SwordSearcher 4.5 Deluxe: Shareware At Its Best  
   
  Version: 4.5  
  Developer: StudyLamp Software  
  Rub�n G�mez  
Overall Rating:  8.0
User Interface: Searching:
Ease of Use Features:
Help & Support: Modules:
Customization: Original Languages:
Speed: Price:

November 19, 2004

A review written by Rub�n G�mez, Bible software translator and beta tester. Copyright � 2006-2009 by the author. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce any part of this document without obtaining permission from the author.

Introduction (or Let�s Start with the Conclusion)

The word �shareware� (or �try-before-you-buy� software) is sometimes frowned upon, as if it were some sort of a second-class product. But this is certainly not the case, and SwordSearcher is here to dispel that notion. Brandon Staggs has carefully designed a program that is easy to use and has plenty of power under the hood. For the average Windows user who is quite happy to work with a compact library of public domain Bibles and reference tools, and whose original-language needs are adequately met by resorting to the use of Strong�s numbers, SwordSearcher is a great application. For those who base their Bible study on the English King James Version, it is simply a must. At any rate, at its current price of $39.95 for an individual license, you can�t go wrong. [1]

Licensing Policy

Under SwordSearcher license�s provisions, individuals may install the program for their own use and for the use of their immediate household. Besides, installation on the home, mobile, and work computers of the user for his/her personal use is also allowed.

Installation

Installation is very easy. There are three different options: Full Installation (which requires 234,5 MB), Minimal Installation (installs program files plus KJV and KJVSL, which take about 15,5 MB of hard disk space), and Custom Installation (anything from �Minimal� to �Full�, depending of the needs or tastes of the user).

User Interface

The look and feel of SwordSearcher is very �windowish,� so most users will have no trouble at all getting used to tabs, shortcuts, context menus, and the like. But when in doubt, there is a very good help system (User Manual in PDF format � also available online �, Online Help, Quick Start Tutorials, and Pop-up windows).

The interface looks very clean, and it allows for a high degree of customization. This means that you can eliminate the �clutter� by hiding the tabs you are not interested in, or even adjusting the number of hyperlinks displayed. It would be nice to be able to tweak the size of the Greek Symbol font as an independent option. I found that I needed a larger size for the Greek text, but when I set the size to make it easier on my eyes, the English text would look too large. The only workaround I could come up with was using a font with a slightly smaller aspect value than Verdana (the default font). Times New Roman did the job reasonably well.

Pop-up hints explain the function of each one of the buttons on the main toolbar, and also display the full text of hyperlinked verses and Strong's Hebrew and Greek definitions.

Context menus are very comprehensive, so that most of the time it is not even necessary to open a menu or click on a button to perform an action relevant to the current location.

Contents

For a full list of the material contained in the CD-ROM, follow this link. It is the author�s prerogative to include whatever Bible versions and study helps he deems appropriate. I, for one, would like to see more variety in the resources being made available. On the other hand, it is true that users can easily add their own materials to the program. So, one thing makes up for the other. Well, sort of.

Main Features

For a handy summary of SwordSearcher features, look here.

Deep Referencing

This is the term used to refer to the fact that the whole library of resources in SwordSearcher is indexed by Bible verse, and that for every single verse of the Scriptures the program displays all of the commentaries and reference books that deal with it. These can be conveniently accessed by clicking on their respective hyperlinks. A pop-up window lets us preview the relevant section or topic heading where the reference is found.


Fig. 1 All the entries in Nave's Topical Bible where we find references to Mathew 7:7. The pop-up appears by just holding the cursor on Nave's hyperlink. Clicking on the link opens another window (in case there is more than one entry), where one can choose the destination.

But there is an even more comprehensive tool that helps us find all hyperlinks. It is called Topic and Verse Guide, and indexes every instance where a book contains a reference to the verse or topic we are interested in. It gives a complete listing ordered by commentary, chapter number, and topic title.


Fig. 2 Topic and verse searches are, like Bible searches, lightning-fast.

