Bible Software Review
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Bible Explorer 4

Publisher: WORDSearch
Version reviewed:
Cost: Free
Reviewed: April 26, 2008
At A Glance (1-5)
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Bible Explorer (BE) is provided as a "little brother" to WORDSearch (WS). It has many of the same features, a similar look and feel, and uses the same book format, so the entire WORDSearch library is compatible between the two packages. Also, a special version of Bible Explorer has been licensed to Lifeway publishers and retitled as
Bible Navigator (BE).

BE and BN are essentially the same product, and both are similar to WS in many aspects, but are definitely inferior in many others. Because of this, I found it a bit difficult to write the review. In some places I wasn't sure if I should just write as if I was unaware of WORDSearch's existence, or if I should just point out the differences between the two. In the end I felt I needed to do the full review for the sake of fairness. However, please note that in some places where functionality is identical to WORDSearch, I often copied the text from the WS review, making just the minor changes necessary to make it accurate for BE.


The interface for Bible Explorer (BE) is simple but effective. It consists of a resource pane on the left, from which you can open various resources. Each resource opens in its own window, with a set of options and tools on each window. You can tile the windows horizontally or vertically, but it's hard to rearrange them anyway else, so each new window makes all the existing windows smaller and smaller. Fortunately, BE provides a method to combine resources into one window, which puts tabs on the combined window to switch between the resources in that window. To do this, you just grab the "dock" icon on a window bar, drag it over to the desired window, and drop it. This is very similar to WS, but WS docks resources automatically according to their category. With BE you have to do it manually.

One small and irritating thing in the BE interface is that the verse you select is denoted by a "pointing hand" icon in the left margin. So if you are viewing your verse in paragraph mode, where a verse might start in the middle of a paragraph, it's not always clear which verse is currently the context-aware verse. The highlight used by WS is much more intuitive for this tiny, but important piece of interface aesthetics.

The appropriate resources are synched to the current Bible verse automatically as they are opened, but this can be easily turned off per resource, if desired. There is no "driver" resource, scrolling through any synched resource will cause all other synched resources to scroll in lockstep, including the Bible passage.

The interface allows you to do a number of other actions on the text at hand, such as bookmarks, highlighting, showing Strong's numbers (where they exist), or changing the verse format to paragraph or single verse. You can also pick another book from the same category, or show the table of contents, from which you can jump directly to a specific location in that book.

One very useful study tool in Bible Explorer is the Cross References button. Cross references basically show you every single place in your entire collection where the verse in question is referenced, whether or not the passage is actually linked to that verse itself. In other words, if you are on John 13:1, hitting the cross references will show you any commentary that has an entry describing John 13:1, but it will also show you all commentary entries for other verses that have a reference to John 13:1 in that text. The cross references show up in a small window that opens up in the same window pane as the Bible text, though there is a button which will open the cross references in a stand-alone window. This is different than WORDSearch 8's more feature-rich XRef tool, which opens in it's own window automatically. The cross reference feature is one of the most useful Bible-study tools I have found, and only Bible Explorer, WORDSearch, and SwordSearcher have it.

There aren't many bells and whistles to the BE interface. But it is nicely done, and does not get in your way. The only real major disappointment is the lack of a parallel Bible view.


Bible Explorer only has one search interface, as opposed to a number of different search features that you find in other software. This interface attempts to incorporate everything you might need into a single box, and for the most part, succeeds. You can search on words, phrases, use AND and OR to differentiate your search. You can search the entire Library, just Bibles, or preset selections in the Bible.

Searching is actually quite fast, though BE falls down a bit in how it presents the results. The results screen is a bit difficult to use, with all the results listed in one big window pane. There are "Quick Links" at the top of the result screen, which allow you to jump down quickly to where the results for a certain book begin. You can narrow down your search results by searching on the search, which is nice. And you can also select a set of search results to copy, print, or export to a Verse List.

All in all, the search capabilities of BE are sufficient, but needs work on the results.

A Topic Explorer is also provided, and is useful and straightforward. You simply provide a specific topic, and BE returns a list of all the resources that have that topic tagged in their content. Clicking on a resource will show the specific content in it's own window. However, the Topic Explorer will jump to it's search after the first two letters you type, returning a gigantic list, from which you can keep typing and narrow down the list down. This method results in an unsatisfactory pause as you type, making you wait for a long list that 9 times out of 10 is way too big to make any sense. It should either wait until you are done typing and hit [enter] to specify you are done, or the number of characters after which it jumps to its search should be 3, or even 5.


The downloaded version of Bible Explorer comes with a small set of books. Unfortunately I do not know exactly which books. Since BE and WORDSearch have a compatible library, and the programs install the library in a single location accessible to both, I was not able to determine exactly which books came with BE, since I already had WS installed beforehand. If my memory serves, it comes with only a few books, such as the KJV, a single commentary, and a single Bible dictionary. However, and this is a big "however," the software gives you instant access to over 175 books that you can download for free. The books are a cross between contemporary and classic, and by far is the single biggest set of books offered for a free software product.

