I asked a question at why the extra step in registering? whose solution by Shog9 I think would be worth placing in the Tips and Tricks list. But I don't see the Tips and Tricks anymore in the right margin. Where did that go? I found that list convenient to better format my searches on MO using Google, for example.

  • $\begingroup$ You can find it here: web.archive.org/web/20130606085811/http://mathoverflow.net/tips $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ I posted it below as an answer, but it needs to be updated and cleaned up. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ Why would Tips and Tricks be in that nonobvious place instead of where it used to be in the right margin on MO? $\endgroup$
    – KConrad
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 21:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is not on the site anymore. It was part of the customization that moderators added to MO. When we migrated it got lost. The link above is to a copy on Internet Archive. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 22:20

1 Answer 1


Tips and Tricks

  1. View recent responses to your posts. The little envelope next to your name at the top of the page lights up when people have posted new answers to your questions or have commented on your posts. Click the envelope to see the most recent responses to your posts and the most recent places you've gained/lost reputation.

  2. Accepting answers. In addition to voting posts up and down, you can accept answers to your own questions. To do this, just click the check mark that appears to the left of the answer you'd like to accept (this check mark will only appear if you asked the original question). This gives the person who answered your question 15 reputation points and gives you 2 reputation points. You can "unaccept" the answer by clicking the check mark again.

  3. Interesting/Ignored Tags. Add a tag to your "Interested Tags" list (on the home page or in the "prefs" tab in your user page) to visually highlight questions that use that tag. Add a tag to your "Ignored Tags" list to grey out questions with that tag.

  4. Edit histories. You can tell that a post has been edited because it says something like "edited 8 hours ago" or "edited yesterday" at the bottom. If you click on "8 hours ago" (resp. "yesterday"), you can see the full edit history of the post.

  5. View Markdown source. Suppose you're really curious how somebody typeset something in a question or answer (I think I'm not the only one this happens to). If the post has been edited, you can view the edit history (see Tip 4) and click the "view source" link above a revision. This will show you exactly what the person typed in order to get the result you see. If the post has not been edited, then it's a little trickier to view the edit history. First you have to find the number of the post. If the post is a question, then it has a url like https://mathoverflow.net/questions/number/blah-foo-bar. If the post is an answer, you can click the "link" link at the bottom of the answer to get a url like Linearity of the inner product using the parallelogram lawnumber#number (the two numbers will be the same). Once you know the number of the post, you can get to the edit history by going to the URL https://mathoverflow.net/revisions/number/list.

  6. Bookmark/Favorite a question. Suppose you really like a question or you really want to be able to find it easily later. You can add it to your favorite questions list by clicking the little star next to the question. Click the star again to "unfavorite" it. To see a list of your favorite questions, go to the "favorites" tab on your user page.

  7. Use problematic characters in URLs. Sometimes your links will behave strangely in posts because they contain a disallowed character. For example, the text
    ends up linking to
    To fix this, you have to percent encode the troublesome character. In this case, you’d type
    to get a good link.

    All characters outside ISO Latin 1 are disallowed, and need to be encoded using their UTF-8 byte sequence (e.g., the en-dash character above, U+2013, is represented as E2 80 93 in UTF-8, hence it is percent-encoded as %E2%80%93). Furthermore, some ASCII characters require percent encoding, because they conflict with Markdown syntax, or because they are URL reserved characters. This list may be non-exhaustive:

       *    $     [     ]    (     )   (space)
    %2A %24 %5B %5D %28 %29 %20

    Other reserved characters may appear in a URL, but they have a special function: e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Algebraic_variety&action=history. They need to be percent-encoded when this special function is not intended: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT%26T.

    Many browsers automatically percent-encode non-ASCII characters and reserved characters (but not Markdown special characters) as necessary in URLs copied from the address bar, sparing you the trouble of manual encoding.

  8. Follow up on your recent comments. It's easy to follow up when somebody replies to one of your posts (see tip #1), but you might find yourself saying, "I left a comment that I really meant to check up on later, but I can't remember where I left it." In that case, try clicking the "recent" tab on your user page. It will show you a list of all the comments you left in reverse chronological order, along with links to the posts on which you left them. It also shows you when you asked, answered, edited, or accepted an answer.

