Offline software and physical media are less common than ever, often supplanted by streaming and online services. Despite this trend, prices for physical data storage have fallen dramatically while capacity keeps increasing.
If you’re a developer looking to work in an offline environment such as public transit or rural dead zones, it can be difficult to look up information quickly on sites like Wikipedia or StackOverflow.
Lately I’ve been using Kiwix to keep offline copies of popular sites like Wikipedia and StackOverflow, aided by the availability of cheap USB mass storage devices. Kiwix is an offline web browser that uses a special archive file format to store copies of reference material. It was originally built to view Wikipedia articles, but was later expanded for other data sources like StackOverflow and Open Street Map.
Keeping an offline copy is simple:
- Download Kiwix Reader
- Find relevant ZIM packages, downloading them via Bittorent. The files are large, often several hundred GB in size. Having a fresh USB drive may be helpful.
- Open the files using Kiwix.
The experience is very similar to a web version, but with an amazingly fast load time and the ability to look things up when the internet cuts out.