WORDsearch 11: New Features, Part 1

Having addressed the installation and setup of the WORDsearch 11 upgrade last week, I have been evaluating the new release, with a particular interest in identifying and assessing what has changed in the upgrade.

The WORDsearch website identifies the following features as new:

  • New! New Look & Feel
    New! LESSONmaker Integration
    New! Cloud Backup/Restore
    New! Second Monitor Support
    New! NoteStack Window
    New! Customizable Toolbar
    New! Topic Explorer and Cross-Reference Explorer Speedup
    New! "Open Book" button on the Toolbar
    The New INFO Panel

Some of these changes are more substantive than others. The reference to “The New INFO Panel” is notable in how it differs in presentation from the other “New!” inducements in the product feature listing. It is also notable in that the Info panel is not new at all, and does not appear to have changed since version 10.

The “Open Book” toolbar button is indeed a new button, which brings up the very handy “F9” library filtering/selection dialog box, but that feature has been available via keystroke for several versions now, and since you need to type into the resulting dialog box to use it, I’m not sure how much help it will be to be able to invoke it with a toolbar mouse-click before typing into it, instead of just hitting F9 and then continuing to type. No harm in having it there, of course, and I can always hide it if I want to, because of the new “Customizable Toolbar” feature…

What that feature consists of is a list within Program Settings of the names of each toolbar button, and an option to select/deselect each. That option allowed me to hide another new button which was a hotlink to smallgroup.com – apparently a commercial partner offering a premium service to WS users. However, what I really would have liked to be able to do with the new “Open Book” button is to move it from its position at the far left end of the toolbar – next to the search-related buttons – down to the area near the middle with the other buttons that are used to open books. That level of customization is not available.

I also feel I should call attention to a strange anomaly on the new toolbar’s configuration: the button for the new NoteStack tool occupies the exact same location as the button for the Sermons & Illustrations tool, and a drop-down arrow is provided to allow the user to set which button is visible. I don’t quite know what to say about that.

The “Speedup” for the Topic Explorer and Cross-Reference Explorer tools appears to be real, based on some side-by-side testing I did of lookups using both WS11 and WS10 on the same PC, but on my machine, that meant the searches went from taking about less than a second to something even faster. That’s great, I guess. For someone with a significantly slower computer, this improvement could deliver more benefit, but it’s an improvement of an already very good performance attribute. For reference, the computer I used is a two and a half year-old HP Envy laptop, running 64-bit Windows 10 Pro on a single Quad-Core i7-4700MQ CPU @ 2.4Ghz, with a 5400-rpm hybrid hard drive, and 16GB RAM (note: the WORDsearch program is 32-bit, so it executes in a 4GB memory space). That’s not exactly cutting edge today, but it is more computer than some WORDsearch users may have available. As they say, your mileage may vary.

There’s not much to say about the new cloud-based option for Backup/Restore, except that it works. It’s a nice option to have, and could be a useful way to keep multiple computers in sync in terms of personal data. I’m a little surprised WS is still backing up Unlock Information, since that is effectively handled now within the cloud by the users’ WORDsearch/LifeWay ID logons.

LESSONmaker is now an integrated piece of WORDsearch. This tool has been around for many years. I think it was previously integrated into the program at one point, but has also at various times been available as a stand-alone program, either bundled with WORDsearch or sold separately. This program combines canned small-group studies on passages or topics with relevant content from selected library resources to produce handouts for study groups. The related library content generation is essentially the Instant Verse Study function without the option of getting content from personal Bible Notes. It simply appends that generated content to the bottom of a study guide for the passage(s) contained within the study chosen from a list of purchased studies. The few studies I’ve looked at over the years seem to consist mostly of the banal “How do you feel about yourself?” variety of questions, though there may be some good lessons material out there I’m not aware of. Again, your mileage may vary. I don’t use it.

One of the more substantive new features is the option to open a second workspace in a child window on a second display, which is opened by activating a toggle button on the toolbar. This is a long-awaited feature which is nice to finally have, but it has its peculiarities.

The only way to place a window in the secondary workspace is to drag it there using the window’s drag handle. So you can drag all the books you want – Bibles, commentaries, lexicons, even User Books – over to the second window, and arrange and dock them as you want. But because only windows with drag handles can occupy the workspace, there are a lot of tools that cannot be moved to the second window:

  • Documents/Word Processor
  • Verse Lists
  • Topic Explorer
  • Xref Explorer
  • Morphological Explorer
  • Verse Explorer
  • Bible Notes
  • Sermons & Illustrations window
  • Card Stacks (aka NoteStack) window
  • Word Definition window
  • History window
  • web browser window

Nor can you place your Search Results window in the second pane. Nor can you show your Library tab in the second window. These are windows that would be very useful to have placed on a second display, especially since many of them take up a lot of screen real estate, and since they have no drag handles are, by definition, not dockable within the program.

You could invert the logic, putting your primary windows like Bibles, dictionaries and commentaries on the second display, and use the various tool windows on the primary display, but you need to note carefully that if you re-click the 2nd Display toggle button on the toolbar, the Workspace pane will close, closing all the resource windows open within it.

Furthermore, neither the Workspace pane nor the resources within it are saved with the Desktop settings if you Save Window Positions, so when you reopen WORDsearch, they will not be open, and you’ll have to open and re-populate the Workspace pane. Still, despite its limitations, it is a welcome improvement.

I will follow-up with analysis of the other two substantive program changes: NoteStacks and the overall application interface (i.e. “Look & Feel”).