In addition to the free books, you have access to the 2,500 volumes in the CROSS format that can be purchased and installed as desired. I won't bore you with listing all the various types and titles of volumes available for BE, but everything you need is spread across approximately 20 categories - Bibles, Commentaries, Study Notes, Theology, Maps & Atlases, Literature, Devotionals, etc., etc. For the average Christian interested in increasing their knowledge of God's Word, I can't imagine you won't find what you are looking for here.


Bible Explorer is moderately extensible. The first extensible feature is the personal notes feature. BE allows you to associate your own notes inside each book. It's supposed to be like your own mini-commentary. I'm sure it looked good on paper, but in practice it just doesn't do the job as well as it should.

Each book as a Personal Notes icon on its toolbar. When you select this, a small portion of the current window opens up with a heading corresponding to the current verse, section, or topic (depending on the book). It is a WYSIWYG editor, and you simply type in your notes into the editor.

The problems are numerous. First, the notes are actually just a separate html document. If you have your notes open, as you scroll through the verses or topics in the associate text you see the headings appear and disappear in the notes section. It is hard to explain, but it is a disconcerting feeling - you don't get the sense that your notes are tied to a specific verse, even though they are.

Second, notes on a Bible passage are tied specifically to just one version. If you open a different version your notes are not present.

Lastly, and most frustrating, when the personal notes are not open, there is no visual indicator on a verse or section that associated notes are available. This basically means you must have the notes open the entire time if you are going to use that feature.

Bible Explorer also has the capability to read any HTML-formatted document. With a little work this single feature can extend BE significantly. You can move any HTML document to the BE library and categorize it as desired. It will then show up in the Documents section of the resource pane. So, while not integrated directly into the BE Library, these documents are close at hand. The usefulness of your own documents is increased with the option of including them in your searches and cross references.

Any document that you created can be published, which makes it available to the entire Bible Explorer/ WORDSearch community. Published documents can be obtained from the "Community" tab on the Resource pane.

BE does not allow you to create books in its default format, called CROSS. Users have been asking for the ability to create CROSS-compatible books for some time but so far BE has neglected to offer this feature to anyone other than a list of partner publishers. For now you have to be content with creating pseudo-books wit the Documents feature. Hopefully WORDSearch will open up the CROSS format someday.


Since Bible Explorer is provided by WORDSearch support for Bible Explorer is identical to that for WS, which means support is excellent. I have had to call them three times for support, and each time the phone was answered by a live human being who was able to help me immediately with my issue. WORDSearch also responds quickly to emails, but for the fastest service a phone call is best. Email to the company is usually returned in 1-3 business days. FAQs and training videos available on the web site round out the support offered by WORDSearch.

There is a very active BE community that is centered around what BE calls Discussion Groups. Discussion Groups are built right into the BE interface, and provides a set of groups for users to communicate with each other and with WORDSearch (the company). You obtain technical support, request new books, and request new features for BE. While the community is not as varied or numerous as Logos or e-Sword, or even the equivalent WORDSearch groups for that matter, they are very useful and it is a great place for users to give and receive helpful information.

I am not aware of any groups outside the built-in BE community.


Bible Explorer is available completely for free. The large free library, with over 2,500 extra books available for purcahse if you wish, makes it one of the best values around. If you have little to no money, but want a viable Bible software product, you can't do much better than Bible Explorer. In my opinion it is the best of the freeware products available today.

Incidentally Bible Explorer is also offered in four boxed sets, which is basically the Bible Explorer engine packaged with varying numbers of books that you would have to purchase separately. The sets range in price from $20 to $130, though these are often discounted. For example, the Limited edition, which normally costs $65, is now available at for only $10. However, to be honest, if I was going to spend money on Bible Explorer I would just go ahead and purchase WORDSearch.

Appendix - Main differences between Bible Explorer and WORDSearch

  • WS automatically combines resources as tabbed windows according to category; BE just opens each in its own window and you combine them manually.

  • WS highlights the verse you are on, BE shows a marker in the left margin, which doesn't always make it clear what verse you are really on.

  • The resource pane in WS is divided into sections, such as Favorites, Library, Documents, and Verse Lists, while BE only has the Library.

  • BE lacks many of the tools of WS, such as Verse Lists, Word Definition, integrated internet browser, Favorites, and Instant Verse Study.

  • BE is missing the robust personal notes feature of WS, relying on the WS7 method of notes, which works ok enough, it's just not great.

  • There is no parallel Bible feature in BE.

  • Copyright, 2002, 2008
    Foster Enterprises
    Email me at: Jerry [ at ] Fostertribe [ dot ] org