Subscribe via email


Monthly Archives


Post Categories

Tag Index

1st Corinthians 1st Peter 1st Timothy 2nd Corinthians 2nd Peter 60 Minutes 1970s A. G. Sertillanges Abby Abortion Absurdity Academia Accordance Adoration Advent Aesthetics Affluence Agenda Aging AIDS Alan Keyes Alasdair MacIntyre Alexander Solzhenitsyn Algebra Al Gore Alienation Alvin Plantinga America American Culture American Enterprise Institute Americanism Amnesty International Anand Giridharadas Andrew Hacker Andrew R. Grainger Andy Rooney Angela Merkel Anglicanism Anthropocentrism Anthropology Anti-Bullying Anti-Christ Anti-clericalism Antigonish AP Apologetics Apostle Thomas Appearances Archangel Raphael Archbishop Charles Chaput Archbishop Harry Flynn Archbishop Sean O'Malley Art Asininity Assassination Athanasius Atheism Audio Books Austria Authority Avery Cardinal Dulles Balkanization Banality Barack Obama Barbara Bellar Barney Frank Beatles Belgium Belief Ben Johnson Berlin Wall Bias Bible Bible.org Bible Explorer Bible in English Bible Software Reviews Bible Translations BibleWorks Bill Cottle Bill O'Reilly Bill Whittle Bishop Robert Morlino Bitterclinging Black Friday Blackmail Blessed Sacrament Bloggers Unite Blogging Bloomberg Bobby Jindal Bob Schieffer Bono Book of Tobit Book of Wisdom Books Bosco Peters Boston.com Boston Bruins Boston Globe Boston Pilot Bourgeois Ethics Boyhood Boys Bozo BP Brendan O'Neill Bullying Bureaucracy Burial Cacophony California Campaign Funding Cancer Canon Law Cap 'N Trade Capitalism Car Seats Catechesis Catechism Catherine Lawless Catholic Church Catholic Culture Catholicism Catholic Lane Catholic Schools Causation CBA CBO CBS CCD CEB Celebrity Celebrity Psychopath of the Week Censorship Certain Urgency Charismata Charity Charlie Baker Chattering Class Chernobyl Chicanery Children Children & Media China Chris Christie Chris Squire Christendom Christian Art Christianity Christina Harms Christmas Chuck Colson Church Citizenship Civics Civility Civilization Civil Rights Civil Unions Clarence Dupnik Clergy Sexual Abuse Close to the Edge CNSNews Coercion Cognitive Dissonance College Culture Comedy Commerce Clause Commonweal Communism Community Commuting Competition Compromise Computing Condoms Confiscatory Taxation Conflict Congregationalism Congress Congressional Powers Conservatism Constantinople Constitutionality Consumerism Contempt Contraception Conversion Coping Cosmology Counterculture Cover Up Creativity Credentialing Credo Cremation Criminality Crisis Magazine Cult Culture Culture Wars Dad Daily Mail Damien of Molokai Dante Darfur Darwinism Dave Bainbridge David B Hart David Brooks David Frum David Linsky David Mills David Thompson Daylight Saving Time DDC Death Debt Deficit Commission Deficit Spending Definitions Dehumanization Democracy Democratic Socialism Democrat Party Department of Education Dependency Der Spiegel Despair Deuteronomy Deval Patrick Development Devotion Dichotomy Disbelief Discernment Discipline Discrimination Disease Disorder Dispensationalism Disrespect Dissent Dissipation Diversity Divinization Do-Goodism Doctor Assisted Suicide Douglas Farrow Dred Scott Drinking Dualism Earth Day Easter Eastern Religion eBooks Ecclesiology Echo Chamber Economic Crisis Economics Ecumenism Ed Markey Ed Morrissey Ed Schultz Education Edward Feser Edward Winslow Egalitarianism Eleanor Clift Election '08 Election '10 Election 2012 Electronic Publishing Elizabeth Scalia Elizabeth Warren Empathy Empiricism England Enlightenment Entertainment Entitlement Entitlements Environmentalism Envy Ephesians Epiphany Episcopacy Episcopal Church Epistemology Equality Equating Eric Holder Eschatology ESV Eternity Ethics Eucharist Eugenics Euphemism Europe European Union Euthanasia Evangelization Evolution Evolutionism Ewald Stadler Experience Experts Extortion Ezekiel Facebook Faith Faith & Reason Faithfulness Fall of Rome Family Fascism Fashion Fast & Furious Fatherhood Fausta Wertz FCC Fear Felix Just Feminism Fidelity First Amendment First Things Folly Forgiveness Founding Fathers Fourth Estate FOX News Frances Titchenor Franciscan University Fraud Fred Baumann Freedom Free Lunch Free Speech Free Will Friendship Funerals G. F. Handel Gabrielle Giffords Gaia Galatians Garage Light Gay Marriage Genesis George Carlin George Orwell George Tiller George W Bush George Weigel Georgia Warnke Gerry Dembrowski Gerush92 Glenn Beck Global Warming Gnosticism God Good Good Friday Good Samaritan Gorecki Gospel Gospel of John Gospel of Luke Gospel of Mark Gospel of Matthew Gospels Gossip Government Grace Graciousness Great Britain Great Entitlement Society Greece Green Movement Grief Guardian Gun Control Gunwalker Handel & Haydn Hannah Arendt Hans Urs von Balthasar Harry Christophers Harry Potter Harry Reid Hating HCSB Health Healthcare Healthcare Reform Heaven Hegel Henri de Lubac Henry E Hudson Heresy Heritage Foundation Hidden Treasure Higher Education Hiroshima History Hitler Holiday Season Holiness Homosex Hope Hospitality HotAir Housing HTML editors Hubris Human Dignity Human Flourishing Humanities Human Nature Human Rights Humility Hypocrisy Hysteria iBreviary Idealism Ideas Identity Ideology Idolatry iEducation Illness Imago Dei Immorality Imperialism Incarnation Incivility Individualism Indulgence Infantilism Insipidity Insurance Intellect Intercession Intergenerational Theft Interiorizing Culture Iona Iowahawk Irony Irresponsibility Isaiah Islam Italy J.E. Dyer J. Gresham Machen Jack Wagner James Pethokoukis James V. Schall Janet Daley Jay Rockefeller Jazz Shaw Jefferson Starship Jeff Jacoby Jeremiah Jesus Christ Jewish Advocate Jews JFK Jill Stein Jimmy Carter Joanne Hogg Joe Biden Joe Carter Joe Scarborough Joe Wilson John Henry Newman John Jalsevac John Kerry John Locke John McCain John Roberts John Sommerville John the Baptist John Ziegler Jonah Jonathan Last Jonathan Sperry Joseph Stalin Journaling Journalism Joy Joyce Judaism Judgment Judgmentalism Judiciary Jurisprudence Justice Just War K-8 Kant Kathryn Lopez Keith Olbermann Ken Cuccinelli Kermit Gosnell Keynesianism Killing King David Kingdom of God KKK Knights of Columbus Knowledge L'Osservatore Romano Labor Laity Language Larceny Law Lazarus Laziness Learning Lectionary Leftism Legacy Legality Lent Leprosy Letter to Hebrews Letter to Romans Leviathan