WordSearch Bible app review

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The reading view show the menu items (taken from the online manual) for a landscape view showing dual screen on an iPad Click for a larger view.

This page contains a review of the WordSearch Bible app and includes tips and workarounds for items that don't work as well as they could.


[edit] Overview

This review is targeted primarily at the iOS version of the app which is available for both iPhones and iPads. It will also cover the LifeWay reader app.

When reading a book the screen has two modes. There is a reading view that shows the book title at the top center and then displays the page below all the say to the bottom of the screen. Tapping the screen shows a different view, menu mode, that reveals a set of icons at the top and a progress bar at the bottom of the screen. Tapping again reverts back to the reading mode. You can scroll the book up and down or you can also page the book by dragging it left or right. It can take a second or two to switch from one method to the other. Paging mode will divide the book into screen sized pages that will not align directly with your screen location if you have previously moved the screen up or down so expect a shift in the screen presentation if you switch modes. Of course you can read the book in menu mode so long as you realize that some of the screen will be covered up. If you read this way you may find that the progress bar may not show any progress unless you tap the screen twice. It seems to be updated only when it first appears.

The primary difference between the iPad and iPhone versions has to do with landscape mode simply by rotating the device. This is supported on the iPad but not on the iPhone.

[edit] The books

The LifeWay app, the WordSearch Bible app, and the https://www.mywsb.com/reader all use the same eBooks. These eBooks are typically reformatted versions of the ones available for the WordSearch Bible main program. It some cases there are eBooks for the main program that are not available for app use and in addition LifeWay has some eBooks that will not work directly on the main WordSearch Bible program or may be slightly different. The main program supports the idea of WordSearch Bible Sets where a set is a collection of volumes and are treated as one large book. However none of the portable app versions supports sets. They will treat each volume as an individual book.

The eBooks are designed to work within all of the various programs but the portable apps may not always work the same for all the books. Sometimes the formatting of the book will cause some features to not work at all. These problems seem to be caused by assumptions made by programmers on how a book is formatted that may or may not be true of the portable book itself. Such things as starting every chapter on a new screen (page) is one such variation. Some books do this and some do not. I used a book called "Portable Seminary" to point out some of these problems. It does not use chapter breaks and may have other significant formatting differences.

Books purchased from LifeWay or WordSearch Bible are both usable on the WordSearch app so long as you provide your login and passwords for both companies to the app. The LifeWay app only works with LifeWay books. LifeWay encourages the use of the WordSearch app by providing some free eBooks when you set up your LifeWay account in the WordSearch app. Books may be downloaded for local use or read online if you have an Internet connection. The LifeWay app will always download the file.

The LifeWay app requires you to download a book you wish to read, however the WordSearch Bible app can read a book online if you have a web connection. Downloading the book to read have better performance and search capability.

[edit] Bibles

There are many Bibles that can be purchased and many are free. Some include links to footnotes or even other scripture referenced. The NASB95 has many such notes but the linking has been disabled for some reason. The text is left behind and looks like garbage in the file making the verses difficult or impossible to read properly. They need to re-enable this feature. Some bibles also have strongs numbers but this is not supported in the app.

You can select one Bible as the default for reference look up but some Bibles has only a NT and some other Bibles use sets to collect both testaments. In neither of these cases will you be able to use one of these for a default unless you are only working in one testament. There should be three defaults, one for the OT, one for the NT and one for the Apocrypha.

[edit] updates

Updates will be automatic for the web based volumes I believe (unverified) but there is no notice for the user about those that have been downloaded.

[edit] Book images

Many of the books have images which are often maps or tables. These are sized to show the whole image on the screen. There is no way to zoom any of the images. They may be difficult to read. In the iPad version you can switch to landscape mode which may provide a larger image in some cases while other images look best in portrait mode. If you are looking at a book of maps you may need to rotate the device depending on the image. The iPhone is less suitable for these kinds of books. It would be nice to have a zoom feature on images.

[edit] TOC

The TOC is the second icon from the left at the top of the menu screen. Tapping it reveals a choice of Contents, Note, Bookmarks, or Highlights with Contents the default choice. (The left most icon will exit the book and show the library view.)

