Bible Software Review
Bible Software Review
The SWORD Project
CrossWire Bible Society
April 26, 2008
At A Glance (1-5)
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The SWORD Project is a product from the CrossWire Bible Society, an organization that exists to provide cross-platform, open-source tools for Bible software development. The SWORD Project for Windows is a free Bible software product based on The SWORD Project. The core development is done on non-windows machines, and the authors are not big Windows fans, meaning the SWORD Project for Windows feels very much like a leftover product, with no real effort to take advantage of the Windows environment.
The SWORD Project opens up with a rather bare set of windows. We have the Bible pane on the top left, commentaries and books on the top right, and lexicons/dictionaries across the bottom. At the top of each pane is a row of tabs designating the various resources in each segment.
The Bible pane shows a chapter at a time, and any linked commentaries show the text for the entire chapter. Clicking on a verse in the Bible pane does
select it, as one might expect. At the top of the screen there are some "dropdown" widgets that allow you to select a Bible book, chapter, and verse. Using this will select a verse, which basically means it turns blue. There is no reason why clicking on a verse shouldn't select it. Not only that, if I want to create a bookmark, the bookmark is created for the selected verse, which is a pain. I can't click on a verse and create a bookmark. I actually have to use the dropdowns to get to the verse I want and then create a bookmark.
A parallel view is available in the Bible pane, which allows you to select three different Bibles to be seen at once. The parallel views are not seen in separate columns, but as rows. In other words, you see verse one for each translation in succession, then verse two for each one, etc. While it still serves its purpose, it is more difficult to compare than if the parallel views were set up as columns.
Any word in any resource can be looked up by right-clicking on the word and selecting "Dictionary Lookup". However, the program does not give any visual indication which dictionary resources reference that word. So you must actually click each tab in the dictionary pane to determine whether an entry exists or not.
Similarly, if you are viewing Bible text, there is no indication of which commentaries have text corresponding to the current Bible chapter, again forcing you to select each one in order unnecessarily.
And while I am on the subject of interface faux pas, the reference linking method is leaves much to be desired. For instance, when a commentary text references a Bible verse, the link to the Bible verse is offset in blue and underlined. This is the universal symbol of linking, right? Not in SWORD. Clicking on a referenced link will actually bring up a context-sensitive menu (the same menu that you get when you right-click on the link), from which you can then select the verse and jump to it in the Bible pane. This same method occurs for all links that I could find, even footnote links in the Bible text. I am surprised that such a design decision would be made that is so counter-intuitive to what is expected in the internet age.
The bottom line is, as you can tell by the sparse toolbar below, there's just not much to do in The SWORD Project, especially when compared to other free products.
Searching is very basic. You can press the Search button, or right click on a word and select Search in the context menu. A simple search dialog appears. A severe limitation of the search feature is that you can only search in a single module, the results from the previous search, or a predefined and unchangeable set of collections (gospels, Paul's epistles, etc.). If you choose to search the results, make sure you don't make a typo as there is no way to get back to the previous search results without doing the search again.
The SWORD Project for Windows provides the basic set of free classics that most free Bible software packages give you. Translations such as KJV and the BBE; Commentaries from Henry, Barnes, Clarke, and JFB, dictionaries such as Easton, Smith, and finally topical indexes such as Nave's and Thompson Chain. (Note, there are many more, I am just giving a representative list).
Interestingly, the SWORD Project was able to score a coup, in my opinion, by getting permission to provide the ESV free of charge. This is a great translation and costs money in most other Bible software packages. The NET bible is also available, giving you two modern translations for the SWORD project.
Resources can be downloaded and installed outside the program as straight zip files, or you can use the built-in Install Manager. IM is pretty cool, if not crude. You give IM the location of a web site where SWORD resources exists, it will find the resources, let you select which ones you want, and automatically download and install them. The nice thing about IM, then, is that any organization with SWORD resources can take advantage of this method of providing resources to SWORD users. In fact, Bible.org uses this method to provide the free version of the NET Bible. Unfortunately, after using IM you must exit and restart SWORD in order to see the new resources.
The SWORD Project provides a personal commentary book in order to record your own thoughts on a particular verse. It works satisfactorily.
SWORD also supplies the ability to create you own module files. Detailed documentation is available on the website.
Support is just the basics - a FAQ and documentation section on the website, and an email address if you get stuck. The About information in the program gives an email address for a mailing list to join, but my request bounced back with an "unrouteable address" error. I tried it again from the website and it succeeded, though I've received nothing after two months. An email question concerning the software was never replied to either.
Public forums are available, but it took me a while to hunt them down. There is no visible link from any of the main website pages that I could find, I finally found the forum link in the FAQ (see, that thing is useful for something!). But, it really is moot as the forums are more vacant than not. Only 17 threads since April of 2005, and nothing posted in the last two months. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.
All of the resources available for The SWORD Project are free. The library is fairly small, but there are some nice resources available. The interface is poor, and I personally do not think this is a version 1 product, let alone 1.5.9. I know this is a labor of love for the Crosswire folks, and they have an admirable goal, but I cannot recommend this product at this time, there are simply many other superior and free packages available.
Copyright, 2002, 2008
Email me at:
Jerry [ at ] Fostertribe [ dot ] org