After more than twelve years online, Bible Software Review is closing shop. I have reached a point where I can no longer afford the time, energy and money that needs to be put into it. I will continue to be involved in Bible software, but will not be maintaining the site anymore. Maybe somebody else will do it, in which case the reviews, interviews and so on would continue to be available. If anyone is interested in the domain “bsreview.org” and/or its contents, please contact me.
It’s been a great ride, and I want to thank everyone that has made BSR possible, particularly its faithful readers and contributors. It is time for me to move on to other things. There is always a 2.0 version awaiting somewhere.
My latest full review of BibleWorks (BW) was based on version 8. I had quite a few good things to say about it, but also expressed some reservations about two main issues: tool integration and search syntax. After two main updates I am a bit disappointed to see that most of the cons I mentioned some years ago have not been addressed. Evidently, each company follows their own roadmap. I just happen to think they would do much better if they would focus on some of what I consider to be weaknesses of the program.
1. Tool integration. First off, BW is not a digital library. In fact, they advice customers to be cautios about building large digital libraries. On the other hand, it is difficult to swim against the tide, so BW provides two ways to incorporate ebooks into the program. They have partnered with WORDsearch in order to make some of their titles available to BW users and, as of version 10, an epub reader is included as part of the package. Maybe having resources in .CHM format (Compiled HTML file) was a safe bet five or ten years ago, but I do not think that is the case anymore. The inclusion of an epub reader seems to be a way to explore other standards. The problem is that all these e-texts are a bit of an afterthought, and result in a very poor integration with the rest of the program. Not only that. Each new format comes with a different search syntax, which adds to the complexity of a program that already has a pretty steep learning curve.
2. Search syntax. BW is very powerful, but search syntax is inconsistent across the program. There are at least five different ways to search (CHM files, ebooks, Command Line, Graphical Search Engine and Word List Manager). CHM and epub files have a similar search syntax, though not exactly the same. GSE uses Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT…), but the CL uses a different approach altogether, while the WLM is similar to the CL but not quite the same.
The new UI in BW 10 is not really that new, but this is always debatable. However, I really feel that BW should rethink the whole matter of tool integration and search syntax. This may mean going back to the drawing board in some areas, but at the end of the day it may be worthwhile. As it is now, I find BW quite cluttered and confusing. I would hate to see such a good program lag behind some of the other big players in the field.
The acclaimed Accordance Bible Software has just been released as a nativeWindows application. This extract from the latest press release lists some of the capabilities of the program:
• Read the Bible and compare multiple translations side by side
• Follow commentaries that scroll in sync with the Bible
• Add notes and highlights to Bible verses
• Search the Bible and analyze results with graphs and charts
• Study the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament
• Look up unfamiliar words in Bible dictionaries and lexicons
• Examine parallel passages in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament
• Create Bible diagrams to study the structure of a passage
Accordance for Windows, which is free for current registered users of Accordance 10, can be purchased with a Starter Collection of Bibles and books for just $49.99. Larger library packages and upgrade discounts are also available at the website.
The Mac version has also been updated to version 10.3, which includes a number of important new features.
I reviewed an older version of SwordSearcher some years ago, and although many things have been improved since then, the basic philosophy of the program has remained the same (and I say this as a compliment). It seems to me that its developer, Brandon Staggs, has decided to stick to his original plan. SwordSearcher continues to offer a good deal of classic public domain resources and Bibles, centered around the King James Version (see full contents list here). The user interface is now more sophisticated, but still clean and simple to use. One of the new features of version 7 is a smart search box that displays hints as you type. This allows users to type Bible references, topics and searches very easily, all in a single centralized text box. I am pretty sure that many (most?) users will very seldom need to dig deeper to kick-start their Bible study, although the current search capabilities of the program are now very advanced and include Boolean, Proximity, String and Regular Expression searches.
Special texts tagged with Strong’s numbers (like KJV and Spanish Reina-Valera 1909) can be used for original language searches. These are somewhat limited, but let us keep in mind that SwordSearcher is not designed for heavy-duty Hebrew and Greek work. It is, however, a very powerful tool to perform English-based research around the biblical text. This is a direct result of the combination of a thorough indexing and cross-referencing work, robust search engine and flexible StudyClick feature, a clever customizable shortcut that lets the user choose their preferred study workflow out of a good number of options (available via the File – Preferences and Settings… menu).
SwordSearcher 7 adds a few new titles to the Library of available works, like McClintock & Strong Cyclopedia, Spurgeon’s Park Street and Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary, and John Trapp’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. But “more” can only mean “better” when all the Books, Commentaries and Dictionaries are heavily linked to the Bible text and can be readily found when they are relevant to the passage or topic in question. This is what the Verse Guide does.
All in all, I think Brandon knows very well what SwordSearcher users expect from the program. Every new release is another step in the right direction. Had this not been the case, it wouldn’t be around after all this time. SwordSearcher is proof that in the middle of some fierce competition, there is still room for reasonably-priced shareware Bible programs that do not go out of their way to become a one-fits-all solution, but rather cater to the needs of those who simply want to be efficient in their Bible study and make extensive use of the English King James Version. If that’s what you need, that’s what you get with SwordSearcher.
It is really quite amazing how much Bible software has improved in a relatively short time. Do you have any pictures of your old 5.25″ or 3.5″ floppy disks, or early CD-ROMs that you’d like to share along with a short comment? Feel free to send them along.
The floppy disks (above) are SwordSearcher 2.0 for DOS. The other picture (below) is of early SwordSearcher CDs: (from left to right) SwordSearcher 95 (version 3.0), and SwordSearcher 4.0, SwordSearcher 3.3. Thanks to Brandon Staggs for sending the info (BTW, you might want to read about the history of SwordSearcher).
Here’s a shameless plug for a new website I just put out recently. It is called venaisrael.com, and it is devoted to the tours to Israel I will be hosting from this year onwards. I would very much appreciate it if you would check it out and share it on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social network you happen to be on. The tours are in Spanish and may seem unrelated to Bible software, but they are not. I hope to share with you in due course how I use Bible software tools as an essential part of the preparation for these tours. So, in short, it won’t cost you much at all to do me this little favor and it will help in making the website more visible. Thanks much!
David Servant, host of the video devotional HeavenWord TV, goes through the entire New Testament in chronological order, following a verse-by-verse, expository approach. His free 7-minute videos are really nice. In the special episode called Behind the Scenes, he explains how the program is produced, and that’s how I discovered the Bible software he’s using (around 2:09): Accordance Bible Software. If you pay close attention and know the application well, you will even find out what version he has installed on his MacBook Air 😉
Yesterday, Mark Barnes uploaded a video in which he reproduced the same steps using Logos 5. He then went on offering yet more options, including his preferred method: the Power Lookup feature.
I’d like to add to this interesting comparison by showing you in the following video how to look up a Greek word in multiple lexicons using the Search All feature in Accordance 10. In Accordance, too, there is more than one way to do it (TIMTOWTDI).