BibleLink: The Multiplatform Library  
   
  Version: 2.0  
  Developer: Device Computing  
  Rub�n G�mez  
Overall Rating:  7.6
User Interface: Searching:
Ease of Use Features:
Help & Support: Modules:
Customization: Original Languages:
Speed: Price:

April 29, 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

Device Computing is a fairly new company that produces and markets BibleLink. Unlike most Bible programs, BibleLink 2.0 runs on Windows PCs, [1] Palm, and Pocket PC devices with identical user interfaces.

This review is based on the Pocket PC version (with a few references here and there to the Windows-specific features), but it applies most of the time to all three platforms.

In order to try different download options and packages, I initially downloaded the zip file containing BibleLink 2.0 for memory cards. After installing it on my PDA, I went on downloading different suites and packages, including PDBooks Publisher, [2] an authoring tool that easily and transparently converts any Microsoft Word document into a PDB (Portable Dynamic Book) file, which is the format used by BibleLink.

You can build your library from as little as $9.95 (the cost of the program), and for just over $100.00 you get everything that is currently available.

System Requirements and Installation

BibleLink [3] runs on any Pocket PC device with Windows CE 3.x or higher, and the Bibles and books can be installed on an expansion card. In fact, I installed everything I could find (and I mean everything) on a 256 MB SD Card, and it only took about 70 MB of space. I must say that was the easiest installation I have ever seen.

If you do not want to use BibleLink on a pre-packaged SD card (available for Pocket PC only!) [4] you can run the executable on your desktop PC or laptop. In such case, the process is also very simple and fool-proof (Figure 1). Right after installation, the program tries to connect to the Internet and run some video tutorials that explain in some detail most of the key features.

Fig. 1 Installation from a desktop computer allows users to choose which versions of the program (the free PC version is always installed) and books should be installed.

General Features

Navigating BibleLink is very easy, and follows the "browser metaphor." If you are used to surfing the Web, you will immediately know how to find your way around with the useful and ubiquitous "Back", "Forward", and "Home" buttons (Figure 2).

Fig. 2 General view of BibleLink's "homepage." The five buttons located in the left upper corner of the screen allow for a quick and effortless navigation.

To move through a Bible is equally simple. You just have to follow a few self-explanatory dialogs (Figure 3 - upper left). But what really impressed me as been a very clever device was the use of three different tabs (labeled 1, 2, 3) to  "page through" the Bible. If we want to move across the whole Bible we use 1 to go to a different book (Figure 3 - upper right). If we need to go to another chapter of the same book, we use 2 (Figure 3 - lower left). Finally, 3 is used to go to a different verse of the same chapter (Figure 3 - lower right). In all instances, one simply needs to tap and hold, drag to the desired position, and release. Apart from that, it is also possible to use the scrolling Up and Down arrows, as well as the bar itself, in the usual fashion.

Fig. 3 Screenshots showing the flexible navigation options found in BibleLink.

Verses and book entries can be bookmarked by adding them to Favorites (Tools - Add to Favorites), and retrieved via the View - Favorites menu. All of these menu options are displayed on the menu bar, located in the lower left corner of the screen.

Peek View

Tapping and holding, as opposed to double tapping, brings up a pop-up window with the corresponding Bible verse or definition (Figure 4). This is very handy for two reasons: a) it eliminates the need to jump to that place and having to go back afterwards to our original position, and b) as we move the tap while still holding it we are able to get a "peek" view of any word or verse. If necessary, we can follow up any of these "links" by double tapping on them (or double clicking if we are using the PC version).

Fig. 4 Tapping and holding on Strong's number H6953 lets us preview the appropriate entry in NAS Hebrew Lexicon.

Interlinear View

Interlinear view can be used to see two different Bibles, or a Bible and a set of notes or cross-references, interleaved (Figure 5).

Fig. 5 Interlinear view of NAS with Strong's numbers and The Message.

Special PC Features

The desktop version of BibleLink includes a few features not found in any other version. The most obvious of these is the SearchBar (Figure 6). This bar, similar to other bars available for Internet browsers, stays always on top (unless it's minimized or closed), and allows users to perform verse reference, word or phrase searches, at any time. Search terms or references can be typed directly on the text entry box, to the left. The magnifying glass icon performs a Library search (or a Verse search that shows the passage in all of the available Bibles), whereas the dictionary icon looks up the search term  (or opens the preferred Bible to that passage, if it's a verse reference).

Fig. 6 SearchBar installed on the PC.

But there is another way to carry out searches, and that is by activating the Double Click icon. When this button is on, any word, phrase or Bible reference in any application - including our web browser! - can be double-clicked (or simply highlighted), and immediately BibleLink will copy it to the SearchBar's entry box and will automatically activate the Define icon (i.e., the dictionary icon). This means that double-clicking on "automatically" will bring up a definition of this adverb, whereas highlighting "John 17:1" will display the verse in our favorite Bible. In other words, this is a fast and convenient way to look up the definition or translation of a given word. In a sense, it is a shortcut for doing a "Lookup" in the preferred dictionary. A very useful feature indeed!

