There can be few web sites that are as well-known as Wikipedia. Whether you want to find out when David Bowie’s first single was release, or need to learn about the properties of cadmium, this is often the first port of call for any query.
With the site being so easily accessible through a browser, you might question the need for a dedicated app, but Wikipedia For Windows 8 shows that there are a great many benefits to working with the online encyclopaedia in this way.
When you search for anything online, there is a very high chance that one of the first results in your chosen search engine will direct to Wikipedia.
With the Windows 8 app installed you no longer have to concern yourself with your web browser – which is great if you are working on a document that does not require you to access other web sites – as you can just hit the Windows key and Q at any time to bring up the search charm so you can perform a search for whatever you need to research.
Search Or Browse
In all probability the search charm is going to be the way you interact with the Wikipedia app, but there is also a lot to explore if you launch it separately. The opening page is filled with a series of featured articles and you never know what’s going to be listed that might grab your interest.
Other interesting material that is highlighted for you to browse through include the ‘On this day’ section which features interesting events from recent and more distant history.
One of the great things about Wikipedia is the fact that it is constantly evolving: new articles are added throughout the day, and existing articles are updated. If you want to keep abreast of some of these updates, look no further than the ‘Recent changes’ section to the right of the initial screen.
Articles themselves are well set out, and they follow a magazine-style template as part of the general trend of Windows 8 apps. The side scrolling needed to work through articles does makes sense – after all, we work through books horizontally – but it is a change from the way we’ve become used to interacting with computers and it can feel strange when reading longer entries.
There is another option to help with navigation. Rather than having to scroll to the penultimate section of an article you can hit Ctrl whilst scrolling out with your mouse’s scroll wheel, or click the – button to the lower right of the screen.
This will allow you to zoom out of an article to see the overview complete with section headings. Clicking any of these headings, takes you straight to that section.
Right click when you’re in an article and you’ll gain access to a number of options. These include the Read In menu which enables you to translate articles into one of a huge variety of languages as well as the option of opening the current article in your default web browser.
There’s also the slightly strange option of pinning an article to the Start screen, but it’s hard to think of any articles that are updated frequently enough to really make this worthwhile. There’s also a search function which makes it easier to home in on particular words and phrases within an article without the need to look manually.
If you’re a fan of Wikipedia there is no much to dissuade you from using this app, but there are a couple of niggling issues. Firstly, if you are not a fan of Windows 8’s side scrolling navigation system, you’re going to find reading through longer articles something of a chore.
Secondly, there are no settings to work with whatsoever. If is not possible to change the size of text, choose a different font style or color, or to configure other useful options such as automatic scrolling. As this is a first release, and it is still early days for Windows 8, this is forgivable, but it is something that will need addressing in the not-too-distant future.
In terms of content, you know very much what to expect from the Wikipedia app – there are no surprises that you won’t find on the web site. In many respects the minimalist look of the app is vastly superior to working with the web site, but it is not going to be to everyone’s taste.
Scrolling through articles horizontally rather than vertical takes a little getting used to but this is a minor point that soon fades into the background. Spend just a little time working with the app and you soon come to the realization that its existence makes perfect sense. It provides a quick and easy way to access the information you need without the unnecessary distractions that exist in your web browser.