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Review: Wikipedia Offline - Alex Trebek Would Approve

Review: Wikipedia Offline - Alex Trebek Would Approve

February 2, 2011


Like any good invention, many of the best apps find solutions to problems. One problem many have had in the iOS world is that when they are unable to connect to the internet (or are in fear of exceeding data limits) they lose access to the near infinite information online. Evan Rosenfeld hopes to solve at least a portion of that problem with Wikipedia Offline (available for both iPhone and iPad). As the name implies, this application takes millions of Wikipedia articles and stores them on your hard drive for quick retrieval regardless of internet connection. You may have heard about Watson, the IBM computer designed to compete against Jeopardy’s finest without human interference and completely offline. Wikipedia Offline is Watson’s little brother.


You may wonder how the entirety of the Wikipedia library can be stored within the gigabytes offered by your iOS device. The short answer is that, when viewed offline, these articles only contain the text from the articles, thus providing a manageable file size. When you are connected, the pictures can be viewed in a separate viewer and the article remains text only. The first screen you see after you download the application asks you to download the packet of articles. Access is also not limited to the English Wikipedia library as you can choose from nearly a dozen languages. When the download is finished, you can then search for any article, search within the article, adjust the screen brightness, color and font and bookmark pages. Within the articles you can read the information within, open the full version in a browser (internet connection only) or tap on links within articles to research other topics. The Good The ultimate test of this app is to see if the download really contains all (or at least the vast majority as Wikipedia is constantly changing) of the articles you would be able to access online. It passed with flying colors every time as (after turning off wifi) I moved from common topics such as ‘California’ and ‘Hockey’ to rather obscure such as ‘Petroglyph Game Studio’ makers of the solid, yet poorly received Universe at War for Xbox 360. Search is extremely fast with live dynamic suggestions as well. The Bad I have purposefully failed to mention that the full English download is 3GB (At least this is better than Watsons 15TB). Before you buy this app, make sure you delete that final season of Full House, your podcasts on mushroom gardening and those glamor shots of fluffy ‘cause most people will need every spare megabyte to make enough room. Then, check with your ISP to make sure you don’t have any download limits. Finally, make sure you have a good book nearby because (at least in my experience) the download takes the better part of an hour. (There is a smaller English download package that includes only the more prominent topics and is only 25MB) I hate to include this next part because it seems like I was a somewhat isolated case, but the first time I downloaded it (remember, one hour and 3gb), the download corrupted the app and it would not launch. Therefore, this necessitated a second download and another few chapters of my book. Fortunately it was a good book. The second download was successful and I had no other problems.

The Verdict

If you can free up enough gigabytes and swallow the initial download, Wikipedia Offline is an excellent and extremely deep resource for those who frequently need quick information but often find themselves not in the vicinity of a working internet connection. If you still aren't sure, check out the free version which contains 1000 of the more prominent articles to get a quick taste.

Mentioned apps

Wikipedia Offline Lite
Wikipedia Offline Lite
Avocado Hills

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