Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BibleWorks9 Announced!

The release of BibleWorks9 has been announced! I had the opportunity to be involved with beta testing, and I am excited about many of the new features. I'll be posting reviews in chunks and highlighting some of the more significant enhancements. (HERE for more info on new features and source for quotes below.) For now, I'll just point out some of the enhancements.

The first thing a user of BW8 will notice is the updated icons. They do indeed look better, and they indicate their function more clearly.
click to enlarge
Not a big deal, but a nice touch.

Two of the most important additions to BW9 that are likely to receive the most attention are related to New Testament textual criticism. I will blog more about these at another time, but for now, I can briefly illustrate what's available using Mark 1.1 as an example.
  • The BibleWorks Manuscript Project is a way for users to compare and analyze original manuscript text and images. "New transcriptions and complete image sets of Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, Washingtonianus, Boernerianus, and GA1141 (over 7.5 GB!!). Manuscripts are fully searchable using the full array of BibleWorks analysis tools." This project is ongoing, and there is even morphological tagging of the mss that will continue to be updated as they become available. (Michael Hanel, another beta tester, has already posted more info on this project.) BTW, in the graphic above, note that this resource appears in a new "Mss" tab.
  • The Center for New Testament Textual Studies (CNTTS) NT Critical Apparatus allows the user quickly to compare variant reading. "This exhaustive apparatus covers the entire New Testament. The BibleWorks version has been enhanced to show a matrix of Aland categories and time period for the mss for each reading. Users will especially appreciate having the apparatus track and update as the mouse moves over the text in the BibleWorks main window. In addition, the start of each verse entry summarizes the significant, insignificant, and singular variants. When examining a variant, the text of the verse is shown with the variant text highlighted." And btw again, note that this resource shows up in a new "Verse" tab. In this tab, in addition to the CNTTS Apparatus, you choose instead to display the Tischendorf Apparatus, the NET Bible notes (compiled in a running format), Metzger's Textual Commentary (a $20 addon), or the full ESV Study Bible (i.e., with all comments and graphical content; a $20 addon).
In terms of usability, convenience, and user-friendliness, I'll point out three things here:

  • The "Use" tab: This tab simplifies a task I regularly ask my students to do, namely, find out where else in the Bible or in a particular book a certain term appears. The Use tab automatically generates such results nearly instantaneously as you hover the mouse over a word in the central browsing pane. (I'm running BW9 on a 6+ year old WinXP machine.) This works for any language. You can choose to see the results for just the book of the Bible you are reading or for every instance in that version. (Note the stats provided in the graphic above.) You can choose whether it reports back on the form or the lemma of the word, and you can easily export your results to the search list.
click to see with and without 4th column
  • The Fourth  Column: So, what are you going to do when you want to see that new "Use" tab, but you need to have the "Analysis" tab in view too? There has always been a ton of information lurking behind the texts in BW, but it oftentimes meant switching tab views or opening floating windows. You can still do that, but now there is an option to pop open a fourth column that extends to the right of the BW window. If you have a wide screen monitor, it is a wonderful thing. You can move around the tabs which display in each column, so I suspect it will become a matter of personal preference. I do use a wide screen monitor, and I like having the Analysis tab and Use tab visible in the 3rd and 4th columns.
  • Instant text comparison: There was a way to do this in BW8, but it now has become as simple as hitting a single keystroke. With your mouse anywhere in the browse column, hit the letter "e," and BW9 automatically highlights differences between any versions in the same language. Hit the "e" again to toggle the highlighting off. In the graphic above, you can see how it compared Greek, Latin, and English versions. BTW, in that graphic you can also see one of the new texts in BW9, the Vulgate with morphology and glosses in the Analysis tab.
Pricing and upgrades: It is also nice to note that, despite all the new resources included in BW9, the list price is $359, only $10 more than the previous version. They have clear upgrade policies (starting at $159 to upgrade from BW8), and group discounts are available. Note that you can place orders now for BW9, but it won't ship and you won't be charged until mid-July or so. An online distributor accidentally started advertising this new version before the BW folks were ready to make the official announcement, and so BW decided to let beta testers start sharing info about it.

There are many other new features and texts in BW9 (e.g., The Moody Atlas of the Bible by Beitzel), but this is a start. I still have some criticisms I will get to later, and it should be noted that BW9 still feels more like its own program than a program that has been built from the outset as a Windows program. There is no Mac version (though it runs quite nicely on a Mac under emulation), and there is no mobile version. I will eventually be posting some guides to help my students install, customize, and use BW9, but BW has already provided six hours of new how-to videos.

BOTTOM LINE: BibleWorks9 is a significant and attractive upgrade. It offers an updated interface that will be familiar to existing users and friendlier for new ones. The BibleWorks Manuscript Project and the CNTTS NT Critical Apparatus modules are remarkable resources that will especially appeal to those interested in New Testament textual criticism. All users will enjoy the easier access and increased functionality provided with new features like the pop-out fourth column, the “Use” tab, and the instant difference highlighting. Considering the other texts and resources provided, BibleWorks9 is a comprehensive study package and tremendous value.