Note that in order to search for a word, rather than a topic, one should perform a global search (using the Full Reference Search feature). Thus, while the Topic and Verse Guide returns 5 matches for the topic household, a Full Reference Search finds 1499 entries for the word "household" among all Bibles, Books, and Commentaries (including the hits from Topic and Verse Guide).


Fig. 3 Full Reference Search dialog box.

The Full Reference Search feature can be used for searches spanning the whole library or just a part of it. By means of customizable collections or sets, it is perfectly possible to look for all the occurrences of a word across the module(s) of our choice.

Nota bene � These general searches return only one result per entry (or verse, in the case of commentary). Thus, it is not an exhaustive search. In order to get all the hits we should make use of the simple Search Active Book/Commentary dialog box.

Searches

Bible searches in SwordSearcher are instantaneous. This is due to the fact that Bible texts are pre-indexed. The only problem I found is that some of the Word Lists include spurious items, but these have been reported to the author, and should be fixed in the next release.

Boolean AND (all the words), OR (any of the words), XOR (only one of the words), and string (the exact phrase) searches are possible. However, the program lacks a NOT operator, which is a problem if you want to weed out your searches. There are also options for doing case sensitive searches, excluding footnotes, and performing substring searches (double wildcard searches). Most search combinations are possible, but some restrictions apply (particularly related to the use of the asterisk wildcard character). [2] Search results are given as number of verses containing hits (not the total number of occurrences). A drop-down box keeps track of past queries, thus making it really easy to recall previous searches.

Another interesting search feature is the ability to look for Strong's numbers. This can be done manually, writing the number on the Search Bible Text dialog (preceding the number with a "g" for New Testament words, and "h" for Old Testament ones). But the same process is greatly simplified by using the context menu (right-clicking on an original language term in KJVSL) or using the hyperlinks in Strong's dictionary (see Figure 4).


Fig. 4 A Strong's-based search is never more than one click away.

In either case, the Search Bible Text dialog will pop up with Strong's number in the Search for text box. We can then adjust the search or go ahead and run it (Figure 5).


Fig. 5 Overview of the main search dialog box in SwordSearcher.

It is also possible to search for combinations of Strong�s numbers and words, but the value of these kinds of queries is limited with the current search functions. A search like g154 ask* (with All of the words option checked) will return 46 verses, and although most forms of "ask*" will correspond to Strong's number g154 (αἰτέω), there will be cases where this is not so (take, for example, Luke 6:30, where "asketh" is the translation of g154, and "ask" has been chosen to translate number g523). It is therefore very difficult to be precise in searching for numbers that have been consistently translated with a certain English term, and downright impossible to find places where a Strong's number has not been translated in a certain way.

Having said that, it is quite easy to do reverse Strong's searches (that is, find out what numbers have been assigned to a given English word) with the English-Strong's Indexer mentioned further below.

The program includes two Greek versions, Wescott & Hort 1881 edition (with NA27/UBS4 variants as footnotes), and Textus Receptus Greek New Testament, Stephens 1550 edition (with Scrivener 1894 variants as footnotes), which can be viewed and scrolled simultaneously with the Compare Version feature (Figure 6). One of the undocumented features of SwordSearcher is that the Greek text can actually be searched. To do it, we just have to choose one of these two versions on the Search Bible Text dialog and type as if we were writing in Greek with the Symbol font. [3] There are a few highlighting glitches, but the results are okay, as far as I have been able to check. [4]


Fig. 6 Notice that the footnote letters appear in Roman script instead of Greek. Here we can see that in Acts 1:14 WH has serious doubts about the presence of the article TOU in the original reading, whereas NA (see footnotee) include it without hesitation. In this particular instance, TR and NA agree against WH. But further down the same verse, WH and TR contain the preposition SUN, while NA does not (as shown in note f).

If you do not want to type "Greek", it is advisable to open the Word List and find the correct spelling, just as one would do with any other Bible version. Finally, it should be mentioned that the option Case Sensitive does not work with Greek searches (but Exclude Footnotes and Substring Search do).

