Wikipedia in My Pocket

Before I got my iPod Touch, I heard you could download the entire Wikipedia and browse it without an internet connection. Once I got the iPod, I realized there were several different programs (“apps”) that do this and I had to decide which one to get. User reviews were not all that positive for any of them. Reviews for one said that in order to do a search, you had to enter the name of the article exactly. So if you were looking for Steve Jobs, and the article was under Steven P. Jobs, you wouldn’t find it. Another seemed to crash a lot. So there seemed to be downfalls on each one.

I got one called Wikipedia Offline that seemed to have better search (search is very important when you are sifting through 3 million articles) and was a little cheaper at $6 (now $9) as opposed to $10 for the other ones. But it was still buggy. It would crash some (crashes aren’t that bad, the app just quits and you have to restart it) and the search was slow, giving you bogus results before usually giving you better results, but not telling you that it was still working. If I looked up Steve Jobs, I would get Steve Abbey, Steve Abbot, etc., because it only used the first letters of the search at first. Sometimes it was easier to look up Apple Computer and then find a link to Steve Jobs, so you had to be sneaky. And it didn’t remember articles you had searched for before or remember your last search. And non-breaking spaces would show up in html code as   which was annoying. It didn’t have pictures, tables, formulas, or even the article outline.

This week they released v2.0 and it fixed just about everything. The search is much better and now you can set the text style (serif or non-serif), size of text and even use an off-white background color if you want. And now it has the article outline plus a button to link to the original article if you have wi-fi available. The only catch was that I had to download the whole Wikipedia again because the new database is in a different format. Last time it took about 7 hours, this time it took more like 10, maybe because all of their customers were downloading again. The database still seems to be about 2.5-3.0 GB. The download was created in July, so it would have been nice to get a fresher version, but it was a free upgrade (usually it costs $1 to download a new database).

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