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BibleWorks 8

Ben Blackwell

Dunelm Road

URL: [Retrieved on 2009-11-03]
URL: [Retrieved on 2009-11-03]
URL: [Retrieved on 2009-11-03]
URL: [Retrieved on 2009-11-03]

I wanted to say thanks to BibleWorks for the opportunity to review BW 8. 

When I was in Dallas I just used a basic program put out by Zondervan, but when I started PhD studies I knew that wouldn’t be adequate anymore.  So at the recommendation of others here I bought BW7 about 3 years ago.  Since I haven’t really ever used any of the other major programs, the focus of my review will be on the differences between BW7 and BW8.

On the whole, users won’t see much of a difference with the interface of BW8, but don’t let that fool you. 

  • OT Greek Pseudepigrapha
  • Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics
  • Improved Analysis Window
  • ANF and NPNF

The inclusion of the Greek OTP is the biggest reason to get BW8.  Since this only includes the Greek portions of the OTP it doesn’t include things like 2 Enoch or parts of 4 Ezra that aren’t in Greek, otherwise it includes most of the works in Charlesworth’s edition. 

The inclusion of Wallace’s grammar is worth about $30 by itself.  I made the mistake of buying the electronic Pradis version before I had BW and regretted it from the beginning because it was so poorly formatted.  Needless to say the BW version is much more user friendly. 

The other big improvement is making the analysis window more robust: 1) With the ‘Browse’ tab you can see the larger context in one window while you are looking at individual verses in the Browse window.  2) The ‘Resources’ tab is very good.  It shows where the verse you are looking at is referenced by different resources–lexicons, reference grammars, and to my great pleasure Schaff’s Early Church Fathers, which includes the Ante-Nicene and the Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers. 

And as you’ll know from my interest in patristics, the inclusion of the Ante-Nicene and the Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers is quite a welcome addition.  However, its inclusion as a html help file, which is the way that BW includes many reference works, is unfortunate.  The real power with BW is its search capability, and searching through the ANF and NPNF in the help file format is tedious to say the least.  Most of the ANF has been converted as a user defined database on the unofficial BibleWorks blog.  If you use it, you’ll see the difference.

Other smaller, but helpful tweeks include the use of Ctrl-Tab to move through the Search window tabs.  I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts so this was a welcome improvement.  Maybe they should also add the function of hitting Ctrl+ a number to take you to a specific tab.  Also, the opportunity to use an editor for papers and the like as well as notes on particular verses is handy.

Though this doesn’t apply just to BW8, I think it’s definitely worth mentioning since I use this feature regularly: BW has a powerful feature that allows you to integrate information from other sources: from online and other software.  I consider this one of the most impressive things about BW and a clearly positive signal that they aren’t just in a protectionist stance.  They rightfully recognise that  modern users have a variety of tools and that BW cannot provide all of them.  In fact, BW’s website says that they intentionally focus on ancient primary texts and related tools but not the plethora of other materials that could be integrated.  I think this is a fine way to proceed, especially if they allow outlets to those other sources.

The two ways that BW allows you to integrate external sources are 1) Ermie (External Resource Manager) and 2) External Links.  Ermie, which is new to BW8 and greatly adds to its value, is quite robust with links a huge number of websites and online resources like Google books.  The range of topics go from languages, dictionaries, commentaries, preaching resources, theology, and beyond.  (Resources: Ermie, I wonder why it isn’t in the External Resources option?).  I don’t use this resource near as much as I could and should.  On a day to day basis the External Links are more of a use for me.

External Links: About 4 years ago, I wanted a copy of BDAG but didn’t want a paper version.  Since I didn’t yet own BW, I went with the Logos/Libronix version based upon a recommendation from someone one and the ability to search specific aspects (by gloss, definition, etc.).  Being pleased with their formatting, I have accumulated other key resources on Logos (IVP dictionaries, TDNT, ABD, and LSJ–anybody know when the OLD will be coming out?).  Also, along the way I started using BW and after poking around I was introduced to BW’s External Links, which are the means to integrate with other sources.  Now that I’ve set up LSJ as an External Link , I just have to right click (in BW) on a Greek word and after selecting the option, LSJ will open up in Logos to that word.  It’s obviously not as easy as looking at it in the analysis window directly in BW, but you get the page numbering and Logos’ formatting.  So I’ll leave it up to you as to which is more important. 

So, I’ll point you to the key places that explain this and also give some details about how to go about it in case you don’t want all the detail other places or can’t decifer it.  I’m focusing just on BW to Logos, but there are many other relationships that you can set up.  Greek based items are easier to set up than Hebrew, but you can also do things based upon verse references.

The BibleWorks unofficial blog is great for this stuff.  For LSJ tips see here.  See also here.  For linking other resources see here.


