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Thread: Bible Works 8 Review

  1. #1
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    Default Bible Works 8 Review

    The latest edition of Bibliotheca Sacra (Volume 167, Number 667, pages 362-264) gives a lengthy review of BW8.

    While generally positive, it suggests several shortcomings:

    1) The interface is cluttered and busy in comparison to other Bible based software.

    2) The process to increase font size in the browse or other windows is "tedious".

    3) BW8 really needs an up to date Bible Dictionary with discussion of contemporary issues.

    4) BW8 should allow more than one verse (non-consecutive I believe is meant) to be typed into the command line and displayed in the browse window or another pop-up.

    5) The add-on modules are limited.

    6) More historical and cultural background books are needed.

    While I can agree with #2, numbers 3, 5, 6 are not important to me as I prefer to have up to date books which negates the need for to many digital resources. I had never thought of #4, but it sounds like a good idea. As regards #1 - I'm used to it.

    What do others think about their suggestions?

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    I have to disagree with #1. I actually think the interface is BibleWorks' greatest strength and selling point. To me, it is the most intuitive and logical workspace and way to work. I wouldn't change a thing about the interface and workspace. I love it the way it is. And the reality of it is this: the interface is completely maneuverable. Whoever wants to change it can do so. Ideas can be gleaned from the Forum subsection "Cool Screen Layouts." But as for me and my house, I like it just the way that it is.

    As far as suggested improvements go, I would like to see the introduction of syntactical searching (syntactical databases). And I wish searching in general (GSE, in particular) were easier and more intuitive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimofbentley View Post
    The latest edition of Bibliotheca Sacra (Volume 167, Number 667, pages 362-264) gives a lengthy review of BW8.

    While generally positive, it suggests several shortcomings:

    1) The interface is cluttered and busy in comparison to other Bible based software.
    This is hit or miss in my mind. There's a constant push-pull of keeping things accessible easily vs. keeping things clean and simple. Some also might say BW is a mess because there are multiple ways to do one thing. I guess I don't see those kinds of things as major drawbacks to a program. Often I find that seeing everything before me reminds of certain things that I hadn't initially thought about or used. There is so much in BibleWorks, it's easy to forget about stuff. E.g. When was the last time you used the map feature? Yet it's a pretty amazing map feature. If buttons are too annoying, you can edit the button-bar to your heart's delight and make it do what you want.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimofbentley View Post
    2) The process to increase font size in the browse or other windows is "tedious".
    I think this is a pretty valid criticism. Part of it, I think, stems from the fact that (1) people are using BW very differently than it was initially conceived, i.e. using it for class projections, etc. I think some of these new uses do suggest a re-thinking of optimization for needs. But (2) mostly I think we judge software by other software and I think in this case, we judge BW by web browsers. It's fantastically easy in a web browser to change the size of fonts, zoom, etc. It's not difficult to change font sizes in BW, but it's not as easy as it is to do it in a web browser.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimofbentley View Post
    3) BW8 really needs an up to date Bible Dictionary with discussion of contemporary issues.
    I more or less think this would be a good addition. Generally I put a lot less weight on "contemporary" issues than some might, but I do think people are too easily of the opinion that newer is better, when most of what is relevant can be found in the older dictionaries. (then again, people with more "contemporary" views of Scripture might take me to town on this point). Bottom line, I'd be happy to see this too, but a new Bible dictionary is not high on my list.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimofbentley View Post
    4) BW8 should allow more than one verse (non-consecutive I believe is meant) to be typed into the command line and displayed in the browse window or another pop-up.
    The Mac competition does this and I do think it would be a very useful upgrade. Between this update and a greater integration of the parallel window, I think BW would really be boosting its browsing power.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimofbentley View Post
    5) The add-on modules are limited.
    Partially this is by intention. I know I can get MORE resources elsewhere, but when 90% of what I want to do is based around interacting with the Biblical text, those other resources are less important to me personally. Ebooks are available on more formats than ever before, I'm not one who is pushing BibleWorks to reduplicate other people's efforts.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimofbentley View Post
    6) More historical and cultural background books are needed.
    Part of this overlaps w 3) in my mind. More is always better, right? It's hardly a criticism that is unique to BibleWorks. But if this is the final criticism against BW, that it doesn't have ENOUGH, then I guess it's hard to argue against that. I have more books in my personal library than are in BibleWorks, and those books aren't enough either!
    Last edited by Michael Hanel; 07-11-2010 at 02:28 PM.
    Michael Hanel
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    Thanks for the words, guys. I'm actually the one who wrote the review (Luke Mathews) under the supervision of Dr. Mike Burer from Dallas Seminary. I actually wrote it last summer so it's about time they published it! I was very grateful to receive the review copy and it was tough for me to list criticisms, but in such a format they are demanded. I didn't want it to sound like some advertisement for Bibleworks because that's not acceptable in journal format.

