When you want the largest free knowledge base in the world available in the palm of your hand, you refer to Wikipedia apps. Like with Wikipedia itself, we'd like the apps to access Wikipedia to be free-of-cost . Here is a lowdown on seven free mobile apps for readers and editors of Wikipedia.
The official Wikipedia app by the Wikimedia Foundation displays Wikipedias in 280-odd languages. You can save pages for referring to them later or offline. Pages can be shared on social networks using the Share function. A nifty feature is ‘Search Nearby’, which identifies your location and displays information from geo-tagged Wikipedia pages on a map about everything located or happening nearby. (The map is built on OpenSteetMaps using MapQuest tiles.) The UI is uncluttered and minimal. A no-frills, full screen search function helps find pages quickly. The featured article for the day on the Wikipedia is displayed by default on the homescreen.
The app displays a read-only version and does not support logging in. That is a feature we would definitely like to see so that users may edit Wikipedia on the go. Like with Wikipedia, the source code is open and developers are encouraged to build upon it.
Wikipedia beta (Android)
The Wikimedia Foundation is also developing the next version (v1.4beta1) of the current Android app (v1.3.3). It has all the features of the previous version and a night theme named Solarized Dark. The search bar hides automatically after some time to maximise real estate on the screen. The new typography adds to the appeal of the UI. Languages that are read right-to-left have better support in this version and the developers have also promised a theming engine and better touch-zoom in the ‘Search Nearby’ maps.
Users are cautioned that the app may pop a few surprises as any beta version would. The app is free software available under a public license (GNU-GPL).
Menu of Wikitrack English app (left); Recent Changes feed (right)
Wikitrack English (Android)
Wikitrack is meant for Wikipedia editors to track their own work and other updates on the English language Wikipedia. You can log in to Wikipedia using the app to access the ‘Contributions’ and ‘Watchlist’ part of your dashboard. The number of items visible in the three feeds – Recent changes, My Contributions and My Watchlist – can be fixed from the Settings. The app is very light and fast and the UI is uncluttered.
While the rest of the app works smoothly, the ‘My watchlist’ part returns an error if you try to log in with a watchlist token or your username and password. We would love to see the User Talk Page notifications and the Sandbox added to this app. In the absence of the ability to log in using the official apps and the mobile version of Wikipedia, this app is really handy for Wikipedia editors. It is free of cost and shows no ads. Wikitrack is also available for Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada and Malayalam Wikipedias.
LoboWiki – Wikipedia Reader (Android)
LoboWiki is optimised for Android Ice Cream Sandwich (v4.x) smartphones by using Holo, Google’s recommended theme for the design of apps running on ICS and later versions. It supports 30 languages including English and the UI is available in English, Polish and Italian. The UI is neat and made for long reading hours. When the reader navigates interwiki links (links leading to other Wikipedia pages), the app queues up the links, which can later be swiped between. This saves the user the hassle of going back and forth between Wikipedia pages. Various tables present on a page can be viewed in a scrolling window and the overall navigation is smooth.
Homepage of Windows Phone Wikipedia app (left); List of favourites (right)
Wikipedia (Windows Phone)
This app by an indie developer is the most colourful and aesthetically appealing of all apps listed. It supports 100 languages and has a delightful display of multiple live tiles and accented colours. This app deals with the possibility of a reader navigating from one interwiki link to another. It remembers the position on a webpage from where a reader exited the page, and restores the position on returning to the page. Like the official app, this app has a search function, displays nearby locations, enables sharing of pages and has an offline mode. You can bookmark your favourite Wikipedia pages, and view summaries and previous versions of pages. You can switch themes between light and dark, and lock screen rotation. A live tile displays the day’s featured article or changes to pages you have marked as favourite.
Tablet Browser for Wikipedia (Android)
This browser is optimised for viewing, bookmarking and searching Wikipedia on Honeycomb, Ice cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean tablets. Apart from English, the browser has limited support for German, French, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese and Esperanto Wikipedias. The default version visible is that of the desktop version of the Wikipedia website rather the mobile version. It has the functionality to share pages and bookmark them, and the text wraps automatically when you resize the page using pinch-zoom.
Discover for iPad is another visually appealing app that displays Wikipedia in a magazine-like layout. Swiping to the right from an article brings into view the Infobox (a table with a summary of the most important information) associated with it. Using the pinch-zoom function displays the table of contents present at the top of an article. Wikipedia articles can be accessed offline from the app’s browsing history. It has a search function and displays no ads.
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