Dienstag, Juni 25, 2013 09:05:00

Review: LoboWiki Offers a Holo Interface For Wikipedia With Offline Support



LoboWiki looks nice, and supports Wikipedia's syntax well.

I found LoboWiki on Ustav Gupta's Holo UI channel. I know what you're thinking: Why do I need a Wikipedia app on my phone? The mobile website is perfectly good. That's what crossed my mind, at least: Wikipedia's mobile websites is mature, highly usable, and looks good on most modern smart phone screens. So, why try a client app?

LoboWiki offers a number of interesting (if not necessarily vital) differences over the stock Wikipedia browser experience. First and foremost, it works offline. It does this by queuing up every link you click, so you can read it later when you have more time. The links are queued without images, but all the text is there (if you do have connectivity later, images are loaded as soon as you need them).

This leads me to the second major difference in the way LoboWiki works over the browser: When you click a link... It doesn't actually load. The only thing tapping the link does is queue the article in question for later reading. That means is you can go through a Wikipedia article reading the full piece and clicking any link you find interesting along the way. This is a subtle difference, but it actually makes for a completely different Wikipedia reading experience: Instead of bouncing back and forth between pages, your free to dig into a single article, read it all the way through, and rest assured that the interesting stuff you found along the way is waiting for you later down the road.


You can swipe back and forth between queued articles.

LoboWiki offers two ways to browse the article queue you build up: The app's homescreen displays a list of all the articles you've queued up so far, and you can also just swipe left and right from any article to go to the next (or previous) one.

Interesting... But Not Quite There Yet

LoboWiki's interface looks good on my phone. Articles are actually easier to read in LoboWiki than in the browser, not the least because I can change the font selection and go with one of four high-quality fonts optimized for android (a pair of sans-serifs, and a pair of serifs).


LoboWiki's choice of serif font is both attractive and readable.

The queuing approach is not without its limitations: LoboWiki does not keep track of the hierarchy of the links you queue up. So let's say I read an article about koalas, and I click through to a link about marsupials. LoboWiki would now queue that link for later reading, which is fine. But now I search for a completely different topic, say, airaplanes, and click through to the entry about jet engines. LoboWiki would now have four queued articles, but these would show up just as a flat list. I would have to remember that the jet engine link comes from the airplane page, and the marsupial link comes from the koala page. This sounds simple enough in this basic example, but if you do any sort of serious research using LoboWiki, the list gets tangled up in a hurry.

Final thoughts

LoboWiki gets many things right: the lean, beautiful aesthetic; the wise choice of fonts; and even queuing up articles for later. That said, it still has a way to go before it can truly surpass Wikipedia's mobile website in terms of usability and usefulness. If you do find yourself needing to read Wikipedia articles while offline, LoboWiki is an interesting and usable alternative, even in its present state.