A WordSearch book is expected to have a table of contents and these will often be several levels deep. The main PC program will allow the TOC to expand and compress as desired to show the lower levels. The app, however, always shows all of the levels at once which can cause the user to have to scroll repeatably to find the place they are searching for. The TOC always begins at the top of the list so you can't use it to move from where you are or to identify the chapter name. For example a Bible has 66 book and hundreds of chapters. The TOC always begins with the first chapter Genesis and you may be frustrated to try and find the book of chapter 6 in the book of Mark. This is solved for Bibles by have an additional method of traversing but regular books will have a similar problem. When you choose the TOC menu item it will always start at the top. It would certainly be more useful if it showed you where you were.

When reading a Bible you will see an extra menu item in the top center of the screen that can be used to find a book, chapter, and verse you might be looking for. This is also true for other books if they mimic the organization of the Bible and have Bible book names and chapters arrange like a Bible would even if they only include a few of the Bible books. Typical books include commentaries.

The progress bar at the bottom of the screen in menu mode can also be used to traverse the book. A touch on the small ball can be used to drag it sideways on the bar. Single entries from the TOC will show up as you move the ball on the bar. This can be used to rapidly find a location in the book and can work much better that using the TOC menu item for long TOC's. Note that for some books, like the "Portable Seminary", the progress bar will not work at all to show actual progress through the book. It will still allow dragging to find a location. This is a bug related to how the book is formatted.

[edit] Dual screen

The WordSearch app supports two screens that can be tied together (the LifeWay app only supports 1 screen). There is a large blue dot at the bottom of the screen in reading mode. Tapping this dot creates a second screen by splitting the main screen in half. You can tap the screen to cause the blue dot to reappear. You can touch and drag the dot either way to change the ratio of the screen sizes. Tapping the Blue dot will remove the second screen. Tapping again will reassert it but it will not remember the size you set earlier. A second way to start this second screen is simply to tap and drag the blue dot from the closed position and resize it upward. It can also be closed by dragging it all the way down. The iPad version supports landscape mode which can also use the two screens side by side.

The second screen is intended to support the main screen. One way to use this is as a study bible. The main bible is opened in the top screen and the study bible book is loaded into second screen. The two screens can sync and when you change pages in your Bible the study bible screen will follow automatically in screen sync mode. Another use would be to have a commentary loaded in the lower screen and have it follow along. There is an icon with two arrows in a circle on the second screen menu that controls whether the screen is independent or synced. Tapping it toggles the choice. If a Bible is loaded in the second screen and you choose independent then a menu item appears to let you change book, chapter, and verse for this screen.

Sine this is a support screen it is intended to allow switching easily between a set of books. The lower menu on this screen show a two page icon and two arrows near the center. The tapping the two page icon brings up a set of books you are using together. You can load your own books in this screen using add a book and remove or rearrange them with the edit command. The two arrows (< and >) can switch books in this set easily.

[edit] Interaction

[edit] Turning pages

The most often thing you need to do is turn pages. This can be done by simply scrolling up and down or by flipping your finger left or right to turn them like a book. You can switch between the two modes but you will see a delay while the program sets up for the change and if you switch to book mode you won't necessarily be at exactly the same place. The book mode computes a page size and will switch to a page boundary. In page mode the menu system needs to be off for the last line in the page to be visible. For the iPad version a third choice is to rotate the device. This can be particular useful if images are being shown as they might be bigger in landscape mode (particular if they are wide images) but the location may move considerably for reasons that are unknown.

Some books seem to be physically divided into distinct chapters and when you change chapters there is a delay while it loads up the new one. (Sometimes this file change is not on an actual chapter boundary.) In scroll mode this will cause the unit to seem unresponsive but then it will suddenly move a larger amount. Similarly in page mode the delay may be even longer since it sets up the pages for the new file. For the user this may appear that it is ignoring the flick and you may be tempted to try is again. When it finally moves it may move several pages. It seems to have a poor calculation of where the next page will start. You might not notice until you start reading and wonder why the material didn't seem to fit. You may need to back up until you find your place. Note that if you go back too far it remembers the set up and the forward won't take as long the second time. It is often a good idea to just backup to the previous chapter and then come forward again. This will avoid the problem of skipping pages. For me this is one of the most annoying problems with the product. On my iPad I still favor page changes but on my iPhone I typically use scroll mode.

Note that taps turn the menu lines at top and bottom on and off but flicks do not change the menu mode. If the menu mode changes the flick was not recognized and will have to be repeated. It takes a little practice to get the flicks to work properly.

