21 October 2012

Online Bible tools

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There are many ways to read and study the Bible. Since the invention of printing this has included paper versions of the Bible as well as commentaries and tools of all kinds. Today we can also use software for Bible reading and study, both locally installed and online.

The Malmesbury Bible
Frank Viola has been writing brief reviews of Bible software, but has decided not to include web-based Bible tools because 'people can test out the free online programs on their own'. (See the comments to his post on WORDsearch.)

Even though the websites are indeed readily available, I think it's worth commenting on them. This will help anyone considering using tools of this kind.

Local or cloud? - First, let's just consider the main differences between local software that you install on your own computer, and tools provided remotely through a web interface.

  • Web-based tools are often free to use. Installed software is sometimes free, but must often be paid for.
  • Installation takes time and uses disk space (sometimes in large amounts). Web tools need no installation.
  • Web tools are available wherever you can access a browser - at home, on your phone, at work, in the local library, at a friend's house, etc.
  • Web tools are updated remotely, there's no need to upgrade the software locally (often at additional cost).
  • The software runs on powerful servers, not on your own local computer. For this reason a smartphone can work just as fast as a desktop workstation.
Searching the Bible for a phrase might take your phone a long time, but the request is sent to the server where the search is done on powerful hardware; only the result needs to be sent back to the phone.

Because of this and for other reasons there's a growing trend for data and applications to be stored and managed in 'the cloud'. This phrase encompasses the remote servers that store user data as well as the software.

Today, many people are running remote web versions of email, office applications, managed photographic storage and display, mapping tools, display of documents and much, much more. Bible software has also made the leap to the cloud for the same reasons.

Reviewing Bible tools - In the next post we'll take a look at 'Bible Gateway', a site that offers many online versions of the Bible along with simple search and some other facilities. Then we'll look at more in further posts.

As a help, here are links to Frank Viola's reviews. I'll move the list to a post of its own later, and update it with my own and other reviews as we go along.

For more background also check another article from Frank, 'Bible Software Programs'.

Do you have a favourite online Bible study tool? If so, send me a comment about it and I'll try to include it in this series.

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