The English-Strong�s Indexer (for those who may have seen it, it is somewhat similar to the Strong�s Concordance Report available in LDLS as a Bible Tools addin) shows the different Hebrew and Greek terms that lie behind the English KJV translation. It should be noted, however, that unlike Logos' tool, this indexer only links one word to each number, and leaves out the second word in those places where there is more than one term linked to a Strong�s number. For instance, if we search for mankind in the whole Bible (Figure 7), we get:

H376 'iysh (1) Job 12:10
H2145 zakar (2) Lev 18:22; 20:13
G733 arsenokoites (2) 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10
G5449 phusis (1) Jas 3:7

But the Indexer misses H1320 basar (1) Job 12:10 (following 'iysh), and G442 anthropinos (1) Jas 3:7 (right after phusis).


Fig. 7 English-Strong's Indexer. When a fairly common word is looked up, results will be truncated.

User Modules

One of the great features of SwordSearcher is the ability to create personal commentaries (i.e., notes linked to verses) and books. The easiest way to do it is by using the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor provided, or by simply doing some copy-paste. But if you know how to code HyperText Markup Language, you will no doubt want to write (or edit) raw HTML files and tweak them to your liking.

To get a whole public domain commentary into SwordSearcher as a User book (for instance from Christian Classics Ethereal Library) is a piece of cake. I added one in less than five minutes, although some more time will be necessary if there is a lot of editing to do.

Another undocumented feature of the program: not only is it possible to link to other books, commentaries, or images included in the library, but one can even link to a different section of the same user commentary or book, or to any Internet URL.

For example, if you create a new user book, add an entry called �Example,� and paste the text below,

<html>
<head></head>
<body>
<p><font face="verdana" size="3">This is an example of what can be done with the <a href="ssbook:smith|reuben">linking feature</a> (<-- Smith's Dictionary entry on Reuben) or <a href="sscmt:jfb|john 1:1">this</a> (<-- JFB on John 1:1).</font></p>

<p><font face="arial" size="3">It is also possible to choose a background <font
color="#008000"><strong><em>color</em></strong></font> and write in Greek:</font>
</p>

<p><font style="background-color: #80ffff"><font face="symbol" size="4">kai epoihsen
hmaV basileian iereiV tw qew kai patri autou autw h doxa kai to kratoV eiV touV aiwnaV amhn</font></font> (Re 1:6 WH)</p>

<p>And, of course, Bible references can be easily tagged. For instance, look up #Joh 1:18| See also a link to another part of the same <a href="ssbook:example 1">book.</a></font></p>

<p>Note - if you have some spare time, don't forget to check out this <a href="http://www.bsreview.org/blog">blog</a></p>
</body>
</html>

your text should look as shown here in Figure 8.


Fig. 8 This is how the user book will look like in SwordSearcher. No knowledge of HTML is required, as most tasks can be achieved in an automated and transparent manner.

Now, if the Editor could just have a simple Search/Replace option� please!

Copy, Print, and Export Functions

The program is clearly design to "get along well" with other Windows applications. While SwordSearcher is running in the background, the hotkey Ctrl+Alt+V invokes the Copy Verse dialog box (Figure 9). From here the user can choose one of the many different citation formats available by clicking the Configure Formatting button. That's all there is to it. Click OK (or press the Enter or Return keys) when you are done, and you will get the verses at the cursor location in your host application. In my experience, some programs require you to hit Ctrl+V(or use the Edit - Paste menu options) before the text is actually pasted from the Clipboard.


Fig. 9 Any of the verses from the available Bible texts can be copied and pasted into Windows applications that support the standard Ctrl+V (paste) command.

Unformatted book and commentary entries can also be copied and pasted (or printed). All in all, quite a useful set of features that help integrate the study done with SwordSearcher with, say, a word processor.

Concluding remarks

SwordSearcher does everything it claims to do. And it does it well. It may not offer the contents available in other packages, but it suits the needs of its user base. I can recognize a good piece of software when I see it, and this is, undoubtedly, quite a good one. There is room for improvement, of course, but the efforts are heading in the right direction.

Pros

Extremely fast searches
Very clear user manual and help system
Extensive context menus
Great hyperlinking
Ability to create user books and commentaries

Cons

Search engine lacks the NOT operator (thus it is impossible to exclude terms)
No highlighting facility
No English or foreign-language Bibles based on critical texts.


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