Bible Study Software Options

The Products, by Classification

To provide a high-level overview of the options available in the Bible Study software world, I have classified them into a handful of categories. The first group I identify below are the three big-name commercial publishers, who dominate the academic market (and much of the non-academic market as well) with superior technical functionality. The second class is the other commercial vendors who sell various permutations of “library” packages bundled on top of core program functionality. That core functionality ranges from searching and comparing, to identifying relevant study aids, to managing user study documentation. The third category consists of free programs, which offer a variety of options. A fourth grouping lists what I call vertical programs, which focus on very specific uses or markets. A fifth category is the web-based tools that are available.

The Big 3

Three programs can be said to dominate the Bible Study software landscape, particularly in terms of technology and capability: Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos. These are each high-powered, professional-caliber tool sets. These are distinguished from the rest of the crowd primarily on account of their original language capability. They each provide powerful tools for searching and analyzing both Greek and Hebrew Biblical texts, and offer a broad array of lexicons and other resources supporting original language study. They’re also among the most professionally developed of this kind of software in other areas as well, and are highly configurable.

All three offer their software on both PC/Windows and Mac platforms. Logos and Accordance compliment that versatility with free apps for mobile devices, and Logos also offers a cloud-based environment for accessing your library via browser. Accordance began as a Mac application, which has fairly recently been ported to Windows. Bibleworks and Logos began as Windows applications, with Logos having been ported to a native Mac app several years ago.

BibleWorks differs from the other two in that it is sold in a single, comprehensive package. Organizationally, BibleWorks is skeptical of the value of electronic theological libraries, and they offer only a comparatively limited number of add-on resources, some of which are provided via a shared licensing agreement with WORDsearch. For years it was touted as being the fastest of the three main competitors, though that advantage would be diminishing over time as hardware becomes increasingly powerful. With its purposive focus on the Biblical text, BibleWorks is ideal for close exegetical work. The high entry price (~$400) might give pause to some, but if you’re looking for the kind of functionality BibleWorks offers, you’re not going to spend less for it in one of the other packages, even if you can get in the door more cheaply. The trade-off is the lack of secondary reference works, such as commentaries, Biblical studies & treatises, doctrinal works, etc.

Logos is at the opposite end of the spectrum from BibleWorks in terms of exploiting the various kinds of secondary reference works available. Logos has many thousands of such resources available, some sold as parts of tiered library offerings, some offered  a la carte, and some offered either way. The scope of possibilities is gigantic, and range from trivial 19th century devotional works in the public domain to the highest quality contemporary academic works on the Bible, or other matters of concern to the Church.

Logos offers its own set of outstanding tools and resources for original language study, but they no longer offer a package specifically geared toward it, so those tools and resources are typically purchased as subsets of the content of larger, more diverse packages containing many secondary resources. These packages come in numerous tiers, and are also offered in configuration customized for specific sub-groups within the Church. The most significant, for my purposes, being the packages designed for Catholics. These are branded as Verbum, not Logos, but are essentially identical in functionality. The scope of Catholic resources available inside or outside the Verbum packages is impressive and unparalleled, being drawn from patristic, medieval,  post-Reformation, and modern periods: works both magisterial and theological.

Logos offers a free “Basic” package under both Logos and Verbum brands for those who want to check it out. A Catholic could combine the Verbum Basic package with a $50 “Catechism Collection” and a $10 copy of the New American Bible Revised Edition for a tidy study environment suitable for parish small group study, and have synchronized access to it from his PC or Mac, his tablet or phone, and via web browser. The full packages start at $235; packages with meaningful original language support start at $800. Logos is not cheap, but it offers a world-class study environment.

