View Full Version : RBL Review of Bibleworks

12-02-2005, 07:35 AM
A positive review of BW 6 appeared in
The Review of Biblical Literature:

The only negative comments are:
"The language and abbreviations both on-screen and in the printed manual are frustrating. Too much knowledge of terminology is expected of the user of the software, both as far as computer language is concerned and as far as the language used in the program and user guide is concerned. In the manual we have a mixture of computer and ordinary language and vocabulary. The problem is that if one is not familiar with a particular word or phrase, communication breaks down. In the presentation of the material there are too many unfamiliar names, abbreviations, and the like. The positive aspect is that this can be easily corrected by thoroughly and systematically going through the available material and rewriting the difficult sections and replacing problematic words. The program will always have a "cloud of difficulty" hanging over it as long as this problem remains.
The icons should be systematized and, if possible, be made more user-friendly. For instance, there are at least three Alfa signs I encountered. The pop-up descriptions going with the icons do not always communicate clearly. There are also icons that duplicate functions. This contributes negatively to the professional image of the program. A little more order and clarity would increase the user-friendliness of the program."

Dan Phillips
12-02-2005, 07:50 PM
"Not intuitive" -- no kidding.

I really, really hope The Guys are having beta testers like me, who do not know, like, or understand the "advanced features." I've used BW for years, but after having been easily defeated by the advanced features, I never use them. I've used Biblical Greek for nearly 33 years, and Hebrew for 32, and learning that advanced BW stuff is harder than either, and far less rewarding.

Seems to me it could be made vastly simpler -- because others have done so.

As I say, I hope they aren't just having geeks and initiates beta test, but those defeated by BW's previous incarnations as well.

Michael Hanel
12-02-2005, 09:23 PM
Maybe, but you don't have to know how to do every single thing. You own a computer and most likely run windows. do you know how do tweak every single bell and whistle on that? hardly. It's a fairly easy shot to make against BW or any other program for that matter because "non-intuitive" is so ambiguous.

The power to do a lot of things is there, help files are provided, a forum like this is provided, tech support is copiously provided. What more is it that is needed? And don't answer "a more intuitive system"

Ben Spackman
12-02-2005, 09:34 PM
I wonder if this is simply a generational difference between those who grew up on computers and those who didn't (making the assumption that Dan Phillips is significantly older than I am, since he's been using Hebrew longer than I've been alive.)

I recall a few years ago when we tried to teach my Mom how to use email. She's a very intelligent woman in her mid-50's, just not, um, technically-minded. I left her reading an email. She called upstairs, "Something happened!"

"What happened?"

"I didn't touch anything, but the screen went all black, and these white dots appeared! What should I do?"

...?! "Do anything!"


"Do anything! Touch a key, move the mouse, do anything!"

She didn't know what a screen saver was. And why should she?
I, on the other hand, can't remember *not* knowing what a screen saver is. I think the younger generation is simply much more naturally inclined to push buttons, to experiment, to mess around with something.

Or perhaps I'm completely wrong, who can say? ;)

Dan Phillips
12-03-2005, 12:19 PM
For what it's worth, Michael, while I doubtless am not as smart as you, I am actually an IT professional for a living. Though simple, it probably wouldn't be appropriate to marginalize and dismiss my perspective.

One can rationalize any degree of difficulty. Heck, why not make us all learn UNIX, or DOS? Or solve some trigonometry in order to be given access? What are we -- sissies?

On the other hand, why make BW unnecessarily convoluted, when other programs indicate that Byzantinicity is not mandatory?

My goal in buying a program -- and, I would guess, that of most consumers -- is not to obligate myself to learn a fifth and (as I argued) more difficult language.

If the BW bigs want to sell their program to more people, and have the current users be brighter billboards for its excellencies, they'll make it more useful. I set out a way to accomplish that in my previous post.

It doesn't strike me as rocket science. Which is a better motto? "You already did the hard part [i.e. learning Heb/Gk] -- now let us help you get the most out of it"?

Or, "You thought learning Hebrew was hard? Get BW7, and learn what 'hard' really means!" ?

In sum, is the goal of the BW bigs to have a program more useful to more people? Then they'll simplify the interface even for the advanced tools, and make it more intuitive.

But if the goal is to make ability to use "The Deeper Things" a point of pride to that subset who has the time, inclination, and ability to become initiates, then it's just fine the way it is.

Dan Phillips
12-03-2005, 12:23 PM
You're right, Ben, I am pretty darned ancient (50). Yours is an absolutely fair guess.

