Sunday, December 26, 2010

Introducing BibleReader 5.0 from Olive Tree

Note: Apparently I tend to be somewhat long winded. After writing my introduction to this review, I was startled to see my word count was already over 500. For the impatient, click here to get to the actual review.

UPDATED 12/28/10, 10:30AM CST

BibleReader 5
For some reason, although I'm not aware of any research supporting it (emphasis on "aware"), mobile tech users tend to be thought of as a "secular" bunch. However, as the technology spreads, the painful (for some) fact that the Bible remains the world's best selling book is being reflected in the mobile tech space as well, with numerous Bible apps for all major platforms, ranging from simple readers to study platforms that rival their desktop counterparts. Mobile Bible study is indeed coming of age.

The latest example of this is the recent news that Olive Tree Bible Software's "BibleReader" was featured in the iTunes Rewind 2010 list ("Books" category), as well as making the Top Grossing list in "Books". For those of us who have followed this company's history, this is certainly fitting news. Olive Tree, based in Spokane in beautiful Washington state, has blazed the way for mobile Bible study software, starting in 1998 with BibleReader for the Palm OS. Long before the iPhone revolutionized mobile tech, Olive Tree was at the forefront trying to provide a viable Bible study platform on mobile devices, despite their glaring limitations.

With the advent of iOS and, later, Android, the base platform has become much more capable, and Olive Tree, along with other mobile Bible shops like Mantis, and venerable desktop Bible software companies who have recently developed mobile offerings, such as Logos and Laridian, have taken full advantage of the new possibilities.

BibleReader+ on Palm OS5
I've been using BibleReader from Olive Tree since 1998, on various makes of Palm OS devices. When I finally ditched my Tungsten T3 (a fine device, by the way) for the iPhone 3GS, and, a month or so ago, the iPad, I began researching Bible study software for the new devices. I briefly experimented with Mantis and Logos, before settling on Olive Tree's BibleReader for the iPhone, then at version 4.12. I haven't regretted this choice once.

Now, Olive Tree has capped of an already successful year with it's biggest upgrade yet for the iOS platform, launching BibleReader 5.0 on December 23, 2010.

I don't believe I'm exaggerating to say that Olive Tree has not only raised the bar (while they were arguably on top in the first place), they've developed a platform that has the potential to revolutionize mobile Bible study. I should note the features I'm going to look at are not necessary new to Bible study software as a whole - Logos and others have taken this field very far. But to have this kind of functionality and user interface on a mobile device is quite extraordinary, to say the least.

BibleReader 5.0 is now available from iTunes!

BibleReader 4.12
For those unfamiliar with Olive Tree's previous BibleReader, the 4.x family, let's just say it is a compelling platform. You have all the basic function expected of a Bible program, including bookmarking, highlighting (whole verses only), and simple note taking (notes can only be created per verse, though Evernote sync is available). It features a freely adjustable split screen, something that some major competitors sadly lack, although at least one (Laridian's PocketBible) outdoes BibleReader there, with up to six screens ("panes") on the iPad version.

BibleReader 4.x has garnered favorable reviews from many, and for good reason. It was possibly the best Bible study app available for mobile devices till today. But while I can reasonably summarize the feature set of 4.12 in a signle paragraph, 5.0 is in a league of it's own.

My review is broken into the following sections (this is not exhaustive, there's plenty more I don't have space to cover, believe it or not):

  1. New User Interface
  2. Notes
  3. Resource Guide
  4. Search
  5. Gestures
  6. Annotation Sync


New User Interface:

Main Screen, with Split Window Open.
The above screenshot is the default BibleReader 5.0 set up on the iPad (obviously, the iPad version will be much more impressive than it's 3.7"" counterpart, but the feature set is virtually the same). I'm going to concentrate on the iPad version for this review - I'll post a followup on the iPhone/iPod version in the near future, as I have some further thoughts there.

Freely selectable text
The first thing you'll probably notice is the vastly upgraded UI. Perhaps taking a queue from iBooks, BibleReader 5.0 sports a new "book-like" theme, with a sepia tone and subtle icon set replacing the more "iphoneish" look of previous versions. No page-turning is available (though it *may* be in the pipeline). However, there's much more to 5.0 than a new set of clothes, and what the UI may lack is more than made up in the rest of the feature set.