Liberal Education Liberalism Libertarianism Liberty Libraries LibraryThing Libretti Libya Licentiousness Lidwig Feuerbach Lies LifeSiteNews LifeWay Light Light Dawns on Marble Head Limited Government Liturgical Calendar Liturgy Liturgy of the Hours Logos Lordship Love Luciano Storero Lumen Gentium Lying Macintosh Magi Manhattan Declaration Mara Hvistendahl Marcel Guarnizo Marco Rubio Margaret Becker Margaret Marshall Marketing Mark T. Coppenger Marriage Martin Cothran Martin Heidegger Marxism Mary Eberstadt Mary Magdalene Mary Rose Somarriba Massachusetts Massachusetts SJC Massasoit Materalism Maternity Mathematics Matthew Hanley Matt Labash Mattress Girl MaybeToday.org Mayflower Meaning Media Ethics Media Hype Medicaid Medical Ethics Medicare Memory Mercy Methodology Mexico City Policy Michael Hanby Michael Moore Michelle Bachmann Michelle Malkin Mike Pence Milos Forman Miracles Misanthropy Misbehavior Miscenegation Mitch Daniels Mitt Romney Moammar Qaddafi Mockery Modernism Modernity Modern Scholar Mom Moral Doctrine Moral Imbecility Moralism Morality Moral Philosophy Mortimer J Adler Motherhood Mother Teresa Motives Movies MSBA MSM MSNBC Music NAB NABRE Nancy Pelosi Nanny State Naomi Achaefer Riley Nasta & Yulia Natick National Council of Churches National Day of Prayer Nationalism National Review National Socialism Natural Rights Nature NEA Negligence New American Bible New English Translation New Marriage News Product Newsweek New Testament New York Times Niall Ferguson Nigel Farage Nighttime Nihilism Noli me Tangere Nonsense Now Reading NY Times O Antiphons ObamaCare Occam's Razor Occupy OEB Old Testament Olive Tree Ontology Operation Rescue Opinion Ordinary Time Organ Sales Origen Original Sin Orthodoxy Osama bin Laden OWD Paganism Papacy Parables Parenting Partisanship Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry Passion of Christ Pat Caddell Patheos Pathology Patriarchy Paul Erlich Paul Ryan PC Study Bible Pearl of Great Price Pederasty Pedophilia Pentecostalism Permissiveness Perpetual Outrage Perseverance Personhood Pete Jermann Peter Augustine Lawler Peter Kreeft Peter L. Berger Peter Sanchioni Peter Seewald Peter Thiel Phenomenology Philosophical Naturalism Philosophy Pieta Pieties Piety Pilgrims Pink Floyd Planned Parenthood Plato Plenty Plymouth Plantation Poland Political Correctness Political Discourse Political Economy Political Resistance Political Science Pop Culture Criticism Pope Benedict XVI Pope John Paul II Pope Leo XIII Pop Music Pornography Postmodernism Poverty Power Pradis Prayer Preaching Priestcraft Priesthood Principles Priorities Prison Fellowship Prisons Privacy Private Schooling Privatization Pro-Lifers Procrastination Producers Progressivism Propaganda Property Property Rights Propheticism Prosperity Prostitution Protestantism Pseudo-Morality Public Discourse Public Order Public Schooling Public Spending Punishment Puritans QotD QuickVerse Racialism Racism Radicalism Rape Rape Culture Rationality Rationing Ravi Zacharias Reading Reality Rebecca Reconciliation Redemptionis Sacramentum Reform Regeneration Regensburg Regulations Relationships Relativism Religion Religiosity Religious Art Religious Dialog Religious Liberty Religious Repression Rent Seeking Repentance Republican Party Rerum Novarum Resomation Responsibility Resurrection Revelation Revolutions Rhetoric Richard Fernandez Richard John Neuhaus Richard Nixon Richard Wright Rick Santorum Rick Wakeman Rick Warren Righteousness Rita L. Marker Robert Barron Robert R. Reilly Robert T. Miller Rock Music Rod Decker Roe v. Wade Roger Vinson Roman Empire Romans Romanticism Romneycare Ronald Reagan Ron Dellums Ross Douthat Rush Limbaugh Ruth Ruth Marcus Ryan Messmore Sacrality Sacramentalism Sacraments Saint Augustine Saint Francis Saint Francis de Sales Saint Ismeria Saint Jerome Saint Maximilian Kolbe Saint Nicholas Saint Paul Saint Paul School Saint Peter Salvation Same-Sex Marriage Sanctification Sanctity Santa Claus Sarah Palin Satisfaction Scandal Scapegoating Schooling Science Scott Brown Scott Harrington SCOTUS Sean Bielat Self Discipline Self Knowledge Sentimentality Sermonizing Sexuality Sexual Revolution ShareThis Sharon Angle Sigmund Freud Sin Singing Slander Slavery Smoking SNAP Social Contract Social Engineering Socialism Socializing Children Social Justice Social Studies Sociology Socrates Solidarity Solutions Sonia Sotomayor Soteriology Soul Southern Poverty Law Center Soviet Union Speeches Speech Police spiked-online Spirituality SSM St. Augustine Church St. Patrick Church Standardization Statism Stem Cells Stephen Kinzer Stephen Prothero Sterilization Stewardship Strange Fire Stress Study Study Bibles Stupidity Subjective Objectivity Subjectivism Subsidiarity Suffering Sunday Readings Supernatural Superstition Symbolism Syncretism Tabernacle Talk Radio Taxation Tax Shelters Teaching TEA Party Technology Ted Kennedy Ted Koppel Temporizing Temptation Terl Bryant Tetragrammaton Thanksgiving The Catholic Thing Theism Theology Theology of the Body Theosis Theotokos Therese of Lisieux The Telegraph TheWeek.com Thinking Thomas Aquinas Thomas F Madden Thomas G. Guarino Thomas Jefferson Tim Cahill Time Timothy Dalrymple Tolerance Tom Coburn Tony Blankley Tony Melchiorri Touchstone Townhall.com Trade-Offs Tradition Training Transcendence Transhumanism Transparency Treasure Trinitarianism Trivia Troy Donockley Truth Tunisia Turkey TV Tyranny U.S. Senate U2 UFOs Unbelief Unintended Consequences Unionism United Church of Christ Unity Universal Declaration of Human Rights Universalim Universities Upon this Rock USA Today USCCB US Congress Usurpation Utilitarianism Utopianism Vatican Vatican II Verbal Engineering Verbum Vice Victimhood Victor David Hanson Violence Virginia Postrel Virtue Vocation Voluntary Insanity Voters Voting Vulgarity w.bloggar W. Norris Clarke Waiting Walk for Life Wall Street Journal Walter Russell Mead War Warren Buffett Washington Post Watergate Wealth webEdit Weekly Standard Wesley J. Smith Western Civilization Wicca Will-to-Power William Callahan Will of God Windows Live Writer Winter Wisdom Witchcraft WordPress Words WORDsearch WORDsearch 5 WORDsearch 7 WORDsearch 8 WORDsearch 9 WORDsearch 10 WORDsearch 11 Work Works Worship WWJD Yes Yom Kippur Youth ZBS Zero-Tolerance ZfEval-Searching Zondervan

