QuickVerse Bible Software Review: Searching

This is the first installment in a series I plan to write, performing a side-by-side assessment of WORDsearch, Logos, QuickVerse, and Pradis.

QuickVerse has two tools for searching Biblical text: an Analytical Greek search tool designed to work with a morphologically tagged Greek NT module, and a general search tool used for searching English language Bible, as well as all other books – including user-created books. The most recent versions of QV introduce a couple other specialized searching tools I’ll discuss below.

The Search Dialog:

The general search tool has three modes (selectable from a drop-down): Text, Phrase, and Verse Reference. Newer versions of QuickVerse have a fourth mode, Text in Titles, which was an optional parameter to Text mode searches in version 11, and which I never found any use for.

The dialog box includes a pop-up keyboard for “typing” with mouse clicks in various languages. Recent search terms can be recalled in the search box, but associated parameters (even including search mode) are not likewise recalled, limiting the usefulness of this time-saving feature.

There is no facility to search for Strong’s codes as such, but you can search Strong’s-tagged books with a text search for a code, such as for G2588.

Search Logic:

Text searches allow for combining words using the Boolean operators AND, OR, XOR, and NOT. An implicit OR is supplied if there is no operator between two terms (personally, I think programs should instead AND terms by default, so that using more search terms narrows results rather than expanding them, but that is just a preference). Operators must be entered in ALL CAPS, or by using logical symbols (&, |, X, !). There’s a pick button for those who want to stop typing and use the mouse to input the operators between words.

There is no NEAR operator, but the Search dialog includes a drop-down box where the user selects whether the Boolean logic is applied against terms within the same verse, the same chapter, or the same book. This is a poor substitute for a NEAR operator, and I can’t imagine wanting to search for two words, but only if they exist in the same book!

Terms can be grouped in parentheses for greater control, and both * and ? wildcards are accepted. Regular expressions are not supported.

Setting Scope:

Selecting the target books to search is done via an expandable tree control which shows the entire library – including User Books. Multiple books – including multiple Bibles – can be searched simultaneously.

Setting a filter for Bible ranges is done via a drop-down text box. The only default range options are All, Old Testament, and New Testament, but you can type your own search ranges into the box, and recently defined custom ranges are added to the selectable options in the drop-down. Creating a search range for non-contiguous books is no problem (e.g. manually enter {Luke, Acts} to search only within Luke and Acts while ignoring John).

Extra-biblical text within Bibles (e.g. marginal notes and comments) cannot be searched, although – as noted below – book introductions cannot be excluded.

One peculiar search scope feature is an optional check box to limit the search to “Jesus words only” – a red-letter search, so to speak. I know for a fact that some people find this an important feature, though it strikes me as lending itself too easily to problematic views of Biblical inspiration and/or Christology.

Phrase Search:

Phrase Search mode takes all the text entered in the search box, and attempts to find the exact phrase within the selected books. This is “phrase searching for dummies,” an unfortunate approach that seriously limits phrase search functionality. Allowing the use of enclosing double-quotes in a Text search would be a much more robust solution.

Verse Reference:

In Verse Reference mode, the tool is actually a cross-reference lookup tool. In theory (and according to the Help file), this tool will not “search” Bibles for the verse arguments you give it, but is rather designed to search other types of books for occasions where the verse is mentioned in the text. In practice, I find that the tool can be used to retrieve the requested verses from every Bible in my library except the NAB. Not sure whether to file this under bug or feature.

This tool will accept multiple verses and/or ranges as arguments. References must be entered in a very specific format, using a colon (:) between the chapter and verse numbers. Also, a space must be placed between the leading number and the book name for books like 1 Jn (1Jn will not be understood). It can be tedious to have to abide by this nomenclature, but I’m sure you adapt to it if you use QV all the time.

Nice Special Features:

Search terms can be chosen from a word list that is available from the Search dialog, showing all words in each book selected as a search target.

