Bible Software for your Palm or Pocket PC

by PocketGoddess on November 27, 2001

As a Christian and a serious student of the Bible, I like to be able to read the Scriptures at any time. Since I always have my Palm m505 with me, it seems logical enough to load one of the several Bible reader programs on it. There are several different choices, including MyBible (Palm OS) and PocketBible (Pocket PC) from Laridian, BibleReader from Olive Tree Bible Software, and MarkMyScriptures from Skimware. Since it’s impossible at this point for me to do a complete review of each program, I’ll highlight the best features of each in the hope that this article will enable you to pick the best program for your needs.

 

I’ll start with MyBible from Laridian software, since I have been using it for the longest amount of time. Until I got this application, I didn’t realize how wonderful it would be to have access to the Scriptures at all times, without having to worry about carrying around my printed Bible. MyBible is not as feature-filled as some of the other reader programs available, but it works. It only takes about 7 seconds to load from a card, so you can store your Bibles on an SD card if you like. Navigation is super quick and easy. Just tap on the box at the top right-hand side of the screen to select the book of the Bible that you want to read, and then enter chapter and verse numbers in the Graffiti area.

 

Bookmarks are easy to enter as well, so that you can jump to specific parts of the Bible when necessary. But my favorite feature is the very nimble search function that is included with this program. You can choose to search for any word in the entire Bible or in a specific portion of the Bible, the Old Testament, the Gospels, or the Pauline Epistles. Even though the search program is very fast, the ability to pick a certain part of the Bible to look in if you have a general idea of where to find what you’re looking for speeds things up even further. Even though MyBible for the Palm OS doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, it is still a very nice program.

 

If you have a Pocket PC though, run, don’t walk, to get your copy of PocketBible from Laridian. They have packed in some absolutely amazing features that make this Palm PS diehard positively green with envy. I don’t even know where to begin– navigation is very easy, just tap an icon and select any book, chapter, and verse, and you’ll go straight there. If you don’t like the standard font, you have several options for changing it and enlarging the type size, and you can choose whether or not to have the words of Christ in red. ClearType is available to improve the clarity of the text. You have the option to have two document windows open at once, which is very handy for comparison purposes. And then there’s the fact that there are several Bible study tools available that you can’t get on the Palm OS version, including Unger’s New Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary (this is available at Memoware as a Palm DOC file), and the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance (which gives you the power of Strong’s numbers for in-depth Bible study.

My personal favorite is the Daily Bible Reader application. I tried it out with the One Year Chronological Bible and was thrilled with how easy it is to switch to the various readings for each day with the hypertext links. This feature is very well done and makes PocketBible an excellent tool for serious Bible research. All in all, PocketBible is my top pick for a Bible reader program on the Pocket PC platform.

 

Bible Reader from Olive Tree is a nice application, but it suffers from a few quirks that take a bit of getting used to. One of the most important things in an electronic Bible is ease of navigation. I want to be able to quickly jump from one book to another, and from different chapters and verses to others. There are two navigational choices in this application– the quick one lets you enter chapter and verse numbers in the Graffiti area, while the other is a menu-driven system that allows you to choose the book you would like to read, and then the chapter and verse on the same screen. The problem with the quick verse chooser is that it requires a few extra taps at the end of my number sequence so that the program knows where to go in the text. In MyBible from Laridian, a simple pause is good enough to finish the command.

And the problem with the menu system comes in due to the packaging of the particular Bible translation you’ve chosen–it can either be broken up into several different pieces (which is great if you have limited memory and want the option to install just a few books of the Bible at a time), but that will slow you down when you’re navigating the program since you you have to figure out which file the book you want to read is in. If you have a Palm OS device equipped with SD or Memory Stick expansion, you can also choose to load one large Bible file to make things a bit easier. It’s your choice.

