Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Future of Bible Software

Kevin A. Purcell at Christian Computing Magazine has been a long time user and reviewer of Bible software. In an article in the latest issue (February 2014), he points to quite a few online sites for doing Bible study, but his main contention is that "It’s time for Bible study software makers to go online with all their tools using the power of HTML 5 and modern browsers." I partially agree...

There are a number of issues here, but the main one for me is the device I'm using. I'm living in Windows 7 and Android for now. I'm using Google services to link the two where I need to be linked. As for Bible software, I use it on my Windows 7 machines (I have both a home desktop system with two 21" monitors and a seminary 14" laptop which I drop into a docking station with two 19" monitors) and on my Samsung Galaxy Note II Android smartphone (with its beautiful 5.5" screen). I have lots of Bible software on all these devices, but here is what I use most often.

Windows 7 Android Browser
BibleWorks 9
Logos 5 Logos Android app Biblia.com
eSword MySword for Android
Olive Tree Olive Tree Android app
(YouVersion) Bible app Bible.com
Laridian PocketBible PocketBible app

Of all of these, I'm using BibleWorks and Logos most often on Windows 7. I'm using MySword most often on the phone. When I don't have either available, I use one of the online sites in a browser.

What this shows first of all is that the operating system is not that significant. What is actually more important for me is having access to my resources regardless of the platform. That is why I am very happy with Accordance, Logos, and Olive Tree along with some others for making their software, and the resources I have purchased, available across various systems.

Secondly, what that table shows is that my usage is more dependent on the device I'm using. I do 'serious' Bible study on my Windows machines. I have multiple windows or tabs open with multiple language resources and secondary materials all handy. Even with an i7 processor at 3.4GHz, some of my searches still can take a bit to execute. It's impossible to do that kind of work on my smartphone even though I have a decent processor and one of the biggest screens available. I'm primarily using my smartphone simply to read Bible texts, and in these cases, MySword is the fastest way I have to get to original language texts with some ability to switch between English versions, Greek, and Hebrew. If I want to look up something, then I'll go to the Logos app (or Biblia) where I have access to BDAG or the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary among the other host of reference works.

I did have the chance to live with a tablet device (a Microsoft Surface running the full Windows 8) for a couple weeks while I was traveling in Israel and Jordan. I didn't always have internet access. With the limited drive space on the device and since I was only borrowing the tablet, I didn't want to put on a full program like BibleWorks or Logos. My solution? I used yet another program, The Word, which is rather compact but has numerous English, Greek, and Hebrew versions. If I needed more information, I used Biblia when I had internet access or used Logos or MySword with downloaded modules on my phone.

So, to summarize and to return to Purcell's desire for Bible software to move online with all their tools, I just don't need it yet. As I mentioned, I'm glad to have my library of resources available on the cloud when I have access, but I don't always have access. When I am doing 'serious' Bible study, I want to have screen real estate, which means I'm using a device that has sufficient computing power. I suspect that someday internet access will be ubiquitous (and affordable everywhere?), but in the meantime, I appreciate being able to run my programs locally.

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