I have been a fan of Rick Myers excellent e-sword software as a bible study tool for a long time. As a Mac guy I found myself launching Crossover or Parallels just to do bible study because packages that would be competitive on the Mac were hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.
I also used his Pocket E Sword on my WinMo phone until the platform gave me a raging headache and I threw my phone against a wall…but I digress. Yeah, I know Psalm 37:8 and Proverbs 14:29. I am working on it! Before that it was PalmBible+. Yes, I have read the scriptures electronically for a while.
In any case, since switching to Android I have been pretty disappointed in the choices that were available. YouVersion’s Bible is a wonderful platform, but I really wanted something with some more study tools. Strong reference numbers, linked commentaries and the other kind of goodies that I was used to having.
I played with Cadre Bible, AndBible and a couple of others but for what ever reason, they just did not make the grade for me.
About two months ago I stumbled (literally) across MySword. It appears to be a labor of love of some people that felt exactly as mournful for the discontinuation of Pocket E-Sword as I did.
MySword is a Freemium product with an interesting approach. They ask for a donation to unlock the more features, but they don’t tell you how much. I guess banking on the conscience of people seeking out another way to read the scriptures is a pretty safe bet!
(editors note: MySword has come out with $10 being the minimum contribution to turn on the additional features since I wrote this review…)
The basic interface is pretty simple with a row of tool buttons across the top and bottom and text filling the bulk of the screen. If you do not want the navigational tools than double tapping the screen will fill the whole screen with text.
The top buttons drive the text you are choosing and how you interact with it. The first button lets you choose what category of text you are viewing. These include bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, notes and a kind of catch-all Journal/Book category.
Once you have chosen a type of book the next button is a drop down menu to choose the specific one to read.the up and down arrow buttons will move to the previous or next chapter and the surround a “verse picker” button that calls up a pretty typical book/chapter/verse interface.
The top buttons will change a bit depending what text mode you are in (bible, commentary, dictionary etc.) but are fairly consistent until you get to the journal mode.
Each one has got four quick access buttons you can assign your most used resources to.
You can see in the screenshot above I am in commentary mode looking at Albert Barnes commentary on Genesis 25. Clicking on any of the 4 buttons to the right would jump to the same passage in that commentary. In this instance I have Barnes, Adam Clarke, Keil and Delitzsch and Robertson’s Word pictures selected as my favorites. If you are in bible view you would also have two more buttons for your first two marked passages. If there is no information in a commentary, like for RWP in any Old Testament passage, you will get a “No entry found” message.
These buttons can extend off of the screen and if so swiping the button bar will let you scroll it to show all the available controls.
Navigation is pretty simple, and is consistent across all the modes. Swiping up or down moves you through the text, swiping left and right jumps you to another chapter. The volume rocker on your device will get repurposed in MySword and will move the text forward a page, which is very nice on long passages.
You can see above that this clears up some additional space and is nice if you are using MySword on a phone with a smaller display.
The bottom row of buttons is more about navigation and functionality. Since the core of their system is browser-based, the first two buttons are the obligatory forward and back buttons. The bookmark function works well enough but I do have on small quibble. When you go to the bookmark page there is a button at the top of the page to add your selected verse the bookmarks. When you do that it will show in the list but if you leave this page without clicking the “select/save” button at the bottom, it will not be there when you come back. This seems like an unnecessary extra step.
To recall a bookmark you select a verse in the list and click that same “select/save” button. Removing is a similar process but I do wish that you could select multiple bookmarks to refer to when removing them.
Highlighting is pretty simple. Select a verse, click the highlight button, select a color. There are 10 in all so you should be able to highlight to your heart’s content! It would be nice if you could select multiple verses to highlight rather than having to choose them one at a time.
Searching is pretty simple. Click the magnifying glass enter a word or text string and go. You can search the bible or a single book and there are presets to allow you to choose sections of the scripture (ie Poetry or Minor prophets) to pick a book range. Paying for the premium version allows you to add some functionality to the search function like limiting it to a certain amount of returns or doing a full-text search. It also adds some boolean search forms like looking for two words near each other in a verse or root word searches (ie faithful will also match faith, faithful and faithfulness).
When the returns from your search come back you can double-click to go to that verse or copy and paste a single verse or all the returned search results.
The preferences are full featured allowing you to reorder buttons, change text size and text and background colors. Additional features are grayed out until you upgrade to the full version.
Notes with full formatting are linked to each verse to keep your own running thoughts and commentary along with your reading and study. Once you add a note, an icon shows up in your bible to show you that you have a note and clicking on it will return you to your notes.
There are also buttons on the bottom to move forward and back a page (same as the volume rocker) and duplicates of the mode buttons for moving you between bible, commentary, dictionary, notes and journal modes.
Also very cool is the fact that the app has facilities built in to manage and download the resources available. Go to the download modules section and you will presented with a large array of resources. Bibles in 28 different languages as well as commentaries, dictionaries, books, devotionals and even graphics and fonts.
There are over 30 dictionaries and commentaries available within the program. These are public domain or provided by courtesy of a publisher but there are excellent resources among them. Personally, I can get a whole lot of studying done with just Albert Barnes and Adam Clarke, but having the Keil and Delitszch Old Testament commentaries and Robertson’s Word Pictures for Greek language studies makes this a wonderful tool.
The commentaries link to the bibles very well so it makes doing research on a particular passage very easy.
The bibles are not quite as good a story. Because of Mysword’s relatively short time in existence, they do not currently have agreements with the larger publishers to distribute copyrighted bibles. This means the NIV, NASB, Amplified and HCSB translations are not currently available.
What are available are translations like the ASV, World English Bible, KJV and Modern KJV along with the Textus Receptus and LXX for Ancient Greek versions. The KJV, Textus Receptus and the Analyltical LXX all feature linked Strong references to help with word level study. I do miss having access to either the Westcott Hort or Aland Nestle Greek versions.
One of the choices of bible modes is a compare function that will list a single verse and several different translations. Beware that on the free version there is no way to limit this and ALL of the bible versions you have installed will show up in this feature.
There is also already some 3rd party support of modules with a lot of imported modules showing up at Bible Support.com, including tons of books and some great commentaries that are not available within the program. You do have to sign up for a free account to be able to download these resources.
I have not quite wrapped my head around all of the functionality in the Journal section of the program and I have a feeling I may be writing a follow up piece to address this.
Is MySword perfect? No, not quite. I wish that it had the capability to do split screen so I could look at a commentary and a bible at the same time. I really look forward to the day that they can distribute some of the paid versions so that I can use the NIV and NASB again. I also mentioned a couple of my little quibbles along the way.
Did I mention the price?
It is free.
This is a staggering amount of capability for a free program, and frankly the best way to help them expand their capabilities is to help them acquire a sizable user base.
I do not have any association with this company, but I am going to ask that if you have any interest in bible software for Android that you go and download this software (links at the bottom of the article) right now. If you don’t find it useful, you are out nothing but I think, like me, that your conscience will get the best of you and you will contribute a little bit to their cause if you find MySword useful.
To quote the motto from the e-sword site “Freely you received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
This is truly a wonderful piece of software and I am deeply interested in watching it grow and develop.