  9. RSS feeds. MathOverflow has feeds for recent questions, questions within a given tag, activity on a single question, activity of a given user, and probably some others I don't know about. To find the link for the feed, just scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the (e.g. to get the feed for a given user's activity, scroll to the bottom of that users profile page; to get the feed for recent questions, scroll down to the bottom of the home page).

  10. What do the colors mean? The color of the "number of answers" box and the background color of an answer tells you the following things:

    Votes box, Answer background, Question background unanswered, answered, accepted, accepted, deleted, has interesting tag, has ignored tag

  11. Escape Markdown special characters. Characters like * and _ have special meaning in Markdown (the markup language used by the WMD editor). You can escape them with a backslash. For example, write \test\ to get "*test*" rather than "test". You can also escape these characters in comments.

  12. Use boolean operators on tags. You probably already noticed that you can see all questions with a given tag by clicking on the tag, and maybe even that you can combine tags to see questions that use both (by clicking on the "related tags"), but you can also search for questions that use one tag OR another or search for questions that use one tag, but NOT another. For example, the URL
    https://mathoverflow.net/tagged/homological-algebra or representation-theory -algebraic-geometry
    will show you a list of questions that are tagged ([homological-algebra] OR ([representation-theory] but NOT [algebraic-geometry])). NOT (denoted by by prefixing a "-") binds tighter than AND (denoted by a space) binds tighter than OR (denoted by the word "or"). See this blog.SO post for more.

  13. Wildcards in tags. You can use ~ as a wildcard when searching tags. For example, to find all questions that have a tag ending in "geometry", go to

  14. Restrict to certain tags in searches. When you use the search box, anything between brackets is interpreted as a tag, so the search "[ac.commutative-algebra] decomposition" searches within the [ac.commutative-algebra] tag for questions containing the word "decomposition".

  15. See original math input. Sometimes you want to see the original input corresponding to some MathJax output. You can see it by right clicking on the MathJax output.

  16. Search MathOverflow like a ninja. Let's face it: MathOverflow's search functionality is sometimes not so hot, but you can take advantage of the fact that MathOverflow is heavily indexed by Google. If you want to search comments or search for a phrase, you can use a google search like site:http://mathoverflow.net "wicked smooth" or site:http://mathoverflow.net "can't argue with that".

This trick can also be used to search user pages. For example, if you want to find MathOverflow users whose profile contains the phrase "finite groups", try site:mathoverflow.net/users/ "finite groups". See Google's advanced search tips for more.

Do you have a MathOverflow tip or trick that you'd like added to this list, or do you have a question about one of the tricks? Post your suggestion/question below.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The description of percent encoding was quite confused, as it was showing an endash (U+2013) as the value of %2D (which encodes hyphen, U+002D). This was further muddled up by the example, because on Wikipedia, the title with hyphen redirects to the one with an endash. In fact, hyphens work without any encoding in URLs, as I have just tested, so I’ve fixed this. Since it is highly unlikely that endash is a “reserved character”, this requires further investigation; it may well be that all non-ASCII characters require percent encoding. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. It would seem that ISO 8859-1 non-ASCII characters work, but others need to be encoded. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ I think it is good it was copied here for reference, but there are several things that would need to be updated. I am not sure what will be the best way to present this information. Either as a one question, with the different tips and tricks being separate answers or each as an individual question then say decorated with FAQ-tag to increase visibility. Or still at a different place. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @quid, yes, it needs to be updated. Foe example, ~ doesn't seem to work as a wild char anymore. I think one item per answer might be better as the more important ones can be up-voted. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 16:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps a way to proceed could be just somebody you, me, somebody else, asking a question like: "What are tips and tricks for using MO more effectively?" with instruction one trick per answer, and link to here with encouragement to repost things if and when people know this still works (or an updated version) but also additional things as they arise. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ @quid, sounds a good idea. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 2:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I created the question meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/389/… $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 11:00

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