Zondervan Bible Study Library: Scholar's Edition  
   
  Version: 5.1  
  Developer: Zondervan  
  Rub�n G�mez  
Overall Rating:  6.9
User Interface: Searching:
Ease of Use Features:
Help & Support: Modules:
Customization: Original Languages:
Speed: Price:

May 26, 2005

A review written by Rub�n G�mez, Bible software translator and beta tester. Copyright � 2005-2009 by the author. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce any part of this document without obtaining permission from the author.

Introduction

Time and time again, Bible software users demand some sort of interoperability between the wide range of commercial packages currently available. They want to have access to many different resources and then choose their favorite interface to interact with them. In other words, they long for a common standard -- not necessarily the same tagging or layout -- which would avoid, among other things, their having to pay several times for the same e-texts. On the whole, they don't mind buying titles from different companies. What they do resent is the fact that very often they have to learn a completely different user interface in order to use certain reference works not available elsewhere. This is known to create quite a bit of confusion and frustration.

Meanwhile, over and over again, Bible software companies fly in the face of this deeply felt need with their propriety formats and idiosyncratic graphical user interfaces, metaphors, search syntaxes, etc.

I do not mean this to be taken as an across-the-board criticism of the Bible software industry. I am simply trying to describe the current state of affairs. The whole point being that if you are serious about working with the New International Version and the growing number of Bible reference and original-language works published by Zondervan, and you want to do it on a Wintel box, you will have to get a hold of Pradis.

Let me say up front that Zondervan has put together some excellent electronic resources around its best-selling Bible version. This is certainly good news. The "not so good" news is that if you are already familiar with some other Windows-based Bible software program, you will have to relearn a few things and get ready for yet another learning curve. But once you get used to some of the peculiarities found in Pradis, you will be glad you went through it all. Again, don't get me wrong. Pradis is no more difficult to learn that other products or less intuitive than its competitors. It is simply different. And since Zondervan is not releasing STEP-compatible modules anymore, there's no other way to access their titles on the Windows platform but Pradis.

The present review is based on the Scholar's Edition, [1] which was then updated to Pradis version 5.1 by installing John's volume from the NIV Application Commentary series.

System Requirements and Installation

Pentium-based PC (Pentium IV or equivalent recommended) running Windows 98 or higher, with at least 128 MB RAM (512 MB recommended), CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive, and approximately 440 MB hard disk space (for a full installation).

Once the program has been installed, it is possible to add a copy of Today's New International Version (NT only!) to the library of resources. The free download is available at http://www.zondervan.com/interactive/downloadTNIV.asp

Backwards Compatibility

If you don't have any previous version of The NIV Study Bible Library (Basic or Complete edition), The Expositor's Bible Commentary (EBC), the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT), or the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE), you may safely skip this section.

If you happen to own any or all of the above, you will find that none of them is compatible with Pradis. In such a case, you can continue to run them under the old Zondervan Reference Software system, use them in conjunction with some STEP-compatible system (basically, older versions of QuickVerse or WORDSearch), or upgrade to the new format. The only special upgrade price currently available seems to be for EBC, at $22.49 plus shipping and handling ($6.25 in the US). But if you are like me (i.e., already have most of the CDs and live in Europe), the special upgrade can cost you well over $100.00, which is, by any standards, not exactly a nominal fee. This is, in my opinion, highly unfair to long-time users of Zondervan software. This fact, plus the glaring and deliberate omission of a printed manual [2], are two of my main complaints about an otherwise good product.

General Features

The first thing that one has to do is to get a handle on Pradis' user interface. It does take some getting used to, particularly if you've grown used to some of the other competing products.

The main window (Figure 1) consists of a number of panes, each containing a different category of books (Bibles, lexicons, commentaries, and so on). Organizing works by tabs saves quite a bit or space, but it is also possible to tile all the windows inside each pane. With a single mouse click we can change views and/or activate the desired pane. Besides, the general appearance, contents, and position of these panes is user-customizeable.

