Using Wikipedia From The Linux Command Line | Network World| ItSoftNews

If you are sitting in front of a Linux system, you can always pop open a browser and query topics of interest on Wikipedia. On the other hand, if you’re logged on through a terminal emulator like PuTTY or you just prefer using the command line, there is another option: wikit.

Wikit is a tool that queries Wikipedia from the command line and provides summaries of its content on a huge collection of topics. It’s easy to use and allows you to quickly query and, if you want, save the rendered information in a file.

How to use wikit

One of the things Wikipedia will not, at least currently, tell you about is wikit itself. So, this post will provide information on the command and show you how you can use it.

As an example, if I want to look up one of the many cities where I lived while growing up, I might run a command like this:

$ wikit Rahway Rahway is a city in southern Union County, New Jersey, United States. A bedroom  community of New York City, it is centrally located in the Rahway Valley region,  in the New York metropolitan area. The city is 21.6 miles southwest of Manhattan  and 5 miles west of Staten Island. Built on the navigable Rahway River, it was  an industrial and artisanal craft city for much of its history. The city has  increasingly reinvented itself in recent years as a diverse regional hub for  the arts. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 27,346,  reflecting an increase of 846 (+3.2%) from the 26,500 counted in the 2000 Census,  which had in turn increased by 1,175 (+4.6%) from the 25,325 counted in the  1990 Census. 

I can also easily save the returned text in a file like this:

$ wikit Rahway > Rahway 

Wikit, which rhymes with words like “click it” or “ticket”, retrieves the summaries from Wikipedia and, if you provide an argument which matches multiple Wikipedia pages, will provide a list of related topics that you can scroll through with your up and down arrow keys. If I ask about 911, for example, the list will start with entries like these, but run on for quite a number of screens of additional topics:

$ wikit 911 ? Ambiguous results, "911" may refer to: (Use arrow keys) ▯ AD 911   911 BC   September 11   September 11 attacks   11 de Septiembre   November 9   911 (number)   9-1-1   9-1-1 (Philippines)   9/11: The Twin Towers   9/11 (2002 film)   9/11 (2017 film)   Reno 911!: Miami   Reno 911!   9-11 (Noam Chomsky) 

How to get wikit

While wikit isn’t installed on Linux systems by default, it only takes a few steps to get it. You first need both nodejs and npm installed. Otherwise, you can install them with a command like one of these:

$ sudo dnf install nodejs npm $ sudo apt install nodejs npm 

Then, to get wikit installed, use an npm command like this:

$ sudo npm install wikit -g 

I also ran the following command to upgrade to the latest release of npm after being prompted to do so.

 $ sudo npm install -g npm@8.19.2 

Getting and using text from Wikipedia

If you query a complex subject, be prepared for wikit to provide one very long line of text. For example, if I ask Wikipedia for information on astronomy, I would see this even though the file would contain about 2,000 characters:

$ wikit astronomy > Astro
$ wc -l Astro
1 Astro

To split all those characters into multiple lines with a maximum length of 80, but only on word boundaries, I used this command:

$ fold -s -w80 Astro > Astro2
$ wc -l Astro2
24 Astro2

The -w80 specifies the maximum length of 80 while the -s tells it to break on spaces.

Where the original file had a single line, the folded one has 24:

$ wc -l Astro 1 Astro $ wc -l Astro2 24 Astro2

A multi-word subject does not have to be enclosed in quotes for wikit as this example illustrates:

$ wikit pecan pie  Pecan pie is a pie of pecan nuts mixed with a filling of eggs, butter, and sugar  (typically corn syrup). Variations may include white or brown sugar, cane syrup,  sugar syrup, molasses, maple syrup, or honey. It is popularly served at holiday  meals in the United States and is considered a specialty of Southern U.S. origin.  Most pecan pie recipes include salt and vanilla as flavorings. Chocolate and  bourbon whiskey are other popular additions to the recipe. Pecan pie is often  served with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or hard sauce. 

Of course, even Wikipedia isn’t going to provide you with everything you’d like to know.

$ wikit pecan pie recipe pecan pie recipe not found :^( 

The language that wikit will use is specified in the wikit.jspn file and can be modified if you prefer to see the subject summaries available in other languages.

$ cat .config/configstore/wikit.json {         "lang": "en" }$ 

Change “en” to “fr” and the description of my old home town will look like this:

$ wikit Rahway  La ville de Rahway (en anglais ) est située dans le comté d’Union, dans l’État  du New Jersey, aux États-Unis. Sa population s’élevait à 27346 habitants lors  du recensement de 2010, estimée à 30131 habitants en 2017. Rahway fait partie  du Grand New York. 


Wikit provides an easy way to grab text from Wikipedia on the command line and to view it or store it on your Linux system.

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