Bible Study Software Pages: Bible Study Software

Bible Study Software

{tab=Overview}

Interested in Bible Study software? I find it fascinating, primarily because of how helpful it is to me in my feeble efforts to understand the Word of God. But I also have a technical background, and I gravitate toward problems of applying computer science to address real-world needs.

I’m trying to build out this site to provide an overview of the current state of affairs for these products. I’ve been using and evaluating this kind of software long enough to have something constructive to say about the genre in general, as well as about the specific merits and challenges of the particular packages I use. But I do not pretend to have a comprehensive knowledge of all – or even most – of the programs available.

It’s hard to know where to start when considering a purchase of Bible Study software – there are a lot of options out there, often in a confusing array of different configurations, and almost all of which tout satisfied customer testimonials to the effect that the product in question is “the best Bible software in the world!” I hope these pages can be a useful resource for helping people make informed decisions regarding these products – a hope inspired by my desire to see more people utilizing these tools to become not only more informed regarding God’s Word, but also more conformed to it.

I’ll give a brief description of the market in general, identify the available product options, classify them, and provide basic information about each – with an overview of those I am familiar with. As time allows, I will provide a more detailed evaluation and rating of products I know. I’ll also provide my criteria for evaluating Bible Study.

The Bible Study Software Landscape

There are almost as many different versions of Bible Study software available to the English-speaking student as there are English translations of the Bible. Some respectable programs can be had absolutely free, while some other packages can run well in excess of $1,000.

The biggest differentiating price factor among packages – at many points along the price scale – is the bundling of peripheral resources (sometimes called modules, databases, or e-books) such as commentary sets. While there is also significant variation between programs in terms of scope and quality of core program components, these differences are not necessarily reflected proportionally in the price tags. For pretty short money, you can get terrific functionality – as long as you don’t need advanced original language capabilities.