However, I'm not a total PC inept. As I mention in the preceding post, I'm actually an IT professional, and somewhat accomplished at a demanding job.

I hope my preceding post helps you understand a bit better where I'm coming from -- as you young folks say.


12-03-2005, 12:24 PM
It's funny, I was just in an informal training session for Accordance users at my seminary. I've never used Accordance to do any kind of searching. I've only installed it on the Seminary's single Mac computer in the computerlab. Anyway, I was amazed at how non-intuitive the interface of Accordance was for me (especially considering how "intuitive" people thought that the interface was for them--some are die-hard Mac users--others are experienced Accordance users). It seems to come down to experience, and as Ben mentioned, a willingness to push buttons and experiment (and the time and commitment to do so). I am not a mac user, so I don't know a lot of the shortcuts and the overall way a Mac works. But for those who know, the program fits.

Michael Hanel
12-03-2005, 02:15 PM
On the other hand, why make BW unnecessarily convoluted, when other programs indicate that Byzantinicity is not mandatory?

I certainly wouldn't be able to answer all of the whys either, but I have respect for the people that make BW because though I may know ancient languages, I don't know programming languages and as BW is able to do a lot of powerful things, I'm sure it has a very complicated programming language/structure behind it. Sometimes we think things are quick and easy changes, often times they're not.

It's like when people in the church say, why can't we change this little thing. And then we do, and suddenly it has a lot of repercussions we didn't see at the time. I'm sure coding the program is like that too. I think the BW programmers listen and do what they think is good, I'm sure they appreciate the feedback, but I doubt they can make every little thing work like cake.

For what it's worth, I use Logos for some book stuff and I am more boggled and confused by using that than anything. Books are hard to replace!

Joshua Luna
12-03-2005, 02:36 PM
Creating an "intuitive" interface that does not needlessly hide, obscure, or render useless more advanced features is VERY difficult. Especially when you are trying to balance presentation and easy of use/portability of the information versus access to features. I just got done installing E-Sword for my wife and while the interface is easy enough I found accessing information clunky as with BibleWorks I felt information was either readily made available OR could easily be extracted by rolling my mouse over a word, clicking the appropriate icon to get the necessary information, or using the program tool bar.

I think BW has done a good job with Tech Support, the Forum, a hefty manual (most apps do not even come with one these days!), in-program documentation, pop-up info guides for each icon, and even video tutorials! And to top it all off BibleWorks includes 3 user modes to accomodate different levels of user skill and needs.

Could BibleWorks use an upgrade to the interface? Of course, I cannot think of a single application that does not.

And while I do not doubt BibleWorks may be difficult for some users I am not sure there are significant ways to make the experience easier for power users. For people doing basic devotional studies, looking up a single word or phrase, typing notes or sermons, etc... I do believe BibleWorks could create an easier to approach UI that basically scraps all the advanced features and then presents a watered down UI that is straight forward. Basically emulate some of the less robust packages on the market.

But as a technical product intended to provide cutting edge research tools that work with a number of texts in different languages and provide instant access to lexicons, concordances, and so forth, I am not sure where they would begin.

Personally I enjoy the interface. It puts all the most important information on the screen--or the option to extract it with a click or two--and nests a lot of advanced features nicely within the tool bar and icons.

But then again I have been using BW for years and was weened from my mothers milk directly to DOS and Windows.

A nice feature would be a custom layout that used a wizard setup menu to establish what features the user would like available (and allow using the wizard at any time to change preferences). This could take a couple minutes every time to go through and runs the risk of frustrating users who have disabled a feature that they later want to access and cannot find it so it would not be perfect either.

Maybe more emphasis on changes to the 3 different display modes + a lot more videos? I think a DVD full of videos--an entire training course from beginner to pro--would really give BW another selling point. I know a lot of people never touch many features in ANY of their software. I work in the tech industry and have noticed most applications (be it Word, Excel, Outlook, FP, Dreamweaver, Flash, and so on) are hard to approach and have a ton of features under used. Why? Because they have so many features--and the market is so varied you cannot know what features are important to who!--and most users only use the basic features that they just are not necessary. For those who REALLY want to know a piece of software (like a Flash or Dreamweaver) usually get a technical tutorial book, on hands training at a seminar, or tech videos.

Since BibleWorks falls into a similar market of "technical application" maybe expanding the video tutorials would be a good idea?

