It is a well-known fact that Wikipedia is the largest encyclopedia ever created. Millions of people from all over the world enjoy its services – and it's growing exponentially as we speak.
Wikipedia dwarfs any other cauldron of human knowledge but, unlike some of the older, traditional encyclopedias, it requires an Internet connection. Wiki Offline is one of the few Mac OS X desktop applications that allow users to read Wikipedia articles without an Internet connection and in a customizable format.
In other words, the application allows you to download any Wikipedia article (images require an Internet connection, though) so you can read them in offline mode, wherever you are. You can also customize the font and background of the articles as you see fit.
If you don't need to keep archives of Wikipedia articles on your hard drive, you can try Wikibot, a more affordable version of Wiki Offline
, which basically does everything that Wiki Offline is capable of, minus downloading databases. The Looks
The application's interface presents several elements that make it very easy to browse and read articles. The UI consists of the main pane where you read articles, a sidebar that displays the Bookmarks, History, Contents and Read Later options, a search bar, a tab bar and the forward/back buttons.
In addition, Wiki Offline provides several options to customize the articles: it lets you hide/show the reference numbers and links. More importantly, it allows you change the font size, color theme and body font.
You are given great liberty to adjust the font, but there are only three color themes. Nonetheless, they're very eye-pleasing and, in our opinion, enough to satisfy all tastes. There's a white theme, a cream-colored theme and a dark theme to help you “rest” your eyes. The Works
As soon as you launch the app, you are prompted to choose a database for the language you prefer. The English database is incredibly compact and occupies just 3.4 GB. All databases consist of text only and images are made available through an Internet connection.
You can buy other databases via in-app purchases. However, we were unable to detect any in-app purchase option on a Snow Leopard 10.6.8 platform. The ‘Database’ menu did not appear in our menubar, making it impossible to acquire another database. This option appeared only on a Lion 10.7.3 platform.
After the download finishes, which is quite fast (if you have a high-speed Internet connection), you'll be able to start browsing for articles using the search bar. Note that you can activate the search bar using the Tab key.
Just like on the website version, Wiki Offline provides suggestions below or above the search box, depending on where you positioned the app's window on your Mac's screen. The list of suggestions pops out instantly and it's quite large.
Once you click on a link, it will be displayed instantly because it doesn't need to download anything from the Internet (the Wikipedia database is already downloaded and safe on your computer).
As with Internet browsers, Wiki Offline allows you to search for terms and/or phrases within articles using the CMF+F hotkey. This feature automatically highlights all the words you typed and surrounds them in a yellow rectangle, making them even easier to spot.
Moreover, the application stays true to its online counterpart by allowing you to use tabs. We noticed a shortcoming while trying to open links in a new tab in online mode: whenever we CMD clicked on a link, an empty tab opened. This does not happen when you are in offline mode, though. It would be quite useful if CMD click was supported in online mode as well.
Obviously, you'll want to save some articles for later, or bookmark the ones that you liked best. The app has got you covered by providing a sidebar with the Bookmarks, History and Read Later features.
The Bookmarks option is located in the Article menu, and you can also use Cmd+Shift+F on opened articles. Note that you can only bookmark the opened articles and not links you see at random.
What is also great about Wiki Offline is that it lets you create folders for your bookmarks. This helps you categorize and organize your favorite articles. They can even be moved inside other folders, thus allowing you to categorize even further.
Aside from these features, the table of contents is displayed in the lowest area of the sidebar. Almost every elaborate Wikipedia article has its own table of contents, which provide links to key points. Instead of displaying the table of contents at the beginning of the article, Wiki Offline makes it accessible in the sidebar.
Another important feature that the app provides is the picture gallery. When clicking on an image, a separate window containing all the images of the article will pop out. This acts as an image manager/viewer in which you can view, find, browse images or view them as slideshows.
Note, however, that this feature is available only when you have an Internet connection. When you're connected to the Internet, you'll be able to see the images in smaller size as they appear on Wikipedia and you'll be able to access the image viewer. When you're in offline mode though, you won't be able to see any image, unless they were cached when you accessed them in online mode.
Either way, we were very impressed with how the image gallery works. Some of the options are: fit to screen, rotate, zoom in/out and the Index Sheet, an option found within slides, which creates a list of every image in a smaller size, against a black background. Overall, we could say that it's a pleasure to browse images in Wiki Offline.
It may not come as a surprise, but the application also supports web browsing. After all, Wikipedia is built using web resources. So, accessing websites which relate to the articles you are browsing is possible. Surprisingly, the loading time of webpages was quite fast.
Web browsing comes in handy when you want to open the current article in a language for which you don’t have a database. To open articles in “browser-mode,” simply access the Article menu or hit the Cmd+Shift+B key combination, after which you'll be able to freely surf the web.
Nonetheless, we would not recommend web-browsing with this application unless it's urgent. Instead, use your favorite browser. The app does allow you to open articles in your browser, but, at the moment, this feature is quite buggy.
The “Open in Browser” option from the Article menu will only open the article inside the application, and ‘Copy Link’ from the same menu simply does not work. This could be annoying to some users but, from what we understand, some fixes are on their way.
The only way to open an article in your browser is by right clicking on the background of an article, click on the Copy Link option and then paste it in your browser.
In order to provide an even better reading experience (as mentioned earlier), the app enables you to hide the reference numbers, as well as the bottom links from the General tab of the Preferences. This makes reading articles considerably more pleasurable and less distracting. The Good
The strength of Wiki Offline lies in its ability to provide the user with a new Wikipedia reading experience and a huge encyclopedia condensed in just a few Gigabytes. Specifically, it offers millions of text articles in your preferred language, a beautiful image viewer, extremely fast loading time, bookmarking capabilities and efficient means to organize your favorite articles. The Bad
Currently, the Favorites folder, which can be dragged onto the toolbar from the Customize Toolbar dialog box, does not save articles to the Bookmarks. Furthermore, you can only open links in new tabs with CMD click in offline mode. Another shortcoming is that you cannot buy new article databases on a Snow Leopard platform, but you can do so if you're using Lion.
Wiki Offline is a worthy alternative to the online version of Wikipedia for people who want to have a huge amount of knowledge available to them at all times. Though it has some minor bugs, it offers very fast loading time and options to customize the look of articles, which ultimately results in a great reading experience.
Here are some snapshots of the application in action: