WORDsearch 9 Preaching Library  
   
  Version: 9.0  
  Developer: WORDsearch Corp.  
  Rub�n G�mez  
Overall Rating:  8.2
User Interface: Searching:
Ease of Use Features:
Help & Support: Modules:
Customization: Original Languages:
Speed: Price:

February 1, 2010

A review written by Rub�n G�mez, Bible software translator and beta tester. Copyright � 2010 by the author. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce any part of this document without obtaining permission from the author.

Introduction

When it comes to reviewing software, it is good to know beforehand what the intended use of an application is. There are programs that try to be all things to all people. On the other hand, there are other programs that have a distinct goal in mind and build their content and features around it. WORDsearch clearly belongs in this second group. WORDsearch 9 is a great tool for personal Bible study, but it particularly strikes me as a very good fit for those involved in the pastoral and teaching ministry.

WORDsearch has a long history behind it [1], including a strategic move away from the old Microsoft's RTF-based STEP (Standard  Template for Electronic Publishing) format in favor of the newer CROSS (Christian Reference Open Software Standard) format, which makes extensive use of XML and Unicode.

In this review, I will be focusing on WORDsearch 9 Preaching Library. This library, like all upgrades and packages from WORDsearch, can be downloaded from the Internet. For completeness' sake I have also used The Complete Biblical Library New Testament and HCSB Old and New Testament Reverse Interlinear. Finally, I downloaded some modules from Doxa Digital Press. [2]

Detailed program features and video demos can be found here. There are also free online training opportunities available. Moreover, numerous and lively Discussion groups (newsgroups) can be accessed from within the program itself. Similarly, there is a Community Library where users can exchange documents and integrate them into their current library of books.

Fig. 1 Discussion groups integrated into WORDsearch 9.

System Requirements

For PCs:

Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7
DVD Drive
512 MB RAM
200 MB Free Space on Hard Drive
Internet connection and sound card.

For Macs:

Intel Mac Only running Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or higher
512 MB RAM
DVD Drive
600 MB Free Space on Hard Drive
Note: The Mac version runs through WINE and X.11

Installation

The whole process is quite simple, since the program and unlocks can be downloaded immediately after purchasing. Once WS is installed on our computer, the books that comprise the library are downloaded from the company's servers via our Internet connection (broadband required). In this particular case I had to download over 400 books, which took me around an hour and 25 minutes on an average DSL connection.

During setup we are offered the option to run automatically ZipScript at Windows startup and have it appear on our system tray. This small utility can be used to turn Bible references into fully formatted text and paste them in different applications. Also, just before completing the installation process, there is another option to let the program scan for any STEP books that may reside on our computer.

It should be noted that WS9 can be run alongside previous incarnations of WORDsearch, but since it shares some key files with them, older versions cannot be uninstalled afterwards or else WS9 will not start. For more information, see the FAQ section.

General Features

WS9 uses a Browser metaphor, which means that most people should feel comfortable with it and not have to spend much time trying to find their way around. This, plus the fact that WS offers a good Internet and word processor integration, adds to the ease of use and productivity. One can literally use WS as a hub for Bible study, without having to have other applications open. 

Fig. 2 General view of WORDsearch 9.

In fact, WORDsearch, like many other Bible software applications, has become a digital library with the course of time. This means that many of its features are designed to help those who work with lots of books and windows. [3]

Here are some of the features that I have found most useful:

Parallel Bibles

Displaying different Bibles in parallel is very simple, and can be done both horizontally (in rows) and vertically (in columns), but the most important thing is that there is a search box that allows us to run searches across all the same-language Bible versions displayed in the window.

Fig. 3 Parallel Bibles in row view.

 

The search syntax is the same used in the main Search dialog, but results are highlighted in all the rows or columns. Also, Bible versions can be changed quickly by clicking on the links with the version abbreviation

Fig. 4 Parallel Bibles in column view, with search results highlighted.

Topic and Cross-Reference Explorer

One of the most useful things in a library is finding books that deal with a certain topic or refer to a certain work. This is what the Topic Explorer and the Cross-Reference Explorer are design to do. Both of them work pretty much in the same way.

Fig. 5 Topic Explorer.

Link/Thought Organizer

Apart from the built-in web browser and word definition tool (used to look up words in different Internet sites with dictionaries or encyclopedias), WORDsearch includes a capable word processor. One of the most useful things that can be done with it is to collect (bookmark) material from the different books in the library. These can be used right away as live links or saved for later use. The nice thing is that wherever we happen to be in any library resource, via the context menu items "Create a link to this verse" (for Bibles) or "Create a link to this paragraph" (in any other book), WS automatically formats a hyperlink that can be pasted, modified or saved in the word processor. This is a real time-saver!

Fig. 6 Word processor in WS9. Notice the link at the bottom, that will open the reference at the specified location when clicked.

Syncing windows

Window management is easy thanks to the ability to set up to four different sync-groups. This may not sound earth-shattering, but it proves to be very useful when multiple windows are open and one tries to follow different trails while studying a particular passage or topic.

The ability to choose the target window where links are displayed is another feature that helps in keeping the screen tidy and avoids unnecessary distractions. 

Fig. 7 Syncing windows.

