Learn and Explore Wikipedia with Wikiweb

This won’t be the first time I geek out over Wikipedia or a related app. I’m a huge advocate for the repository of all human knowledge (I will go toe-to-toe with any high school teacher over the veracity of Wikipedia as a source), as both an academic utility and a great way for those of us who learn for fun to expand our knowledge. Wikipedia is a vast and powerful outlet of information, and lately it has been really exciting to see how app developers come up with new ways to navigate and grasp that information.

Today we’re going to take a look at Wikiweb, an iOS application from Friends of The Web whose unique approach to Wikipedia aims to help you visualize the relationships between various topics and pages. Grab some coffee, sit back with your iPad and get ready to learn something new after the jump.

Node-able Relationships

Pardon the pun. The interface of Wikiweb is immediately recognizable as minimal and clean, making the content of Wikipedia your focus anytime you use the app.

The relationships between various Wikipedia pages are displayed in the map pane, with each article represented as a node in a familiar mind-map style format. This view is so useful in opening and exploring topic pages that the page viewer itself seems almost secondary. So first, let’s go over how it works.

In landscape orientation, the article and web panes display side by side.

In landscape orientation, the article and web panes display side by side.

If you tap the magnifying glass in the upper left corner (the universal symbol for search, by now), you can begin typing a search term, which will serve as your starting place on an educational scavenger hunt across Wikipedia. Also available from this screen is the Random Topic button, which is just as useful as ever for stumbling into interesting topics. After selecting a topic from the drop down, it will appear as a singular node in the center of the screen. You can tap and hold the node, and the accompanying article will slide in from the right in the article viewer pane that is easily hidden via swiping (more on that later).

If you simply single tap briefly on a node, all of the related topics (which, as far as I can tell, are determined by linked pages within the article’s text) will spring out from the center node in mind-map style. If you’re anything like me, things can get out of control relatively quickly, since previously opened nodes stay open.

Luckily, Wikiweb uses colors to show how far you've strayed from your original query.

Luckily, Wikiweb uses colors to show how far you’ve strayed from your original query.

It’s also neat to note that when you open a node, any connections that can be made with existing nodes will form a bridge between themselves.

In the event that you’re trying to build a coherent mind-map that others may view, you can remove irrelevant nodes by double tapping on them — they will simply vanish.

In portrait orientation, the article view can be hidden to gain access to the web view.

In portrait orientation, the article view can be hidden to gain access to the web view.

Of course, as with any respectable app of the 21st century, the Share button is located in the upper left corner of the screen. Send your mind-map web of topics to your friends with Twitter or email.

The Article Viewer

I suppose that the most important part of Wikipedia is the content, so let’s spend a second talking about how Wikiweb deals with it.

The article view.

The article view.

The first thing you’ll notice is the clean and minimal display pane for the article itself. The typography is notably attractive, and the text size is variable for ease of use. The back and forward buttons allow you to navigate from topic to topic within your web without having to switch back to the web pane. Finally, as with any well-equipped Wikipedia app, a table of contents springs up if you tap the associated icon at the bottom of the screen. It’s complete with expanding subsections and links to references and external resources as well.

The table of contents.

The table of contents.

Conclusion

As partial as I am to learning, Wikipedia can often serve as a source of entertainment for me, quite like some might use the popular Internet discovery service StumbleUpon. I’ve spent hours at a time wandering through the depths of information and trying to figure out how I got from Mediterranean Cuisine to Postmodern Dadaism.

Wikiweb takes that experience one step further with the fascinating ability to map your journey through the various topics you will explore. Frankly, the real value in Wikipedia  is the capacity that it has to teach you something you didn’t know you wanted to know, so Wikiweb’s ability to function as a research tool that can help you deliberately map out your thoughts and arguments is more of a bonus than anything.

Wikiweb is a beautifully lightweight iOS app that makes learning fun, which is something for which I will always give an app a lot of credit. At $4.99, it isn’t necessarily the cheapest Wikipedia app available on your iPad, but it is one of the most unique and innovative. Let us know what you think if you decide to give it a spin!


Summary

A unique Wikipedia viewer that illustrates the connections between articles in a mind-map style web.

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  • Pw00ds

    Loved to see the name of my all time favorite band the mountain goats in there. Almost made me consider buying this app, but still think wikipedia’s greatest asset is the fact that it’s free. As these sorts of apps never really have any mind-blowing features or extra content I still like to use wikipedia the old-school way(on the internet) or through some free app like wikipanion.

  • http://karmamole.com Omar Kamel

    This is getting silly. I commented on this yesterday, saying there was nothing ‘unique’ about this app since a node-based wikipedia app was released ages ago called Wiki Nodes – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wikinodes/id433834594?mt=8 – and I come back today and find that my comment has been deleted? Seriously?

    • Pw00ds

      You should look into iphone.appstorms article about this very same app. Cause I stumbled upon the very comment you mentioner in your previous comment just there. Don’t blame the appstorm, altough these crossblog-thingy articles somethimes confuse me as well

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