The SearchBar can be configured to our liking, according to the degree of automation we want or need at any particular time (Figure 7).

Fig. 7 SearchBar configuration dialog box lists all of the available options.

Last, but not least, among the various shortcut icons installed by BibleLink (Figure 8), there is an Authored PDBooks folder where we can drop any Word file we want to convert to BibleLink's native format. Conversion is transparent and almost instantaneous, and the resulting databases can be used on the desktop PC and the Pocket PC (or Palm) version.

I dropped a PDF file of The Baptist Faith and Message and a Word version of a downloaded Bible study article, and they were immediately added to my library (with Bible references of the typebook chapter : verse automatically recognized). Other supported formats are RTF and Plain text. Personal notes can also be added via the Open PDBook Composer icon mentioned above (see SearchBar), but cannot be linked to any particular Bible verse or resource. Do note, however, that accented characters (like those used in many modern languages other than English) are not converted properly. [5]

Fig. 8 These three desktop shortcut icons are installed on the PC.

Searching

Thanks to its innovative search technology, [6] BibleLink's searches are really, really fast. Particularly when you take into account that I had installed all the resources on an SD expansion card. However, the search function is somewhat limited. It is not currently possible to limit the search to a particular set of books (e.g., Bibles), a particular Bible, or just the Bible text (without paragraph titles and so on). All searches are, then, global searches that find matches across the whole library of books (Figure 9). The program includes a History feature that keeps track of the previous searches and books browsed, and can be accessed via the menu bar by tapping View - History.

Fig. 9 BibleLink's library can be searched for words, phrases (i.e., a string of words), or Bible verses.

It should also be noted that BibleLink performs stem searches by default, [7] and that this behavior cannot be modified. Hence, no exact searches as such can be done, although the use of phrase searches does help when we are interested in a certain exact match. Besides, no Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT, etc.) are allowed.

Searching is, therefore, deliberately kept simple, and it aims at finding relevant matches in a large library of resources. Hence most searches return topical matches (e.g., entries in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and so on), and text matches (the actual instances where the term appears in each one of the books).

Strong's numbers can be searched by themselves (Figure 10), or in conjunction with other terms. However, these searches do not always return correct results. Since BibleLink searches verses rather than hits, it is not possible to link specific Strong's numbers to English words. For example, the search "beloved G25" does not find all the places where G25 (agapao) is translated as "beloved" in NASB, as one would expect, but rather all those verses where both "beloved" and "G25" appear in the same verse. This particular search yields 11 verses, but 4 of them  (James 2:5; 1 John 4:7, 11; 3 John 1) include "beloved" as a translation of G27 (agapetos), and G25 is translated as "love."

Fig. 10 A search for Strong's number G1785 ("commandment"), returns matches in different resources where Strong's numbers are used (left). We can then jump to the Bible we are interested in and see all the verses that contain that number (right).

As expected, search results can be "peeked" just like any other content (Figure 11).

Fig. 11 Tapping and holding on a Bible references lets us see a preview of the text in our preferred Bible without actually jumping to it.

Lookup

The Lookup feature is used to find entries in dictionaries and encyclopedias. As can be seen in Figure 12 (left), we can choose among the different dictionaries contained in our library by selecting a different dictionary.

BibleLink immediately opens the table of contents of the chosen dictionary (or any other word-based resource). From there we can preview the article and jump to it (Figure 12 - right).

Fig. 12 Overview of the Look Up feature.

Once the desired article is open, we can access a peek view of any verse reference (Figure 13) or term by tapping and holding.

Fig. 13 Tapping and holding onAct 17:10,13 (either the book name or the chapter and verse) allows us to preview the verse without leaving our text.

Verse Links

Whenever we come across a Bible reference, we can tap on it once to highlight it (either the book name or the chapter and verse) and then tap on the Find icon (the magnifying glass). This will open a new window with the Bible verse displayed in all the Bible versions included in our library (Figure 14).

Fig. 14 When tapping on a Scripture reference (left) and tapping again on the Find icon, BibleLink displays the text in all the available Bibles (right).

Conclusion

BibleLink is a very interesting and inexpensive option for those users who want to have a library of resources on their PCs and PDAs. It is meant to be "an easy to use software for a wider audience", and that is what you get. It lacks the sophisticated search features or other packages, but includes everything most people use. Besides, the PC version adds some very useful Bible and dictionary system-wide lookup functions, and a very interesting value-added feature; namely, that you can easily convert documents to BibleLink's native format and add them to your library.

In sum, an ideal tool for students (did I mention that Shakespeare's Complete Works are available for free?) and people on a tight budget who do not need to mess around with original-language texts.

Pros

Easy and intuitive navigation
Very fast searches
Ability to publish one's own books, articles, and notes
Excellent "peek" view
Define/Double Click feature in PC version

Cons

Search features are too limited
No highlighting feature
There are no original language texts available.


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