    I use Bibleworks almost on a daily basis and don't really know what life would be like without it. BW is actually the only thing that keeps me from getting an apple computer since I like the program so much and I have so many notes in it (and it's so darn cheap compared to the competition). In saying that, there's always some room for improvements. Regarding the UI, I disabled all of the buttons on the toolbar and am much more pleased with how it looks. Regarding numbers 3, 5, & 6, I understand your points. I was quick to note Bibleworks' philosophy in my review, but I tried to make the point that some of these things could be included even under their current philosophy. Also, given how the e-book world has changed in recent years BW may need to tweak their philosophy a tad. I love the "focus on the text" point, but the Bible is such a tough book to understand given its age I feel it necessary to include a few more "helps" to make focusing on the text more pleasurable and less confusing. Cultural background and literary analysis are the two most important points in my mind, so any way to help the student understand the culture and literature better should be most welcome in my mind. We can read the Bible all day but if we don't know how to read a particular genre, what's happening on the macro-literary scale, and what the culture, conceptual world, and idioms are then we don't understand much at all. That's why "focusing on the text" just isn't enough, despite how well it sounds.

    Regarding the syntactical search (noted by ISalzman), I wrote this in a time when I wasn't really aware of this feature from other programs. I know Logos prides itself with this feature, and I know Accordance plans on releasing it soon, but I didn't know the slightest thing about it. Add your suggestions to my list though (syntactical searches and more intuitive GSE use), because I completely agree with both of them now.

    Michael mentioned the map feature and how powerful it is. I agree, but if I were to write the review again I believe I would add a new and improved map module. The competition is way ahead of BW in their maps and timeline. It works fine, I just wish it were much "prettier" because it looks like hasn't been updated in quite a while. Maps and timelines can be such good pedagogical tools. I'm glad BW focuses on the individual exegete, but given how the times have changed (as you noted), I'd like to see it a bit more accessible for teachers. BW has always listened to their customers, so I hope they take what we say to heart. I appreciate all the interaction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soxfan23 View Post
    Thanks for the words, guys. I'm actually the one who wrote the review (Luke Mathews) under the supervision of Dr. Mike Burer from Dallas Seminary.


    Thanks Luke. It was a well written review, and "yes", it is a shame that they sometimes take so long to print these things. But I have noticed with BibSac that they announce their articles for the entire year at the beginning of the year, so they must have a very long lead time.

    Oh, and by the way:




    Go Yankees!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimofbentley View Post
    The latest edition of Bibliotheca Sacra (Volume 167, Number 667, pages 362-264) gives a lengthy review of BW8...What do others think about their suggestions?


    1)The interface is cluttered and busy in comparison to other Bible based software.

    That is subjective. Even on these forums (and in reviews)one can find a wide range of those who are rather fond of the GUI, as well as other dislike the GUI for some reason.

    I would not mind it at all if the icons and radio buttons were redesigned and it would be nice for the programs GUI to be updated.


    However, as ISalzman mentioned earlier the BibleWorks GUI is configurable. Not, only is it possible to remove and add icons, but it is also possible to hide the entire icon/radio button bar! And, If BW still looks too busy one can remove/hide the analysis window or one can simply stack it on the bottom.


    2) The process to increase font size in the browse or other windows is "tedious".

    Tedious? That is a bit of an exaggeration.
    However, I concur it could be easier and I also support this suggestion.


    3) BW8 really needs an up to date Bible Dictionary with discussion of contemporary issues.

    (a) Bible Dictionary: Sure, why not?