[edit] Following links

From time to time you will see small numbers or letters that are blue indicating a footnote. You can click these footnotes and the reader will go the the end notes page. This can sometimes be confusing since it will show several numbers and you need to remember which one you clicked on. There are back clicks available but I have found them to be unreliable due to poor page calculation. It is better to use the return button in lower left corner (when the progress bar is visible). The return button is useful any time you jump from one place to another. Holding the button down a while will let you select even earlier jump locations.

The phone version will typically have smaller text since you will usually hold it closer to your eyes but this can make the number link harder to tap due to the tap area being very small. You may need to try several times or make the text larger. Using a stylus can also help here.

Scripture verses in the text are also identified as links. You can click on the scripture verse and a window will pop up displaying the verse or verses identified using your default Bible version. You can scroll the verses in the box as needed and clicking outside the window will remove the window. It is also possible to click the upper left corner of the window and a list of other Bible versions will be shown allowing you to select a different one to view for this reference. This is especially useful if the verse isn't in the default Bible, for example the default was NT only or the reference was to a book in the apocrypha. Unfortunately tapping a scripture verse counts as a click (a bug IMHO) and it also changes menu mode. You will likely have to change it back after you remove the window.

Often the scripture reference only shows a verse number. When you tap the link it may or may not go to the correct book or chapter. This is not the fault of the program but a fault in the way the book was constructed. There are way too many of those IMHO.

[edit] Bookmarks, notes and highlights

A long press on text will highlight a word and you can drag a corner, in either direction, to increase the highlighted area to several words. A menu of icons will appear that allow you to set a bookmark, add a note or color the highlighted words to make them standout. There are several color choices available.

Later you can use the TOC menu item to select a list of these items should you want to return to the location in the book. Unfortunately this does not work at all on all books depending on how they were made. This is the same problem mentioned above. In other books it may miss the actual page you want do to errors in how it calculates pages. Usually you can change the page backward or forward a bit to find the bookmark.

[edit] The library

You can tap the library icon at any time while reading the book. This will switch to the library view and permit all actions from the library. This will add a line showing the book you are reading at the bottom of the screen. This line can be tapped to return to the book at the place you were reading. Again, not all books return reliably to the place you were reading. The problem with certain books and the changing of portrait to landscape on an iPad can a lead to this. The program only remembers the location in recently read books which includes the latest one.

You can also leave the app entirely and expect to come back and continue reading but sometimes after a period of time you will bring up the library view first and then have to select the current book at the bottom of the screen.

[edit] Dictionary

There are probably dictionaries in your set of books but there is no dictionary support available in this product while reading. IOS has built in dictionaries that can be reference directly from an app but this app does not take advantage of this feature in the OS. You can load up a dictionary in your second screen but there is still no way to use it effectively. There are only Bible dictionaries available, no regular dictionary is available to the app which means if you are reading an academic work with five dollar words you are on your own to figure out what it says. One way to use the dictionary is to search for the word you want.

[edit] Search

This title of the company emphasizes the ability to search your books and there are search buttons available for each window. You can use them to look for a word in the book you are reading or in the full library of books. You must manually enter the word you want. (It would have been nice to fill in the word automatically when you have it selected.) Words searched will automatically include derivatives words as well such as plurals and longer words that contain your word. There is no way to make it find only the exact word. The current version of this app will not search for phrases which is unfortunate. If you include a phrase it will display each of the words in the phrase independently. Placing the phrase in quotes will not work. The words will be displayed in context. Common words will, of course, show hundreds of entries. Tapping the choice will open the book at that point.

If you search all of the books it will display the category and name of the books it found the word in and you can then select the book you want to make it display the actual word in context as in the single book search. You can back up and select another book if you wish. Backing to the top of the search will allow you to change the search target. But this screen is a little hard to recognize. If you can't change the text you will need to backup more.

[edit] Managing the Library

Normally when you start the app you will be shown the library of your books. They will be arranged alphabetically within an assigned category. (See WordSearch Bible Categories for a discussion and the full list.) Each book will show the cover and name of the book and usually an authors name. A corner of the cover image will indicate if the book is in the cloud or local. A book might show up in multiple categories but this is rare. You cannot change the assigned category of a book. You can select a category of interest and this category will be displayed at the top of the screen to allow you to scroll within the category. When scrolling, the category you are in is always displayed at the top. At anytime you can tap the "i" on the right for information on the book or tap the book to open it. The information screen will also let you download the book if you wish or archive it (more about archive later). You do not need to download the book to read it but if you do download then an Internet connection is not required for the book. Books downloaded can also be deleted and will return to the regular display and cloud books.

