Ideal Bible Software?

I came across this site, where Michael Paul Johnson (at least I think he is the author), after giving a very brief overview of some of the commercial Bible software packages available, lists the features that, in his opinion, the ideal Bible software (if such an animal ever existed) should include. These are:

  • Wide selection of Bible texts in many languages, including:
    * Many translations in Spanish, English, and other Latin Alphabet languages
    * Translations in languages with other alphabets and/or pictograms
    * Support for audio Bibles
    * Other living languages (all of them – over 6,000)
    * Original language texts (Greek, Hebrew)
  • Good helps, including maps, dictionaries, etc.
  • Ease of use
  • Export capability in many formats
  • Easy, configurable copy & paste
  • Printing/typesetting capability
  • Support for open standards like those on the STEP technical information page.
  • Support for many languages
  • Preserves poetry & prose formatting (not just a list of verses)
  • Simple, intuitive, and powerful searches
  • Note-taking, highlighting, and journaling features
  • Reasonably efficient use of computer resources
  • Configurable side-by-side translations for comparison
  • Interlinear translation support
  • Support for multiple computing platforms (Win32, Linux, Mac, SunOS, etc.)
  • Freely available.

These lists are as varied as users themselves, I’m afraid. However, I see a problem in the tendency to mix up objective and subjective aspects of software. There are certain features that can easily be measured: either they are there or they are not (e.g., original language texts, highlighting, etc.) But there are others that are highly subjective. A product may seem “easy to use” to someone, and absolutely “awkward” or “clunky” to somebody else. Similarly, what’s “intuitive” to me may look “cryptic” to you!

Two final observations may be in order: STEP isn’t currently a “standard” in the generally accepted sense of the term, IMO, and support for multiple computing platforms is expensive and difficult to develop (unless we enter into the field of emulation or some open-source project based, for instance, on Java). But the icing to the cake is to have all of that “freely available”!

I don’t mean to be critical of this particular wish list. We all have our own, I’m sure, and I think they are useful and even necessary. But this one is a good starting point to realize just how difficult it is to make a single application all things to all people. So, do you have a list of the “ideal” Bible software? Maybe you’d like to jot down a few items and features, and take into account some of the things I’ve pointed out here. One of the things that’s coming to Bible Software Review (a mid-term goal) is the ability to take polls and surveys. You can bet that one of the first questions will have to do with this subject… Until then, feel free to post comments or send emails if you feel so inclined.

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Bible.cc Parallel Bible

Here is another tool that can be used from a web page. It shows any given passage in 7 different translations
(World English Bible, American Standard Version, Bible in Basic English, Darby’s Translation, King James Version, Webster’s Bible, and Young’s Literal Translation), with further links to 10 additional (copyrighted) versions. You just have to use the format http://bible.cc/book/chapter-verse.htm and voila! Here is an example from John 1:1. Unfortunately, you can only point to a single verse at a time. For more info on current details and future projects, including a search feature, look here.

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Bible Courseware from Moody/Logos

According to a recent press release, Moody Distance Learning Center (MDLC) and Logos Bible Software have become partners in order to develop Bible courseware on CD-ROM. AM Bible Courseware is expected to be ready this coming Fall. The list of courses that will be made available can be found here. An online demo, as well as a general overview in PDF are also available. The most relevant part of the press release reads thus:

“Many people cannot attend seminary or a Bible school, be it busy pastors, lay leaders, housewives, businesspersons, college students who want supplemental material to their current education, or those who simply consider themselves too old to attend school,” said Bill Blocker, division manager of MDLC. “AM is practical, available to anyone within reach of technology, is not partial to distance or location, and will not interfere with an individual’s daily responsibilities.”

The combined approach — providing Moody’s proven and effective method for biblical education along with a wealth of readily-available research and study resources — will equip learners with the knowledge and skills they need for self-directed study as they mature in their Bible study. AM incorporates quizzes and exams to gauge personal learning and comprehension. As learners complete courses and pass the exams, they will receive a certificate of completion verifying their proficiency in that particular topic of study.

“We’re excited about combining Moody’s expertise in distance education curriculum with our advanced digital library technology. This integrated study environment is a huge advantage to students. It boosts the quality of their experience, and direct linking between Moody’s courses and our libraries provides greater assurance that learners will follow through with additional research,” said John Bryant, director of special projects at Logos. “In addition, our environment doesn’t require online connectivity to access materials, so learners can study anywhere and have all their materials and a complete library with them.”

I personally think that taking the courseware route is a natural development of Logos’ LDLS. The amount of material that is becoming available in this electronic format is quite impressive, and can be adapted to suit the needs of a variety of people in different settings. Let’s remember that Internet access is not readily available to everybody, and courseware on CD-ROM
or DVD-ROM can be a very valid alternative. The nice thing about it is that you can have the study materials and the reference library in the same package.

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Javascript Applets

Further to my entry on the Simple Parallel Bible, I found this morning that Sean Boisen of Blogos includes a post about another useful tool that can be easily added to any website. By means of little scripts called favelets you can perform Bible word searches, passage searches, dictionary searches or whatever you like. Here is a short summary of how it works (but read the whole article!):

Favelets are applets (mini applications) in javascript that run from the Favorites list in Internet Explorer: Favorites + applets = favelets. They’re cool because they add functionality to your browser environment, which (let’s face it) is where most of the action is these days.(…)

Because of the New Testament Names project, i’m a regular user of the word search features on the ESV website, as i look up some semi-obscure name to learn and record information about it (like Ephraim, which i initially mistook for a reference to the OT figure of the same name). But i got tired of finding the page, typing in the word, using the pull-down to select New Testament only, select just whole word matching …. click click click click click!

Favelets to the rescue! Here’s how it works:

  • Drag (don’t click) this link to the Links section of your browsers toolbar. It will complain that it might not be safe: you’ll have to decide if you trust me :-)
  • ESV NT word search
  • Select (highlight) a word in your browser that you want to look up (like this one: content)
  • Click on the favelet
  • A new browser window will open up, with the URL constructed to do a search on that word in the New Testament only, whole word matching, text only.

I have tried it myself and it works fine. Nice tip, Sean!

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Website Debut

Accordance Bible Software has a brand new website with many new features and a “metallized” look, which should be very familiar to users of Mac OS X. Incidentally, one of the recent additions I recommend is a demo of the latest 6.2 version. Good job!

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