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BibleWorks 10: Not quite there yet

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.


Accordance for Windows

The acclaimed Accordance Bible Software has just been released as a native Windows 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.



SwordSearcher 7

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.

My Thoughts on Clause Searches in Logos 5

First things first. I love the new Clause Search feature in Logos 5. Personally, this is my favorite feature, and a prime example of the potential of Reverse Interlinears and semantic-based databases, two of the key areas that Logos has been focusing on in recent years.

I was asked to post a review on just one condition: to be honest. I think I can do that; I’m used to doing it 🙂

Since there is so much to talk about, and it is quite easy to miss things when you set out to summarize what’s new in a major upgrade like this, I’ve decided to do an experiment and record a video for each of the new or enhanced features that I like the most. My goal is to show you how they work and, in some cases, suggest ideas of what I’d like to see added or improved. This is meant to be a conversation, so feel free to comment, link to a video response or whatever. Interaction is always the best way to learn. You’ll notice that this is an unscripted video, and I want it to be that way in order to capture that conversational approach.

I have always found Syntax Searches in Logos hard to understand,  and even harder to build. Perhaps that is the reason why I am so pleased with the new Clause searches. It may well be the case that some of my suggestions/requests can be achieved via syntax queries, but I believe they belong here, and that with clause searching we are just beginning to scratch the surface of some amazing new ways to search the Scriptures. This is exciting stuff!

So here is the video (just under 12 minutes long). I hope it is worth your time!


 EDIT (November 5, 2012): Rosie Perera has been kind enough to bring to my attention (see comments below) that even if you don’t specify the subject or the verb-lemma in the Clause Search, the information will be shown in the Analysis view and can be easily sorted out, as you can see in the screenshots below.



Logos 5 is here!

Logos Bible Software has just launched version 5 of their Bible software program. It includes some great new features and seven new base packages, from Starter to Portfolio, but above all, it is what version 4 should have been all along.

From a philosophical/theoretical point of view, I would describe Logos 5 as the Semantic Web applied to Bible software (in this sense it is not difficult to see Sean Boisen‘s hand behind it). In other words, the program tries to find meaning in context and establish connections with the vast amount of resources available both in Logos itself and online. What this means in real life is that Logos 5 focuses on the use of pretty sophisticated tools (most of them automated), connecting the information and opening up avenues for further study, and fostering a network of Christian links among its users.

It is quite clear to any outside observer that Logos is out to build a whole ecosystem, but the key is to greatly improve/enhance its flagship product. Logos 5 hopes to be not just a step forward, but more of a significant leap ahead. Does it deliver on its promises? Let’s try to find out.

More anon…


Bible Analyzer 4.6 for Mac

When I reviewed Bible Analyzer 3.5, I immediately realized this was an application that had great potential. I’m pleased to see that I was right. Version 4 is a lot better (and I mean a lot), plus it is now available for the Mac (OS 10.5 or higher).

BA 4.6 is a native Mac app that installs effortlessly. Follow the usual sequence of dialog boxes, agree to the Software License Agreement and type your OS X user password. That’s it!


At first sight, the layout of the main window has not changed much, but it now includes a highly flexible window management system that allows for a great deal of customization. Everything is done by means of dragging and droping to a different area of the available space, or docking windows to make more room for the Bible window and the task we may happen to be doing at the time. There are many possibilities, including the ability to work with independent floating windows.


There is a Cross-Reference panel that displays all the Bible cross references included in an enhanced version of Treasury of Scripture Knowledge that are relevant to the active verse in the Bible window. Besides that, a brand new Library Hits panel shows all the Dictionaries, Commentaries and Books that include a reference to the active verse (or that verse when it is part of a range, e.g., Rom 4:5-8). A popup window displays the first instance where the verse is referenced, and clicking on the Bible reference opens the tool at that particular place. Users can decide the amount of information they want to see, as well as the category they are most interested in. At any rate, results are returned instantly.

Another enhancement I enjoy very much is the ability to have Commentaries open a whole chapter at a time, and not just the comments on the selected verse.


Resting the cursor on any word, while holding down the Control key, lets us see a preview of the description of that word in the preferred dictionary in a popup. Simply clicking on the word takes us immediately to the dictionary entry.


Again, the Control key can be used while the cursor is on a Bible tab to have the active verse, the previous and the next one shown in a popup.


The same method can be applied to different Dictionaries or Commentaries that include relevant articles (i.e., with the blue or green book icon besides the name) without the need to change tabs, unless, of course, we want to move to a different resource.


Bible Analyzer offers a Daily Devotional with live Bible links, as well as a customizeable Prayer List window.


Images are displayed in their own specialized window.


The Quick Search box located at the top of the main window can be used to look for words (e.g., amazement)


or to enter any Bible reference. The program understands if we have entered a Bible book or a search term.


The look and feel of BA can be customized, and sessions/layouts saved and recalled. There are many other options included in the program that users can also tweak to their heart’s content.


Searching is one of the key points of BA. It’s a real joy to see that almost anything we can think of can be searched quite easily. And one of the reasons it can do so is because of its very extensive Help. It really pays off to refer to it in those cases where we want to do something a bit more complex.

