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!

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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 https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=19956 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.”

          http://philwilson.org/blog/2010/01/adding-a-bookmark-to-an-android-home-screen