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Tag Archive: QuickVerse

Rumblings From a Deep Slumber

Posted: Saturday, September 12, 2015 (3:23 pm), by John W Gillis


Rumblings from out of a deep slumber at MaybeToday.org, as I turn the lights back on to note some activity…

WORDsearch

LifeWay this week released WORDsearch 11, which is the first major version release in almost four years. I haven’t run the new version yet, and very well may not, at least for the foreseeable future, as the marketing approach being taken ($50 for an engine-only upgrade, discounted to $40 through September) seems hard to reconcile against new product descriptions that identify a few nice-sounding but hardly game-changing improvements to what appears to be basically the same program as version 10.6. It’s not unusual for Bible Study software vendors to provide their engines for free, making their money on either ad-hoc or bundled sales of licenses for ebooks and other resources. It is a complicated situation, and there’s really no way to make apples-to-apples comparisons, but LifeWay’s still seems like an odd approach, at best. I would have expected at least WS11-based packages to be available alongside the engine-only offering.

QuickVerse

With the release of the WS11 upgrade, QuickVerse appears to have disappeared from the wordsearchbible.com store website. In fact, a search for “quickverse” on the website comes back with no results! I’m assuming this spells the end of the line for QuickVerse as a brand. Subsequently, I’ve decided to archive the software evaluation page I had published on the legacy QuickVerse product back in 2009.

Olive Tree

On the other hand, I have begun using Olive Tree’s Bible Study tools, and published a product assessment last night. the app is limited, but a terrific solution for mobile needs.

Publishing assessments of various electronic Bible Study programs was one of my original goals for this site, but that effort got derailed pretty quickly, getting no further than entries for QuickVerse and WORDsearch. I’m telling myself it is a good time to pick up that torch again, but I’ve told myself that before – we’ll see how it goes. It would be a lot of work both to create and to maintain any even remotely comprehensive set of assessments.

Taking Stock

Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2013 (11:32 pm), by John W Gillis


I went out to fetch some Chinese take-out this evening, and found myself driving past Saint Patrick’s just a few minutes before classes were to start for the beginning of the new CCD year. I sped up just a little. This is the first year in almost a decade that I will not be teaching a class of teenagers. It is a strange feeling, and I already miss the camaraderie of the classroom. I’ve really loved my charges over the years, and they’ve been a great source of joy and satisfaction for me.

There’s no good reason to expound upon why I wouldn’t go back this year: it is sufficient to say it’s not because I was tired of teaching. Nonetheless, I will be living a rather different kind of life this year; I am in a new mode, at least for now. I have time for other things, but I will need to choose wisely. I have time to correct deficiencies and address needs. I do not have time to read the “news”.

For some reason, I’m not quite prepared to abandon this blog/website, so I need to do something to correct its dysfunction, for a moribund, unused web site is dysfunctional. I will be re-thinking its purpose.

When I launched the site, in March 2008, I anticipated having a heavy focus on Bible Study tools, resources, and methods – which represented a significant aspect of my intellectual efforts at the time. But I was also just beginning my studies at Franciscan University, and my early plans would prove not only overly ambitious, but also of receding interest to me. I’ve moved on.

In light of that, I do not expect to produce pages analyzing software products beyond the two I managed to get published last decade: WORDsearch and QuickVerse. Ironically, they have been merged into essentially a single product since the purchase of QuickVerse by WORDsearch in mid-2011. I suppose I should simply suppress my existing QuickVerse analysis page, since it has no more independent interest. That would leave only my WORDsearch eval page in that section of the site, and I’m not sure why it should have any permanency. I’ve already (tonight) suppressed the “WORDsearch Versions Comparison” sub-page. I published (again, tonight) a revision to the WORDsearch page, updating it to account for all that has happened in the busy two and a half years since I’d last revised the page: the QuickVerse purchase, the sale to Lifeway, and the releases of WORDsearch versions 10, 10.5 and 10.6. My attention, however, has turned elsewhere, and the website needs to reflect that change in focus – assuming I can get around to it!

WORDsearch, LifeWay, and the Future of Bible Study Software

Posted: Monday, September 5, 2011 (10:22 pm), by John W Gillis


It’s been a couple of months now since the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm, LifeWay, announced that they had gotten into the Bible Study Software publishing market by buying WORDsearch – a sale that included QuickVerse, which had just been bought by WORDsearch a couple months earlier. I wasn’t thrilled by either of these announcements (especially the second one), and the passing of time has not made me feel much better.

As I mention in the summary of my analysis of QuickVerse, I think the sale to WORDsearch was a good thing overall for QuickVerse users: QuickVerse didn’t appear to have a future as an independent platform, WORDsearch has a better overall tool set, had a good portion of QV’s STEP resources already available in their own CROSS format, and had in place some  established processes to convert from the STEP platform to CROSS. It would also mean a significantly enlarged base of potential customers for CROSS resources, which should have increased revenue for WS without increasing their costs, while providing a much wider selection of resources for legacy QuickVerse users. Sounds like a win-win, and it is, but my chief complaint about WORDsearch over the past few years has been what I’ve perceived as an over-emphasis on expanding markets, at the expense of putting some finishing, professional touches on a toolset that is very interesting, but under-developed. This move seemed to all about libraries, not toolsets.