I could mention the Harmony/Parallel Generator, or the excellent AV-Strongs Index (based on an considerably enhaced Strong’s Dictionary), the Word clouds, the Text-to-Speech feature, or how easy it is to access information via the contextual menus. But why take my word for it when you can download it and see it for yourself absolutely free?

If you want more modules, you can always order the Bible Analyzer Suite CD-ROM for $38 plus shipping, or download any of the growing collections of free and premium modules. Most of these modules, while public domain resources, are very reasonably priced.

In sum, this is a very worthwhile program for those Mac (as well as Windows and Linux) users who need to work with English texts and good, solid classic resources, as well as use Strong’s numbers as part of their study of the Bible.


Rick Meyers on e-Sword HD

Rick Meyers, author of e-Sword, has kindly agreed to answer a few questions in the wake of the release of e-Sword HD for iPad. He’s extremely busy at the moment, so I doubly appreciate his willingness to make himself available to us. What follows is an unedited version of our “conversation.”

Bible Software Review: What led you to create an iOS version of e-Sword and why is it only available for iPads?

Rick Meyers:

Mobile/Tablet                          O/S Share
Market Share of iOS                  63.5%
Market Share of Android         21.0%
Market Share of Java ME            9.3%
Market Share of BlackBerry       1.8%

BSR: I can hear the voice of many Android users asking themselves, We’ll we ever see an Android version of e-Sword?

RM: MySword is pretty good and has access to all of the many user group modules.

BSR: I know quite a few people who get confused with names like e-Sword, MySword and The Sword Project. Is there any relationship between e-Sword and the other two?

RM: You forgot SwordSearcher 🙂 Only our relationship we share in Christ!

BSR: e-Sword has a very large and active user base. In fact, one of its great strengths is the impressive amount of user modules available in every conceivable language. How is all this going to fit with the current “official-modules-only” approach of e-Sword HD?

RM: Version 1.0 cannot have everything!  I am currently working with Josh Bond and others to integrate the massive user group module library.

BSR: Given the fact that e-Sword has traditionally been considered freeware, how did you come to the conclusion that you were going to charge $4.99 for the iPad app? Is this a change in your philosophy as a Bible software developer?

RM: e-Sword is still free, so no change there.  Everyone who begged me to create an iPad app said they would pay for it.  So I made the large investment in development costs to create the app, thus I am holding them to their word 🙂

BSR: Since Bible Software Review has a certain academic edge to it, could we expect to see any Greek and Hebrew resources soon? What about the ability to search Greek and Hebrew?

RM: I already have Greek texts working quite nicely, but there is even more that I wanted to do with the texts so I chose to hold off until the next update.

Thank you very much!


e-Sword HD for iPad

The popular e-Sword program is now available for iPads. This first release includes a good number of the features available in the desktop edition, but only official modules can be added to the app at this time –although no Greek, Hebrew or foreign language Bibles are yet available–, and costs $4.99. The interface will look quite familiar to long-time e-Sword users.

The following video is a quick and dirty presentation of the program (make sure to watch it in HD!).



Note that the video does not show off all the features available, just a few of them.


BibleWorks Running on Mac OS X

I’ve been holding off writing this post. Others have already announced earlier today the availability of a Public Preview Mac Installer that allows BibleWorks version 9 to run on Macs. Bootcamp and virtualization software were already viable alternatives to run the program until now. Today, however, there is a third possibility: using Wine’s compatibility libraries.

I know from experience that BW 8 (I don’t have version 9) works very well under Parallels or VirtualBox. If you own a reasonably powerful Intel Mac and are running Lion or Mountain Lion, that’s your best bet. It remains to be seen how well version 9 will perform under Wine.

The reason I wanted to wait before letting the cat out of the bag is that I needed to be sure how “Mac native” this option was. I can’t deal with the technical side of things here (I leave that to programmers and others more knowledgeable than me), but I do have to agree here with Kevin Purcell’s assessment that using Wine (like WORDsearch or Bible Explorer) is not exactly taking the Mac native route.

I have enquired about this and BW’s staff have been kind enough to explain some of the specific details. The good thing is that most of BW’s excellent features will work, at no additional cost, on a Mac. However, from a user experience point of view, this is certainly not a native Mac app, as can be surmised by watching this video. So, if you own an Intel Mac and use BibleWorks 9, you can now test the public preview and tell us all about it. BW is committed to fixing any compatibility issues that might appear and improve the overall performance of the program in due course.


EDIT (October 4, 2012): The web page has been edited slightly in order to reflect the exact nature of the Mac native version, which now reads “Native (a Mac port running on custom WINE libraries)”. Further down, under Details, the following explanation is given: “The native Mac version of BibleWorks runs on OS X using customized compatibility libraries (WINE) by CodeWeavers. It runs directly on OS X without a virtual machine or machine instruction emulation. The underlying technology uses WINE and xQuartz libraries”.

As usual, BW has been very responsive to user feedback and quick to clear up any misunderstandings. Now everybody should be able to know what to expect.