Would you like to download the entire Wikipedia on your computer or mobile phone for offline reading? Well, here are some good options to consider.
Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia, provides database dumps of all their wikis that one can download for free and thus access the entire Wikipedia content on computers that are not connected to the Internet.
The database dumps are frequently updated and include every single article that’s available on the main Wikipedia website. The dumps are available as .xml.bz2 files that you can easily open on your computer using the free and portable WikiTaxi software.
WikiTaxi ships with an importer that will first un-compress the Wikipedia database files (.bz2) and then converts them into a .taxi file format. Now you open these .taxi files inside WikiTaxi just like the way you open .doc files inside Microsoft Word. If you are running low on space, the original Wikipedia dumps can be safely discarded.
A good alternative to WikiTaxi is Kiwix – this is also free software and available for Mac, Windows and Linux systems. You need to install the Kiwix software on your computer and then download one of the Wikipedia editions – the articles are packaged as .zim files that will open directly inside Kiwix without requiring any conversion.
The latest .zim package for various editions of Wikipedia can be downloaded from kiwix.org using any download manager or you can use this .torrent file to download using any BitTorrent client. This is 9.7 GB file and includes all the text of Wikipedia pages but no images.
Kiwix is definitely easier to use than WikiTaxi and the packaged .zim files can read across all popular platforms but the downside is that, unlike the database dumps used by WikiTaxi, the .zim files aren’t very frequently updated. Also, the zim package for English Wikipedia doesn’t include every article though the packages for other languages are complete*.
If you have an iOS device – like the iPhone, iPad or iPad Touch – you may grab the excellent Wiki Offline app and carry all the Wikipedia articles in your pocket. The app renders Wikipedia articles in a beautiful interface and supports tabbed browsing so you can open multiple articles side by side. Wiki Offline is also available in the Mac App Store for your Mac OS X.
The other option for using Wikipedia offline is WikiReader – this is a 3.5” monochrome device with a capacitive touch screen and contains over 3 million Wikipedia articles. The updates to Wikipedia articles are released every quarter – you can update the device by connecting it to your computer – or you opt to receive updates on SD cards.
The WikiReader device costs $99 and though I haven’t tried it myself, it did get a huge thumbs-up from Ars Technica. You definitely don’t need this if you carry a smart phone that is always connected to the Internet but could be a good reference tool for the rest of us with an impressive battery life – much like the Kindle.
Finally, if all you want to do is download a handful of Wikipedia articles for offline reading, use the built-in book creator that turns multiple pages from Wikipedia into a PDF book.
Also see: Wikipedia Tools & Resources
[*Update April 9, 2012] The Wikipedia blog just noted that these ZIM packaged files have been recently updated and they now include the text of all articles that were part of Wikipedia till January 2012.