Contending For The Faith

August 4, 2009

A Look at Some Free Bible Software

Filed under: Bible Software,Bible Study — Lynda O @ 11:37 am
Tags: ,

I recently discovered two great, free bible programs: e-Sword and TheWord. These programs have actually been around for awhile; I started hearing about e-Sword on some Christian message boards, and since have downloaded and tried them out.

Both programs have a basic program which includes KJV and basic functionality, and many optional modules to add additional Bible versions, commentaries, dictionaries and more. E-Sword appears to have more overall modules, including several available for a small fee in addition to the many free modules. TheWord does not have any maps yet, though I noticed it has a category for that in the download section; no doubt they will add map modules in the future. In both cases, the free modules are often public domain material, such as Spurgeon devotionals, Matthew Henry commentary and Scofield reference notes.

TheWord has an importer utility that can import and convert e-Sword modules. However, it only works with earlier versions of e-Sword. The current version of e-Sword, version 9 (just released this May), has its databases completely redone in new formats. Also, earlier versions of e-Sword apparently had the ability to show Bible text in paragraph format, in addition to the verse-line format. That feature was accidentally omitted from the current version, and when I inquired about it, they acknowledged this mistake and said it would be added back to the next version.

Paragraph format text, along with footnotes and the “headers” included in a translation, are important features to me, and for this TheWord is the winner. TheWord allows you to display the text in either verse-line or paragraph format. You can also adjust the settings to show the footnotes at the bottom of the chapter, or in-stream at the verse, or as numbers that show the footnote when you move your mouse over the number. TheWord also displays the text with many small blue-colored links throughout — cross-references based on similar words and/or ideas in some other part of the Bible. These also display in pop-up windows when I move my mouse over the link.

E-Sword has one great feature, but the lack of paragraph formatted text makes it of limited value. The “bible reading plan” option allows you to create one or more “reading plans.” You can define each reading plan to all of the Bible, or any specific books. The default option is one chapter a day, though you can change it to other time periods. Using this feature, I was able to set up 12 reading plans, one for each list I read in my modified Horner Bible Reading plan. When you select each list from the drop-down, it shows the full text for the first day’s chapter. A check-box at the top of the screen allows you to mark a reading as completed, so the next day when you access the list, it shows the correct chapter. (Obviously it helps to set up the reading plan when you actually start reading the chapters. In my case, I was in the middle of several of the lists, and it takes quite a bit of time to go through each day’s reading and “check it off” to get to where I’m actually reading.)

Given the format limitations of E-Sword, however, I found an even better way to quickly access my 12 daily readings in TheWord. I already have an Excel file “calendar” that lists all the chapter readings. A one-time save to CSV format, then loading the CSV file into Wordpad and removing the commas, gives a basic text file with each day’s readings, line by line. With TheWord running in another window, I just go into the wordpad file, and highlight and copy each scripture reference on the schedule — for instance, highlight “Isaiah 1” and copy to clipboard. TheWord displays a pop-up window in Wordpad (or whatever program you’re using to copy to the clipboard), with the full text displayed, and a link to “go” to the full view in TheWord. It only takes a few seconds to highlight, copy, then click “go” and I’m reading the full chapter, with my paragraph formatting, in TheWord. I also maximize the text window for easier reading.

TheWord also has a way to import text files (stored in rtf format), and create book entries from these. I tested it out with the transcripts from some S. Lewis Johnson messages, one message per file. Each file (transcript) is considered a chapter in the “book” and you can easily link to any of the chapters, or search for text anywhere in the book. Once the first few chapters of the book are setup, you can easily modify the chapter names, and add new chapters anywhere in the sequence. So if one had the time and desire, with TheWord you could add all of SLJ’s transcripts (or any other pastor or book series transcripts available online) as various books (each book having all the transcripts in a sermon series), to have all of the material easily accessible and searchable.

TheWord is available for free download at: http://www.theword.gr

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