BibleWorks 10 - The Elephant in the Room plus the Final Word

I want to bring this review to a close by discussing my particular angle on the question of Bible software. It’s no secret that the school where I teach has a strong relationship with Logos. We supply a copy of Logos Bible Software with a custom student package to every student upon matriculation, and when students graduate the license becomes theirs to keep. We even have a Logos rep who works from our Dallas campus. I have worked with him to define what we skills we want students to learn with Logos, to provide training for students, and to help faculty integrate Logos into the classroom. It’s also no secret that many faculty on our campus love Accordance Bible Software. Several faculty still use and tout Accordance regularly[1]. It’s also no secret that I have an extensive history with BibleWorks, working for them as a trainer for a number of years. I personally maintain my licenses for all three of the major vendors in this space on the one hand because I personally benefit from having each one, as they each have strengths and weaknesses, and so I can help those who have questions about which is best for their situation. Having said all that, let me end this review with two discussions. First I want to comment on BibleWorks relative to Logos and Accordance in some particular areas, and then I want to summarize my thoughts about BibleWorks 10 as a whole.

Comparing the major programs to one another frankly comes down to three central issues: philosophy, hardware, and design. I have always been convinced that each program—Logos, BibleWorks, Accordance—has particular strengths because of their basic philosophy of function. In general I would say Logos excels in the realm of library, with Accordance catching up a great deal lately.[2] The depth of available resources and how those can be readily accessed and searched makes it stand out. BibleWorks and Accordance excel in the realm of searching. They each stand out for their ability to readily search the biblical texts, specifically with the original languages. (2) The question of hardware used to be more cut and dried. None of the major vendors was cross-platform, so PC users would choose between Logos and BibleWorks, and Mac users would use Accordance. Recent developments have removed the hardware restriction, as each program is now fully cross platform in the desktop/laptop space. Logos was the first to cross that divide, so for a number of years I would steer PC users to Logos and BibleWorks and Mac users to Logos and Accordance. The equation is different today since all three programs can be used on either a PC or Mac. This situation is better for the end user, in my opinion, as you now have direct competition between the programs on a fairly level playing field. So no matter the hardware platform you have adopted, you can benefit from any of the programs. (3) The question of design in my opinion is somewhat prejudicial and based on factors beyond the specific design of any the programs. Accordance has always had elegant and useful design because it has up until the last few years been a program developed exclusively on the Mac which has a particularly well-regarded design aesthetic. The developers of Accordance have always benefitted from their platform. On the other hand, BibleWorks has always been a Windows program, which also has a particular design aesthetic. It is cross-platform now, but through various emulation techniques; when it runs, you can still readily see Windows as the foundation. These different aesthetics in my opinion do not materially change either program’s functionality. When BibleWorks and Accordance are each searching the same resource, the results will be exactly the same. This means that the programs are much more similar in functionality and what the user can accomplish with them than they used to be. Even so, I still argue that my original assessment of the general strength of each program holds. Logos still excels with its depth of library, and BibleWorks and Accordance still excel in their ability to search the biblical text. So my tentative suggestion to users is still the same as before: Plan to use two programs, Logos on the one hand and BibleWorks or Accordance on the other.[3]

The bottom line regarding BibleWorks is that it has always been a strong program. It has great depth right out of the box, and its speed makes any task quick and effortless. Once the user gets past the learning curve of the command line, anything the user needs to do—changing settings, executing searches, opening resources—can be done quickly and easily. With some additional purchases, technical uses can acquire several standard resources used regularly in biblical exegesis, making BibleWorks a powerhouse for students and teachers. No, it is not the prettiest option available, and its legacy development on the Windows platform creates some particular ways of doing things that newer users might find a little challenging. But even with these minor annoyances, BibleWorks 10 gets the job done and will prove helpful to any user.


  1. See this testimonials page for endorsements by Dan Wallace and Darrell Bock  ↩

  2. Case in point: Recently in a NT department meeting we were discussing a technical work on hermeneutics, Anthony Thiselton’s 2009 text unsurprisingly titled Hermeneutics. A few of us had not read the text yet, so on the spot we decided to purchase it. Logos has this text available for purchase. Accordance does as well, but only as part of a set.  ↩

  3. I honestly feel that all these programs are good and worth the money they cost. It’s frankly quite easy to state that one is the best without being able to explain why or without truly understanding the value of each program, so I’ve tried to get past that facile response. It is my hope that I’ve been fair in my assessment and comparison, so if you think I’ve missed something please let me know. I know people at each company well, and they all are doing their level best to make great software to benefit users. The Bible software category is mature, but there is a lot of room for growth, so I truly wish each company good results in their work.  ↩

BibleWorks 10 - Comparison to 9

The second most common question I get about BibleWorks after “Should I get it?” is “Should I upgrade?” My personal opinion is that if the software has helped you, you ought to spring for an upgrade, especially for something that provides consistent value. That’s how the developers ensure a revenue stream which will enable further development and thus future value. So if I were sitting on 9, really liked it, and 10 came out, I would get it without question. That being said, it is a legitimate question to ask, especially if funds are tight or if the program gets used less than constantly. BibleWorks has page which details all the material which is new to version 10. Once the program is purchased this can also be accessed by going to Help | What’s New in BibleWorks 10. This will open up a page in the Help file with this information with links to take the reader to particular sections as needed. There are a lot of resources and features which make this a worthy upgrade, but here are two things which stand out to me.

