Bible Software Review
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SwordSearcher 5

Publisher: StudyLamp Software
Version reviewed:
Cost: $50
Reviewed: April 26, 2008
At A Glance (1-5)
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I have to be honest. I have a soft spot in my heart for SwordSearcher. Back in 2001 when I quit my job to become a full-time pastor, I knew I needed some Bible software. I bought a $200 package that turned out to be, well, pitiful. SS was an affordable alternative so I tested it out and purchased it. I was amazed at what one person who could write software well could do for the practice of studying the Bible.

SwordSearcher has been around since 1995, which is quite a long time. It is written by Brandon Staggs, and is one of the few packages on this list designed and developed solely by one person. Brandon is an exercise in dichotomy. He provides the most patient and responsive support of all the packages listed here, yet has strong opinions on a number of subjects (


The SwordSearcher interface doesn't have the fancy look of, say, QuickVerse. But neither does it have the vacant and outdated look of Online Bible or The Sword Project. It is simple, but functional.

The main page consists of three panes - a half-page Bible pane on the left, the Book/Dictionary pane on the top right, and the Commentary pane on the bottom right. These panes seem to be stuck in place, but you can grab their caption bar and undock them or drag them around and place them where you would like. There is a "restore" option in case you get them all messed up and want them back to their default positions. A couple pre-set options are also available, but they aren't very useful; a few more common configurations would be nice so you didn't have to work at trying to get everything to line up.

There is also a wealth of aesthetic options - the color, appearance, font, and background of just about any text displayed on screen can be modified to your heart's content. The options dialog window also has an [Apply] button so you can test your changes over and over without having to re-open the options window.

The linkage between the Bible verses and the corresponding reference works is a bit different than most products. Clicking on the verse text itself does not do anything, as you might expect. In a separate column next to the verses is a link from each commentary and dictionary that contains an entry for that verse. Clicking on one of the links will jump to the related resource. Thankfully, once you do that, the tabs of all other related resources that contain an entry for the verse also will change color, so you can jump to other commentary entries without having to go back to the verse. You can remove the resource links next to the verses for a more uncluttered look, but it is not practical as there is no way to get to the related resources.

While linking commentary entries to a verse is nothing new, SwordSearcher does something unique with the dictionary linkage. No package I tested had automatic links from the Bible passage to a dictionary based on the verse. Sure, you could click or right-click on a word in the verse and look up that word in a dictionary (perhaps), but none of them let you back into dictionary entries that contain references to the verse in question. For instance, if I click on the Easton's link for Mark 5:4, I see a little popup window with three entries - Daemoniac, Devil, and Gergesa. Clicking on any of them will jump to the corresponding entry in Easton's Bible Dictionary. The little popup window stays up as well so you don't have to keep re-opening it; you just close it when you are finished. Very nice.

This sort of feature is prevalent in SwordSearcher. The author calls it "deep referencing." Basically, not only are commentaries linked to verses, but so is everything else - encyclopedias, dictionaries, topical references, etc. You do not have to try and guess what topics apply to the verse you are on, they are all accessible with a single click.

Another nice thing SwordSearcher does for you is provide a number of options for when you double-click a word in the Bible pane. You can open the word in the active book, Webster's dictionary, a default dictionary, or the Topic Guide (explained later). It's just another nice touch that shows the author's attentiveness to your study needs.

There is not really a parallel version feature, though there is a Compare Version tool that allows you to see two translations side-by-side in the Bible pane, but that's about it.


When it comes to search, nobody really does it better than SwordSearcher. The product has seven main tools for searching, he serving a different purpose, each of them super-fast.

Go to Verse. This will jump to a verse in the verse pane, but will also open up a cross-reference result set for that verse in a search results box under the Bible pane. All the searches open their results in a separate window that opens under the Bible pane. Subsequent searches appear in the same search box, though in a tabbed fashion, so all your searches are readily available, and you can quickly delete the ones you no longer want. Or, you can close the enter search results pane, being done with all of them in one fell swoop.

The cross references list every single mention of said verse across the entire library. Basically it is the "verse" component of the Topic and Verse Guide, discussed below.

Quick Bible Search. This is a simple textbox that resides on the toolbar. Simply enter your search word and press enter; all the verses that contain that word will appear in the search results.

Book Search. The dictionary pane and the commentary pane each have their own search button, which allows you to do a quick word search on the current open book. When you click on a reference in the search results, the view in the referenced book jumps to that entry, as expected. Each place the search phrase occurs in the text is highlighted, which is nice. You might think that would be obvious, but you'd be surprised how many Bible packages don't add little touches like this, making you search through the text for the location of the word you were searching on (which soft of defeats the purpose of a search).

Bible Search: The Bible search is a book search on steroids - it has all the standard options you would expect in a solid search tool - options to search all words, any words, phrase, or a Boolean search. Matching case, word forms, and fuzzy search options can help you when you just can't find the exact form of the desired word. And there are a number of options for a range - All books of the Bible, OT only, NT only, one book, or a custom range. All these options together, combined with the speed of the search, make for a very compelling search tool.

Full Library Search. This is very similar to the Bible Search, with most of the same options, only it allows you to search your entire library. You can narrow the search by filtering on a subset of resources. There are a number of pre-defined sets, or you can create your own personalized set consisting of your favorite resources across the Bibles, dictionaries, and commentaries. I'm beating a dead horse by this time by stating that the search, even when searching the entire library, is very fast. I have about 70 resources in SS and the full search takes about 4 seconds.

