Bible Software Review: By way of an introduction, please give us any personal information you'd like to share with our readers...
Richard Wilson: I am Australian, but moved to Italy in 1992 in order to teach the Bible there. There is more information about me at my personal site.
BSR: When did your company start, and why did you feel the need to set this project off?
RW: I began to work on La Parola soon after I arrived in Italy. But the intention was not to write a computer program to distribute, rather it was a way to learn Italian and the Italian Bible. However what I created became more and more requested in Italy, so I started working on it more seriously - especially since I knew of the many good Bible programs (free and commercial) available in English, but none of them were much help for Italians. Even if they understood enough English to use the interface of the program, few if any resources (Bibles, commentaries, etc) were available in Italian. For a long time, the program was directed at Italians, with resources being created for Bible study in Italian, but some English language resources were tacked on that were thought to be useful to Italians. However with the version 7 of the program in 2007 the program has be rewritten to make if useful for both English and Italian speakers.
BSR: What is your current role in the company?
RW: There is no company, just me doing the programming and developing the resources for the program and for the Internet site.
BSR: When you look back, what would you identify as being the single greatest feat in the history of Bible software?
RW: Making (printed) concordances a thing of the past. It is so much easier to find a phrase, or all the appearances of a word, with Bible software than with a book.
BSR: What segment of Bible software users do you consider to be your main target?
RW: The people who would find my software most useful are still the Italians, because they do not have other options in their language. But amongst English speakers, those looking for a good free program would find the program useful. Since the program is open source, the file format is described, the program can import texts from other formats, and the same executable file and data files work in both Windows and Linux, more technically orientated people may find the program particularly interesting.
BSR: In your opinion, what are the three most salient features of your application?
RW: A completely open architecture, with both the source code and file format available.
Compliance to Windows standards, so for example the menus are the same as those found in other Windows programs, which reduces the time necessary to learn to use the program.
Very customizable: for example there are 162 different ways of formatting the Bible text and references, and the program can use the names and abbreviations for the books of the Bible that the user wants to use.
BSR: If you had to recommend the use of Bible software to someone who has never been exposed to it before, how would you go about it?
RW: I would sit next to the person as they study or prepare to teach the Bible, and do a speed test. As they looked up other Bible translations and commentaries, or looked up meanings of words, I would do the same on the computer to show how much easier it was that way.
BSR: Why do you think people should consider using your software?
RW: Although the program has many characteristics similar to those of other free programs, it has some rarer or unique characteristics as well:
* Not only is it free, but it is open source and the file format is open, making it easier for others to help develop it.
* There are four different Greek texts of the New Testament, as well as a listing of the manuscript support for all the major variants (useful for textual criticism) - there is a Web version of this part of the program at http://www.laparola.net/greco/
* It automatically updates itself and its components, and finds new components that can be installed.
* It can import ThML, OSIS and e-Sword files. That means for example that there are over 800 files at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library that can be imported into the program.
* It can perform searches in the Bible not only for words, but also for all forms of the same word. So for example you can search for "love" if you want to, but also for all the forms of that word: love, loved, loves, loving, etcetera. Not just in English, but also in other languages.
* Links to external sites give extra information on Bible verses or words, for example extra Bible translations, readings in manuscripts like Aleppo, Sinaiticus and Bezae, sermons, definitions and Internet searches of words.
* You can create personal bookmarks, external links, parallel passages and daily reading schemes, and distribute them to others.
* You can create personal notes on verses and themes, which are automatically fully searchable just like the components distributed along with the program.
* The program can create a concordance of any passage of any Bible or collection of notes.
* The program can look up all the installed resources (Bibles, notes, pictures, parallel passages, external links, ...) to find all the information in the program on a certain passage or word.
* The same program and data files work in both Windows and Linux.
BSR: What is the primary use you make of your own software?
RW: Personally, I use my own program for my own Bible study and teaching preparation - especially when in Italian. For in depth research, the program does not have the academic resources that commercial programs have. But for checking up Bible references and looking at the underlying Greek, I don't have anything that I can use better than my own program.
BSR: Is there any feature lacking in Bible software in general, that you would love to see implemented soon?
RW: A standard data format that programs can import and export, so as to easily convert files used in one Bible program to the format of another Bible program.
BSR: Are there any specific plans to port the software to other platforms? (Mac, Linux, PDA...)
RW: The version 7 of the program was written for the .NET framework for Windows, with an eye always on the Mono framework which aims to replicate the .NET framework on Linux (and also Mac OS X). At the time of writing (August 2008) however the Mono framework is still incomplete, so some parts of the program do not work correctly on this platform. But hopefully with the imminent release of the version 2.0 of Mono, it will be a lot better.
BSR: Besides English, is or will your software be available in other languages in the foreseeable future?
RW: The software will always be available in both Italian and English. Previous versions of the program (up to 6.5) are also available in French and Spanish.
BSR: From your perspective, what should Bible software be heading for in the years to come?
RW: More sharing of resources between programs.
Searches for ideas, not words (not "where does the word 'love' appear in the Bible", but "where does the concept of love appear in the Bible).
Better programs for Linux.
BSR: Thank you so much for your time!