Commercial “Library” Products

The most popular Bible Study programs are commercial packages that serve two related but distinct functions: in part, they function as tools to assist in the analysis and study of the Bible itself, but they also serve as electronic book readers. Besides various Biblical texts, these e-books can consist of everything from lexicons and word studies, to interlinears, to commentaries and study guides, to handbooks and preaching helps, to maps, audio files, devotionals, and theological works. These e-books represent the real revenue stream for these companies, and (with some exceptions), their marketing is focused on offering the base program functionality with subsets of available e-books packaged into numerous tiers.

Unfortunately, most marketing materials – and reviews – seem to focus on the e-book content of the various tiers that the program is available in, rather than on the program’s ability to perform core Bible Study functions. In over 20 years of being a Bible Study Software user and afficionado, I’ve never seen a vendor offer a functional comparison to another vendor’s toolset. While it’s true that some e-books are exclusive offerings of particular publishers, many of them are available across most of the major publishers – at more or less similar pricing – making it difficult to make sound value judgments between programs based on marketing materials.

To a great extent, the real value difference between Bible Study platforms is in how well the core program functionality implements and integrates the various e-book resources into an effective study environment for the user, and that level of analysis is virtually absent from the vendors’ marketing material – and even sometimes from third-party reviews, when you can find them. For my purposes, understanding those programmatic, functional differences is what’s important.

This doesn’t imply that the e-book differences are irrelevant. There are some availability differences across products, and these will legitimately drive some purchasing decisions. Some of these resources are much more directly supportive than others of actual Bible Study activities, such as lexicons, grammars, original language texts, analytical and critical apparatus, even topical and xref indexes. I think there’s an important distinction to be made between these functionally significant resources in a library, and those that are of value because of the opinions they contain. After all, if you’re primarily interested in having an electronic library of your favorite commentaries for easy pasting of quoted text into your sermons or lessons, that’s well and fine, but of course it’s not really Bible Study.

This highlights one of the problems I see in the contemporary Bible Study software industry, and that is the lack of e-book standards. This is a touchy subject in the industry, because it was attempted back in the 90’s. Several of the major vendors formed a consortium defining an e-book standard called STEP, which is still in use by Parsons (QuickVerse), but has otherwise faded into oblivion.

Too many vendors (including Logos, the 800-pound gorilla of the industry) have self-interested reasons to reject any attempt at standardizing book format, but I think these reasons are short-sighted, and exposes the industry to the risk of having market pressures impose an external de facto standard on it, developed by an entity unconcerned with the complexities of Bible Study tools (think Kindle, as an obvious example). There’s also the threat of platform obsolescence if owners of proprietary formats go under, so there are multiple reasons for consumers to think twice before investing large sums of money in e-books. I know it’s a huge concern for me. The industry needs a plan that reduces consumer risk, and protects the technology from bowdlerization.

Textual Analysis Specialists

Another set of products exist that are not focused on selling libraries of e-books, but are designed specifically for analysis of Biblical texts – primarily original language texts. Some of the library-oriented products have analysis tools that are comparable to what these specialized programs provide, while these specialized programs will have some small subset of the usual extra-Biblical modules most useful for supporting exegesis, but there is a complete mindset difference between the two categories. These programs have much to recommend them for the serious Bible student – professional or otherwise – as they provide the requisite powerful tools without the added baggage (and cost) of the libraries.

Free Bible Study Programs

There are a number of free Bible Study programs available, and they are a mixed bag in terms of quality. Some have been around for a long time. These tend to be similar to the library-oriented commercial programs, having numerous free (and usually also commercial) e-book modules available, though the scope of the available libraries are generally smaller, and the program functionality is generally inferior to the commercial programs.

It is popular nowadays to criticize these programs for providing so many public domain e-book resources (considered outdated and hence of poor quality), but it is this critic’s view that if “outdated” Matthew Henry (just to use him for an oft-cited example) is to be considered today such a poor interpreter of the Eternal Word, then he couldn’t possibly have been any better during his own era – a thought that I hope would give pause to those who place such value in what will be the next generation’s poor, outdated, public domain commentaries. Contra the revolving trend-setters, orthodoxy never gets old, and true wisdom never grows stale…

The Rest

Finally, there are a number of websites providing an on-line Bible Study environment. None of these are ready to replace desktop applications, but they can perhaps be of some use in a pinch. There are also a number of specialty programs out there that don’t really cut it for Bible Study, but provide some related function that involves the use of electronic Bible texts.

ΑΩ

{tab=Products}

The Products, by Classification

It’s a little tricky trying to categorize the available Bible Study software offerings, for while there may be a few products very similar to one another, there is a wide diversity of purpose and capability in the market overall, and some products will straddle the lines between any categories you define. Still, some programs are so different from each other that there is no point comparing them, so it helps to have some basic classifications.

The first group are the commercial vendors who sell various permutations of “library” packages bundled on top of core program functionality that ranges from searching and comparing, to identifying relevant study aids, to managing user study documentation. A second class would be the programs that focus on tools for studying the Biblical texts themselves, with little or no use of peripheral resources such as commentaries. A third category should consist of vertical programs, which focus on very specific uses or markets. A fourth category is the web-based tools that are available. The free programs more or less get their own category.

Library-Oriented Commercial Programs

The library-oriented commercial programs dominate the non-academic market. Pricing is often complex, if not convoluted. As the headings in the table suggest, the prices reflected here are entry-level prices; it’s possible to spend thousands of dollars on some of these platforms. In addition to base package pricing, I indicate the minimal purchase price that includes basic Strong’s functionality, as well as the minimal price to get the NAB included in the library – since my closest brethren are American Catholics, who have to put up with that version, and therefore need it in their study environment (N.B. where available, the “NAB” will now be the fully revised “NABRE” edition, not the NABRNT used in the liturgy).

