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Review of BibleWorks 9

Dr. Michael Hilderbrand


August 30, 2012

I purchased my first computer when DOS 2.11 was brand-new. I understood the advantage of being able to do things very quickly with the computer. I also found out that you can lose things, destroy things, have all kinds of problems, and do it very quickly! That did not deter me as I purchased my first computer just before I began my doctoral studies. BibleWorks was not yet in existence, though there were some other products on the market. My first experience with BibleWorks was after I had graduated, and gift/graduation money was provided to buy the new BibleWorks 3.5. Having viewed some of the online videos for BibleWorks 9, I calculated that if the changes claimed in the videos for this new issue of the program were true, then I had better have a look at it. I have not been disappointed. By the way: the price for the current BibleWorks is not much more than what I recall that I paid for 3.5! How did they do that?

Opening the smallish, attractive box, you see a Quick-Start Guide and three disks. Wait a minute! The box says that it can take up to 15 gigs of space on your hard drive. Oh, these are DVDs so I guess that's possible. I remember when it all fit on a couple of 3.5" floppy disks. Of course, it did not come with the stunning array of materials now standard with BW. The program and resources as it now stands, would probably take something like 6 CD's or more than 70+ floppy disks (quoting their literature here). Fortunately, most modern computers have plenty of space on the hard drive, and a DVD drive. And if you're really hurting for space, you can do a minimal installation which would take only about 1 gig or so of space. You would then be able to run some of the other things (like the training videos) straight from the DVDs.

In any case, the installation worked flawlessly. You do not have to be a computer tech to install this program. I decided to go with the full install at the beginning, but as it was installing, I realized I probably do not need a Chinese translation of the Bible (or many of the other 40+ modern language translations included in the package) mounted on my hard drive. No worries, if you want to remove modules, you do not have to uninstall and then reinstall the program. Removing a few of the modules in this way, saved a little bit of room on my hard drive, and some frustration.

One of the wonderful features of this program are the included videos designed to help you learn how to work with the many facets of BW. I strongly encourage anyone who has never used BibleWorks before to watch these videos. Those who are familiar with earlier versions of the program could also learn a lot from them. The how - to videos total up to some six hours of viewing/training.

Do not be surprised if you start up the program and feel a bit intimidated! There is a lot of information that greets you. The videos, however, are very helpful in taking you step-by-step through using the program. The resources available in this program are amazing (more on that below). However, I am even more astonished at the ease by which this information may be accessed. I am pretty certain that some of the information that can be accessed in BW 9 could also have been accessed in the earlier versions. But not this quickly, and not this easily, and not with the amount of information that is now available.

When you first open BW 9, three windows greet you. The first one, is the search window, which is very similar to earlier versions, in that you can enter a specific book, chapter and verse, or a specific word to search for in the version that you have designated for the search. The search criteria is entered on the command line, which is at the top of the first left-hand window. Just enter what you want to look for, and the results (in the form of a listing of verses, very similar to a paper concordance) appear in the box below - very quickly! In the small amount of time I have had so far with this program in doing searches, I have compared with a paper concordance. All the searches have been very accurate. Versions that you have chosen for display in the middle window (called the browse window) will show the full verses for which you have asked. You can change the version of the Bible that you want to search in a number of different ways. Searches can be designed with control characters (called operators), and you don't even have to know which control characters perform which function, because you can bring up some buttons below the command line (where search parameters are entered) which will tell you the control characters for "and," "or," phrase searches, etc. by means of a mouseover. However, if you do know the operators, you can still simply enter them. The program keeps track of your searches, so you can return to them, but you can also have multiple searches recorded since there are (at least 12) tabs available. So you can do one search, switch to another tab do a different search and then switch back to your first tab. In that way you can compare results.

The opening splash screen for the program says that it focuses on the text. This is exactly what the program does. I would contrast this with Logos Software, which includes many, many books in electronic form (yes, Logos does many of the things that BibleWorks does with the biblical text). A gigantic library on your hard drive and abilities to search it with just a few mouse clicks (Logos) is a great advantage. The texts and capabilities included in BibleWorks, however, focus on the text of Scripture itself. As a Hebrew teacher, that capability makes BibleWorks one of my most important tools, and this new edition even more so. But this program is not just for those who work with the original text - though it is really great for that! There are many, many helps in this program for those who want to dig deeper into the Scriptures, yet, have not had time to learn the original languages.

