Freeware

Introduction

In this section you will find short reviews or first impressions on different freeware programs. Simply click on the tab you are interested in and it will display the review for that particular application.

We are using the term “freeware” in a general sense. In fact, some programs are absolutely free (free software) and open source, while others are copyrighted. What they all have in common is that they are offered at no cost. Donationware would also fall into this category, since payment is optional. However, demoware/trialware and crippleware do not belong in here, as the policy of Bible Software Review is to not review such programs.

Note that not all freeware programs will be reviewed here. There are some feature-rich freeware Bible software applications that will receive a more extensive coverage under the Reviews section of BSR.

Finally, do keep in mind that “freeware” refers to the program, not necessarily the contents. Although, by and large, freeware software includes Bibles and texts that are already in the public domain, this is not always the case. There may be applications that offer copyrighted texts (at no cost or for an extra fee), but here we are concerned with the free nature of the programs.

BerBible

Berean Bible Study Freeware (BerBible), version 2.41.1. Developed by Lynn Allan.

Many times I am asked for a basic Bible reader that will do verse lookups and search the biblical text for words or phrases. Nothing more, nothing less. Well, here you have one. It’s called BerBible. Grab it and use it. It’s yours for the taking.

BerBible is freeware and has a minimally restricted software license. It is copyrighted, though, and this applies to all files associated with the program, including the executable, documentation, and others. There are also separate copyrights for Bible texts like ESV, GW, LBLA, NASB, NBLH, NET and NKJV.

System Requirements are kept to a minimum. It can actually work on a 486 (that is, a pre-Pentium) computer with just 32 MB of RAM and a screen resolution of as low as 640×480, although being a 32 bit application, it will only run on Windows 95 or higher.

The program has a Forum and a Yahoo user group (that seems to have very little activity), and offers an online Slideshow, that can also be accessed from within BerBible itself (Help –> Orientation Slides). Under the Help menu we find different links to other easy-to-follow tutorials and one that points to a verse memorization program (also freeware) called InVerse Memorization. It should also be noted that there are versions of BerBible available for Pocket PC and Palm.

To try it out, I downloaded the Max-Setup Bundle with ASV, BBE, GW, ESV, NASB, NET, NKJV, KJV, and WEB (about 12.5 MB), available near the bottom of the downloads page.

You can get up to 15 Bibles (including 2 in Spanish and 1 in Russian). All of them for free, including the modern translations. I am not aware of any other freeware program that offers ESV, NASB, NKJV, LBLA and NBLH at no cost (I am told that permission for the TNIV from Zondervan has been requested, but there has been no response yet).

BerBible is a simple, no-frills Bible software, designed to look up verses and search the text of the Bible. To that end, the layout could not be simpler: a Bible tree (which becomes a Results tree when searches are run), and a Text viewer. Above the Text viewer is the lnput field where verses or words are inserted.

Don’t look for a status bar at the bottom. You won’t find one. All the information on Bible references and search statistics appears right in the Title bar above. There are two different views: the Minimal layout¬† (View –> Layouts) shows only the menu options, whereas the Standard layout displays a series of drop-down lists and six checkboxes used for searching.

The Book Tree can be collapsed and expanded, but not hidden, and the Results tree shows the full text of the verse when the mouse hovers over any of the Bible reference listed.

As can be seen from the screenshots, the appearance of BerBible is sober and flat, and its approach could certainly be defined as minimalist. Again, no flashy icons (in fact there are no menu icons at all) or visually appealing designs, and no provision to link to any kind of secondary literature (dictionaries, commentaries, atlas and the like).

Simple copying and pasting can be done (using WordPad, Word, etc.) — via the main menu, context menu or usual keyboard shortcuts, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V –, and both format and styles are retained, including highlighted hits, words in red, headings and footnotes (if available).

One of the limitations of BerBible is that only one Bible can be displayed or searched at a time, and in display mode, the Text viewer only shows one chapter. Buttons are provided to navigate to the next/previous chapter, as well as the Bible tree, that allows us to jump to any desired location.

Text display can be easily customized (View –> Font Face or View –> Font Size) thanks to a choice of fonts (Arial, Courier New, Times New Roman and Verdana) and sizes, and also due to the fact that the modules include a full range of rendering tags, such as Words of Christ in Red, Old Testament quotes in the New Testament (rendered in lower case italicized muted purple), Translator notes, Headings, Poetic indentation, words added by translator (displayed in italics). All of these formatting styles are not available for every single module, but anyhow, Words of Christ in red, Headings and Notes can be turned off if desired.