Product

Publisher

Entry $ (List)

Entry $ w/ Strong’s

Entry $ w/ NAB

Add-on Books?

Accordance

Oak Tree Software

$50

$60

$100

Yes

Logos

Logos

$150

$150

$190

Yes

PC Study Bible

Biblesoft

$50

$50

N/A

Yes

PocketBible

Laridian

$50

$50

$65

Yes

SwordSearcher

SwordSearcher

$60

$60

N/A

No

Verbum

Logos

$50

$80

$65

Yes

WORDsearch

WORDsearch

$30

$30

N/A

Yes

Text-Oriented Programs

These programs focus on analysis of the Biblical texts in the original languages, and are geared primarily toward seminary course work, translation, and other scholarly needs, though they can certainly be profitably used by anyone trying to understand the text. It would be an overstatement to say that these products are designed to help with exegesis, while the library products are designed to help with interpretation, but it wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Accordance and Logos make another appearance in this category because they offer comparable functionality in certain configurations. Prices given reflect the configurations necessary for consideration in this category, but it’s very difficult to compare apples to apples in a simple table because of varying resource availability in different vendors’ scholar-oriented offerings. In other words, Accordance is not really a better value than Bibleworks or Logos – pay attention to the specific contents of their tiered library packages. Still, you can get in the door of this class cheaper with Accordance. I would also point out that Silver Mountain appears to have cut the price of Bibloi in half.

Product

Publisher

List Price

Add-ons?

Accordance

Oak Tree Software

$150+

Yes

BibleWorks

BibleWorks

$350

Yes

Bibloi

Silver Mountain Software

$95

No

GRAMCORD

GRAMCORD Institute

$100-$235

Yes

Logos

Logos

$420

Yes

Free PC-Based Programs

These are free PC-based applications. The vendors may offer optional secondary resources for free and/or at a cost.

Product

Publisher

Add-ons?

Bible Analyzer

Timothy Morton

Yes

e-Sword

Rick Meyers

Yes

LaParola

Richard Wilson

Yes

Online Bible

Larry Pierce

Yes

The SWORD Project

CrossWire

Yes

The Word

Costas Stergiou

No

WORDsearch Basic

WORDsearch

Yes

Verticals

These are niche programs with narrow focus, which can’t fairly be evaluated against the more comprehensive programs.

Product

Publisher

List

Focus

Biblia Clerus

Congregation for the Clergy

Free

Catholic Resources

Verbum (Logos) Catechism Package

Logos

$50

Catholic Resources

Interlinear Scripture Analyzer

Scripture 4 All

Free

Greek & Hebrew Analysis

Web-Based Tools

These are web-based study environments, which are reasonably useful, though I don’t think any of them are adequate replacements for local applications. I don’t intend to provide any overviews or evaluations of these sites; I simply list them to make them known to interested readers. Note that some of the commercial vendors also provide cloud-based access to licensed resources from their product lines.

Web Sites

Bible Research (informational, not a study site, per se)

BibleGateway.com

Biblos Parallel Bible

Christian Classics Ethereal Library

crosswalk.com

Search God’s Word

StudyLight.org

Change Log

2008/09/26: Added LaParola to table of free programs

2008/12/24: Removed Ellis Bible Library; added Verticals table; general update

2010/01/21: Duplicated Accordance & Logos into the original language category; adjusted current pricing on Bibloi & Welcome to the Catholic Church; Removed Catholic Scholar’s Pack from Verticals table; general update

2011/01/17: Added Bible Analyzer to table of free programs; added Biblia Clerus to table of Verticals; moved ISA to Verticals table; noted price increase of SwordSearcher to $60; removed Nelson’s eBible (I could be wrong, but it doesn’t appear to have a future next to Logos 4); general update & link clean-up.

2013/09/15: Removed entries for QuickVerse, Welcome to the Catholic Church, and iLumina; Replaced Bible Explorer entry with WORDsearch Basic; Added link to Logos’ Verbum (Catholic) collections in Libraries section; Added Verbum Catechism package to Verticals; minor edits and updates. Note: as of this edit, the pricing should be considered unreliable, as some of it has changed but I have not taken the time to update the page.

ΑΩ

{tab=Criteria}

My Criteria for Evaluating Bible Study Software

 

In evaluating Bible Study programs, I break out my analysis into several general areas of consideration:

  1. Their ability to support actual Bible study tasks (core functionality)
  2. The scope and quality of available Biblical texts and other core resources (resources that help establish what the Bible says)
  3. Their ability to integrate user-created content
  4. Their ability to integrate functionality and resources
  5. Program usability (interface, presentation, and management)
  6. The scope and quality of their catalog of secondary resources (resources which interpret what the Bible means)
  7. Technical quality and program performance
  8. Cost and Marketing

Evaluating Core Functionality

Software Bibles are not particularly good for reading, but they are great for studying, because of the ease the computer makes of searching, listing, indexing, sorting, grouping, comparing, linking, cross referencing, annotating, and collecting/publishing (e.g. exporting to a word processor). This is what I call the core functionality of Bible Study software. The primary purpose of a Bible Study program is to act as an electronic concordance. Its most fundamental and important function is to search Bibles, and display useful results.