    (b1) Contemporary issues: Nah, leave that to the media. Journals and the like are published often enough to keep up with contemporary issues, that are by nature all in flux.

    (b3) "Focus on the text" is the Raison d'Ítre Of BibleWorks.
    (And, I for one would like it to stay that way!)


    4) BW8 should allow more than one verse (non-consecutive I believe is meant) to be typed into the command line and displayed in the browse window or another pop-up.

    If non-consecutive is indeed meant then I would also support this suggestion.

    5) The add-on modules are limited.


    Bibleworks has an official explanation for this one:


    "We continue to encourage our users to think carefully before building large electronic libraries, for two reasons:

    1. There is no guarantee computers will, in as few as ten years, be able to read today's electronic media. For example, read "At Libraries, Taking the (Really) Long View" from Inside Higher Ed, July 23, 2008 and "The Digital Ice Age" from Popular Mechanics, December 2006.

    2. Even more significantly, almost all electronic libraries are in proprietary formats: there is no standard. Proprietary formats, and the software that reads them, come and go (remember DOS?). A recent article in Christian Computing, "Is It Time for a Second STEP?", noted the unlikelihood of a standard format emerging. When an electronic library's proprietary format is abandoned, one's investment in the library is lost.

    Books, on the other hand, are independent of computers. If you use certain reference works on a daily basis, it may make sense to purchase electronic editions, and, for this reason, we are providing (and will continue to provide) a limited collection of locked electronic resources for those who want them. But in our opinion it makes sense to buy print editions first, then electronic editions if you find you really need them.
    "(link)

    In my opinion if the quality/accuracy of databases matters more than the quantity of databases then BibleWorks8 will win before the fight begins. However, it would be nice to see more Hebrew texts.


    6) More historical and cultural background books are needed.


    It would be convenient to have such resources available as add on modules for BW8, but it isn't deal breaker for me personally.


    Last edited by bkMitchell; 07-12-2010 at 07:35 PM. Reason: Font size
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    חפשו בתורה היטב ואל תסתמכו על דברי
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soxfan23 View Post
    I love the "focus on the text" point, but the Bible is such a tough book to understand given its age I feel it necessary to include a few more "helps" to make focusing on the text more pleasurable and less confusing. Cultural background and literary analysis are the two most important points in my mind, so any way to help the student understand the culture and literature better should be most welcome in my mind. We can read the Bible all day but if we don't know how to read a particular genre, what's happening on the macro-literary scale, and what the culture, conceptual world, and idioms are then we don't understand much at all. That's why "focusing on the text" just isn't enough, despite how well it sounds.

    Soxfan23 you have brought up a lot of good points and quite a few issues of note. I am glad that you took time to respond to this thread and to better explain your article/abstract in your own words.

    I concur with you that the Bible is a difficult library of books to understand. And, that there are a host of analytical skills that could better help one understand and interpret the text.

    However, I also think that people without the proper skills of inquiry (or without a strong desire to learn those skills) shouldn't be using Grammatical Exegetical software to begin with! How, can those that lack the proper training (or desire to learn on their own) even begin to understand the results of their queries? Furthermore, how can they even construct their queries?




    We can read the Bible all day but if we don't know how to read a particular genre, what's happening on the macro-literary scale, and what the culture, conceptual world, and idioms are then we don't understand much at all.


    One, might also then ask should those without the relevant skills even be reading the Bible? Whether
    or not one has accesse to Bible Software the issues you have just brought up are likely to be a problem.

    And, in the end my friend what, we may be dealing with has more to do with the deficiency of the user/readers rather than a deficiency with the text or the software that contains that text.

    Software of any sort is only a tool, not the exegete and not the teacher/mentor!
    Software, I believe should never be a replacement for one actually using his or her brain and reasoning skills.


    And do not forget that depending on the faith tradition one is coming from one might also argue other skills are essential:

    Some will argue that knowledge of Hebrew, the mesora, the Oral Law, and other codes are necessary to understand and apply the scriptures.

    Others in the same vein with defend
    Shnayim Mikra Ve'Echad Targum, being that for full understanding one should read the Torah twice in Hebrew and once in translation (usually aramaic).


