Bible Explorer 3 Sets Standard for Usability

by Ed Hoffman

One of the newer Bible software offerings is Bible Explorer 3 from Epiphany Software. When the program arrived I was a bit skeptical about learning yet another Bible program. However, from the time I first logged into the program, this is one Bible program that has continued to impress me the more I use its various features. Unlike some programs that don't apply much effort to create a really user-friendly interface, the Bible Explorer program offers both an impressive library at a reasonable price and an exceptionally intuitive and customizable user interface. By keeping the user at the forefront of their thinking and stressing operational simplicity, the programmers at Epiphany Software have created a program that I believe will set the standard for years to come. The customizable interface provides the functionality demanded by advanced users while still making sense to the newest neophyte. From personal study and general reference to detailed lesson and sermon preparation, Bible Explorer has features and capabilities that are unrivaled in many other programs costing many times as much. One such feature is Internet Enhancement. Each time you start the program it checks to see if you're online. If you're not online, you can simply start the program. However, if you are online, the program automatically connects to its home site and updates itself with any new modifications made since the last time you logged on. This feature allows you to keep your copy of the program constantly updated. This Internet connection also allows you to participate in the Epiphany-monitored discussion groups. You can also use the connection to access the Community Library where literally thousands of popular sermons, illustrations, lessons, and other Christian documents are available as free downloads. If you'd like, you can also publish your own works. Another very useful aspect of the program is the SmartWindows feature. This is a collection of attributes designed to make using Bible Explorer 3 easier and more efficient. As anyone who uses Windows quickly realizes, simply finding the right windows can be a chore when multiple windows are open. To solve this, SmartWindows allows you to find a specific window quickly with the Window Bar at the bottom of the screen, which lists the title of each window you have open. To switch between windows, just click the proper button and the window you want is right on top. The SmartWindows feature also arranges multiple windows automatically, as each is opened or closed. In situations where you're using several volumes to study a topic, the Window Docking feature allows you to keep multiple applications within a single window. As you add each volume to a docked window, its title will appear as a labeled tab across the top of each window. Then, to switch between books, just click the appropriate tab to move that volume to the top. The Maximum Focus feature allows you the option of keeping selected windows at a larger size by minimizing the windows not immediately needed. As other windows are needed they can be quickly resized with the Window Bar buttons. Bible Explorer 3 also allows you to import documents from the Web into a "My Documents" folder. Here, the text is automatically converted to a format that's quite usable within the program. Not only does the text retain its original Web format but all textual Bible references are converted to live hot links. To see what the Bible says, just place the cursor over the link and the text of the referenced verse appears automatically in a window below the cursor. Depending on the edition of Bible Explorer 3 you select, the program contains between 20 and 72 individual reference works. The Premium Edition, for example, contains over 150 volumes in 72 separate works. Included are Bible translations, commentaries, devotionals, dictionaries and encyclopedias, topical guides, word study tools, study notes, maps and atlases, photographs and art, as well as volumes covering theology, history and culture, and literature. Most of these are the same standard tools Bible students have used for years in their printed form. Also included is a powerful search utility that makes finding the data you need quite painless. A built-in word processor also allows you to keep notes or prepare documents from within the program. These can be kept as separate documents or transferred to another word processor, as you desire. Also included is a well-designed help system which contains video tutorials that step you through virtually all the functions of the program. Bible Explorer 3 exemplifies what Bible study programs should have been all along. The programmers at Epiphany have found the right balance between functionality and usability and stocked the program with features and books that all Bible students can use to good advantage. Regardless of your Bible study requirements, this is definitely a program that deserves your close attention. It can be purchased at local resellers or directly from Epiphany (408-251-9788 or online at #http://www.epiphanysoftware.com#.) Prices start at $14.95 for the Discovery Edition, and go up to $379.95 list for the Premium Edition. Also available is a 30-day trial of the full version for $2.95, the cost of shipping and handling.