Searching the Bible – Can you search by words, phrases, and references? Can you search for multiple terms? Can multiple search terms be logically related using Boolean logic (AND, OR, NOT, XOR), and organized using parentheses? Can you search for words NEAR each other? Can you search for terms that meet multiple criteria (e.g. all occurrences of a specific English word, but only if it translates a particular Greek word or Strong’s #)? Can multiple translations be searched simultaneously? Can you search for either particular word forms or for word families? Can you search for original language terms? Can you search for either lemma or particular forms? Can you search for morphologies? Can you search for grammatical constructions?

How accurate is the search engine? Does it consistently return every occurrence of the search term(s)? Are any false hits returned (e.g. extraneous text)? Is marginal and other editorial content excluded by default? Can it be excluded? Can publisher footnotes be searched?

How much control do you have over search range scope? Can you search in multiple, non-contiguous sections? How long do searches take to execute? Does the program have a searching tool optimized for searching the Bible (as opposed to a one-size-fits-all tool)?

Displaying and Working with Bible Search Results – Can you have multiple results sets open simultaneously? Are the search parameters identified in the results window (so you can see which search results you’re looking at)? Are search terms/results clearly identified within context? Are different search terms differentiated in results display (e.g. by different color highlighting)?

Can results be displayed as either refs or verses? Can contiguous verses be displayed as passages? Can results be displayed in Biblical context mode? Can results be shown in multiple translations (parallel)? Can you choose between showing hits from a particular translation and showing hits from all searched translations?

Are results statistics displayed? Do they include both number of hits and number of verses? Are statistics displayed for grouped subsets? Are results numbered/labeled for easy reference? Can search terms be aligned within results for easy comparison? Can a results set be grouped into subsets? Can results sets of word families be grouped by word forms? Can results sets of multiple search terms be grouped by term?

Are search results displayed as static text, or are they intelligent with program functionality (e.g. can you click on a KJV word in results to see Strong’s info on it, etc.)? Are they displayed in functional Bible windows? Can results be shown as either one entry per hit (concordance style) or one entry per verse (Bible style)? Can you change translations? If so, with or without verse granularity? Can results be re-ordered by the user? Can you save & retrieve results sets? Can results sets be annotated?

Can you modify results with manual adds or deletes? Can you search within results? Can results be modified by additional search criteria using AND, OR, NOT or XOR? Can you use Boolean Set Logic to combine and contrast (AND, OR, NOT XOR) different results sets? Can you copy results between results windows? Can results be copied to other windows? Can they be exported as either refs or verses?

Displaying Biblical Texts – Are paragraph and verse-by-verse viewing modes available? Can multiple translations be shown in a single window in parallel? How easy is it to add or change translations in a window? What layout options exist for parallel view? Can the translations be ordered by the user in parallel view? Are original language texts supported in parallel view?

Is embedded data identified (e.g. footnotes, xrefs)? Can embedded data be viewed in-line? Can in-line viewing be turned off? Are there other viewing options for this material? Can extra-biblical text be suppressed? Is there a composite view of notes and/or xrefs for multiple translations? Are existing user annotations identified in the window?

Can you view multiple instances of the same translation? Is a history maintained to facilitate easy “page-flipping”? How easy is it to jump to specific passages? How useful are other navigation controls? Is the window look clean or cluttered? Can the user control font choices and/or sizes? How easy is the text to read?

Exporting Biblical Text to Word Processor – Can selected text be copied with poetic/paragraph formatting? Can the user select (on the fly) which translation(s) to utilize in copy/paste? Can non-contiguous selections of text be exported? Can you copy references only (no text)? Can user and/or publisher notations be included in the copy?

How much control does the user have over reference formatting? Are citation format options available? Can citations and references be suppressed? Can they be suppressed on the fly, or does it require a change to application preferences? Can you send copies directly to a word processor in single step? Can pastes be initiated from within a word processor without the Bible Study application running?

Bibles and Primary Reference Resources

These are the basic resources we use to understand what the Word of God says.

What translations are available? Which (if any) are tagged with Strong’s #s? Are there original language texts available? Are they tagged with Strong’s #s and/or morphological information? Are proto-translations available (e.g. LXX, Vulgate)? Are interlinears available? Are Deuterocanonical books included when available in a translation?

Are translators’ and/or third-party Biblical xrefs available? What is available for lexicons and other original language word study resources? Are any of these works tagged to support linking with tagged texts? Are topic indexes available? What about English language tools, dictionaries & encyclopedias? Are there maps available? Are they interactive? Is there an integrated audio Bible?

Integrating User Content

A key element of truly useful Bible Study programs is their ability to integrate user-created content – which could be couched as the ability to easily work with the results of last month’s study as a resource to help put together today’s study.

Bible Annotations and Markup – Can users attach annotations to biblical texts? Are annotations linked to all translations (like a commentary), or translation-specific (like footnotes)? Are highlighters and other tools available for text markup? Are text markups translation-specific, or tied to the verse context? Can annotations be applied to passages (verse ranges)? Can user annotations be searched?

Can annotations be stored in multiple sets (notebooks)? Can notebooks of annotations be scrolled/navigated like a book, or are they strictly tied to Bible windows? Does the annotation tool identify the existence of other user annotations relevant to the verse context? How are annotations output for printing, or exporting to text files? Can annotations be easily shared within the user community? Can user annotations be used as an xref resource by the program?

User “Books” – Does the program support user-created commentaries, topically-tagged books, and/or outline books? Do these user creations behave like built-in resources of similar type? Can the user create truly custom reading plans? Can custom reading plans include extra-biblical reading? Can user “books” be easily shared within the user community?