Sure, clean up the interface, but I get the feeling that many users are just over their head with computers or the software in general. Allowing them to open up features by demonstrating them either 1) as they have a need for the information or 2) have become comfortable with the software and are looking to expand what they can do with it, they can just load up the video and be on their way. The audio+visual+hands on aids are also very effective in teaching and time.

12-03-2005, 05:23 PM
I've been using BW since version 2.2. I am not at all a power user, but am growing in my understanding of how to use it.

I also use a music notation program called Finale, which like BW had a steep learning curve.

What I appreciate with both programs is the degree to which they use the Windows interface and shortcuts, etc. What I find frustrating is when you have to do things differently just for this program, from how you do them in Publisher, Word, etc.

I realise that because both programs do many things that you can't do in Word, etc they need some ways of doing those things that may not seem intuitive at first sight.

But I greatly appreciate the many hours that the Michaels and Charlie and the rest of the team spend in making studying God's Word easier for us.

I think they have been making a great program even better as they have sought to honour him who made them.

David McKay
Dan, you're a mere youngster ... I'm 53.

12-05-2005, 05:44 PM
Hi BW Users,

For what it is worth, we do listen to users. We have struggled with the user interface for a long, long time. But it is very difficult to design a program that does some extremely powerful (and complicated) things but is easy to use for things most people do most of the time. Our next release will have some major interface changes, designed at making things easier. We've also tried to clean up the interface and make terminology more consistent. We'll see how it is received. Before you ask, No, we can't give a release date. It is still a ways off.

BTW, I am over 50 myself :-)

Mike Bushell,
BibleWorks, LLC

Christopher S Wiley
12-06-2005, 12:57 AM
Hi BW Users,

For what it is worth, we do listen to users. We have struggled with the user interface for a long, long time. But it is very difficult to design a program that does some extremely powerful (and complicated) things but is easy to use for things most people do most of the time. Our next release will have some major interface changes, designed at making things easier. We've also tried to clean up the interface and make terminology more consistent. We'll see how it is received. Before you ask, No, we can't give a release date. It is still a ways off.

BTW, I am over 50 myself :-)

Mike Bushell,
BibleWorks, LLC

I have been using BibleWorks for a little over a year now and for the most part I find the interface easy of you use the program regularly. There are some advanced features that I struggle with but with the forum and the documentation I find I can overcome those bumps.

My only problem with BibleWorks is the Editor, but hey, thats everyones problem. I would like the see the buttons labled more clearly, but I have just about gotten use to the ones I use the most and you can group the buttons the way you like anyway, so I don't sweat it.

I am definitely going to upgrade when 7 comes out.

Keep up the good work.

Chris Wiley

12-08-2005, 09:21 AM
I switched to BW at version 5. The program I had been using was loaded with a kazillion books; but seriously, 95% of them you could offload to your pillow - to fluff it up. JMHO.

Even after several years I don’t know every function in BW, but the parts I do know git ur’ done. The other night I said to my wife, “Schmookiedookiepookiewookie, even after several years I don’t know every function in Bible Works.” Then I rolled over and 4.236 seconds later … “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” No tossing. No turning. No power user codes going bumpitty, bump-bump-bump in the night.

Keep up the good work BW staff.

I’ll be there at the christening of 7.

12-08-2005, 10:31 AM
“Schmookiedookiepookiewookie, even after several years I don’t know every function in Bible Works.” That's quite an affectionate name! I'm sure Chewbacca would appreciate the "wookie" part! :)

Here's to our spouses,
who have to put up with our excited rantings
about all that BW does!

I know my "babes" has certainly had to put up with quite a bit of BibleWorks talk from me!

12-08-2005, 03:47 PM
I will admit that BW is difficult to negotiate by times. However, my problem is different and I was directed by BW to post my need on the site and ask if one of you fine men/women might be able to assist me.

When my computer recently crashed I upgraded my HD. When I went to install my copy purchased while in seminary (1999 - 2000), I found all the support materials, but am unable to find my CD to install it. Since I have a 'license' to use it, they suggest I ask if someone of you will burn a copy of BW so I can install the program back onto my computer. I had BW 3.5, but an upgrade of that program would work.

Sorry for the intrusion into this 'thread' regarding this need, but being new to this type of communicating, I have positively no knowledge of how this thing works. If you know how to 're-post' me into a better location where this message would be more widely seen it would even be appreciated.

Of course, I am most happy to provide further information to the person who would be able to assist me in this matter.