If you’re like me, Wikipedia isn’t just a resource, it’s a source of entertainment. I spend hours clicking through articles, learning everything from topics that concern me (music and social media) to niche subjects that could not be further from my field of expertise (Alexander the Great and Narcissus). While I do spend quite a bit of time on it, I have struggled to find a suitable desktop Wikipedia experience.
Today we’ll take a look at Wikibot, a simple and straightforward app that brings Wikipedia browsing to the desktop.
The first thing to note about Wikibot’s interface is that it very much looks at home on your Mac. The design is similar to standard OS X apps such as iCal and Address Book. The only buttons reside along the top toolbar, and they include Back and Forward buttons that maintain a congruent navigating experience to that of a web browser, as well as a sidebar on the left that lists the ‘table of contents’ for quick navigation of a particular Wikipedia article.
A search bar is prominently displayed front and center. Through the use of right-click menus, Wikibot even allows you to open multiple articles in tabs.
The main viewing pane formats content from Wikipedia in an easy to read layout. It is customizable from the Preferences menu, allowing you to choose one of six fonts, in seven sizes, and 37 languages. You can also select a color theme (standard, sepia, and night). Still, while the interface is clean and easy to use, it could certainly use some sprucing up. I personally think those big orange navigation buttons are somewhat unsightly!.
Wikibot also includes an image viewer, accessible by clicking on an image from an article. The images are zoomable, and can be played in a slideshow.
Now you’ve got a desktop Wikipedia reader right on your desktop. It works just like the webpage, right? Wrong. What makes Wikibot shine (aside from it’s really slick icon) are the three important features that make a dedicated desktop client worth having over a bookmark in your web browser.
As a big fan of using a current article to branch out and learn about something new, I have to note the “Categories” list in the sidebar. Chances are, the article you’re looking at belongs to a series of categories of Wikipedia pages. Simply click on one of the Categories in the sidebar, and a pop up window will show you a scrollable list of articles in that same category for your knowledge-expanding pleasure.
The second feature that is definitely worth discussing is the Favorites menu, which is more of a subset of features than a feature in itself. The Favorites menu (obviously) allows you to save articles as favorites, but that’s only the beginning. It can also give you access to your viewing history, as well as a bank of articles you’ve saved for future reading. Right clicking in an article (or on an article link) will give you a menu option to “Read Later.” These articles are saved to the subcategory in the favorites menu.
One of my favorite features of Wikipedia is the random article link on the homepage. In fact, I enjoy this feature so much that I have a bookmark for it in my browser and I use that as my main link to Wikipedia in order to learn something new. The reason I bring this up is because I think it’s an important function that the folks behind Wikibot thought to include. Right on the menu bar is a random article button, loaded with all of the surprise education goodness of the link on the web page.
Wikibot is a fresh take on Wikipedia browsing. The interface could use some spiffing up, but it brings enough unique and useful features to the table beyond ease-of-access.
With a verbal community of users (at least on the App Store), I am confident that the developer will continue to improve what is a great concept. While most of the Wikipedia clients out there are desktop widgets or simply portals to the webpage, Wikibot has the potential to find its way into my arsenal of research tools.