Text searches include an option to search for related word forms, meaning that a search for {love} would return results for love, loves, loved, lover, loving, lovely, beloved, unloved, etc.

Another very neat option is the thesaurus search, which will include in results words with like or related meaning, even if they are not related lexically.

Analytical Greek Search:

The Analytical Greek search tool works with an available UBS4 text tagged with the Friberg morphology. Like the general tool, it supports Boolean operators, Bible ranges, and has word lists and a pop-up keyboard. It also has a morphology chart where you can select the grammatical parameters you want to search for or filter on. There are options to search lemma, and to exactly match diacritical marks, as well as to take everything entered as a single phrase term. This tool is quite serviceable. Unfortunately, there is no corresponding tool (or text) with which to perform analytical searching of the Hebrew.

New Searching Widgets:

Version 12 (2008) introduced a nice annotation search widget that will search all your annotations. Version 13 (2009) introduces a “Subject Search” feature which I haven’t seen yet, but will presumably function much like Topics searches in other programs.

Accuracy:

In the absence of wildcards, search will find only exact word matches (i.e. a search for {eat} will not return any hits on meat or heat, etc.). I think this is the right approach.

Text mode does not recognize strings entered within double-quotes as phrases, but instead treats each of the words as distinct search terms (placing an implicit OR between them). Because only Text mode supports multiple search terms, it is therefore not possible to perform a search such as {“Christ Jesus” AND became}, although you can always break the phrase apart into single words joined with AND logic: {Christ AND Jesus AND became}, which will produce close to the same results.

Searches against Biblical texts will return hits found in book introductions and prefaces, with, unfortunately, no way to limit the search to only the actual Bible text. You’d think an outfit that provided an option to search “red words only” might provide an option to search “inspired words only!”

Searches on words chosen from a word list sometimes return no results, even when searching against the entire library – which is a bit odd.

Performance:

Search performance is good on normal Text mode searches against a small number of books – often returning more or less immediately. Introducing some of the advanced options slowed things down somewhat – as expected. A search for {beauty} against 10 Bibles took about 3 seconds, but took about 7 seconds when doing a thesaurus search, and about 6 seconds when doing a related word forms search (and about 10 seconds when combining both features).

Introducing wildcards or multiple Boolean operators also began to drag down QuickVerse a bit, and it struggled somewhat searching a large number of books. Searching 10 Bibles for {gentile} took about 3 seconds – as expected. But this should be compared to my benchmark, WORDsearch, which performed the identical search in under 1 second.

Against the same Bibles, QuickVerse took six seconds to search for {gentile AND (God OR Lord)}, whereas WORDsearch took about 1 second.

Searching those same Bibles for {war* AND Lord AND House} took QuickVerse about 15 seconds, while WORDsearch again took about 1 second.

Searching a collection of about 125 books for the expression {war AND Lord} took QuickVerse 30 seconds, whereas WORDsearch performed the search against a similar number of books in about 4 seconds.

Verse Reference searches can be excruciatingly slow. The program seems to take forever to scan the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (TSK) in particular, but struggles with many commentaries. The verse ref search is the kind of function that a user would be inclined to execute against the entire library. But if you did that, you could probably take the dog for a walk while waiting for it to return.

I removed TSK and a couple other books that seemed particularly problematic, and then ran the Verse Reference search for {Matt 24:22} against a collection of 15 books. The search took 1 minute and 40 seconds. Again for comparison, the same search against the exact same set of books in WORDsearch took less than 1 second.

In spite of these criticisms of search performance, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of users will make the majority of their searches against one or perhaps a few Bibles, using simple search parameters – and QuickVerse will handle that fine.

Strengths in this area:

Word lists; fuzzy search features (thesaurus and word forms); XOR and NOT Boolean operators.

Weaknesses in this area:

Lack of Hebrew analytical search capability; lack of phrase support in multi-term text expression searches; lack of ability to search only Biblical text; overall searching performance.