Searches are run by pressing the Find button, Return key or Alt+F keyboard combination, and the hits are reported as number of verses found, not by number of occurrences.

The types of searches that can be performed is quite amazing. Rather than using special operators, the user needs to check or uncheck the relevant boxes located to the left of the input box.

For example, if you want to do an AND search write jesus peter (with All Words checked — this is the default mode), if you prefer an OR search instead, use the same search pattern jesus peter but make sure the All Words box is unchecked. In case you want to find verses than contain one word and exclude another (a NOT search), there is no checkbox readily available, but you can it can be done with Regular Expressions (see below).

You can also perform case sensitive searches like god (as opposed to God) with Case Sense checked, exact searches (love — as opposed to love, loves, loved, beloved, unloved, etc.) by checking the Exact Match box, or phase searches of the type jesus is lord (with the Phrase option checked). Note that any time the Phrase checkbox is ticked, the Exact Match checkbox will be marked also.

If you want to look for words in close proximity (up to 5 verses apart), but not found in the same verse, use the Near+0 checkbox. This Span Near Verse(s) option can be set very quickly with the Ctrl+(0-5) keyboard shortcut, and is very useful, though is some case displays unpredictable or incomplete results in the Text viewer. In that case, click on the Results tree and you should see the words highlighted in context.

Regular Expression searches are possible, but hits are not highlighted, which is a pity. Now, these searches are not for the novice, and can be safely overlooked by most people, by they do give the power some more advanced users may need at one point. For instance, coming back to the NOT search operator (which isn’t available by any other means), you can write a regular expression like ^(?=.*?\blove\b)((?!god).)*$ that will match any verses containing the word “love” but not “god”. But one can also do less sophisticated searches, like this one \blove(th)?\b which finds any instances of “love” or “loveth” in the KJV.

When we want to look up a Bible reference and need to get to the last chapter of any given book we can simply type the name (abbreviation) and the number “99” — except for the book of Psalms where it would need to be “999.” In fact, any number higher than the last valid chapter will do (but since supposedly we don’t know the exact number of chapter, we better play it safe).

If we ever reach a point where we want to know where we are or how something works, clicking the question mark (?) above the Find button and then moving the cursor and clicking again on any window area or object (e.g., the Range drop-down box) BerBible will present an informative pop-up explaining that particular feature. If that is not enough, there is a rather comprehensive help that can be accessed by pressing the F1 key or by clicking the Help menu.

There is nothing easier for a reviewer than having access to the stated purpose of a program. In this particular case, Lynn Allan has made it crystal clear. He explicitly says what BerBible is not and then explains what it is supposed to do. This is an example of WYRIWYG (What You Read Is What You Get), so than nobody using the program can say it didn’t meet their expectations.

In previous email communications the developer explained to me that “BerBible is intentionally simple to be easy to learn for people who aren’t all that ‘computer literate’ and don’t have experience with Bible software,” and also that “it was originally designed with an orientation to people in the 3rd world with slow modems. This put a priority on a small download size […] Another priority was good performance on an obsolete computer or laptop such as are often donated to 3rd world missionaries.”

From that perspective, I must say he has certainly succeeded. Even in the case of the BerBible versions for Pocket PC and Palm, they are not meant to be “desktop replacements.” Again, priority is given to speed and ease of use. So, it is understandable that BerBible is not really a competitor to other shareware or commercial programs. It is more of an entry point into Bible software. However, some enhancements are already planned, although these might be introduced as a gradual, incremental process, and there is no guarantee they will finally make it into the program.

Pros

  • Modern (copyrighted) English Bibles. Most notably, ESV, NASB and NKJV
  • Modern (copyrighted) Spanish Bibles: LBLA, NBLH
  • Searches are extremely fast and offers many different options
  • User Interface translated into Russian and Spanish (work still in progress)
  • Easy to learn for people with none or very basic computer skills
  • Excellent online help and tutorial (it even includes a very simple BbTutorial.rtf doc apart from the typical Windows help).

Cons

  • No verse ranges can be looked up (like Ephesians 2:8-10 or Genesis 1:26-2:3)
  • Can only search one Bible at a time
  • Regular expression searches are not highlighted.