Once the windows are organized the way we like them to be, it is a good idea to save the whole desktop for later use. Different desktops can be saved and retrieved depending on the kind of study or research being carried out.

Carousel

This allows the user to create lists of favorite Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, etc. so that clicking the Carousel button at the bottom of the window will flip through those titles. Carousel is smart enough to automatically skip any titles that are not relevant (i.e., do not contain the verse or entry in question).

Filter boxes

The new filter boxes appear in many different dialogs (including Search and TOCs), and are very useful to find exactly what we are after. This is particularly welcome when one works with hundreds of different titles.

Highlighting

Highlighting is an important part of the Bible study routine for many people, and WORDsearch offers a total of twelve different highlighting colors and underlines. Categories can be assigned to each color to help in inductive study, and highlighting, which is translation specific, can be toggled on and off from the View menu.

Instant Verse Study

This tool, which was already available in version 8, can gather Bible texts, notes and commentaries from the library and automatically paste its content in a word processor. The output can be easily customized and printed for further study while we are on the go. 

The Complete Biblical Library New Testament

This resource (see a quick tour of the product), currently available only from WORDsearch, is an excellent illustration of what I said at the beginning of this review. CBL-NT (there are plans to release the OT version too), is an extremely useful resource for the busy pastor and teacher. It contains seven different modules (an interlinear Bible --with its own numbering system--, a parallel Bible, a harmony of the Gospels, a textual apparatus, a commentary, a Greek-English dictionary [lexicon] --linked to the numbering system--, and a Greek grammar).

Fig. 8 The Complete Biblical Library New Testament.

CBL-NT is scholarly enough for the majority of uses. And let me tell you something: when I was a pastor and had to preach an average of three sermons and Bible studies every week, I would have "killed" to have something like this!

Searching

WS9 sports an enhanced Search dialog that will do for most general searches (like searching for occurrences of a given word in the whole library or any given collection of books). There are, however, two things that need to be addressed in this area, in my view.

Fig. 9 Main Search dialog.

First, custom search ranges cannot be non-contiguous, which precludes searching for corpora like Johannine literature or Luke-Acts (or any other combination of passages, for that matter) in one single pass.

Second, Strong's searches aren't powerful enough, especially when one considers the kind of users the program is targeted to. Let me explain why.

Readers of Bible Software Review will have noticed that I always emphasize the need for making the most out of the Strong's numbering system. I won't repeat my arguments for it here, but suffice it to say that, in my own experience, many pastors and teachers have to rely on Strong's or some other similar system because their Greek or Hebrew are just not good enough (or perhaps they have never had a chance to study them) to work straight from the original texts.

WS9 does allow users to search for any Strong's number, but it is somewhat lacking when the search involves more than one number or a combination of numbers and words.

Take, for instance, NASB (1995 Update). Searching for kingdom of heaven (a phrase search) in the NT returns 32 occurrences in 31 sections (in this case verses, since I excluded headings). kingdom of heaven (an implicit AND search) finds 125 occurrences in 33 sections. However, <G932> of <G3772> does not yield any results. <G932> of <G3772> finds 124 occurrences (Rev 11:15 has one instance of kingdom tagged with number G932, and another one without any number attached to it). But how would we find out which verse it was? One would be tempted to use kingdom ANDNOT <G932>, but that would return no hits either. Why? Because ANDNOT looks for places where both terms do not appear in the same verse (hence it does not count Rev 11:15 as a valid hit). What we would need is another operator that looks for places where the word is tagged (or not tagged) with a particular number.

Another example. If we want to find places where any form of lord (lord*) is not tagged with the number G2962, we cannot use lord* ANDNOT <G2962> because WS will only search for verses where lord* and G2962 do not appear in the same verse, with no regard to whether or not the number is attached to that English word. Thus, WS will miss Acts 7:59, Rom 10:12, 1 Cor 1:2 and 1 Tim 6:15.

Most people who are not proficient enough in the original languages will naturally want to use Strong's numbers as a gateway to the Greek and Hebrew text. That is why they need to be confident that these kinds of searches yield correct results, and for this very reason I think WS9 should improve the search functionality.

Suggested Improvements

Discussion groups are a great way to get in contact with other WORDsearch users, as well as representatives of the company, but there are so many threads that they can quickly become unmanageable. Great support questions and tips are posted regularly, but unless some search feature is implemented, the usefulness of the groups is severely limited.

Speed searching is nice, since it can be done right from the context menu, but words associated to a particular Strong's number can only be searched for the word itself. If Strong's numbers are not displayed on screen there is no way to speed search for them. This is unfortunate for those who find all those numbers distracting.    

Conclusion

WORDsearch is a very nice product indeed, and though I have my gripes with it in some areas, I appreciate its overall usefulness. As far as I am concerned, it is a really powerful tool for the average pastor and Bible teacher, offers a finely balanced set of resources and is a nice application to work with. If what I consider to be the "rough edges" could be smoothed out, it would become an outstanding software in my book.

Pros

Parallel Bible
Excellent Internet and word processor integration
Good choice of resources
Flexibility and smooth study workflow

Cons

Cannot set non-contiguous search ranges (e.g., "John; 1-3 John" or "Lk; Acts")
Strong's searches should be improved


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