    While others will argue that one must:
    have the/a spirit, one must be spiritual baptist-ed, one must be immersed in water, one must have some type of esoteric charismatic experience, one must accept the tradition of a particular church, and so on.

    I agree with you that Bibleworks should and could improve to make it pretty and easier to use. However, I also strongly believe that neither BW nor the Bible is meant for the lazy.

    For example; one, is required to have some language skills to even approach the Biblical text(or any book for that matter), and one must have some critical thinking skills to be able to distinguish between the genres in the text. And, neither the Scriptures, nor a Grammatical search engine(BW) can justly be faulted for the lack of those skills.In


    Last edited by bkMitchell; 07-22-2010 at 08:43 PM. Reason: Font size
    Brian K. Mitchell
    חפשו בתורה היטב ואל תסתמכו על דברי
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soxfan23 View Post
    Thanks for the words, guys. I'm actually the one who wrote the review (Luke Mathews) under the supervision of Dr. Mike Burer from Dallas Seminary. I actually wrote it last summer so it's about time they published it! I was very grateful to receive the review copy and it was tough for me to list criticisms, but in such a format they are demanded. I didn't want it to sound like some advertisement for Bibleworks because that's not acceptable in journal format.

    I use Bibleworks almost on a daily basis and don't really know what life would be like without it. BW is actually the only thing that keeps me from getting an apple computer since I like the program so much and I have so many notes in it (and it's so darn cheap compared to the competition). In saying that, there's always some room for improvements. Regarding the UI, I disabled all of the buttons on the toolbar and am much more pleased with how it looks. Regarding numbers 3, 5, & 6, I understand your points. I was quick to note Bibleworks' philosophy in my review, but I tried to make the point that some of these things could be included even under their current philosophy. Also, given how the e-book world has changed in recent years BW may need to tweak their philosophy a tad. I love the "focus on the text" point, but the Bible is such a tough book to understand given its age I feel it necessary to include a few more "helps" to make focusing on the text more pleasurable and less confusing. Cultural background and literary analysis are the two most important points in my mind, so any way to help the student understand the culture and literature better should be most welcome in my mind. We can read the Bible all day but if we don't know how to read a particular genre, what's happening on the macro-literary scale, and what the culture, conceptual world, and idioms are then we don't understand much at all. That's why "focusing on the text" just isn't enough, despite how well it sounds.

    Regarding the syntactical search (noted by ISalzman), I wrote this in a time when I wasn't really aware of this feature from other programs. I know Logos prides itself with this feature, and I know Accordance plans on releasing it soon, but I didn't know the slightest thing about it. Add your suggestions to my list though (syntactical searches and more intuitive GSE use), because I completely agree with both of them now.

    Michael mentioned the map feature and how powerful it is. I agree, but if I were to write the review again I believe I would add a new and improved map module. The competition is way ahead of BW in their maps and timeline. It works fine, I just wish it were much "prettier" because it looks like hasn't been updated in quite a while. Maps and timelines can be such good pedagogical tools. I'm glad BW focuses on the individual exegete, but given how the times have changed (as you noted), I'd like to see it a bit more accessible for teachers. BW has always listened to their customers, so I hope they take what we say to heart. I appreciate all the interaction.
    Luke, good review and even better post here on the Forum. (Thanks for responding here) Given that you wrote the review under Dr. Michael Burer's supervision (Is Matthew DeMoss still involved with Bib Sac reviews?), I would assume that you may have studied at DTS. (BTW, I have nothing but profound respect and admiration for DTS. Most of the men who mentored me as a new believer and, later, as someone newly in ministry, were DTS grads) I may be wrong in making this observation, but it appears to me that Accordance seems to be the preferred bible software of choice at DTS today. Am I correct in making this observation? And, if yes, why do you suppose that this is true (i.e., the preference for Accordance and Mac-based software)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ISalzman View Post
    Luke, good review and even better post here on the Forum. (Thanks for responding here) Given that you wrote the review under Dr. Michael Burer's supervision (Is Matthew DeMoss still involved with Bib Sac reviews?), I would assume that you may have studied at DTS. (BTW, I have nothing but profound respect and admiration for DTS. Most of the men who mentored me as a new believer and, later, as someone newly in ministry, were DTS grads) I may be wrong in making this observation, but it appears to me that Accordance seems to be the preferred bible software of choice at DTS today. Am I correct in making this observation? And, if yes, why do you suppose that this is true (i.e., the preference for Accordance and Mac-based software)?