Suggestions for Improvement

Keeping in mind the clear limitations of features intended by the programmer, I think that some enhancements could nevertheless be implemented. Among them:

  • A clear option for the Most Recently Used (MRU) drop-down list
  • The ability to include sections in custom search ranges (e.g., Matthew 5-7), not just whole books
  • Reporting number of hits along the number of verses
  • Adding a Back and Forward button would make navigating the program a lot easier (it is currently possible to track your search and lookup list with the arrow keys, one step at a time, but not to get back to where you were before)
  • Regular expressions are very powerful, but results are difficult to spot because they are not highlighted.

In conclusion, BerBible sports one the simplest user interfaces you will find, includes a lot of good Bible texts, is extremely fast and and has an excellent value. If you are new to Bible software, or simply don’t need more advanced features (or don’t want to fire up any of its “big brothers”), and simply want to focus on the biblical text, this program is right for you. It will not fill up your hard drive, and it will come in handy. My recommendation is that you try it.

Other reviews: BerBible  2.40, by Doug Atkinson.

Bible Analyzer

Bible Analyzer, version 3.5.2. Developed by Tim Morton.

Many people think that certain advanced features can only be found in expensive commercial programs, but this notion is simply wrong. Bible Analyzer is a good example of it. Here’s an application that can do many interesting things, and that does them really well. Besides, the program can be run under Windows and Ubuntu (Linux).

This freeware Bible study and analysis application offers a number of modules that can be downloaded online. Among them we find Bibles (KJV, ASV), Dictionaries (Easton’s, Torrey’s, Webster’s Abridged), Commentaries (PNT, Scofield Notes, TSK), Devotions (F. B. Meyer), and a limited number of books, articles and images. A full CD-ROM packed with data is available for $18 plus shipping and handling. See full content here. This particular review is based on the download edition of Bible Analyzer, plus some additional modules (ESV, KJV with Strong’s, and Greek-English TR Interlinear with Strong’s and Hebrew-English OT Interlinear with Strong’s) kindly provided by its developer.

System Requirements are fairly standard, but I would personally recommend a Pentium IV or higher, at least 1 GB of RAM and a display with a screen resolution of 1024×768. Bible Analyzer comes in two flavors, one for Windows XP or Vista and another one for Linux (I have used Ubuntu 8.4, which is the recommended Debian distro). I think this is good news for Linux users.

Bible Analyzer‘s website includes a series of tutorial videos, and there are also some shorter spotlight videos at the bottom of the homepage. This is a nice complement to a well written and extensive help system available within the program itself (Help –> Show Help, or F1).

Installing Bible Analyzer is a no-brainer, and the user interface is clean and intuitive, with flexible customization options (Control –> Preferences Dialog, or simply F10). The main window is divided into four main areas, any of which can be hidden or maximized at will. There is also a Bible tree that allows us to jump to the desired book and chapter. This tree includes a couple of special visualization options (Parallel view and Dual view), as well as an entry box where text can be inserted in order to run quick searches.

Bible Analyzer can perform all sorts of searches — more so than many other programs, including some commercial ones — and there is no need to use special characters. All the searches can be built by checking certain options in the Advanced Bible Search tab of the Master Control Panel. Thus, to perform an AND search (e.g., love AND peace), all we have to do is write both terms in the Search textbox and check the Every Word/Multi-Single Word search option. To do an OR search instead (e.g., love OR peace), we would check Any Word or Phrase. If we want to exclude a word from our search (i.e., run a NOT search), we can write the excluded term in the Exclude text box (easy enough!).

Note that the Whole Word checkbox should marked unless we wish the program to return different endings as valid hits (e.g., love, loves, loved, lovely, lover, etc.). There is also the option of searching for any word containing the search term. Thus, with the Character String option checked, Bible Analyzer would find love with all the different endings, but also beloved or cloven, which happen to contain the four letters l-o-v-e. Case-sensitive searches are available in order to further constraint any given search, whereas wildcards (? and *) can be used to account for any letter or number of letters, respectively.

Strong’s numbers can also be searched, as well as Greek and Hebrew forms (but not lemmas). These searches, and some of the ones mentioned previously, can be launched via the appropriate context menu option that appears when we right-click on a word or Bible reference.

The range of the search can also be customized, even down to the red letters typically used to display the words of Christ. However, only full, contiguous books can be set as a search range. So, it is possible to limit a search to 1 John – 3 John, but not to the Johannine writings or to a certain part of a book (e.g., Matthew 5-7). This is really my only major gripe with the program.