Documents – Can the user create documents within the program? Will they persist as generally available resources, or are they tied to a specific “desktop”? Do they support organizing elements such as sections or tables? Will the program support multimedia in documents? Can the user use the program to create presentations (e.g. slides)? Can the program search user documents for words and/or refs? Are they available as xref resources? Can the user define their location within the file system? Can user documents be easily shared within the user community?

Verse Lists – How are user-defined sets of Scripture passages (e.g. Verse Lists) handled? Does their text support program functionality? Can multiple verse lists be used simultaneously? Can they be saved? Can they be shared? Can a search tool tell you which verse lists contain a particular verse? Can you perform text markups that remain specific to the verse list?

Is their structure flat or do they allow for grouping in sections? Can sections be nested in outline style? Can you copy between verse lists and/or sections, combine them, use set logic to join them (AND, OR, XOR, NOT)? Can they include commentary or annotation? To what scope can annotations be applied: entire verse list, section, verse/passage? Are the annotations searchable? Can an annotation to a passage be identified by an xref tool?

Can they display either verses or refs? Can contiguous verses be grouped into range passages? Can verse order be customized? Do they have translation flexibility? Do they support original language texts? Do they support interlinear text display? Can sections show verse counts of their content? Can sections be rolled up and expanded? How easy is it to get data out of these objects? How flexible are the printing options? Can the content be published to document format (html, rtf, pdf, doc, etc.)?

Resource Integration

Another important consideration is how well the program makes everything work together, including working with resources that exist outside the program.

Internal Resource Integration – Is keylinking/hotlinking available to quickly bring up appropriate support or reference resources by double-clicking on a key word? Are these links user-definable? Do context menus (e.g. right-click) provide immediate access to a complete set of study tools, e.g. in-program or web searches, the annotation system, copy options, pronunciation modules, language helps or other tools, xrefs or other topical content? Are they available as appropriate in all window types? Are pop-ups available where appropriate, and can they be suppressed?

Are wizards available to quickly identify and display library content related to a passage? Does this include user-created content? How easy is it to send Bible references to a verse list, and how much control does the user have over where the refs will appear in the list (e.g. which section)? Are “harmony” tools available to provide easy comparison of topically-paralleled sections (e.g Gospel parallels, Kings/Chronicles)? What other productivity tools are there?

Is there an internal text editor for creating documents, and how feature-rich is it? Does it have a learning spell checker? Does it support drag & drop editing, or creating tables, outlines, and graphical content? Does the program parse Biblical references in user documents to provide hyperlinks to support xref indexing and/or verse pop-up windows?

Integrating External Resources – Does the program support integrated web browsing? Are specific web sites integrated for their content or functionality? Can the user edit and maintain the list of integrated web sites? Are RSS or Atom feeds supported?

Does the program publish an API for acting as a server of resources or functions? Can the program utilize the functionality of other Bible Study programs? Can the program integrate the functionality of document-focused programs, such as Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org, etc? Can audio Bibles be integrated?

Can documents created outside the program be integrated into the program? Does the program support standard document types, e.g. html/xml, pdf, rtf, doc, OO.o, mp3, wav, jpg, gif, png? Are their tagging capabilities leveraged by the program’s searching or xref tools? Are documents created within the program easily usable outside the program? What data format are they in? Does the program include stand-alone tools for supporting the use of external programs?

Working with Non-Biblical Resources – Can you search books using Boolean logic? Can you search using regular expressions? Can you search by Biblical reference? Are books tagged for topical searching? Is there a topical index? Can search results be saved? Are different search terms differentiated in results display (e.g. by different color highlighting)? Can the context of a search result be previewed? Is the search term(s) clearly identified in the book view (as opposed to in a results page)? Can you search within a page (simple find)?

How easy are books to navigate? Is a navigation history maintained? Can academic citations be generated? Can the user copy text with or without citations? Do books have useful Tables of Contents? Do books have useful title pages? Is there a tagging system for the user to identify topical or xref relevant passages? Is there a facility for annotating books? How are publisher footnotes/endnotes presented? Is text markup supported?

Usability and Presentation

Linking & Syncing – Do like books sync to each other? Can books be set to open synced? Can sync be turned off? Are there multiple sync channels, or a single, global context? Can the user determine which resources will drive the sync context and which will be passive? How does the program deal with syncing passages when verse numbering differences occur between translations?

Can the user pursue and access xrefs without disrupting the primary study context? Can books sync on values other than BCV (book, chapter, verse) context (e.g. original language word or Strong’s #, topical keyword, etc)?. Will setting the sync flag on a book change the book’s context or the sync context? Is the syncing mechanism easy to understand? Does it make studying easier, or does it get in the way?

Window Management – Can resource windows be docked into window sets? Are there limitations to what kinds of windows can be docked? Can window types be mixed within a dock set? Can data windows (e.g. documents, verse lists) be docked? Can docking be set to automatic? Can windows be moved within or between docked sets?

Is auto-arranging of windows available? Do auto-arrange window placements make sense? Is there any user control over placement or layout? Can the user create custom (non-auto) window layouts? Do newly opened window sizing and placement make sense? Can window titles (captions) be customized for easy identification?

Do target windows for viewing or following xrefs make sense, both in terms of the window chosen, and in terms of identifying the desired content within the target window? Can the user designate target windows for different purposes? Are window/context navigation tools easy to use and understand? Can multiple copies of particular resource windows be opened?