The list of included texts is astonishing, not only modern translations but the ancient texts, lexicons, and grammars of the original languages as well. Additionally, there are several textual critical databases that are also included. There are utilities for reviewing and/or learning Greek and Hebrew grammar and vocabulary, diagraming sentences copying texts into a word processor, etc. As a Hebrew teacher myself, I am excited to see the textual critical materials which have been included. Moreover, there are scans of manuscript images where they are available. Though the BW Manuscript Project is just beginning, and only includes seven Greek New Testament manuscripts, it certainly could be expanded to include many, many digital image sets for textual critical purposes. That, naturally, would add considerably to its footprint on a hard drive. Already these graphics add a little bit more than seven gigs to the footprint of this program.

Within the browse window, the program allows you to switch between multiple version display and single version display with one click. How cool is that? You can also do your searches by simply double-clicking on a word within this window. As with most modern Windows programs, a right-click in this window brings up several submenus. You can search for forms of words, look things up in the included dictionaries and grammars, open a preset diagram for a text (if you are working with the NT), and even copy text into the clipboard so it can be pasted into a word processor. One of the most useful tools for me is the ability to import Scripture to my word processor without leaving the word processor! Control shift B opens a window into which you can type the verse that you want to paste into your word processor. This useful function has been with BibleWorks at least since version 3.5.
The analysis window displays information gleaned from the sources within the program: grammars, lexicons, etc. One of the things that really sold me on the usefulness of this version, is the feature that enables retrieving data by means of a mouse pointer moved over a word in the browse window. Information will then pop up in the analysis window. You do not need to enter codes or go through menus to get to all of this information. If you mouse over the English word, in an English version in the browse window the analysis window will display the word from the original, a transliteration, and a rough pronunciation guide. There are also notes to the text, including commentaries, lexicons, grammars, etc. This one feature alone is worth the price of the program, as it is not only useful for those who are familiar with the original languages at every level, it is useful for those who have not had the time (yet!) to learn the original languages, also referring to the Strong's number system, something with which many folks are already familiar.

A great deal of information is available using tabs in this window, especially important for those who use these reference tools, information gleaned from grammars and lexicons. These are summarized under the resources tab and from there, full articles in the lexicons and the whole context from grammars are available. Personally, I find this to be a tremendous time-saving tool. I do have these reference books in hard copy, but I am less likely to go to my shelf, pick up the book, look in the index, and read whatever the grammar has to say about my verse then I am to do a mouse over and find very quickly any reference to the verse, or even the word that I might be studying. References are also available to the church fathers and study Bibles. I still have not solved the problem of going to the expense of purchasing these books in electronic form, when I already have them on my shelf. For some of them, I went to great expense. I am not sure how to solve this problem. For those who have not yet purchased BDB, BDAG, or some of these other expensive reference volumes, the solution is easy, simply by BW! Having them in a searchable electronic format saves a lot of time and looking things up, but also a lot of space on your shelf.

Textual critical notes are available in this window as well as any translator notes related to the Bible versions being used. You can also make your own notations regarding the material you are studying and save it within BW, which will connect your own thoughts on this verse to the verse itself. Here also is access to the BW Manuscript Project - the digital image sets from seven Greek New Testament manuscripts. I am very impressed with this project. It does add tremendously to the footprint of this program on your hard disk. It is fortunate that hard drive space has become so inexpensive, but as this project grows (and I hope it does, this is an exciting development!), the need for disk space for the program is going to become much greater. The Manuscript Project as it stands at this point, takes 7.5 GB of space on a hard drive - and this is only seven Greek NT manuscripts (though there is a lot of textual critical information not in graphic form, which doesn't take nearly as much space). It is likely that OT manuscripts, both Greek and Hebrew, will take up quite a bit more space. I'm excited to see how this project progresses. Also available within this window is a graphic display of the results from your search done in the first window. This will show, for instance, how many times a word occurs in a specific book and provides an immediate graphic presentation of that information. It can also be separated out to show how many times a particular word occurs in any chapter of the Bible.

This window can also be split into two, allowing tabs to be compared one with another. Tabs can also be moved in between these two new columns. The advantage of being able to do this, is being able to compare information without having to get rid of one or the other or having to place it in a word processor, and then making a comparison.

The videos included discuss the use of the interface, the layout and navigation, the search tools, how to use the study tools and finally how to access and use help. I don't really like to spend a lot of time using "how-to" videos, but these videos are so useful, I am certainly going to go through them. There is a full electronic manual, and six hours of videos. It is not like I have nothing to do in my life, however the usefulness of this program, I believe, is going to push me into watching all of these videos.

Michael D. Hildenbrand is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia.


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