Topic and Verse Guide. The TVG is one of the most powerful tools in SwordSearcher, maybe in any of the software packages I tested. Basically it is a dialog box where you enter any topic or verse. Enter, say, "sacrifice" or "Romans 12:1," and in less than two seconds you have at your fingertips every single reference to that topic or verse throughout your entire library. Very powerful. It is the quickest way to get all the information you need or want on a subject or passage. One nice thing about the TVB is that it has entries for commentaries ON the verse in question, and commentaries REFERENCING the verse in question, as a commentary entry for one verse may actually references many different verses in its text.

English-Strong's Indexer. Another nice little tool that I found only in SwordSearcher. You basically enter an English word into the Indexer and it will return the Strong's entry for that word that is used in Scripture. Obviously it only works for all the words in Scripture that have a Strong's entry, but it is a nice way to quickly look up the Greek language information for a particular word.


You get over 60 resources with the purchased product. This includes 18 Bibles, 10 dictionaries, 24 commentaries, 11 books, and about 400 illustrations and maps. Unfortunately, you get very few contemporary resources with the package. Most of the available Bibles, dictionaries, and commentaries, are the same that you get for any of the free or low-cost packages. I'm not saying these older books are bad, they are not. Just the opposite, in fact, as they have stood the test of time. You get good commentaries, dictionaries, cross reference books, and of course, the standard KJV. However, as in any field of study, knowledge increases over time. We learn more about the original languages in Scripture, archaeology uncovers new finds, and new generations of scholars make their marks on the world. It is good for this knowledge to be available in your Bible Study program, and it's something the low-cost packages usually lack.

There are no modern Bible translations available for SwordSearcher, just the KJV and various older derivatives or translations. A major reason for this is that the author of SwordSearcher has a strong KJV-only conviction, meaning he does not believe that contemporary translations are necessary, or even valid. (He has his own website on the subject here: Therefore he has no real incentive to bring any other Bible translations to the product.

However, there is no restriction from 3rd-parties to bring their works to SwordSearcher. Unfortunately, the bigger and more popular translations, such as the NIV or NASB, rarely seek out small Bible software packages to make their product available. Usually the software vendors approach the publishers. Given this scenario, don't expect to see any other Bible translations than what is available right now.

Back when I was an full-time user of SwordSearcher I started work helping import their NET Bible into SS, but I ran out of gas on the project, mostly because I switched software packages. There was talk a year ago of it happening again, but apparently it didn't go anywhere.

Overall, there is nearly another 100 resources available to SwordSearcher that have been made available by the SwordSearcher community. You can find many of them at SSModules.


SwordSearcher has had strong expandability for a long time. The ability to create your own commentaries or books is built right into the product. You can create as many books as you want, and SwordSearcher will integrate them directly into the interface as if they were part of the original product. This is one of my favorite SwordSearcher features. I felt like I was directly expanding the product by creating my own commentary and my own sermon illustration book that were automatically included in the related searches like any other book.

Since the Topic and Verse Guide, as well as the "Go to Verse" search each pull up all books that have references to the verse in question, your own personal books take on a higher level of usefulness. For instance, I created a book that contained message illustrations. Each chapter was a different illustration, and at the end of the chapter I listed the verses for which that illustration might apply. So, months down the road when I look up that verse, either in the Bible pane, or the Topic and Verse Guide, or wherever, all the related illustrations that I previously put in for that verse are suddenly available to me. Very powerful.

The editor provided to create your own books is more than sufficient. It is a true WYSIWYG editor, with all the required formatting buttons close at hand. A very nice touch is the ability to switch to HTML mode in order to see exactly how the editor is rendering the text, allowing you to fine-tune its appearance, or to fix an aggravating display anomaly that you can't get to in the WYSIWYG editor.

If that wasn't enough, for heavy-duty book creation, SwordSearcher provides an external tool called Forge. Forge imports a file that is properly formatted according to a set of rules and creates a book from that data. So, if you have source documents for books that you would like to have in SwordSearcher, as long as you have the ability to manipulate those documents into the format required by Forge (either by manually editing the file, or perhaps writing a program to do so), you are good to go. Though powerful, Forge is a bit obtuse, and at times I found it easier to simply cut-and-paste from the source document into the user book editor. Tedious, yes, but straightforward.


Brandon provides wonderful support. He answers emails very quickly, sometimes within minutes; hours at the most. He is patient and goes the extra mile to resolve your issue. He also provides a monthly newsletter, which is a nice way to give tips, a devotional, tell about specials, and just stay in touch.

There is also the SwordSearcher forums, which is a small, but growing user community built around SwordSearcher. Everyone is helpful, and Brandon is a constant presence on the forums as well. You can access the forums here:

A product deserves the highest marks for support when you can be confident that between the author and the user community, help will never be more than a few minutes or few hours away.


SwordSearcher costs $49.95. I believe that to be a fair price for what the product offers. You get everything you need for solid Bible study and personal expandability, though without the contemporary translations and books.

You can download a 30-day trail version with a limited set of resources to see if this is the product for you. I suspect that if you are one who prefers the KJV, either by preference or conviction, then SwordSearcher is a serious contender.

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