Review of BibleWorks on a Mac

The world of Bible software will soon be entirely cross platform. Logos began as PC-only but for a number of years now has been available on Mac, and Accordance has announced plans for a native PC version of their platform that should launch this fall. The third player in this high-end space is BibleWorks, and they have been working on a Mac version of their software for a while now. I've been test-driving it for some time, and this review serves to highlight some of the things I've noticed.

A few caveats are in order: This is not a review of BibleWorks as a Bible software program per se, but rather a review of how BibleWorks runs on a Mac. To that end, my primary comparison is not Logos or Accordance but BibleWorks on pure PC platform. I used to run BibleWorks on a PC, but when I switched to Mac in spring of 2010 I began running BibleWorks using Parallels. My current setup includes Parallels 9 (yes, that is correct, as I have a pre-release version of 9) with two virtual machines, one running Windows XP Pro and another running Windows 8 Pro. I have a full install of BibleWorks on each of those virtual machines and have used it a fair bit on each one. (I have not run a dual-boot setup, as I want to be able to bring info from BibleWorks over to my Mac word processor.) Keep in mind then BibleWorks' own take on these different arrangements with this chart taken from their Mac page:

Screen Shot 2013 09 09 at 11 17 31 AM

The Big Picture

Let's get the big picture idea for this review out of the way: BibleWorks runs on a Mac quite well. All of the same databases are in use and function exactly the same way. There is no substantive difference in functionality between the two platforms. If you are interested in BibleWorks and run a Mac, I would not hesitate to install it with their Mac installer and use it on a regular basis . So all the nice things I have to say about BibleWorks on the PC I would say as well about BibleWorks on a Mac.

There were two issues, however, I found disconcerting when I compared the two platforms, that is, BibleWorks running on a virtual machine in Parallels vs. BibleWorks running on a Mac through their Mac installer. (To BibleWorks' credit, they know about many issues that need to be addressed in the Mac version and have not been silent about them; see the list here). 


The biggest jolt to me when using the Mac version of BibleWorks is the appearance. Because of the way the code works under the surface, within the BibleWorks Mac window is a Windows toolbar:

Screen Shot 2013 09 09 at 10 50 34 AM

I don't understand all the reasons why this needs to be included, not being a computer programmer, but it simply strikes me as odd. To manipulate BibleWorks on the Mac, you have to work solely within the BibleWorks window, which is a little unnatural compared to the way other Mac programs work.

Another issue of appearance is the fonts. In the Mac version of BibleWorks the fonts just aren't as cleanly drawn. Here's a screenshot of the Greek text of Matthew 1:1 from the Mac version on the left and then the Windows 8 version on the right:

Screen Shot 2013 09 09 at 10 54 33 AM
Screen Shot 2013 09 09 at 10 54 40 AM

To my eye the fonts in the Windows 8 version look cleaner and easier to read. This is not a major problem, but it began to bother me after working in the BibleWorks window for a while. It becomes more pronounced when I display BibleWorks on a screen in a classroom.

Special User Files

BibleWorks allows users to install their own files for use in the program. For example, I have vocabulary files related to Allen Ross' Introducing Biblical Hebrew that I can use in the Flashcard module. I have some versions which were compiled by other users that act just like other BibleWorks texts in that I can read them, browse them, search them, etc. Use of these files requires that they be installed into particular folders within the BibleWorks program folder, and herein lies the problem. Because of the way the Mac version of BibleWorks is coded, the user has no access to the required folders. This results in the user not being able to use anything in BibleWorks on a Mac other than the modules and texts that ship with BibleWorks. I would estimate that this is acceptable for most users 90% of the time. However, if you do want to use any user-created files, like I do with the Ross vocabulary, I know of no way to install them into the Mac version of BibleWorks (i've done some digging on the BibleWorks forums but not found a solution). This is a big loss in my opinion, as the BibleWorks user community has been quite prolific in creating databases and versions.

My Final Verdict

As I said above, when viewed as a whole, running BibleWorks on a Mac gives you practically the same experience as running it on a PC. The functionality is essentially the same, save the few issues I mentioned. The fact that I couldn't find anything major to mention is a good testimony to the strength of their Mac product. That being said, the issues that did concern me, the more important of which being able to install user-created versions, mean I will stick with running BibleWorks on Parallels instead of running the Mac version. I'm already invested in that, so I have no additional cash outlay to get the full functionality of BibleWorks on a PC that I desire. If you do not want to purchase Parallels or a Windows license, then give the Mac version a try. Just know that it is substantively the same as on a PC, but there are a few quirks you'll have to wrestle with fairly regularly.