1) You have to update Libronix to accept calls from BW with the PowerTools Addin.

2) Set up the External Links:  Go to: Resources: Edit External Links.  Use the following information for LSJ.  You can also edit the ShellExec.ini with a text editor if you want to just copy/paste the following information for each link.

// External Link #24
//[Liddell-Scott-Jones (Logos)]
Operation = Open
Directory = NULL
File = libronixdls:macro|name=TextKeyLink|text=|lang=el|scheme=beta|res=LLS:46.30.25
Parameters = NULL
MenuLocation = Browse Window Greek
TextType = Greek Text
MapToVersion = NULL
Lookup = Lemma
MenuText = Liddell-Scott-Jones (Logos)
Enabled = 1

libronixdls:macro|name=TextKeyLink|text=|lang=el|scheme=beta|res=LLS:46.30.18 (for BDAG)
libronixdls:macro|name=TextKeyLink|text=|lang=el|scheme=beta|res=LLS:46.10.26 (for EDNT)
libronixdls:macro|name=TextKeyLink|text=|lang=el|scheme=beta|res=LLS:46.10.16 (for TDNT)

One of the most important parts about BW is its integration with wordprocessors since most of us are communicating ideas about these texts.  For this post I thought I would, therefore, make a few comments about BW8 with regard to Fonts and MS Word.

Fonts.  For the most part you won’t see much in the way of difference with the way fonts are used, but BW8 continues to focus on making use of Unicode fonts easier, which is good because everything is moving this direction.  In particular, you’ll notice that there are a few more options as far as setting output font options.   (While this doesn’t relate to wordprocessing, I wish BW would include an option to change the font size ‘on the fly’ instead of having to go into settings.)

Word.  I’d say one of the few bugs that continues to bother me about BW is the problem of copying and pasting into Word since this is central to my daily experience.  When I copy and paste any Greek into Word, BW does two bad things: 1) it automatically puts a ‘hard return’ (or carriage return) after the word, and  2) it would override the paragraph formatting (thus getting rid of the first line indent).  I reported this problem with BW7 and they said they would look into it, but nothing was improved.  I again reported the problem with BW8, and it now appears that they have set things to handle the problems but I still have problem 1).  So, it’s now more of an issue of incovenience to just backspace a couple of times in Word to undo the problem.  One positive thing to note with all this is that I’ve always gotten personalised attention from the BW customer support people, and I haven’t had a chance to play with my settings based on their last email.  A more difficult issue is coping-pasting Hebrew into Word because the letters come out in the reverse order.  I think the easiest work around is to copy Hebrew into the BW editor and then copy-paste into Word.  I would say the copy-paste functionality should be a central place that BW needs to spend time to improve its usability.

If you are having the problems 1) and 2) above, I have figured out a short work around that deals with problem 2). a) in Word, click the Office Button (or Alt-F), select ‘Word Options’, select ‘Advanced’.   b) in Cut, Copy, and Paste settings, change the setting for ‘Pasting from other programs’: choose the option ‘Match destination formatting’.

As a quick wrap-up of my review of BW8, I’ll summarise the key strengths and needs for improvement. While the front-end isn’t much different, BW continues to improve its usability, especially with the additional tabs in the Analysis window. Another big help is the easier organisation of texts by language and using multiple columns so you can see them all at one time. The main textual upgrades include the Greek OTP, the Church Fathers, and (I think I failed to mention this before) English translations of the Targumim. In addition to new primary texts, BW8 has new resources, such as grammars (Wallace, Waltke-O’Connor, Joüon-Muraoka, and an Aramaic grammar) and links to a plethora of other resources through Ermie (External Resource Manager).

There’s always room from improvement as well. I’ll note first that I’ve found BW people
good people to work with.  I’ve sent in a few ideas and have always gotten personal replies.  I think they should explore solutions to the Word copy/paste issue. Also, I’m a big fan of semantic diagramming (see Duvall and Guthrie’s Biblical Greek Exegesis), since I was trained in Greek by Duvall.

My biggest plea is that they don’t go down the route of ‘help files’ for primary texts (i.e., the Church Fathers, etc.). (By help files I mean hyper-text files that are not integrated into the normal database structure as with bibles, Philo, etc.) By going this route they severely limit the search functionality that is the core of the software. It’s imperative to be able to use the boolean operators (and, or, etc.) and to be able to scroll through a list of references. For secondary material like reference works help files are great, and I think it’s actually better to not integrate them into the list of primary texts.

If you’ve got BW7, I’d say it is worth the money to upgrade. If you don’t have any Bible software, I can’t compare BW to Logos or Accordance, but it’s definitely a good value for money, so check it out.

Ben Blackwell is a Ph.D. student at University of Durham.


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