external tool that gets populated with the wiki's data via RDF.
The factbox is a box at the bottom of wiki pages which summarises the semantic data that was entered into a page. This also helps editors to check whether Semantic MediaWiki actually «understood» the supplied information as intended. Users can read the factbox for getting a quick overview, and for using its links to further information. Note that the factbox can be switched off by the site administrator, as some wikis do not wish to show the added information on each page (see Help:Configuration).
Factboxes show information in two columns: the left column displays the property that some information belongs to (e.g. population), while the right column shows the value of that property (e.g. 3,410,000). Each property name is a link to the property's article in the wiki, where one can normally find more information about a property's meaning and usage. Annotations in the factbox usually provide links to involved wiki pages, and for properties that support units of measurement, the factbox also shows converted values in other units.
The icon next to each property value links to a simple search at Special:SearchByProperty (see below). For example, if an article contains the annotation [[is located in::Germany]] then its factbox links to a search listing all pages with the same annotation (i.e. everything located in Germany). Similarly, the header of the factbox shows an icon that links to a simple semantic browser for the given page (see below).
The factbox may also show an icon that when clicked links to external web services that provide more information about a property value. For example, a property for specifying geographic coordinates might link to online mapping services that provide aerial images and maps of the chosen location. Wiki administrators can choose the links that each property displays; see Help:Service links for details on how to do it.
Finally, the factbox contains a link to retrieve the factbox contents in the machine-readable OWL/RDF format, as explained in the section on Semantic Web technologies in SMW.
Editors can put the magic words __NOFACTBOX__ and __SHOWFACTBOX__ on any page to hide or display (if nonempty) the factbox on any page, independently of the global wiki configuration.
A live example for the factbox is on the demo page Berlin where it was enabled with __SHOWFACTBOX__.
The Special:Browse page offers a simple browsing interface for the computer-readable data of Semantic MediaWiki. By default, the sidebar for every page, within the "toolbox" links, contains a "Browse properties" link that leads to the Special:Browse page for that page. Users can also go to Special:Browse, directly, then enter the name of a specific page they want to browse. Special:Browse displays all semantic properties of a page (similar to the content of the factbox), as well as all semantic links that point to that page. By clicking on the icon , the user can browse to another article. For a more detailed description and some configuration settings, see here.
Simple search interfaces
Semantic MediaWiki provides a number of very simple search forms that allow users to find specific information. These search features are accessed in various special pages:
- Special:SearchByProperty has a simple search form for finding semantic backlinks. Users enter a property name and target value. The search returns a list of all pages that have that property with that value. If you search for a property of a numeric type, and there are only few results, nearest results will be shown as well. This can be switched off by setting $smwgSearchByPropertyFuzzy to false in your local settings. This service is directly accessible through the link within the factbox or Special:Browse.
- Special:PageProperty displays all values some page has for some property. Users enter a page and a property name. The search displays a list of all values of the property on that page. If factboxes are enabled in the wiki, the same information can also be read off the factbox of the page. Since SMW 1.4.3, it is also possible to retrieve all values that a property has been given throughout the wiki, simply by leaving the subject input empty.
Viewing all properties, types, and values
Each property has an own page in the Property namespace, similar to the category pages in MediaWiki's Category namespace. These property pages show all pages using the property together with the property's value(s) on that page, possibly with service links
Besides the links in the factbox and the normal MediaWiki search, there are also special ways of finding properties of a wiki:
- Special:Properties lists properties that appear in annotations in alphabetical order and indicate the frequency of their usage.
- Special:UnusedProperties lists property pages that are not in any annotations. This may indicate that a property was abandonded and should be deleted.
- Special:WantedProperties lists properties that are used but do not have a descriptive page. This is not desirable, since users then cannot find any documentation on such properties, so that confusion may arise regarding their proper use.
- Special:Types lists the available datatypes for properties. See Help:Editing for an introduction into datatypes and their relevance in SMW.
These special pages are particularly useful for wiki gardeners and editors, since they give some overview of how properties are used in the wiki.
These approaches all search for semantic properties of pages. To simply view existing pages about properties, categories, and types, even if unused or garbled, use MediaWiki's Special:Allpages to display all pages within these namespaces.
Additional extensions for browsing and searching
Other Semantic MediaWiki-based extensions exist to allow for browsing and searching through a wiki's data. The Semantic Drilldown extension, most notably, was developed to provide a drilldown-based approach for viewing a wiki's data; while Semantic Forms, Halo and others also provide interfaces for searching through data. See the help page on extensions for more information related to them.
External tool support
Semantic MediaWiki makes semantic knowledge available to external tools via its OWL/RDF export, and it therefore is possible to write external tools that implement further advanced browsing and searching functionality. Currently, many tools that work on RDF output are not very user-friendly yet, but the supplied data format RDF is easy to process and could be integrated in much more elaborate web or desktop applications. For more information, there is a list of tools that have been tested with Semantic MediaWiki so far. Feel free to add your own tool there as well.
Help:Browsing interfaces en 1.3.0