 

Fig. 1 General overview of Pradis showing seven different tabbed sections.

Pradis always opens with one of the default or customized desktops (called "templates"), which is a good way to tailor the program for different types of uses (topical studies, exegetical work, word studies, etc.). However, once one becomes more familiar with the program, the best approach is to start with one of these templates and build a personal "study". Unlike templates, studies contain all kinds of user-specific information (e.g., saved searches, window positions), that allow us to save our work and load it exactly as it was when we left off. The menu option File -> New Window (Ctrl + Shift + W) opens a new copy of the program with our default template or study (workspace).

Another interesting program feature is the fact that original language Bibles can be displayed in standard Hebrew or Greek script, or else in transliterated form (using Latin characters), as shown in Figure 2.

Users without original language skills can choose between two different transliteration schemes, depending on their needs. These transliterations are also useful for copying and pasting to emails and other types of online communication (lists, forums, IRC, etc.)


Fig. 2 Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament displayed in original script and English transliteration, in parallel columns.

All Scripture references, as well as internal links, are hypertexted, so that passing the cursor over any of these hyperlinks causes a pop-up window to appear, allowing us to see both text (Figure 3) and images (Figure 4). The interesting part is that it is possible to scroll the full content of these windows with a wheel mouse or the arrow keys when that particular pane is active (but only in version 5.1).  Unfortunately, the font type and size displayed in the pop-ups cannot be changed by the user.

Fig. 3 Pop-up window with Bible text.

 

Fig. 4 Tool-tip containing images in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible.

By means of an easy to set linking system, all relevant books can be made to scroll together in sync with our chosen leading text, with the advantage that only that driver text will actually make the rest "follow along." Any reading, scrolling, searching, and so on, performed on any title other than the driver will not affect the rest!

Finally, personal notes can be attached to any of the books included in the library, and given the fact that these notes are standard RTF files, any RTF-compatible word processor can be used to edit them.

Searching

Searches may be built with the Advanced Search Assistant, which uses natural language syntax, or entered directly with boolean operators on the Search For text box (Figure 5).

Language Boolean Example Results in NIV
Include ALL AND praise AND worship 2 matches/1 hit
Include EXACT phrase EXACT [ praise the Lord ] 67 matches/60 hits
Include at least ONE OR [ praise OR worship ] 497 matches/444 hits
Do NOT include ANY NOT [ praise OR worship ] NOT Lord NOT God 160 matches/147 hits
Include ONLY ONE XOR [ [praise] XOR [worship] ] 496 matches/442 hits

 

Fig. 5 Building and XOR (exclusive OR) search with the Advanced Search Assistant and clicking the OK button will insert the right syntax on the Search For text box.

By default, a search term is taken literally (or as an exact phrase, if more than one word is typed in). Thus, run returns 13 matches (in 12 verses) in the NIV New Testament. However, since the English text is linked to the Greek, the search will display the different words used to translate the original (run, run out, run aground, run race, run away, run aground, run after) [3]. But this behavior can be changed by selecting the Include Related Words option, so that when this checkbox is marked, Pradis will perform a "stemmed search" [4]. Apart from that, the usual wildcard characters allow for very flexible searches, and are very easy to build. Thus, f*l?y will find words like finally, fully, forcefully, folly, and faithfully.

One of the main strengths of Pradis searches is the fact that one can use the NIV to run English, Greek, and Hebrew searches. For example, the search hope* (limited to the NT), returns 86 matches in 80 hits. But if we write ELPIS (in Greek characters or transliteration) on the Search For text box, we will get 53 matches and 48 hits, which is the same result we would arrive at by running the same search directly on UBS4. This is due to the fact that the underlying Greek and Hebrew, as well as Goodrick-Kohlenberger's numbers, are hard-coded into the NIV. As a result of that, a very thorough and informative window, called Search Analysis, can be invoked (Ctrl + Shift + A) every time the NIV, the Greek NT, or the Hebrew OT are searched (Figure 6).