Due to these navigational quirks, Bible Reader is best for devotional reading and individual study, as opposed to use in church where your pastor may jump to several different verse references within a single sermon– you’d probably go crazy trying to keep up. In fact, it is very well suited for study considering how many translations are available on the Olive Tree web site. There are 17 free English Bibles there, and 15 for sale, including the NASB with Strong’s Numbers, and a Greek New Testament. You’ll also find 10 free Bibles in languages other than English, including Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, and Spanish, as well as a few foreign editions that you’ll have to pay for. Bible Reader is also available for Pocket PC devices, though I didn’t have the opportunity to test it for this article. You can get a demo for yourself at their web site, since the reader is free and you can try it out with one of the free Bible texts before you commit to buying anything.

 

MarkMyScriptures is the last handheld Bible program I’ll be considering in this review, but certainly not the least. In fact, after my testing I fell in love with the power and the features of this application. What makes it so good? It’s the attention to detail and obvious care that have gone into the creation of this application. First of all, it’s fast– only two seconds to load from my SD card on my Palm m505. And while navigation is good enough in MyBible and somewhat more difficult in Bible Reader, it’s absolutely perfect in MarkMyScriptures. There are quick menus at the top of the document window labeled D, B, C, and V for Document, Book, Chapter, and Verse. Depending on where exactly you want to go, tap on one of those boxes and pick the appropriate number, which will then lead you automatically to the next screen if you started with a particular chapter–like a mini-wizard of the sort you’re used to seeing on your Windows PC.

That’s not all– you’ll also find built-in scrolling support. Just make an “S” in the Graffiti area and the text automatically starts scrolling. And instead of having to control the speed via some hard-to-find menu option, a handy little control bar automatically appears at the top so you can scroll at the rate that best suits your reading speed. Write an “F” to quickly change the font, and an “L” in the Graffiti area opens up a search screen that is surprisingly fast.

 

Don’t forget too that one of the major drawbacks to using an electronic Bible is the inability to add notes to the text. With a printed version, you can write in the margin, use different color highlighters for special verses, etc. That isn’t normally the case with a Bible on your handheld device, but MarkMyScriptures has solved that problem as well. Just tap on the text of any verse to add your personal notes to it. If you also tap “Add to Topic” in the dialog box that pops up, you’ll be able to select or create a topic to add it to, eventually creating your own cross-referenced study Bible. Want to add highlighting and other formatting to your Bible? Just drag your stylus along the words you want to highlight, and they’re underlined just like that. Want to add color to make a particular verse really stand out? Underline it and then tap on the small arrow at the top right-hand side of the screen and choose the Highlight menu. There you can change the color of the underlining and the text to make that particular verse easy to find in the future.

MarkMyScriptures turned out to be my favorite of all the programs available for reading the Bible on my Palm, except for one rather large problem–the only Scriptures available are the King James Version of the Bible and the LDS Standard Works (for Mormons). It turns out that Skimware is unwilling to enter into the necessary legal agreements to be able to distribute other versions of the Bible, and that in my mind is a serious limitation to this program. If you use the KJV on a daily basis, you’re in luck. But if you’re a devoted student of the Bible who would like to use the NIV, NASB, or any other version for comparison or personal study, you don’t have a great deal of choice. You can download “MakeMyScriptures” for free from the Skimware site, which will index any *.txt file of any other Bible translation or other large text that you happen to find. But they are also careful to point out that “use of this tool to make illegal copies of copyrighted material is prohibited.” That’s a shame really, as MarkMyScriptures has the best features of them all.

Pocket Goddess Roundup:

 

  • MyBible– $10 for the reader and Bibles are $19.99 to $29.99, depending on translation; easy navigation and a nice choice of Bible versions are the hallmark of this application.

      4 out of 5

     

  • BibleReader– The reader is free and the Bibles range from free to $30; the navigation system is a bit frustrating and takes some getting used to, but overall this program works as advertised and has the best selection of Bible translations to choose from. 3.5 out of 5

     

  • MarkMyScriptures– $17.50; best program in the lot, but only if you want to use the KJV or LDS Standard Works. 4.5 out of 5

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