Wikipedia and I go back a long way.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


Wikipedia readers for any systems

March 3, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

My favorite tablet app on any given day -- especially on a wintry evening when I can curl up on the couch and shut out the cold -- is likely to be the Wikipedia reader I have on both my iPad and my Android tablet.

I've become so fond of them because of the serendipity of reading about one subject and discovering a half-dozen others, all through the carefully crafted links that lead from one topic to another and back again.

I was looking for good Wikipedia readers when I chose them for my tablets. But I unintentionally found an excellent Wikipedia reader for my main computer, a Mac, when I was using the computer's built-in dictionary. And that prompted me to search out a reader for my Windows PC, too.

I'll tell you about all of them. But first let me explain what Wikipedia is and why a dedicated Wikipedia app is so incredibly useful.

Wikipedia, as you probably know, is the world's most ambitious encyclopedia. Anyone can contribute articles or information. It's online, updated hourly, covers many more topics than any ordinary encyclopedia -- including, moms and dads, stuff about s-x, just so you know.

Wikipedia and I go back a long way. Before it cleaned up its pages and started strict reviews of its content, Wikipedia was a minefield of ghastly errors, which I criticized widely. But those days are over, and Wikipedia now stands as an unrivaled success story.

Most people use a web browser to go to the Wikipedia website to look up subjects. There's nothing wrong with doing it that way, but a dedicated Wikipedia reader can be a much better alternative. Usually, it will keep a list of your searches so you can return to any of them, in any order, and will let you change the size and look of the text. Perhaps most importantly, the tablet apps shape Wikipedia's contents so they fit the screen.

My iPad and iPhone favorite is Wikipanion. It's free. Find it at the iPad App Store. For Android tablets and phones, I like an app named Wikipedia, also free. Get it at the Google Play Store. Windows Phone fans can try Wikipedia Viewer, also free, from the Windows Phone app store.

To access the Mac's Wikipedia dictionary while reading text, highlight a word and right click (or Ctrl-Click) the highlighted word. Choose the "Look Up" option in the pop-up menu, then choose Wikipedia. Or you can simply run the Dictionary app, choose Wikipedia and type in your search.

Windows has no built-in Wikipedia reader. But Windows 8 and Windows RT users have a new app called Wikipedia that looks promising. It's free from the Windows Store.