Software Review: BibleWorks 8
by Jeff Oien
Scripture Zealot, March 2009.
[URL: http://www.scripturezealot.com/2009/03/23/software-review-bibleworks-8-part-1-of-3/ copied on 2009-03-30]
A huge thanks goes to Jim Barr at BibleWorks for sending a review copy of BibleWorks 8.
As a preface to this review: I do not have any other commercial Bible software or a previous version of BibleWorks so I won’t be able to make any comparisons. I am an avid e-Sword user and was going to write about why it might be worth it to upgrade to BibleWorks. When I found out that BibleWorks has more features than I could ever imagine, I scrapped that idea. e-Sword is a great program, and not just for the price (free, with additional paid add-ons) but it’s not comparable to BibleWorks.
I will say that for pastors, students and Bible translators, this software in my estimation will save a lot of time. It will make sermon preparation and writing papers go much faster, leaving more time for other duties or studying. For lay people, it depends on your budget and how far you like to go with Bible study. I can’t imagine anyone with the budget for it being disappointed.
Just buying all the translations, books and other reference materials alone would cost far more than the software. To have them not only within the program but all linked to the passage, verse or word you’re studying at lightning fast speed makes it all the more valuable. There are quite a few Hebrew and Greek grammar books like Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics included in the program. I assumed that these were just for reading but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the contents of the books are linked to original language words–so you can learn more about the syntax of a word you’re studying–as is nearly everything else within BibleWorks.
Although one of the strengths of BibleWorks is in working with the original languages, it has so many features for working with English only translations and text that it would be worth the price of the program for this alone. Even if you do work with the original languages, I would suggest starting out with Using BibleWorks and Only English Bibles in the Help file system under Getting Started - Major Tasks.
In this review I would like to write about installing and learning to use the program, highlight a few features that are of interest to me and show you some screenshots in Part 3. See the Full Contents (and capabilities) and their brochure (PDF file) for a feature list.
I had a problem installing the software on my desktop computer. I quickly found this helpful post on their forum:
I also had a glitch in applying a program update. I was unable to fix this on my own so I wrote to their e-mail tech support and got the problem resolved. They also offer toll free phone support and they have a forum of BibleWorks users for various other questions you may have.
The software comes with copious help files which are in sort of a two tiered system. First there is the Getting Started section which includes Performing Common Tasks in BibleWorks. The tasks listed are Major Tasks, Analyzing Bible Text, Displaying Bible Text and Reference Works, and Miscellaneous Tasks.
Under Major Tasks you will find “Getting Started” (redundant?), Preparing a Book Study, Preparing a Topical Study, Preparing an Exegetical Paper, Using BibleWorks in the Classroom, Using BibleWorks for Bible Translation Projects, Using BibleWorks and Only English Bibles, and Performing New Testament Textual Criticism.
As an example, Prepare an Exegetical Paper guides you through the steps required, not just BibleWorks features but a description of how to actually do exegesis, and even provides a bibliography of printed works on the subjects involved. Although there is a separate category for textual criticism in the Help file system, it’s also included in this section and is something I was previously unable to do on my own. If the videos are installed, you can find links (within the program) to videos of some of the tasks described which will show you basic procedures along with the text description.
Then there is a main Help section which has the usual index, search etc. The index is organized in such a way that you can progressively go through each item in order to learn how to use every function in the program.
The BibleWorks Blog (unofficial) is a helpful resource not only for the blog but for the additional resources listed across the top of the page. For example, you can find Calvin’s commentaries on the Modules page and a great tutorial on using Louw-Nida on the Tutorials page.
Miscellaneous Helpful Features in BibleWorks
The Command Line alone is a wondrous thing. So many different types of searches can be performed that I can’t think of much of anything that couldn’t be done. There is an extensive Help file page devoted to the Command Line. In English, any number of searches can be performed and for geeks, regular expressions can be used.
An example of a more complex search would be:
would give you:
There is also a more user friendly Command Line Assistant and plenty of examples. For even more complex searches that the Command Line can’t do there is the Graphical Search Engine.
A number of Greek syntax searches can be done. You could search for all verbs within a range of verses, narrow that down to first person singular and/or plural, or any number of other syntactical searches.
“Which Version Uses that Word?
The Synopsis Window helps you to find predefined parallel Gospel passages, places where the New Testament quotes the Old Testament and parallel passages in the Old Testament. Another feature that helps you find similar information but wider in scope is the Related Verses Tool. When choosing a Greek morphology version, it will automatically remove words of lesser importance like contractions, articles, etc. In the example below you can see that I clicked on the verse in Isaiah in the middle window and it shows up in the right window.
Search and Display Favorites
What I would like to see in BibleWorks
Regarding commentaries: An advantage of using BibleWorks is that when displaying a verse in the Browse window, you will find all of the resources available pertaining to that verse in the Resources window. When looking at a commentary, it will not only give you a link to the commentary for that verse, but also links for every other instance that verse is mentioned in the whole commentary.
Ease of Use
The learning curve is as shallow or as steep as you’d like to make it. The box that the CDs come in has a 16 page Quick-Start Guide for guiding you through installation and basic functions. That, along with right clicking and pressing F1 everywhere in the program, and going through all of the menu items at the top of the program will show you most of what the program has to offer.
Going from the Command Line/Results window on the left, to the Browse window in the middle and to the Analysis window at the right is intuitive and easy to navigate.
If you’d like to go deeper into exegesis, sermon preparation, etc. the aforementioned Performing Common Tasks in BibleWorks will guide you through only what you need to know.
If you are like me and like to read owner’s manuals you will be greatly rewarded by going through the whole help file system. You won’t remember everything you read because of the program’s vast capabilities, but you will know what every function of the program does and you can go back and relearn whatever is necessary when the time comes.
There is also their official BibleWorks User Forums where I’ve gotten quick replies to a couple of questions I had that don’t fall under the area of technical support.
I hope that gives you a glimpse of just some of the things that this software can do and help you with making a decision in which Bible software to purchase.
Jeff Oien blogs at ScriptureZealot.com.