Mobile Wikipedia Search

Ever felt that there’s a better way to search Wikipedia when on a mobile device? I do–it feels like searching for things on Wikipedia when on my mobile device (Droid X) is clunky. There are three options I’ve pursued, but each have their own set of problems:

  1. Search directly on Wikipedia’s mobile site – No autocomplete/autosuggest! Nowadays, this is basically a must.
  2. Search through Google – An extra step and one more page load than I want.
  3. Search through a native application (I used WikiDroid) – I don’t like the separation of my browser (when I usually want to look something up) and a separate app. I need to close my browser, open my app, look up the term, and then switch back to my browser.

So while none of these problems are life-threatening, I felt that there was a better answer out there. Enter my own solution: Mobile Wikipedia Search.

The page hooks directly into Wikipedia’s API and does an AJAX search (doesn’t reload the page), presenting the results in an easy-to-select manner. Clicking on any of the results brings you to its Wikipedia entry. I’ve tried to make the page as mobile-convenient as possible. A few such things are:

• Adding an icon to the page so that if you save it to your homescreen, it looks like it belongs there:

• A barebones page for quicker loading:

• A (hopefully) simple layout:

One major thing that I wish it could do but can’t is to automatically bring up the virtual keyboard on my device. However, after searching on this topic for quite a bit, I found it can’t be done in JavaScript/a webpage. This makes sense, but it’s still sad. Maybe someday web apps will have the ability to hook into native functions.

Hopefully this will be a tool useful for others. I know I’ll use it! Any feedback to make Mobile Wikipedia Search even better is appreciated!


7 Responses to “Mobile Wikipedia Search”

  1. Tomasz

    Hey Ross,

    Awesome use of our API. Why don’t we take this from just a feature on your site to something that’s built in for the Wikimedia mobile projects. If you open source your work and attach it to then we can be one step closer to making it happen. Then no one has to go out of their way to customize this and everyone can benefit.

      • Tomasz

        Great. Let me know if you have any questions and if you need to ask our developers any questions come join us on irc (freenode) in #wikimedia-mobile & #mediawiki.

  2. Megan

    I like this! How do I get the icon to my homescreen? While on the page, I added it as a bookmark, then made a shortcut to that…is there a better way? Thanks for this! Awesome :)

    • rrb

      On iPhone/iPod in Safari, you can tap the + button at the bottom middle of the screen and select “Add to Home Screen.”

      On Android, it’s a little more work (like you described). That’s the best way I know of doing it.

      Hope you’re enjoying your new phones. :)

      • Megan

        I did manage to get it to my homescreen, but the icon is just the default bookmark icon…any tips for getting the ‘W’? :)

        • rrb

          It may look different based on different Android phones, but the steps should be the same. On an older HTC phone I tried it on it showed the bookmark icon but had the W as a small icon overlaying that.

          You’ve added as a bookmark, then long press on the homepage, select add shortcut, then selected the bookmark? Alternatively in the browser you can long press the bookmark and select “add to home screen.”