As a teacher of the New Testament I constantly look for new ways to help students process the Greek language. Bible software has made it very easy to use colors to highlight particular parts of speech. Previously in BibleWorks the user would have to first execute a search for the particular form and then tell the program to highlight all the search results with a particular color. In 10 that intermediate step has been relocated to the program options under Morphology Colors. Here the user can specify verbs to be red text on a pink background, nouns black text on a yellow background, etc. The specification can be quite granular; essentially any morphological feature can receive a particular color combination. Once specified the user can toggle these off and on as desired by using the Browse Window Options button.

Morphology Colors Option window

Morphology Colors Option window

Galatians 3:8 with morphology colors

Galatians 3:8 with morphology colors

The Stuttgart Original Languages Module is an important addition to the BibleWorks product line new to version 10. It contains the original-language texts for both the Old and New Testaments widely considered to be the scholarly standards, along with their respective textual apparatuses. This is an expensive module ($199), but for technical language work there is no equal. Various parts of this package were available previously, but they have been compiled and augmented with additional helpful resources, making this module in 10 slightly less expensive as a whole. The only oddity is the BHQ fascicles available in the module. Deuteronomy, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations are presently available. Judges, Proverbs, and the Twelve Minor Prophets will be added to this module when released at no additional cost. Future fascicles, though, will be made available as separate modules with additional cost.[1]


  1. I shudder to think of the contract negotiations that resulted in this arrangement.  ↩

BibleWorks 10 - Pros and Cons

My goal in this section is simply to discuss some things about BibleWorks which I regard as pros and cons. These are not necessarily in relation to other programs which are on the market. Rather, this is my way of highlighting what I think BibleWorks does well in and of itself.

Pro: Help system. The help system in BibleWorks is very detailed and well designed. The most impressive thing to me is its accessibility. It can be accessed of course as a help file with a table of contents than can be searched, etc. But in my experience few users access help that way. In a sense, you have to know what you need help with before you open the help file. Much more common is the situation where the user is working with the program and needs help with a particular feature at that moment. This is where BibleWorks shines. When a user presses F1, the help file will be opened to the section covering where the cursor is at that moment. Put the cursor on the command line, press F1, and you are greeted with information on the command line, including various examples. Put the cursor in the Resources tab, press F1, and you see the help file which explains what the Resources tab does and how to use it. This is a smart implementation because it means that whenever a user needs help, all they have to do is press F1.

Pro: Speed. BW has always been a very fast program. It is perhaps a little slow to start up on occasion, especially after an update which requires reindexing of resources, but actual use, searches, opening resources, etc., are all lightning fast. The slowest part of using BW is perhaps the user. The program has always been able to operate as quickly as I have been able to use it. I never have to wait for anything to finish.

Pro: Depth of resources. As I mentioned previously, BibleWorks ships with a deep, extensive library. Some of it could be considered unnecessary for the average Bible student, but there is no doubt that right out of the box BibleWorks enables the user to engage in deep study of the biblical text. With the purchase of only one or two additional modules, the user is set up with all the proper tools for research, teaching, and personal study.

Con: Separation of texts from morphology. One thing that takes a little getting used to is how in the structure of their resources BibleWorks separates text from morphology. In other words, for any one biblical text, like the UBS version of the Greek text, there are two resources. One contains the actual words of the text, the other the morphological data of those words. In practice this means that the user has to pick the right resource for the task they want to accomplish. For example, reading a particular verse requires the text resource; searching for all forms of a word requires the morphology resource. This is a little challenging for new users to grasp. Practically it doesn’t slow anything down once this philosophy is learned, but it is a little difficult to get at the beginning.

Con: Learning the morphological nomenclature. As with any technical system, the morphology of biblical languages has its own technical vocabulary. The added problem of Bible software is the collapse of that technical vocabulary into a database with lots of symbols and abbreviations. The design of BibleWorks’ software with its emphasis on the command line means that the user needs to learn that technical nomenclature right away, but that’s a hard thing to learn as a student. The programmers have included some command line helps to aid the user, and the help files contain all kinds of reference charts. But even so, the contemporary emphasis on natural language makes this system feel very arcane. Once learned, it can be implemented quickly, but this is a big hurdle for many users to overcome.

