Get a taste of 17th century Wikipedia with this new iPad app


Remember when your first discovered Wikipedia and spent hours hyperlinking from page to page, reading random entries on everything from the numbering of U.S. highways to John Cage’s “As Slow As Possible?”

I had that feeling again over the weekend when I found Das Referenz, a new iPad app which takes it inspiration from old encyclopaedias and typeface design to create what is almost certainly the most beautiful Wikipedia browsing experience out there.

The app is super sleek. Unlike regular Wikipedia, when you use Das Referenz to search for a topic it brings up a list of relevant titles, complete with short summaries. Hit a link and you’ll then get the article as a pop-up, using 12 fonts to break up what the designer calls an “Arial wasteland.”

The background for each entry looks like old parchment, and pages are arranged in a more book-like left-to-right format that makes them easier to read — as well as pulling information from Wikidata to embed information such as timelines and graphs into the articles themselves.

Das Referenz is available for free download for iPads running iOS 7 and above. Ads can be removed by way of an in-app purchase.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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