The 2005 Survey Of The Best Software For Preachers Jonathan Kever September 1, 2005 Several weeks ago, I took a short-term missions trip with my church to Eastern Europe. I decided to pack light and carry on my luggage, thereby avoiding the hassle of losing it to that dark abyss (otherwise referred to as “checked baggage”). Packing light meant taking little more for reading than my Bible and a book or two. Soon after arriving (and on more than one occasion!), I was assigned the responsibility of teaching and preaching. I don’t know why, but the thought hadn’t occurred to me before the trip that I might be bestowed this privilege. I had nothing prepared, and no books to prepare with (except my bible, of course). In the midst of my frenzied preparation I was reaffirmed in my convictions that bible study software is invaluable. Though, I’d left most of my books in print behind, I’d decided to take my laptop. And what would’ve otherwise been a night of overly-anxious “I hope I don’t say anything heretical” study, turned out to be wonderfully efficient and fruitful. All, this to say, if you haven’t joined the ranks of bible software ownership, there’s no better time than the present. In fact, you’ll end up with a lot more of the “present” to work with. And if time isn’t a convincing factor, think in terms of investment. I know what you’re thinking, “But, most of the good resources are as expensive electronic as they are in print.” True… but that’s not what I mean. Think of the amount of money you’ll save by avoiding those future chiropractor bills. With a briefcase or backpack full of the print versions you use in sermon preparation, you’re bound to pull something out of alignment. In past reviews I’ve listed a myriad of reasons for going electronic – time saved, efficiency, searchability . . . And I thought to myself, what else can I add? And then it hit me – preventative medicine, yet another reason to go electronic! This year’s review contains several products that will go a long way in aiding sermon preparation. I’ve done my best to leave the tech jargon in the manuals and emphasize features I found to be useful, along with those I didn’t. I’ve chosen not to list prices because most of the retail prices are inflated, and the “sale” price is usually significantly less. To find out the latest prices, you can visit the websites listed at the end of each review. BIBLE STUDY LIBRARIES PC Study Bible Version 4.2 – Advanced Reference Library PC Study Bible Version 4 was reviewed last year, so I’ll direct you to the 2004 issue for an overview. Version 4.2 contains some additional features that are worth highlighting though. If you already own Version 4, you can update to 4.2 for free by visiting their website. PC4 is one of the most user-friendly interfaces out there in the world of bible study libraries, and the latest has become even more intuitive and functional. In addition PC4 recognizes the value of “eye candy,” and has improved their graphics on an already attractive program. A couple of the added features that I found especially helpful in 4.2 are the Global Search and the Library button. Global Search allows you to quickly search your entire library or a customizable selection of resources. By selecting or unselecting resources in the Global Search Dialogue, you easily specify the resource boundaries of your searches. The Library Feature allows you to display all your references by author, category, or abbreviation. This is especially helpful with long lists of unlocked resources in the more advanced libraries available with PC Study bible, or when you add multiple resources to your library. Navigation is a breeze in PC4, and as you become more familiar with NavPanel (located on the left), the Lower Toolbar, and the Hover Capability (allowing snapshots of reference list items without opening the resource), you’ll soon discover that sifting through resources doesn’t present the challenges of other comparable libraries. PC4’s menu display only adds to the ease of navigation, and their layout is the best I’ve used in a PC format. As I mentioned in last year’s review, PC4’s list of resources leaves something to be desired. But they’re continually adding titles that can be purchased separately as addons. They still lack many of the more technical resources available in Libronix or BibleWorks, but they’re expanding and improving. System Requirements: IBM compatible, Pentium 333 or higher recommended; 64MB RAM or more recommended; Windows 95/98, ME, 2000*, or XP* (*may require Superuser or Administrator mode); CD ROM drive (4x speed or higher recommended); 58MB hard drive space required, up to 620MB hard drive space optional; Mouse or compatible pointing device required; 256 color graphics support. Website: www.biblesoft.com QuickVerse 2005 Version – Deluxe Edition QuickVerse (QV) 2005 Deluxe is one of five editions (second to QV’s Platinum Edition) and offers144 reference titles and 18 bibles. QV Deluxe includes a limited number of original language resources (mostly Greek), including the Greek NT. You can parse any word and get basic lexical information by right-clicking on it and choosing “Morphological Information.” Much of what you’ll find in QV can be found in other Bible Study Libraries, so be sure and take the time to review the resources offered before making your decision. You can also purchase additional resources and collections for QV separately. QV’s interface is simple enough to navigate with the exception of a couple minor inconveniences. First, resources contained in the library pane at your left must be double-clicked in order to open. Second, once a resource is opened, you can’t just scroll through it. For example, if you have your bible open to the book of John, you can only scroll through one chapter at a time with your scroll bar. It takes an extra step to get from one chapter to the next. Like I said, these are minor, but if you’re used to quick access, the extra