Accordance, like the other two platforms in this class, is highly capable and configurable. Like Logos, it is offered in a series of tiered collections that combine Bibles and primary reference works with numerous secondary reference works and other volumes. The collections are offered with emphases on English, Greek, or Hebrew languages. Other targeted bundles are available as add-ons. There can be a lot of ways to buy certain resources.The set of available resources does not compare to the Logos inventory, but it is still substantial, and stands up against any of the other library-focused packages mentioned in the section below. Long a favorite of serious Bible students on the Mac platform, the original language capability of Accordance are comparable to its two peers, once you’ve spent the money to purchase it. Like Logos, Accordance offers a free “Lite” package with a handful of resources and a functionally limited engine. A starter package is available for $60. Serious original language capability will cost approximately what it costs on Logos, but you can look closely for value, especially if you are primarily interested in only Greek, or only Hebrew.

 

Product Publisher Desktop App Mobile App? Web App? Subscription Option (Cloud)?
Accordance Oak Tree Software Mac/PC iOS No No
BibleWorks BibleWorks PC/Mac No No No
Logos / Verbum Faithlife PC/MAC iOS / Android / KindleFire Yes Yes

The Other Library-Oriented Commercial Programs

Several other library-oriented commercial programs compete against the above-mentioned products for the attention of pastors, preachers, teachers, and laymen, who need only limited original language capability in their Bible Study software, but are keen to have secondary works to assist in understanding and expositing the text. The table below identifies the current commercial publishers, and provides a glimpse of their publishing models.

Product Publisher Entry $ NABRE? Desktop Mobile Web Cloud
Olive Tree Bible Study Olive Tree Bible Software $0 $20 PC/Mac iOS / Android / Kindlefire No No
PC Study Bible Biblesoft $190 No PC/Mac No Cloud only from $4/mo
PocketBible Laridian $0 $15 PC/Mac iOS / Android No No
SwordSearcher SwordSearcher $60 No No No No No
WORDsearch WORDsearch $40 No PC/Mac iOS / Android Yes No

Freeware PC-Based Programs

These are free PC-based applications, which also offer optional secondary resources for free and/or at a cost. Aside from being free to install and run with a basic set of resources (which is also the case for half of the eight commercial programs already mentioned), these apps differ from the previous class mostly in that they are the work of individuals, rather than software companies, but The SWORD Project is an exception to that, it being an Open Source project contributed to by many individuals, and overseen by the CrossWire Bible Society. There are actually many applications that have been written as front-ends to the open source framework established by CrossWire, supporting Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops, ios, Android, and other mobile platforms, as well as web applications.

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 Yes

Verticals

These are niche programs with narrow focus, which can’t fairly be evaluated against the more comprehensive programs. Biblia Clerus is a tool developed for the Catholic clergy by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy to search for Biblical references in various patristic and other writings. It’s not the smoothest piece of software, but it is free. The Verbum Catechism Collection from Logos, mentioned above, is just a terrific little resource kit for Catholics looking for a basic but good electronic study environment on the cheap.  Interlinear Scripture Analyzer is a simple, effective little free tool for examining the Biblical text (note: Protestant canon only) in an interlinear setting. The final two entries, Bibloi and GRAMCORD, are very dated, niche solutions that were geared toward searching and analysis of original language texts. Neither product appears to have been updated within the last decade, and they may not work on newer versions of Windows. However, they are still offered online, and may provide a cheap way for someone to do morphological original language searches, etc.

Product Publisher List Focus
Biblia Clerus The Congregation for the Clergy Free Catholic Resources
Verbum Catechism Collection Logos $50 Catholic Resources
Interlinear Scripture Analyzer Scripture 4 All Free Greek & Hebrew Analysis
Bibloi Silver Mountain Software $95 Greek & Hebrew Analysis
GRAMCORD The GRAMCORD Institute. $100-$235 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
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.

2017/11/12: Moved this assessment to its own page after site update eliminating the Tabs & Sliders plug-in. Restructured categories to focus more on products and less on pricing models. Updated tables to reflect availability of non-desktop options. Added previously overlooked Olive Tree Bible Software. Removed entry for the defunct WORDsearch Basic free app. Moved Bibloi and GRAMCORD to Verticals section. Significantly updated and expanded much of the explanatory text.