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.