steps may be frustrating. On the flip side, QV contains several very useful features. My favorite of these is the incorporation of Microsoft Office Smart Tags. These smart tags allow you to import bible passages into MS Word without opening QV. The Smart Tag function searches your default bible, topical, and dictionary. Another cool feature of QV is Passage E-mails. This feature, integrated with MS Outlook (2000 or later), automatically opens a new email and pastes the bible passage you’ve selected from all your bibles, all your open bibles, bibles from a list you choose, or from the bible you’re currently using. QV also allows you to save your study view so you can return to all the resources you had open, just like you left them. This is especially valuable when teaching more than one study or preaching more than one sermon a week. Finally, though I haven’t seen a copy yet, QV has just released their MAC version for OS-X. Here’s what their website says: “Rather than attempting to retrofit obsolete code from Windows to the Mac platform –discerning Mac users would not accept that – QuickVerse Mac has been developed with an entirely new core compression, which utilizes the most advanced search and retrieval technology, in an ultra-lightweight code base, designed for small footprint desktops and hand-held systems.” System Requirements: Windows 98 SE/2000/ME/XP CD/DVD; Pentium III 500 or greater; 128 MB of RAM; 200 MB hard drive space; 2x CD-ROM drive or faster; 600 x 800 display, 64k color or greater. Website: www.quickverse.com Thompson Chain-Reference Bible – Leader’s Library The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (TCRB) has become one of the most popular study bibles in use. Utilizing WORDsearch 7 (WS7) technology, this library contains 165 volumes (18 bibles, including TCRB, and 147 reference works). As I mentioned in last year’s review, WS and Epiphany Software (Bible Explorer) merged, and together they bring the best of both worlds together in the much more user-friendly and resource loaded WS7 interface. There are more than 1200 volumes available in the CROSS (Christian Reference Open Software Standard) format. See last year’s review for a run-down of what I found to be the best features of WS7. The TCRB library contains a number of helpful resources for your sermon preparation including commentaries (19), dictionaries (7), histories (12), topical and cross-reference resources (6), and the list goes on. Though most of these resources aren’t unique to WS7, there are definitely enough of them to serve as a strong base for your electronic library. Several more resources and software packages are available on WS7’s website, and they integrate seamlessly. Last year I found WS7 lacking in the area of original language study. I’m pleased to see that they’re now adding resources for study in Greek and Hebrew. The TCRB library contains eleven of these resources (however, this doesn’t include the Greek or Hebrew texts). While this won’t completely satisfy those who prefer to do exegesis in the original languages, there are more resources available online like the Greek and Hebrew Library which includes the Nestle-Aland 27 with grammar tags. I’m excited to see WS7 expanding in the area of original language study and hope that this will cross over into the addition of more technical commentaries and resources. System Requirements: Microsoft Windows 95, 98, NT4.x, 2000, ME or XP (note that some advanced Greek and Hebrew features will not function in 98 and ME); Pentium class processor; 4x or higher CD-ROM drive; 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended); 16 MB minimum of available hard drive space. Sound card and speakers required for pronunciation features. Website: www.wordsearchbible.com ADDITIONAL RESOURCES CBD Pastor’s Collection (WORDsearch) According to their website, Christian Book Distributors polled clergy to find out what they need in their software – the CBD Pastor’s Collection is the result. CBD utilizes the WS7 interface, and this collection includes 19 bibles and 111 reference works. Of these reference works, there are 26 commentaries (including IVP’s background commentaries and Keil and Delitzsh), 5 dictionaries, 9 Greek and Hebrew helps, and 10 theologies. Though most works are non-technical, this list of resources is impressive considering CBD’s price. System Requirements: Microsoft Windows 95, 98, NT4.x, 2000, ME or XP (note that some advanced Greek and Hebrew features will not function in 98 and ME); Pentium class processor; 4x or higher CD-ROM drive; 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended); 16 MB minimum of available hard drive space. Sound card and speakers required for pronunciation features. Website: www.christianbook.com Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Logos) The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT) is a three-volume English translation of its German counterpart, Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament. EDNT includes every New Testament word in the Greek. Originally published in the early 80s (German version), EDNT includes a significant amount of modern linguistic study, and provides ample exegetical and theological discussion with a special concern for the literary, theological context of what it determines to be the more significant terms. EDNT is like the marriage of a Greek Lexicon and Theological Word-book, and has become a standard exegetical tool for NT studies. Published electronically under the Libronix platform, EDNT is key-linked for quick access. Simply right-click on any Greek word to access EDNT’s article on that word. You can also click on tagged texts to quickly jump to your default bible translation, or just scroll over a given reference to view the verse in a pop-up. Once again, Libronix demonstrates their commitment to providing electronic resources representing the best in biblical scholarship. System Requirements: IBM