Version reviewed: 5.3
Reviewed: November 25, 2008
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SwordBible (SB) is based on the SWORD Project from Crosswire Bible Society. It uses standard SWORD-based modules and some
functionality provided by Crosswire. I am finding more and more of these types of Bible software packages out there, which I
believe is Crosswire’s goal. But does that translate into a viable product that compares to other freebies?
When SB first loads the word that comes to mind is “big.” Big icons and big text. The program has large and crisp icons, and
a default 14-point font that reminds me of a child’s program instead of serious Bible software. (If the 14-point isn’t big
enough, each pane also has a +Zoom button that increases the font even further!) Of course, icons do not a program make, so
this is just an observation.
The program does not come with any modules other than the World English Bible. This is good and bad. On one hand I can download
only the modules I want. On the other hand, it was a bit annoying to have to download more modules to make the product useful.
And to be honest, there’s not that many to begin with. I think the author should provide either a basic download, or a full-blown
download, or better yet, both, as options to begin with. See the Resources section for my adventures in module installing.
The program started with the Bible pane maximized. I chose the “Normal” display, which shows all the panes, and dropped the font
points a few in each so I could read more than just a few lines. The display is set up in a very standard fashion – Bible book
tree on the top left, the Bible pane taking up most of the rest of the top half of the screen, dictionary/lexicons on the lower
left, and commentaries on the lower right. You can modify the size of the individual panes, but you cannot move them. The program
is pretty rigid in this regard.
The Bible pane has three tabs – one for a single version, a Compare mode (which is basically a row-based parallel view), and a
Parallel view. These function adequately, and are displayed in a pleasing-to-the-eye format. But there is nothing special about
the screens themselves. They do what they do, and nothing more.
Footnotes and cross-references are linked for Bibles that support it. The link simply pops up a small window with a definition or
verse. It does not jump to related books elsewhere in the product as you might expect. For instance, when clicking on a Strong’s
Greek number in the Bible text, I get a popup describing that word, but the Strong’s dictionary does not jump to the word in the
dictionary pane. The same thing happens when clicking on an English word. The Bible dictionaries simply are not linked. Why?
Dunno. One more thing – verse references in Bible dictionaries are not linked in any fashion, so you cannot view them in a tool tip,
or easily get to the text in the Bible pane.
The commentary panes are synchronized, and do behave as you would expect. The selected commentary jumps to whatever Bible text you are
viewing. The synchronization can be easily turned off via a button on the commentary toolbar. You cannot, however, view more than one
commentary at a time. Unlike the dictionary, verse references in commentaries are linked. But clicking a link does not move the Bible
text, it simply displays the verse in a popup.
Each pane has a standard toolbar that is more or less consistent across the entire product. From the toolbar you can select your text
(from a context-sensitive list), print, select, copy, paste, and search. Most products have the equivalent options somewhere on the menu
bar, but having them on each pane is helpful, and eliminates any context-sensitive questions from their use. This is similar in approach
That being said, the options are pretty limited. What I listed is just about all you can do. Even the menu options related to each
pane simply mimic the toolbar. This is a very basic product, nothing more. The only real extra tool are Verse Lists. Verse Lists
are basically a list of verses that pertain to a particular topic. Opening the Verse List window reveals a number of pre-existing
topics, such as Anger and Prayer. The icons on this window have no text or tool tips when you hover over them. I pressed the icon
of a folder with a minus inside five times before I realized I was deleting topics! It didn’t warn me, nor did I have any way to get
them back. Oh well. Other icons were used to add my own topics, or add and remove verses from existing topics. The mechanics of this
tool needs some work. For instance, when I hit the button to add a topic, the focus of my cursors was not in the field where I was
supposed to type the topic name. I had to actually move my mouse into that field and click before I could type. Additionally, new
topics are not alphabetically listed. They simply are put at the end in the order you added them. And just to add insult to injury,
after adding a new topic the focus is not on that topic, which would allow you to being the obvious next step of adding verses to your
topic. But the topic list is refreshed with focus at the top, so you have to scroll all the way to the bottom.
In summary, SB’s interface is clean, if not a bit large, but doesn’t offer much substance under the surface.
Each pane has a search button. This means you can search a book, commentary, Bible, or dictionary. The search options
are very basic. You enter a word or a phrase, select a range of Bible books and/or verses, and let ‘er rip. The results
are returned in the same window. You cannot transfer those results to the main desktop, though double-clicking on a verse
n the results will jump the Bible pane to that verse reference. In addition, you have the option of transferring the
results to a Verse List.
I clicked the [Add Result to Verse List] button to investigate this feature. The next window asked me to save the verses to a new Verse
List or an existing Verse List. I decided I didn’t want to continue, but the only button on this dialog box was [Ok]!
In other words, at this point I thought was committed and could not avoid adding the verses to the verse list, even though I
didn’t want to. Turns out you can actually click the little red X close button in the top right corner, which of course is a
Windows standard. But the window should have a nice [Cancel] button also for convenience sake.
Search speed is acceptable, but not nearly as fast as many other of the other packages reviewed here.
Unfortunately, the search is limited to individual books; there is no method to search across the entire library.
Since SB is based on the SWORD project, it is compatible with the same modules, and my notes on the
SWORD Project's resources all apply.
SB provides a number of these core modules downloadable directly from the web site. Most were executable files that installed
directly into SwordBible. But the ESV was not. The download was actually a link to Crosswire’s site, which is fine, but it
downloads a zip package with no instructions on how to get it into SB. The setup file inside the zip installed it somewhere
(I have a feeling into The SWORD Project’s (URL) directory), but not to SB. And there was no support that I could find on SB’s
website on how to make the ESV available. This is unfortunate, because theoretically all of the SWORD Project’s modules are
compatible with SB, and hence, would need the same hand-holding. I tried copying the folder from the SWORD Project’s directory,
but that did not work.
(Which brings up a point. Perhaps Crosswire should think about some sort of centralized directory so that you do not have to
duplicate these modules if you have more than one SWORD-based product installed.)
SB also includes the SWORD Project’s Install Manager. Unfortunately, it had trouble connecting to Crosswire’s download FTP
site at first. I didn’t think it was Crosswire, because I connected successfully via a standard FTP program. However, I
tried an hour later with success. I actually installed the ESV using this method, and it worked like a champ.
SB provides a simple module for personal notes attached to the commentary pane. The notes editor is nothing fancy.
You can change the font size and color, change attributes like bold, underline, and italics, and insert bulleted lists.
But that's about it. Verse references are not recognized either. And the biggest issue is that the notes module is
chapter-based, not verse-based.
You can also create your own SWORD modules using methods described on Crosswire’s web site.
There is very little online support for SwordBible. And as the web site states: “Currently there is very little
documentation available for SwordBible.” What little there is can be found here.
And as is nearly always the case with small products like this, the author is readily available, responding to my
technical email question in less than a few hours with a detailed explanation to my question.
The product is nice for what it does. At this point it is the best SWORD-based Windows product I have used. But, to be honest,
that is not saying too much yet. Most SWORD-based products have a long way to go before they will be on par with any of the other
cheap or free alternatives. But of course, it is free, the interface is decent, and resources are standard for a free product.
But honestly, there are much better products out there with the free tag on them.
Update 12/3/08: The author contacted me and told me the product was in "moth ball" status, as he is working on other projects. This
is something to consider as you choose a Bile software package.