Saving Desktop Context & Layout – Can desktops be saved and retrieved? Can the window layout and study context(s) be saved and retrieved independently from each other? How much granularity does the user have in determining what gets saved with a desktop? Do desktops include desktop-specific data objects (e.g. desktop notes)?

Library Management – How easy are books and other resources to find? How clean is the library layout? How much control does the user have in the organization of the library layout? Are there useful tools for searching for books and other resources? Can the user hide little-used books, or remove unwanted ones? How easy is it to find, purchase, and add new books? How much information is available to the user regarding books being considered for purchase? Can you try before you buy with books? How easy is it to backup, restore, and manage licenses? Is a bibliographer available?

Usability of Interface – How well laid out is the application on the whole? Does it look cluttered? Is it easy to find resources? Is it easy to access functions? Is the menu system sensible? Is the icon bar or ribbon well designed? Do things behave the way you’d expect a Windows app to behave? How easy is it to accomplish typical tasks?

Are there sufficient keyboard shortcuts? How easy is it to hide, find, and keep track of open windows? How readable are the various windows? How much control does the user have over font size and selection? Are there options available for selecting from multiple color schemes, or creating custom ones?

Does the program utilize bookmarking? Does it provide a set of easily accessible  “favorites” links? Does it support the saving of user-defined collections of resources for easy recall of common search scopes? Does it support the customization of defaults and orderings for various selection screens, file management functions, and other program behaviors?

Extra-biblical Library Resources

Books and other resources that provide interpretations and applications of God’s Word.

Evaluate the scope and quality of the catalog of available electronic books (including third-party content providers), such as: outlines, commentaries, handbooks, study bible notes, lesson plans, Bible studies, histories & surveys, theological works, doctrinal works, user community documents and books, sermon helps, illustrations, spiritual works, devotionals, how-to books, comparative literature, sacred art reproductions, hagiographies, hymns and other music, presentation graphics, etc.

Catholic Resources – What is available from the vast world of Catholic intellectual and spiritual works? For better or worse, the New American Bible is a must-have resource for American Catholics – at least those preparing anything for a parish setting – is the NAB available? Are other Catholic translations available (Douay, Knox, JB, NJB)? Are the Catholic editions of the RSV or NRSV available? Are other complete translations available with the disputed books included (KJV, RSV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NEB, REB, LXX translations)?

Is the Catechism of the Catholic Church available? Are other formal doctrinal works available, e.g. conciliar and papal documents? Are any of the published doctrinal compendiums or surveys available? Are the typically extensive footnotes and Biblical xrefs in these works linked? Is the Summa Theologiae available? What about other Catholic theological works? Are the writings of the Early Church Fathers available?

What about Catholic spiritual works? What about Catholic Biblical commentaries and dictionaries? Is the Liturgy of the Hours (or even the daily Mass readings) available as a daily “devotional”?

Technical Foundation

Which OS platform(s) does the program run on? What is the format of the books? Is it proprietary or open source? What is the format of text copied from books? How well are the books designed and produced? How are program updates and patches distributed? Does the application platform appear to have a solid future?

How good are the help files? Is there other help available online, and in what format? Is there an online user community, and is it helpful? Is there training available? Is it free? Is there on-line or email tech support provided by the vendor? Telephone support? How good is the support? Is there an effective customer feedback process?

How is the overall performance of the application? How easy is it to install, update, backup? How fast does it startup? How fast does it perform tasks? Does the program behave? How buggy is it? Is it prone to crashing and errors? Does it handle multiple threads well, or does a slow process cause the whole app to stop performing? Do all the buttons work properly? Is the program functionally polished, or does it seem half finished?

Marketing and Pricing

What is the entry price for the product? What do you get for that price in terms of tools, functionality, and library resources. What is the cost for 100% of the functionality? What is the real cost to get to the level that the product markets itself at? What is the real cost to get to the level of your own base requirements? How is the pricing for individual add-on resources, compared to other publishers?

Is the pricing simple and clear enough that you know you’re getting the best deal when you buy, or does it feel like you’re probably paying more than you should? How easy is it to buy new resources? Are the available resources (and packages) explained well in the marketing material? Are there good examples? Is there user feedback/reviews? Can you try before you buy? Are there incentive programs? Is there price protection? Does the vendor seem solid, focused, reliable, and in it for the long haul?

ΑΩ

{/tabs}

  • Pingback: MaybeToday.org » Blog » Bible Software Review Criteria Published()

  • Pingback: Bible Software Review Weblog » Blog Archive » Criteria for Evaluating Bible Software - I()

  • David

    Is this the program I heard last week ot the bible answer man radio show CRI ? We have a study program on the Common Law and go back to its orgins as the law given to Moses and the oral tradition resulting to administer the beginnings of ‘freemen’. Your program sounds like one thatwe could promote for advancing knowledge. We started in 1979 and comments came in that our course was that responder’s 2nd most important set of books next to their Bible. Others- that the CL ‘revelations’ had “made the dusty old Bible, come off the shelve with a relevance to the ‘real world’ Daid Chovanak DCL, President of the Common Law Association. CLASS

  • Marquis

    Have you tried Biblia Clerus? It is free bible software, and it is Catholic.

  • John W Gillis

    Hi Marquis, actually, I have tried Biblia Clerus. I stumbled across it a year or so ago when I was trying to find some digital copies of Magisterial documents. Thanks for reminding me about it – I haven’t used it in a while. It was great for finding references to Biblical passages in Church documents.

    I should update this page, and get Biblia Clerus added to it – it’s a nice little resource.