    Thanks for the response and good question. I am currently still at DTS in the ThM program and will graduate next May (2011), and yes, Matthew DeMoss is still involved with the BibSac reviews. Thanks for your kind words about DTS. I have immensely enjoyed my time here thus far. As with any institution, there will always be criticisms and shortcomings, but I will always look back and be thankful for the education I received. I think the wider public has a pretty big misconception of DTS due to the whole "dispensationalism" thing, thinking all we do is compare prophecy charts and try to calculate dates for the rapture. DTS may have been this way back in the 60s and 70s, but it is a far cry from this today. I am no dispensationalist, am not persuaded or convinced by the system, and have written papers arguing against things like the rapture and the millennium...yet I still love it and learn more every day. But anyways, enough about that :-)

    Accordance is definitely the preferred Bible software of choice at DTS today. I have known many students that have switched to the Macintosh platform just for Accordance. I would even say about 70-80% of the language students have Accordance software. The main reason is because most of the language professors use Accordance. Dr. Burer is the only language prof I know of that uses Bibleworks. I believe 100% of the OT department uses Accordance, and all but 3 profs in the NT department use it (one uses Bibleworks, the other 2 use Logos). The students see most of the profs using it, see them searching on it, and automatically think it must be the best and they want it. This is natural. If I were a person who had no knowledge of Bible software and I came to DTS, I would naturally gravitate towards Accordance because of all the profs who use it. As with all Mac users, many of them (not the profs, but mainly the students) are very prideful and arrogant about Accordance, claiming its "superiority" and "ease of use." I agree that it's easier to use in the classroom for some of the reasons mentioned above, but the price and power of BW overshadows this.

    Many profs have used Accordance since it first came out, so I believe DTS has had connections with the company since its inception. The biggest Accordance apologist was Dr. Harold Hoehner, who passed away in the spring of 2009. He was an apple freak! When it comes time for the student to purchase software, they naturally ask some of the profs about it and they will always recommend what they use and what they know best. It's tough for Bibleworks to make much of an impact when such a high percentage of the profs use Accordance and sing its praises. We do have bi-annual BW workshops, and an annual education discount for a couple of weeks a year, but I don't see Accordance giving way any time soon. We definitely have a fair share of BW users given how much cheaper it is and how much cheaper a PC is to purchase, but Accordance is the most popular. Granted, they do have more modules to purchase for original language studies, but given the student body at DTS I don't see most of the available options on Accordance being used but by only a few budding scholars with plenty of money on their hands.....certainly the minority! In fact, some of my friends who try to convert me use arguments like "Well, Bibleworks doesn't have a text-critical version of the LXX" or "Well, Bibleworks doesn't contain a few fragments of Papias." I'm just like, "So, when in the world would I ever use that anyways?!?! You think I'm gonna shell out a couple grand because of THAT?!?!"

    Thanks for the questions and kind words guys. BK, you make great points that I agree with. The first focus should go to learning the proper skills of inquiry. I guess you could say I was working under the assumption that many who use the software already contain these skills (though I know that's naive). There is no substitute for hard work and acquiring the necessary skills, but Bibleworks can at least be an aid along the way to help enhance those skills. And by the way Jim, go Sox (and Yankees suck)!

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soxfan23 View Post
    Accordance is definitely the preferred Bible software of choice at DTS today. I have known many students that have switched to the Macintosh platform just for Accordance. I would even say about 70-80% of the language students have Accordance software. The main reason is because most of the language professors use Accordance.
    Interesting observation, I attend AGST here in Austin, TX and most of our professors use Accordance. Similarily a lot of the students follow suit... I've always been a Microsoft user so all my bible software is MS based. I've often wondered if Accordance is a better software but it's a mute point for me because of my current bible software investments i.e. Logos 4, BW8 & Wordsearch.

    I agree with you that for the money you can't beat BW8. Though I haven't reviewed Accordance in depth, I don't see any major advantages it has over BW8. Besides, I like flaunting BW8 in my professors' face...

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