Templates are a method by which the MediaWiki software includes standardized blocks of text in an article. These blocks are stored in separate pages in the "Template:" namespace, and are automatically updated wherever they are included site-wide, whenever template page is updated. In other words, when the template is updated, you do not need to update any pages that use it.
Templates have a wide range of uses on Memory Alpha, and are grouped into five major categories:
- Message templates. These templates are used to include standardized information that is of general interest to the readers and/or article contributors. They are generally intended to catch one's attention and inform them of the status of the article, whether it be a warning of a copyright violation, a request for comments, or a disambiguation notice.
- Navigational templates. Users can also create navigation bars that link multiple articles together in a single menu. This is most useful for articles in a series, or for a group of articles that cover a common subject.
- Sidebar templates. Some articles use standardized "sidebars" to help display an informal overview of the subject at hand. These sidebar templates are useful to make it simple to include the information in a consistent manner across the entire site.
- Meta templates. There are a number of pages in the "Memory Alpha" namespace that exhibit a very high rate of turnover; these include the pages for deletion, featured article nominations, the main page, and others. In these cases, it is beneficial to include text that is not likely to be changed in a separate template, because it helps conserve disk space by not saving the same text over and over again.
- Inline templates. These are templates designed to be used as inline text, whether to format something, allow for consistent link conventions, or simply to make life easier.