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Palm OS Scripture (Bible) Program Review: Bible With You, Bible +, Bible Reader +, BibleThumper, MyBible
posted Nov. 2003, updated Feb. 1, 2004 by Tanker Bob

I moved up from my first PDA, a Palm V, to a Palm Vx years ago because I didn’t have room on the Palm V for a great Bible program I found—Scripture by David Fedor. It took about 1.6 MB of RAM, and that was almost all the Palm V had. That was almost four years ago. Since then, the number of Bible programs has grown as well as the sophistication of those applications.

This review looks at five of the most popular Scripture programs, but digs a bit deeper. I specifically looked at their capabilities as Bible study references, including original language study and commentary availability and implementation. These days, large flash memory cards and fast CPUs provide Palm OS apps with the hardware to take reference software to higher plain. I looked primarily at five criteria: reader features, versions available, study materials available, study materials integration, and search capabilities. The reviews are in alphabetical order. All evaluations used a Palm Tungsten|T3, which has the new implementation of Palm’s Dynamic Input Area (DIA) and landscape modes which provides a 320x480 or 480x320 display. I concentrated on the KJV w/Strong’s numbering, as this translation tends to have the strongest (no pun intended) original language support, and this also provided a common evaluation point of reference.

Bible With You 5.0 from GMPSoftware

A relative newcomer to the Palm OS Bible software world, BWY has quickly become popular. It sports some interesting features, especially in the companion Concordance With You search capabilities. I tested BWY with the King James Version (KJV) with embedded Strong's numbers ($11.50), the corresponding Concordance With You ($18), the Hebrew/Greek Theological Dictionary ($4.50), and John Gill's Exposition of the Bible ($19.75). Net price of this package is $53.75, and available to try as shareware.

The reader itself is pretty simple. I pictured above the KJV with Strong’s numbers embedded. The numbers can be collapsed to just brackets to improve readability. Bible versions can be selected by tapping on the current version name on the top line. Books, chapters, and verses can be changed in the same way. Alternately, books can be changed by writing the name in graffiti, and BWY will provide progressive matches to select until the ambiguity resolves. Chapters and verses can be changed by writing numbers with graffiti as well. Databases can be anywhere on the PDA, and BWY will search for them--a very nice feature. BWY has a comparison mode where you can open a split window with a Bible in each one.

Only Bibles can be placed in this window, not commentaries. This new version fully support s Palm's DIA functionality as well as Palm's 5-way navigator.

BWY now support s commentaries. The commentary icons (B, C, V) appear next to the book, chapter, and verse to indicate a jump to the comments on that part of the text. If a particular commentary doesn't have a dedicated comment on, say, the chapter, that icon will not appear in BWY while in that chapter of the text. Tapping on a commentary icon brings the commentary up in full screen. Hot links are support ed to included Bible verse citations. The back/forward arrows, similar to a desktop browser, come embedded in the command stroke window. This all works very smoothly while studying. John Gill's Exposition came in rich text formatting, and contained original language excerpts like the original Exposition—very nicely executed. A commentary may be exited back to the Bible using an icon at the top of the screen.

GMP added reading enhancements to this new version. The user can autoscroll through a text at the speed of his/her choosing. The speed may be varied with the page up/down buttons during reading, although I couldn't get this to work on the T3 (it just kicked me out of read mode). Ribbons have been introduced to temporarily mark a place where one stopped reading, and you can have an infinite number of them. Their implementation is specific to the reader mode.

BWY support s cross-references, which come in separate downloads. The new implementation makes the cross-references work across Bible versions. That could save you some bucks if you own multiple versions.

Oddly, Bible With You has no built-in search capability. The user must purchase a separate program, Concordance With You, that corresponds to the Bible translation to be able to search. If you own multiple translations, though, you do not need a separate CWY license for each. Still, I don't care for this approach. I feel that you shouldn't have to pay extra for a basic capability, and I believe that searching meets that criteria. That said, CWY sports powerful, flexible, and extremely fast searches (except in one unique case). All settings are though the menu, which is a bit awkward, but you can set the translation to search and the search range. The user selects the search range using checkboxes on a grouped book list--a unique approach in this roundup. One cannot limit the range within a book. The user can jump back and forth between the Bible and concordance via icons on the top bar once they access the concordance the first time in a session.

CWY support s complex Boolean searches like either/or, AND, OR, exclude, and wildcards. Searches can be as simple or complex as the user can imagine. CWY even offers a screen to construct expressions. It will also search on Strong numbers if the translation support s them. Uniquely, it will search on both the Strong number and a particular translation of that original language word. For example, you may want to search for all the times the Hebrew ‘Almah', Strong # H5959, is translated as “virgin”. Only CWY gives you the ability to search in this manner. CWY proved uniquely able to search on the phrase “Lord, Lord” in this review. Apparently the repeat word tripped up the other apps. Although CWY found the verse, the filtering to find the phrase in the New Testament took over 10 seconds. That was the only search that took that much time, probably due to the repeat construction. Other phrase searches, even complex ones, finished virtually instantly. Unlike the other apps reviewed, CWY requires the use of quotes in constructing complex phrase searches. In fact, that's the only way I found to get case-sensitivity in a search as it's not an available search criterion.

Another strong card in BWY's deck has to be the Hebrew/Greek Theological Dictionary and its implementation. Much more expansive than Strong's brief comments, it includes an excellent discussion of each word and its use, as well as its various translations in the KJV. Just tap on a Strong's number, and a pop-up window appears with the definition. This approach maximizes the screen use for long definitions. I found this dictionary to be very good, and I like the implementation.

GMPSoft offers a large and expanding number of translations in English, Spanish, and German, including Luther's German version. Study materials available include commentaries and cross-references, and the list expands all the time. BWY does natively support small fonts, and as I mentioned earlier, the DIA on the T3. Customer support from GMPSoftware stands as nothing less than outstanding. They steadfastly stand behind their products and listen carefully to their customers.

Pros:
Very powerful rapid searching in the concordance
Outstanding Hebrew/Greek dictionary
Split window for version comparisons
Several good commentaries available w/rich text formatting and original
language citations
Simple to use

Cons:
No native search capability in Bible reader - pay $18 extra for it (but only once)

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KJV with Strong's
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