Search results are displayed in the Results window, in manageable chunks of 100 verses. Above the list of verses with the highlighted result(s), there is a helpful graphic with bars representing the number of verses with hits contained in each of the Bible books.

In general, only one Bible can be searched at a time. The only exception is a rather limited search option [First Instance (all Texts) radio button] that looks for the first appearance of a word in all Bible versions available.

But there are many other search functions worth mentioning. For example, it is possible to search for multiple instances of the same word. If we type a word followed by a number (like, say, food 3), the program will find those verses containing that word the specified number of times (or more). To do this, the Every Word/Multi-Single Word radio button must be checked.

The Proximity Search tab offers the ability to search for any number of words found within a given proximity of verses. For instance, we can choose a primary word (love) and two secondary words (hate and brother), and set a proximity range of 3 verses. If we do that, Bible Analyzer will return Leviticus 19:17-18 (in the KJV), where these three words appear.

When it comes to commentaries and dictionaries, Bible Analyzer can search any one title, or all of them at once, for any Bible reference or word. This can be accomplished from the Reference Search and Libraries Search tabs of the Master Control Panel.

Bible Analyzer can compile a number of word lists (Bible Word Lists tab). Here again I miss the ability to work with ranges. This would greatly enhance the usefulness of this features. However, there are interesting things one can do with it as is. Take, for example, the Word Occurrence by Book and type grace. You’ll immediately realize that Romans is the books that contains more hits in the AV, followed at some distance by 2 Corinthians, Ephesians and Genesis.

If you like statistics, you’ll love the Bible Statistics tab. For the most part there is no exegetical value in the results obtained, but they can be fun. Want a bit of Bible trivia? Did you know that Job contains 274 questions in the ESV?

Bible Analyzer offers some powerful comparison features that are usually only available in commercial programs. Thus, we can choose a keyword (e.g., god) and see how many verses in the ESV contain that keyword and the AV omits them (73 omissions in 70 verses, if you want to know). But we can also choose two Bible versions, write a reference (again, it has to be a whole book or a whole chapter), and see the words that are omitted/added, as seen in the screenshot below.

User notes are very easy to create, and readily available when the book, chapter or verse they have been attached to is reopened. There is also a useful text editor that saves text in .txt or .xml format. Text can be pasted there from other parts of the program or from an external source.

Bible Analyzer can be configured to open certain information in a MiniWindow, which serves as a sort of Quick Viewer for context, statistics and word look-ups.

Finally, the program has separate windows for viewing daily devotions, books and articles, and images. It should be noted that the texts that appear in the Library Viewer are simple HTML files. This means that anyone can add HTML formatted files to the library by placing the documents in the corresponding Text directory. With a little knowledge of HTML it is possible to format those texts the way we like, including the ability to have “live” Bible references (i.e., have a Verse pop-up window appear when the cursor passes over them).

Pros

  • New Bible modules can be built using the standard SQLite open source format and added to the program
  • .htm files can be added to the Library Viewer
  • Comprehensive search and analysis features
  • Comparison between two Bible texts
  • High degree of customization and plenty of keyboard shortcuts
  • Great online help and tutorial videos.

Cons

  • No customized verse ranges can be set (only whole books, but not ranges like Genesis 1:26-2:3)
  • Can only search one Bible at a time (for the most part)

Suggestions for Improvement

  • I would very much like to see a search history to keep track of past searches and rerun them (similar to the verse history already available, but in the Master Control Panel)
  • Ability to set custom search ranges (e.g., Matthew 5-7 or 1 John 1:1-2:11), in searches, Bible text comparisons, Bible statistics, etc. This would improve the program exponentially, at least for me
  • When hovering the mouse over a Scripture reference containing a range of verses, it would be nice to have the whole range appear in the Verse pop-up window, rather than only the first one
  • It would be great to see an enhancement in the ability to search all Bibles at the same time.

In sum, Bible Analyzer is a well designed and powerful Bible application. It is reasonably fast, especially when you consider the amount of statistical calculations it performs. It is expandable and I’ve found its developer to be very sensitive to user’s feedback and needs. I certainly recommend it, and the fact that there is a Linux version available is a great plus. Give it a try!

Other reviews: Bible Analyzer 3.5.2, by Jerry Foster.

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