SwordSearcher is to the Bible what Firefox is to the web. I've never seen such attention to detail as it pertains to the user experience.
About a month ago, I started using what has become my favorite Bible software package. Being a seminary student, I've used several different programs, ranging from the cheap and buggy to the expensive and bloaty. For graduate homework, I have used other clunky programs with just about every language imaginable included. For everyday use, I prefer SwordSearcher. I won't go too in-depth, since you make your own assessment with a free 30 day trial version. I will just highlight a few of my favorite things.
Features & Price: $49.95
Is it the most robust program out there - No. Is it the cheapest one available - No. Is it reliable, fast loading, incredibly intuitive and customizable - Yes. Having used free Bible programs in the past, I've always been dissatisfied because they tend not to be very good quality. Without pointing any fingers, just let me say that I've had my fill of shoddy software.
That's why I was pleasantly surprised to find SwordSearcher. In my opinion, it is the best balance of features and price. It has many commentaries included, including those by John Wesley, a big plus for the seminary I'm affiliated with. It also includes phonetic pronounciation of Greek & Hebrew, a life-saver for a person such as myself, who is a bit weak in historical linguistics.
The retail version also comes packaged with maps and illustrations, to help you better understand the context of the Bible as you're reading. Not sure where exactly things are located? No problem - just fire up the maps, and find your way around. There are even diagrams of somewhat complex spiritual principles, such as the Two Adams and the Three-fold Work of Christ.
Another one of my favorite aspects is the customization of the interface. Since I am a full-time User Interface Designer, one of the most important things to me is the user experience. I have never seen such attention to detail customization in a Bible program before. You can change font faces, sizes, colors, as well as the appearance of the program tabs themselves.
For instance, I'm not to keen on the neon blue tab highlights, so I changed them to a more respectable looking silver. Also, if you don't like the shapes of the tabs, you can change those too. Below is a screenshot of the default appearance. As you can see, there is quite a bit of information packed into this streamlined program.
Ease of Use
There are toggle buttons along the top of the interface, allowing the user to switch various panes on and off with the click of the mouse. This is a far cry from the clunky interface of other Bible programs, which have myriads of panes, but no clear way to control them. One of my pet peeves of BibleWorks has always been the "footprint" button. This toggles Bible versions from single to multiple, but why they chose a footprint to represent that is beyond me.
There is also a devotional built into SwordSearcher, with verses for both morning and evening. If you missed a day (tisk tisk), you can catch up, or you can read ahead, by picking any day and time you like. There is also a Proverb of the day available from the same menu.
Another benefit of using SwordSearcher is that it's quick loading. With BibleWorks on an older computer, you might as well go pour yourself a cup of coffee while it starts up. SwordSearcher, on the other hand loads nearly instantly, depending on what features you have installed. Even with the full libraries and commentaries, it still loads quicker than BibleWorks does with a minimal setup. While it's fast and responsive, it's no featherweight either. If you happen to be a web guru, you can go into some of the Advanced Options and edit the raw HTML, to control how you view and output various text.
You can tell, just by using it, that this program has been coded with great care. It is not prone to freezing or crashing like BibleWorks, and doesn't take forever to shut down either. I never understood clunky programs that have to "save user settings" as they shut down. It seems to me that it should be saving my settings as I'm using it, not forcing me to sit around after the fact.
Whether you're just beginning your spiritual walk, or you're a seasoned veteran with a strong Biblical background, this program is for you. It is quite intuitive and user-friendly from the get-go, and has enough extensive features to satisfy even the most experienced scholars. Do yourself a favor, and try the free 30 day program. If you don't like it, just uninstall it. I would recommend at least checking it out, so you'll know what you've been missing.