Generally a set of books will be displayed together by volume but a lack of discipline in the naming of the books will sometimes place one volume clear out to the grouping. This is annoying but you cannot rename the books to fix it and telling the company falls on deaf ears. Sometimes you will see two books with the same name. This can have two interpretations. One is that two authors named the books identically or secondly there are two volumes for the book and the volume designator is missing due to the name being truncated. Tapping the info icon will show you which it is.

[edit] Search and filter

There is a search function in library mode that let you search for a word in the entire library of books as described above. There is a second search icon below the main search one. This secondary icon is not really a search but performs a filter function. It works by allowing you to enter a word which can be a partial name of a book or the name of the author. As you enter letters the screen will change to show only books that match the letters you have entered. They will be shown within the categories they are in.

[edit] Showing only part of the collection

You have a choice of showing the full collection, recently read books, only downloaded books, or only books you have not downloaded. There is also a choice of showing the archived books. The info button lets you place any book in archive or remove it from archive. The status is designed to permit you to remove books from the active list and thereby reduce the number of active books you have to deal with. Books in the archive will not show up in any other setting and will not be searched or managed in any way. You can visit the archive choice at any time and use the info icon to change the status back to active.

Recently read books will remember where you are in the book and return to that location (for some books this may not work). All books remember the bookmarks, notes, and highlighting.

[edit] Buying books

Any purchased book, including free ones, will automatically show up in the library view. There is a shopping cart at the top of the screen that will go directly to the WordSearch web site and display featured items but the full list is only on the web site so you will use a browser for that. It will also show if you already own that book.

[edit] Your profile

Tapping the icon of a person will reveal the profile page. This can be used to force a sync of your library, set up the accounts for both sites, set up your default Bible and preferences. There is also an about screen and a tutorial available from this screen. A portion of the library screen is still visible which you can tap to leave the account page.

The help/tutorial screen show illustrations at the top and text near the bottom. If the text is too long to fit it can be scrolled. Use the Next button or just flick to view the whole tutorial. The tutorial is similar to the one on the web page https://www.wordsearchbible.com/ipad but not as complete.

[edit] Crashes

The iPad version of the app can have initial crashes when you first start it up. This happens when you were reading a long book the last time you used the app and it has been a few days since you were reading the book. The app may crash multiple times before it sticks. You may also see it waiting a long time for the book to show up. If you see this you need to kill the app but double tapping the Home button to show the app on the screen and then stop it by dragging it off the screen. You may need to do the several times to get it working again. The only way to not see this problem is to make the last book you were reading be a small book. I haven't seen this problem on the iPhone version.

[edit] Annoyances

  • My biggest annoyance is related to reading books in book mode by changing pages. The problem is that chapter changes will often jump too many pages without any indication. This is because of poor calculations and manifests itself in other activities as well, such as bookmarks.
  • My second annoyance is the menu view of Bibles. Some Bibles, such as NASB, have cross references to other verses built into the text. At one time you could click on them and the program would follow this link. For a reason unknown to me, this clicking was disabled but the text of the reference is still listed, but no longer set aside by a color change and the binary values needed to perform the link are now shown as garbage text. This make the verse reading itself very difficult make these particular translations very hard to read and to use.
  • My Third annoyance is the Names assigned to the books. There is no consistency in the name, even among books that belong to a set. Things like commas, colons, and other separators are different inside a set. Even the volume numbering isn't consistent with some volumes using regular numbers and then one volume will be in roman numerals thereby making it appear out of order. Some volumes are even prefixed with a W7 designation which seems to be an internal part number but caused the book to be sorted no where near the location of other volumes. I have reported this but it goes on deaf ears.
  • My Fourth annoyance is with the category system. They seem to be arbitrary groupings and cannot be changed. In addition many of the volumes are in multiple categories so they just clutter up the screen with duplicate entries making it harder to find what you want. Luckily there is a search function that can search for book names and authors to help in finding a book or perhaps a grouping of books. Unlike the main PC program there is no comprehensive search mechanism.
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