Fig. 6 Search Analysis window for the search "run" in the NIV (with search range set to New Testament and including related words) breaks down the 48 matches found in 43 hits (verses). The English words in the first column are hyperlinks to the corresponding verses where they are found, but are not automatically displayed in a pop-up window. As for the Greek lemmas, the display can be set to true Greek characters (as shown here), or transliteration.

Cross-language searches are very interesting, but must be limited to one word at a time. Another useful feature is the ability to search on G/K or Strong's numbers. But here again there are some severe limitations. The most annoying for me is that it is not possible to mix G/K or Strong's numbers and English words. Thus, you cannot search for SG2962 NOT lord (i.e., Strong's # 2962 when it is not translated as "lord")

When doing some Greek searches, I missed some sort of "smart" final sigma implementation, although it was nice to realize, on the other hand, that I could write the boolean operators in Greek and the search would run just fine. [5]

Finally, it should be noted that searches can be saved and retrieved or edited later on, which comes in quite handy (Figure 7).

Fig. 7 The tree pane contains all the searches (including all search results) we have previously saved.

Special tables

Pradis Scholar's edition includes a number of useful tables filled with parsing and statistical information. Among these, the most important ones are the Greek and Hebrew Lexicons (Figure 8), and the Goodrick/Kohlenberger Number Definitions (Figure 9).

Fig. 8 The NIV search results (displayed here in Concordance style) can be opened in the UBS4 Greek version, and the morphology of each verse shown in the Analytical Lexicon to the New Testament. When all three resources are linked, they scroll together.

 

Fig. 9 Table showing the Goodrick/Kohlenberger Number Definitions for one particular search hit.

Another table that is only one click away is the NIV to BHS/UBS4 Translation, which breaks down all the information of a verse and indicates the type of relationship that exists between the original term and the English equivalent used in the New International Version (Figure 10).

Fig. 10 See NIV to BHS/UBS4 Translation.

My major beef with the current implementation of these tables (and that includes Search Analysis too) is that hyperlinks are scarce, and that one cannot customize, copy-paste, or search them!

Related Topics Lookup

One of the great advantages of Zondervan's libraries is that they work as a true reference library rather than just a pile of books. Resources are cross-linked in such a way that when we right-click on any word and select the Related Topics menu option, we are immediately presented with a list of all the articles in our library that have anything to say on that particular topic. Once we decide where we want to go, we can simply click on it and jump to that resource. Figure 11 shows the different options available for one of the words I came across while reading the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words.

Fig. 11 Related Topic lookup on the word "wealth."

This feature comes in very useful when we want to lookup the meaning of a term or wish to pursue our study of a given topic.

Conclusion

Pradis is an excellent product for heavy users of the NIV and for those who need a good reference library based on it (stronger on the Greek side, but also containing some helpful Hebrew tools). However, original language searches are not easy to perform (except for the simple right click searches), and lack some of the features advanced users would expect to find in a package like this (e.g., grammatical searches).

There is obviously room for improvement, particularly in the area of searching and customization, so let us hope that development continues along these lines. Meanwhile, Pradis will remain a good complementary program, but I don't foresee it replacing any of the more well-known competing products in the short term. Its content is very good, and that is what makes it really attractive, but the program as such still needs some fine-tuning.

Pros

Highly specialized content, not available anywhere else on the Windows platform
Good use of context-sensitive menus (by clicking the right mouse button)
Hard-coded links between NIV and Greek and Hebrew texts.

Cons

There is no backwards compatibility with resources from the previous Zondervan Reference Software (ZRS) or STEP titles, most notably Expositor's Bible Commentary, NIDNTT, and NIDOTT
No printed manual is made available
Special tables should offer a lot more flexibility.

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