The LifeWay purchase opens up an entirely different can of worms, as WORDsearch now effectively becomes a denominational Bible study platform – and at that, a denomination not known for their pluralism (pretty ironic, actually, given the role of Baptists in the codification of religious pluralism in the United States). There’s no way to tell at this point how things will play out, in terms of which resources will and will not be made available by LifeWay for the WORDsearch platform going forward.

I wish I were more optimistic than I am that the Bible study platform will not be used as a football for denominational politics and bigfooting. I can’t help but be reminded of the waste that was Zondervan’s development of Pradis as a tool for their own works. The circumstances are quite different in several ways, but I think there may be some real analogy in terms of the danger (from a user/student/consumer perspective) of combining the toolset and the e-book publishing platform under a single, proprietary copyright.

I’m glad LifeWay wants to get into the e-book publishing business for Bible Study software, I just wish people who have invested in the software tools required to utilize those resources weren’t financially locked into LifeWay as a publisher now. LifeWay should be able to publish what they want – and only what they want – and users should be able to use the tools they have invested in to work with resources published by various publishing houses, as they see fit. Likewise, I wish LifeWay were able to produce e-books that were capable of being used on the broadest set of software tools (readers, search tools, content aggregators, indexers, virtual annotation tools, etc.).

The software/publishing houses don’t want to hear this, but I am more and more convinced that publishers, content owners, developers, and users of Bible Study tools & resources would all be much better served if an e-book standard could be developed – open source, I say, and using a plug-in framework similar to Logos’ data type components. In simple terms, here is how I see everyone benefiting from an industry-wide agreement:

  1. Users would only have to license an e-book once, and could then use it with anybody’s toolset – and it’s viability over an extended period of time would be guaranteed.
  2. Publishers would have the broadest possible potential customer base to sell to.
  3. Copyright owners would be free to license to a single publisher if they prefer (or not!), without compromising potential market share.
  4. Developers would be free to focus on quality tool development, differentiating themselves by functionality, usability, and ability to keep up with “data types” established by publishers, which would be available on a level playing field.

I’m convinced that an e-book standard is coming – whether from Amazon, Google, or somewhere else, and that users are going to get fed up with having to “buy” books several times just to keep using them in a changing software landscape. The question is whether the Bible Study software community can get out in front of the emerging standard to ensure it is rich enough to support the rather elaborate requirements of modern, computerized Bible study, or if they will squabble to the end, leaving us with standards developed by and for the entertainment establishment.

WORDsearch 9 Released: Initial Impressions

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 (2:07 am), by John W Gillis


WORDsearch 9 was released Monday, roughly two years after the release of version 8. This is the third release of WORDsearch developed on the Bible Explorer platform for CROSS eBooks. Long-time WORDsearch users who have been waiting for a return of the search results management genius of the old Ref List will not find what they’re looking for, but some significant improvements have been made to version 8 nonetheless.

The biggest improvement, by far, was a complete reworking of the window syncing mechanism. In the two previous iterations of WS, as in Bible Explorer, each window (for books organized on a book-chapter-verse structure, such as Bibles, commentaries, outlines, etc) had a sync button, which could be turned on or off by the user – a general preference setting would determine which state the window originally opened in. Every book which was synced would cause all other synced books to follow along with it as it changed context.

In WS9, there are now four distinct sync groups to which any sync-capable window can be sg01 assigned, meaning that certain windows can be synced to each other, while other windows can be synced together in a different context. This multi sync-group functionality would be familiar to users of Logos. However, WORDsearch also introduced an optional driver/slave mode, similar to how Pradis managed its sync groups – but WS9 allows the user to manage the driver status directly from each window, instead of launching a dialog box. With a driver window defined in a sync group, only the driver window will cause the other windows synced to it to change context – the slave windows can be moved around in without affecting any other windows, and will then re-sync to the driver window when the driver window changes context.

Also new is the ability to designate a Bible window as an xref target window (again, familiar to Logos users). This is a major improvement over the unpredictability of WS8 when clicking links, and is made even more useful when the target window is joined to a sync group.

Another long-overdue improvement in WORDsearch is support for a NOT operator in search strings, which is entered as ANDNOT.

sdiag01 Searching, in general, has become a bit friendlier, because of several subtle changes to the Search dialog interface that make it easier to find and select books to search. The Search box finally supports the ability to type <> delimiters, which allows the user to use one or more Strong’s numbers in the main search string (as opposed to using the special "Strong’s #" search dialog, which will only accept a single number).

