A review written by Rubén Gómez, 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. This is an update of a previous review of MacSword 1.0 that you may find here.
A lot of things have
changed since the release of
MacSword 1.0 (February 16, 2004). So much so
that it could probably have been labeled "version
2.0." The program has certainly reached the point of being
fully usable as a Mac OS X Bible software
application. Needless to say that it lacks the
power, sophistication, and content of other
commercial packages. But considering the fact that
it remains an Open Source project, its many
improvements will be most welcome by Mac users.
MacSword can now be installed by simply dragging
its folder into the Applications folder (for clean
installs) or copying the application over an older
version of the program (if you are updating it).
Similarly, the freely available
text modules (found under the Raw Zip column)
can be unzipped and then dragged and dropped inside
the Modules folder. This has greatly simplified the
Help is very, very scanty, and should be updated and enhanced (and
proof-read!) as soon as possible. Okay, Mac OS
applications are generally quite intuitive, but not
to the point where just a bare-bones help facility
MacSword's user interface looks the same, but it has become more a lot more flexible
and customizable. For one thing, multiple modules can be displayed at the
same time in parallel panes and scrolled simultaneously. But apart
from that obvious feature, there is a more subtle improvement. It is now
possible to customize the main Toolbar and add a new Reference text box.
This box is great for doing some advanced navigation. We can enter any given
number of verses, in no particular order, and the window will display them
exactly as we typed them (Figure 1).
The Reference text box is used to overcome the default display
behavior of MacSword (one chapter at a time), and allows for
a much greater flexibility in looking up texts and copying and
pasting into other applications.
My only major complaint with
this Reference box is that it does not keep track of the references and URLs
(of the type "sword://Footnotes@WEB/John1")
entered, which is rather disappointing. I hope this can be changed, as it
would alleviate the tedious work of having to retype things over and over
MacSword has adopted a completely different
search syntax based on
Lucene's query language. The former regular
expression searches are not supported anymore. 
Instead, one can use the more familiar Boolean operators
(AND, OR, NOT - which must always be written in all
caps - or its equivalent symbols &&, || and
!). The default behavior of searching has also
been modified. Double wild card searches are gone
(yippee!), and searches default to AND unless
otherwise specified . This is a lot more intuitive than before. I
do miss, however, the former Ignore Case checkbox,
which allowed for toggling case-sensitive searches
on and off. Please bring it back!
This version includes many new search features. For
example, single (?) and multiple (*) wildcards can be used to build searches,
although never as the first character of the search term. 
Searches can be grouped by means of brackets (e.g., (paul OR silas) AND timothy), and proximity searches are also
possible by using quotes around the search terms and adding a tilde (~) followed
by a number at the end of the string. Thus, "jesus passover"~10 will find the 5
references (i.e., verses) in the RSV where both words appear within a maximum
distance of 10 words (notice that these searches are nor order-specific).
Fuzzy searches can be performed by appending a tilde (~) to a single search term. So, if we enter the
search sin~, the program will return "son," "sit," "sin," "sign," "sins,"
"sink," and a whole lot more. We can decide how "fuzzy" we want the search to be
by appending an optional parameter between 0 and 1 (the default, when no
parameter is specified, is 0.5). The closer to 1 (e.g., sin~0.8) the better,
if we want to find only slight modifications of the word. 
But perhaps the most significant
improvement in the whole are of searching is the ability to search for Strong's
numbers and combinations of words and Strong's numbers. To do this, numbers must
be preceded by the field name ("strong") and a colon (:), as well as a "g" or an "h"
(for Greek and Hebrew, respectively). One simple example of this would be strong:g652 (80 references in the KJV, a Bible text that includes Strong's numbers). It is
a pity, though, that these searches are not highlighted, and that search results
do not actually display any numbers. To fix this would clearly mean turning this useful
feature into an excellent one. See other possible uses of searches with Strong's
numbers in the Table below:
strong:g652 NOT apostle*
3 references in KJV
apostle* NOT strong:g652
3 references in KJV
servant (strong:g652 NOT apostle*)~14
1 reference in KJV
m*n NOT (m*n strong:g444) 
716 references in KJV
Range searches are also possible
(e.g., [745 TO 747] in Strong's Greek lexicon), but its usefulness is rather
limited, due to the fact than there is currently no way to enhance or
constrain these searches at will. Until that can be done, we may end up with
quite unexpected search results!
Searches can now be run on any portion
of the Bible thanks to the new Edit Ranges feature. Also, unlike version 1.0,
books other than Bibles can be searched. Finally, Search results can be dragged to a word
processor, although when doing that all highlighting will be lost.
Not only are searches much more
powerful and flexible than before. They are also infinitely faster. This is
because each module is indexed before it is searched for the first time (Figure
2). It does take some time to complete this process, but it's a small price to
pay when you consider that from that moment on any search will be virtually
MacSword indexes each one of the modules we add to the library the
first time we run a search on them.
Searches in Greek and Hebrew work
just as English searches. The contents column shows the search term in red
(Figure 3). Note, however, that only the main text is displayed. No Strong's
numbers, morphology codes, footnotes, etc. are visible.
Search results of a Greek search in WHNU.
To see the results in full
context we must click on the reference and then tweak the settings of the
new text window to our liking (Figure 4). This is all a bit cumbersome, and
ideally should be simplified, so that all the information available is
properly displayed and highlighted right on the Find dialog box.
Clicking on the first verse in the Find window above (Figure 2)
opens a new text window with the whole verse in context and
highlighted. Strong's numbers, morphological tags, and so on can be
displayed via the Options menu, but the yellow highlighting will disappear
when we do that.
Suggested searching improvements
All searches should be highlighted,
and stand-alone wildcards allowed. This would make it really easy to find out
what English words are used in the KJV to translate Strong's number 746 (ARCHE)
- e.g., * strong:g746 (see note ).
Implementation of field searching
beyond Strong's numbers searches would be desirable (e.g., morphology:NDSF
with a morphologically tagged Greek text should be able to find all dative
singular feminine nouns in any given search range, and "heading:jesus"/"footnote:jesus"
could be used to locate headings/footnotes in an English Bible - as opposed to
the Bible text itself - where "Jesus" appears).
The usefulness of the Find text box
would be greatly improved if it could be made to "remember" searches between
different study sessions, or if searches could be saved and retrieved at a later
time. As it is now, all previously tracked searches are lost when one quits the
This is another excellent feature
which allows users to write their own notes on any given text. These
commentaries are easily edited and formatted (currently only italics and bold
type are available), and Bible references can be turned into live links. These
will be displayed as tool-tips if the option is checked under Preferences
Personal commentaries can be displayed in parallel with other Bible
texts, just like any other commentary, and will scroll together with
MacSword includes the ability to bookmark Bible
texts and commentaries (Figure 6) for easy retrieval. These bookmarks can be
color-coded, underlined, grouped, edited, rearranged, etc., and offer great
Bookmarks are good for study purposes, and can aid in navigating
MacSword has come of age. It is both usable and enjoyable. But it
is now when it will have to move ahead trying to
keep a fine balance between adding new features and
fine-tuning those already available. Not an easy
task for a developer! At any rate, this is by far
the best non-commercial Bible software application
available for Mac OS X users. If you haven't got it
yet, you are missing out!
Available under the Mac OS Services feature (where supported)
Much improved search syntax, features, and performance
Can't beat the price.
No XOR (exclusive OR) Boolean operator, and, more generally, still some search
Poor help system.