Offline Web browsing and saving Web pages

You may already have used Cmd + S (Ctrl + S under Windows) to save the current page in your desktop browser. Well, you can do the same on your iDevice! In this article-tutorial, I show you how. (The current article is, basically, Part II of my previously-published article on Web content filtering on iDevices.)

First and foremost, there are two main usage cases, depending on whether you want to save an entire site or page structure (so that you can follow the article and other links on it when saved) or just the current one. Let's start with the former.

1. Saving entire sites / page links (as opposed to saving the current page only)

As far as the former is concerned, you may already have heard of  the well-known “Wget” utility for most desktop operating systems. I'm happy to announce it's available for both lovers of the command line (for jailbroken devices only, obviously) and AppStore users, the latter more resembling the desktop graphical user interface offered for the Mac by the excellent, free(!) CocoaWget.

1.1 Command-line wget (jailbreak only; free)

The former (the jailbreak utility) is a free download. To use it on iOS4+, remember to use the compatible MobileTerminal (dedicated article). After installing, you'll already be able to access it from MobileTerminal.

It works just great. An example screenshot using the -r (recursive) and -l2 (two-level link following) parameters, showing the download of (the command denoted by a red rectangle):

(as usual, click the images for full-sized, original-quality shots!)

1.2 SiteSucker (AppStore; $2)

This app is most probably a Wget with a graphical front-end and not requiring a jailbreak. It behaved pretty well in my tests and also has a built-in viewer, which works just great with the saved pages. (Unfortunately, the latter isn't that common with wget-saved pages. For example, GoodReader, probably the best, most versatile and cost-effective all-in-one ebook / document / multimedia reader / player, isn't able to follow the links (that is, local directory paths) of saved documents, even if it would be possible. (After transferring, for example after ZIPping up, the output of wget to GoodReader and decompressing it first.))


(page download in progress)

(a setting screen (of the many) – as you can see, wget options can also be set here)

2. Saving the current page (with resources)

If you don't need to keep the links in a page clickable, you have even better choices.

2.1 WebOffline  (jailbreak only!)

If you prefer to stay with Safari, you will need to jailbreak for any kind of full, local page save. Then, purchase (it isn't expensive: only costs $1.50) WebOffline from Cydia.

It'll add itself to the Action menu of the browser. You only need to tap the “Save for offline” button:

You can, then, access the pages from not only directly in the file system, but also inside Safari itself (Bookmarks > Saved Pages), as is also shown in the following screenshot:

Compared to iCab Mobile's approach (see below, 2.2), it always overwrites the previous back ups of the same page (same URL). This may be a problem in some cases - for example, you'd like to save the state of the main page of a Website several times to save the then-current content and don't want to delete the previous backups. In these cases, use iCab instead, which always adds a(n increased) counter to the saved .webarchive files as can be seen in the following screenshot (note the red ovals!):

Incidentally, this shot also shows a problem common with both iCab's and  WebOffline's saving: with certain pages (even ones using Western-European languages), these two apps don't (necessarily) restore the (non-English) character encoding. This is why the (Finnish) ä and ö letters are completely messed up in the offline-read pages. Nevertheless, if you explicitly set the character encoding in your desktop browser (after transferring the .webarchive files to there), these backup files, produced by both tools, will be perfectly readable.

2.2 iCab Mobile (AppStore; link)

iCab Mobile is without doubt the best third-party AppStore (meaning no jailbreaking is required) web browser for iOS (unless you absolutely need to save a lot of bandwidth and, therefore, must use Opera Mini). It also has excellent, as with the just-discussed WebOffline, full page (the current page, with all the resources, are saved in the same .webarchive file) saving capabilities.

Page saving needs to be invoked via the Action menu > Save Page (Downloads). You can redisplay the saved pages through the Downloads menu.

As has already been explained in Section 2.1, it doesn't overwrite the previously-saved pages of the same URL, which, in my opinion, is a big advantage over WebOffline.

UPDATE (06/08/2012):  WebOffline has just been made (as of version 1.1.2) iPad 3-compliant.

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Author Details

Author Details

Werner Ruotsalainen

<p>Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.</p>
<p>Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.</p>