compatible, Pentium 333 or higher recommended; 64 MB RAM or more recommended; Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP; CD ROM drive (4x speed or higher recommended); 58 MB hard drive space required; 256 color graphics support. Website: www.logos.com Greek Pronunciation Addin (Logos) I don’t know how useful this product will be for sermon preparation, but it sure is fun! The Greek Pronunciation Addin, utilizing the Libronix DLS, allows you to hear Greek words spoken in both Erasmian and Modern pronunciation styles. Simply right click on a word in the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition or open the dialog in the Tools menu. Though I personally avoid saying Greek words in my sermons to avoid pretension, this resource will certainly help you brush up on your reading in the original language of the New Testament, or help you with those ridiculously long participles. System Requirements: IBM compatible, Pentium 333 or higher recommended; 64 MB RAM or more recommended; Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP; CD ROM drive (4x speed or higher recommended); 58 MB hard drive space required; 256 color graphics support. Website: www.logos.com Pillar New Testament Commentary (Logos) This 8 volume series published by Eerdmans is quickly becoming a favorite of pastors and serious bible students. Coming from an Evangelical perspective, PNTC is designed to make the text of Scripture clear and applicable without getting bogged down in technical detail. While interacting with the best in modern scholarship and maintaining a contextual sensitivity through intense exegesis and biblical theological considerations, PNTC remains readable and profoundly useful. Much of the technical detail is left to footnotes where particular interests can be pursued at a more original-language-sensitive, scholarly level. Utilizing the Libronix Digital Library System, these commentaries can be linked to scroll along with any bible. You can also click on tagged texts to quickly jump to your default bible translation, or just scroll over a given reference to view the verse in a pop-up. And Greek and Hebrew words are key-linked for quick references from your preferred lexicons. D.A. Carson serves as the General Editor of the PNTC. All the volumes currently in print are included in the Logos edition: The Gospel According to Mathew by Leon Morris (1992); The Gospel According to Mark by James R. Edwards (2001); The Gospel According to John by D.A. Carson (1990); The Epistle to the Romans by Leon Morris (1988); The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O’Brien (1999); The Letter to the Thessalonians by Gene L. Green (2002); The Letter of James by Douglas J. Moo (2000); The Letters of John by Colin G. Kruse (2000). PNTC is, without a doubt, a must-have New Testament commentary series! And the Libronix format only adds value. System Requirements: IBM compatible, Pentium 333 or higher recommended; 64 MB RAM or more recommended; Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP; CD ROM drive (4x speed or higher recommended); 58 MB hard drive space required; 256 color graphics support. Website: www.logos.com Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible Library (WORDsearch) The Preacher’s Outline (POSBL) was reviewed in a past issue, so I won’t say much except that it’s a new version and utilizes WS7 technology. POSBL contains the complete 14-volume New Testament set (containing verse-by-verse outlines of the entire NT) along with 14 additional bibles and reference works. If you find outlines valuable in your sermon preparation, POSBL won’t disappoint. But if you’re looking for a bible study library, you’ll want to consider adding additional collections or resources available through WORDsearch’s website store. System Requirements: IBM compatible, Pentium 333 or higher recommended; 64 MB RAM or more recommended; Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP; CD ROM drive (4x speed or higher recommended); 58 MB hard drive space required; 256 color graphics support. Website: www.wordsearchbible.com The Rick Warren Bible Library (WORDsearch) Though the press release associated with this software suggests that The Rick Warren Bible Library (RWBL) is a product designed to equip pastors, this “library” is better suited for lay persons. It includes 20 bible translations and over 45 references works. Except perhaps for books written by Warren, what you’ll get in RWBL isn’t exclusive to WS7. The reference works included fall in the category of “non-technical” and would be useful to a lay person looking for an easy-to-use program with some good, helpful resources. Though I’m always skeptical of personality-driven (no pun intended) software – and WORDsearch is by no means alone here – I like WS7’s platform and would recommend this product, or one like it, to congregants. System Requirements: Microsoft Windows 95, 98, NT4.x, 2000, ME or XP; Pentium class processor; 4x or higher CD-ROM drive; 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended); 16 MB minimum of available hard drive space. Sound card and speakers required for pronunciation features. Website: www.wordsearchbible.com Preaching On-Line I’ve mentioned past reviews several times and wanted to remind you that as a Preaching subscriber, you have access to past issues and a wealth of additional resources at our website: www.preaching.com. The username and current password for Preaching On-Line are located on the “Table of Contents” page of this issue. And for those who haven’t visited www.preaching.com for quite awhile, check it out and see the Illustration of the Day. Each day there’s a new illustration posted on the page, drawn from the large illustration database found at Preaching On-Line. (The full searchable database is available only to subscribers.) _____________ Jonathan Kever formerly served as Managing Editor of Preaching, and is now a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.