Also new are options to automatically include plurals of English nouns, and various forms of English verbs. A new Spelling Helper applet on the search dialog box can help eliminate bogus searches due to spelling errors, as well as generating lists of available words in the selected resources. These extra helps are not quite as robust as the similar features in QuickVerse, but they should prove to be useful.

WS9 introduces the concept of the Carousel, which allows the user to define a set of frequently-used books of particular types (Bibles, commentaries, and dictionaries, roughly speaking), which will always be available to "flip" to from a similar window type, with a single mouse-click or keystroke. As you flip from favorite to favorite using the Carousel, the contents of the books will attempt to sync to the preceding favorite, though it’s hard to do that consistently with dictionary-type books.

In prior versions of the WS Verse List, the entire text area was "hot" for triggering sync events, and any time you clicked on a verse or passage in a Verse List, every window with syncing turned on would move to the verse you’d selected in the VL. In WS9, only the reference itself is "hot" for syncing; you can select the text of a verse without triggering a window sync. Furthermore, VLs now have Sync buttons, meaning syncing can be turned off altogether, or a specific sync group can be chosen. Clicking a "hot" area (ref) in a VL that is un-synced will drive a "target Bible" window to display the verse in the context of the translation defined by the VL ref link, making it easy to find the range of the passage you may want to expand your verse result into.

The Cross Reference Explorer (XRE) has been markedly improved from it’s initial iteration in WS8. There is now a Cancel button to kill unintended searches. Multiple hits for a reference within a single page/section are now collapsed into a single entry in the search results, with a (#) indicating how many hits are available on the page. The tree control for results has also been improved to require less mouse-clicking to get to your results.

XRE search hits in books (not user docs, unfortunately) are now highlighted in the content pane WS9 Cross Reference Explorer(making the tool MUCH more useful), and the content pane now automatically scrolls so that the first hit is visible – usually.

Bible Notes are also now searchable by the XRE – functionality that was always selectable in WS8, but never worked. This is a great way to create your own inverse cross-reference resource.

One of the key capabilities lost in the transition from WS7 to WS8 two years ago was the ability to create links in documents to sections of books. This capability has returned in WS9, and it is extremely simple to do – unlike the multi-step process involving bookmarks in WS7. WS9 also provides a simple interface for creating links to Biblical passages within documents and Bible Notes using plain text for the link (as opposed to Biblical references, which continue to automatically generate links to Biblical passages).

Fans of Inductive Bible Study – among others – will appreciate the new ability to assign labels to any or all of the dozen highlighting colors available, though I believe highlighting would be far more useful for Bible study if it were supported within Verse Lists. Another nice touch in WS9 is that highlighting can be applied now as either traditional highlighting, or as colored underlining.

The Instant Verse Study tool can now be populated using a Collection, and the Copy button now makes it very clear that content is only being copied to the clipboard, requiring the user to paste it wherever he wants to use it. Collections are much easier to use in this version, and a Manage Collections window has been provided. A Library Manager tool allows the user to hide unwanted books, and the SmartLink scripture popups will no longer position themselves so low on screen they cut off text.

On the downside – and avoiding complaining about what the program doesn’t do – several significant problems either persist, or were introduced with this release.

[Update: the problem described in this paragraph has been fixed in a maintenance release.] Searching MyDocuments for text – one of the potential deal-makers that could set this program in a class by itself among its competitors in this respect – has gone from blowing up whenever it encounters a malformed HTML file, to blowing up whenever it encounters a PDF file that is not an HTML file. Needless to say, no PDF file is an HTML file, and if you’re like most people these days, and you have PDF files (which WS has supported since WS8 as library resources), then document searching is utterly broken for you. The original problem goes back at least to WS7 – probably to the earliest versions of Bible Explorer – and the function is rendered worse than useless at this point. Search will not even return results from CROSS books if there is a PDF file in the search path.

[Update: the problem described in this paragraph has been fixed in a maintenance release.] Similarly to the initial release of WS8, support for Personal Notes for non-Bible books has vanished from this release. When WS8 was released, even the icon for Notes was gone from the windows, but it is still there in WS9 – it just doesn’t do anything. It remains to be seen whether they will make a comeback in WS9, like they did in WS8, but there was a hue and cry two years ago when they disappeared, and I can’t imagine the user response will be any different this time around.

I’m finding changes to the Search Results display a bit hard to adapt to (I’ve been using WS9 in beta sr901 for several months). There’s more of a tree structure now, and there is a pronounced focus on how results are distributed among the books of the Bible. That’s all terrific in theory, but there is no way to segregate results from multiple translations – they are treated independently within the results for each book of the Bible, but I sorely miss being able to scroll through the full results of each queried translation independently. I also miss the hit numbering, which has disappeared from the left-hand column. I understand what they were trying to do, and I’d like to see them refine it, but this screen looks more like a rough draft than a finished piece of work.

QuickVerse Bible Software Review: Searching

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2009 (12:53 am), by John W Gillis


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.