Con: Visual design. BibleWorks has a long history of development since the program began in 1992. This means that there is a lot of depth to the program, but also a lot of legacy design. One of the ways this legacy of development is most evident is in the visual design of the software. BibleWorks began its life as a Windows program, and it certainly remains that, even with a Mac version readily available. Many of the snappy visual features which mark recent computer programs are absent. Some improvements have been made at various points along the way, but users used to bright and shiny program design, especially those in the Mac world, might find the appearance off-putting. There is nothing about the aesthetics which affect performance, though, so one easily overlook the lack of eye candy when using the program. The power more than makes up for the lack of polish.

BibleWorks 10 - Features for Teachers

Even though there is a lot within the program which is technical and oriented to those who are studying or researching the original languages, there is also a lot in the program for those who are teaching the Bible, whether the original languages or bible texts. When I was using BW regularly it was often in the context of first-year Greek, so I found a number of features which helped my teaching. Your mileage may vary, but these could prove to add a little sizzle to your classroom teaching.

Since the vocabulary module is keyed to popular first-year grammars, it became a very helpful tool for drilling vocabulary in the classroom. It allowed for targeted time on the particular vocabulary words on the docket for the day. My quibbles were concerning the font size, as it took more than a little effort to adjust so it worked well on a larger display for the classroom. But on the whole it provided a good tool for vocabulary work.

Within the vocabulary module is a feature which allows you to find example verses which contain the vocabulary words you specify. This is a great feature which enables the teacher to display Bible verses which are within the capability of the students. You can specify how many vocabulary words the verse contains as well as how many non-learned words the verse contains. This is especially useful as it allows you to choose verses that won’t overwhelm students with vocabulary they don’t yet know.

Example Finder

Example Finder

Perhaps a simple feature but one which allows good classroom focus is the ability to open a new Browse Window. As with a lot of programs the interface can get pretty busy and distracting for students. Opening a new Browse Window enables the teacher to focus simply and solely on the text under discussion. It is simple but effective.

Option to display new Browse Window

Option to display new Browse Window

BibleWorks 10 - Features for Students

BibleWorks has put a great deal of effort into creating a program which students will find beneficial. The usual pushback about a program like this is that you have to know a great deal about biblical texts and languages in order to use it. In some sense that is true; the program is not designed with pedagogy as the first function, and you often do need to know things in general to understand the particular things the program tells you. That being said, though, the program does contain a number of tools and features which will help the student who is learning biblical texts and languages to learn better. These same tools will help the minister retain what they have learned as well.

The Vocabulary Flashcard Module is the first such tool. As the name conveys, this tool provides a means for study of vocabulary words for Greek and Hebrew. Included with the program are lists drawn from many common grammars, so the student can get started using it immediately in line with their current studies. The module also allows for creation of vocabulary lists so the end user can create whatever vocabulary list they would like and use it in the module. Features standard to programs like this (e.g., marking words as learned or unlearned) are included so the student can keep track of their progress. It is possible to share lists with others, but it isn’t all that easy to do. Newer platforms for learning information in flashcard format (e.g., Studies, Quizlet) have better sharing capabilities.

Vocabulary Flashcard Module

Vocabulary Flashcard Module

The Diagramming Module enables students to create line graphs which show word relationships within a sentence. We use this technique in our intermediate Greek courses as a way for students to understand how words and phrases relate within a sentence, as it shows connections, modifications, and dependency. The BibleWorks module enables students to create diagrams from scratch with a palette of pre-made lines and connectors, and they can add comments and callouts as well. In addition, as a help to the beginning student BibleWorks includes two resources from Randy Leedy, professor at Bob Jones University: an article on sentence diagramming in Greek, published originally in Biblical Viewpoint, and diagrams of the entire NT for reference and comparison.

Diagram of Galatians 3:8

Diagram of Galatians 3:8

I discussed the Resources panel of the Analysis Window under Deeper Program Use above as a good example of the program’s philosophy, but the programmers have also enabled customization of this tab in a way that is very helpful for the student. The Resources tab has five sub-tabs: Summary, Lexicons, Grammars, References, and Options. The Summary tab is the default which shows all of the resources pertinent to where the mouse is located in the Browse Window. It will change and show different resources and links as the mouse moves. The other tabs control customization of what is displayed in the Summary tab, and this is what proves helpful to the student. The drawback with the default settings for the Resources tab is that so much material is displayed there that it can be overwhelming. Customization allows the user to control which resources are displayed, which enables focus on particular areas of study. For example, my Lexicons sub-tab has 14 Greek lexicons listed, which means I could display all 14 in the Resources tab if I wanted. A better plan for students who are translating and getting a handle on Greek vocabulary would be to display only two: a shorter lexicon like the Barclay Newman lexicon which gives short glosses, enabling quick translation, and a longer one, like BDAG, enabling deeper study as needed. The same strategy can be employed for Grammars and References. A little thought here on what the student needs to see for the task at hand will go a long way.

Customization of the References Panel in the Analysis Window

Customization of the References Panel in the Analysis Window