Wikibot: Enhance Your Wikipedia Experience

Do you know how many people there are in New York? Can you define what makes a SaaS-Service interesting to potential customers? What about the history of The Church of Our Lady in Germany — do you know it? If you don’t know the answer to one or all of those questions, there’s no reason to despair. In our world of continuous information overload and ever-changing facts, it’s hard to stuff everything into one’s head and then recall it.

For most of today’s relevant information, there’s this nifty website called Wikipedia and I bet all of you have profited from it at some point in the past. Unfortunately, the web interface doesn’t really rock on the iPhone screen. To remedy this and provide you with a thoroughly enjoyable reading and research experience, meet Wikibot, an awesome Wikipedia App for the iPhone.

Just Find What You Need

When first opening the app, you’ll be greeted by a quick how-to screen easing you into the different options. It’s not hard to find your way around, but there are really many, many options which are easily overlooked among the plethora of functions.

Since Wikibot is about making you smarter, the search bar is prominent at the top. Simply enter what you’re looking for and the Bot will start its work. Possible hits for your search query are being updated live as you type (even via 3G) and enable you to pick whatever is closest to what you’re actually looking for.

Welcome to Wikibot, your mobile Wikipedia companion.

Welcome to Wikibot, your mobile Wikipedia companion.

Now that we’ve found the city of New York, let’s look at how the information are presented. As on the regular Wikipedia website, you see links to possible other meanings at the top, followed by a New York button and then the text starts.

The inconspicuous grey NY button actually hides all the information usually presented in the right hand info box on the website. It would be nice to have some visual indicator as to what that button does; as it is, you have to learn by trying.

Left: Infobox content as on right side of Wikipedia article // Right: Call up the table of contents to quickly jump to a certain passage in the text

Left: Infobox content as on right side of Wikipedia article // Right: Call up the table of contents to quickly jump to a certain passage in the text

Now, the article itself is quite long and scrolling through all of it, especially if you’re looking for something specific, will be a test of your endurance. Instead, just hit the arrow icon in the lower part of the screen. It will bring up an options panel and from there you can pick “Table of Contents”.

It’s a very smart way to help users on mobile devices. The wealth of information is being broken into chunks and you can pick exactly the chunk you want. The text is presented in a simple layout and images are scaled down to fit into the text flow. With a simple tap on an image, it will be brought up full screen, with any explanatory text at the bottom.

Images can be viewed inline or separately

Images can be viewed inline or separately

Links within the text to other articles or bits of information open by default in the same window, but when you hit the back button, you’ll always be taken back to the exact position within the article you just left. Alternatively, long-press a link and have it open in a new tab.

Getting The Most Out of Wikibot

Yes, I did mention tabs just now. Let’s take a look at some of the nice features that Wikibot offers you and which are not all apparent.

First of all, you can have multiple windows within the app with separate searches. It works just like mobile Safari.

Use tabs to store searches for later use

Use tabs to store searches for later use

If you’re conducting some extensive research or stumble upon something you can’t read right away, but want to later, add it to the Read Later section by long-tapping any link and pressing the read later button on the bookmarks screen. Of course, you can also simply bookmark stuff for later use.

Save articles for reading them later

Save articles for reading them later

In the bookmarks options you will also find your history (what you’ve researched this far), categories, you can call up a random article from all of Wikipedia or you can read something about your immediate surroundings via Nearby.

That’s one of my favorite features: you must allow Wikibot to use location services and it will display articles about things in your immediate area. If you’re visiting a new town or a part of your own area you haven’t been to before, it’s a great way to learn something new. And I’ll never again have to dread showing friends around my town with all the historical facts this easy at hand.

Wikibot calls up Wikipedia articles about things in your immediate area

Wikibot calls up Wikipedia articles about things in your immediate area

For those versed in another language Wikibot also offers to change the language of an article, of course only to those languages which are available (not every article on Wikipedia is available in every language). Articles written in the native tongue of the subject are often more detailed and longer than translations.

And lastly, Wikibot integrates with social networks, allowing you to share your newfound knowledge with your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or via Twitter.

Verdict

If Wikipedia is a source you use regularly, you should take a closer look at Wikibot. While it doesn’t add anything to the quality of information, of course, it greatly enhances the experience of using the huge knowledge database. It has distinct advantages over simply surfing the website and power users will appreciate them.

What’s your favorite way of using Wikipedia on the road? Do you prefer any other apps or are you content with what the original mobile version of the website offers?


Summary

Wikibot makes using Wikipedia on your iPhone fun. And it adds some features which make research easy and exploring your surroundings fun.

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