A quick note - if you don't like the "book-look", it can be changed by going to the 'Settings' menu- -> Advanced Settings -> Advanced Color Settings, and turning the 'Use Book Image' option off. This will also allow you to use separate background colors for the two windows, and it can improve scrolling performance.

On the main screen, you'll notice right away that the Bible text is freely selectable - a seemly small but welcome improvement, and one that has a lot more to it than you might realize at first glance.

Selecting text brings a pop-up menu with copy, highlight, bookmark & note actions, as well as a suspiciously named option "more". More on that (no pun intended) in a minute.

Strong's Definition Pop-up

This is a favorite feature of mine (also worked in the 4.x series, of course). On any Strong's-enabled Bible, tapping a word with a Greek/Hebrew underlying word (by default these show up in a shade of gray to differentiate them) brings up a pop-up window with the Strong's definition of the word. This provides an easy way for those-of-us-whom-Greek-is... well, Greek, to get "under the hood" of our English Bibles. The "Lookup" button on the bottom of the window lets you... well, we'll get to that in a minute.

A quick note here - on a Strong's enabled Bible, selecting text is a bit tricky, since any words are hyperlinks. Simply tap and hold for a couple seconds, and a pop-up menu will appear, giving you an option to "Select Text".

Toolbar Icon Key
Library,  Verse Chooser, History, My Stuff, Settings, Search, Ribbon
Continuing, you'll see the top of the screen contains a toolbar, with menus for navigating your Bible/resource, choosing another bookbrowsing history, a "My Stuff" menu for browsing user-created annotations (notes, highlights, bookmarks, and tags... more later), a settings menu, and the search menu.

Verse Chooser in List Mode (Default), to switch to Grid Mode (far right) pull down and select the grid style from the toolbar.
This is the verse chooser - it's fairly straightforward; tap either of the three cells at the top to select book/chapter/verse. Users of the 4.x series probably remember (and possibly long for!) the "grid" style verse chooser. If you prefer this (and I very much do!), simply pull down on the verse chooser menu; at the top there a couple buttons for toggling the verse chooser layouts. Pick grid, and your all set (it remembers your choice)!

Tapping the small grab bar on the right-hand edge of the screen opens the split window, with it's own set of toolbar icons, and a launch button for opening split-window "tools".

"Open" Menu for the Split Window
It's here where we get our first glimpses of the awesomeness of 5.0. Opening the Split Window's launcher menu gives us options to open a recent or favorite resource (commentary, study notes, or another Bible version, for instance), as well as two new tools (modules that are specific to the split window): "My Notes", and "Resource Guide".



New "Note Pad" view for editing notes.

"My Notes" brings up a notepad-styled listing of your, well, notes (surprise!). The notepad motif carries into the actual notes which are displayed on a ruled "paper" background with handwriting style font (customizable). Viewing/editing notes in the split window is actually a very-requested feature, as previously notes were primarily viewed through small pop-up windows over the Bible text, not a very convenient way to follow along with a sermon, and well nigh useless for giving a sermon. Now, notes can be viewed and edited independently of the resource in the main window, and can be created arbitrarily rather than from a single verse (though notes can also be created from verses, in which case they will show up in the text and can be opened in pop-up windows or in the Notes tool).  And a full-screen mode is available now as well! Note taking within BibleReader is now not only practical, but enjoyable.

Full Screen Mode for editing notes.

Other features here include automatic linking between verse references in your notes and the installed Bibles (this feature links to you last opened version - it is not currently configurable as it is in PocketBible, though in my opinion this is offset by the transparency of BibleReader's linking), and online syncing, which I will address separately. The verse linking works surprisingly well, detecting all the abbreviations I tried, and even some misspellings!

Delete, Change/Add Category, Add Tags. Change Icon, Fullscreen

Some of the richer features in 5.0 ares hinted at in the Notes tool. Notes can be tagged, using either user-created tags, as well as a few other interesting entities - namely "People", "Places", and "Topics". An explanation of these characters brings us to our next feature, the heart of BibleReader 5.0's awesomeness. Enter the second split window tool, the "Resource Guide".


Resource Guide:

The Resource Guide

Note:Before you can use the Resource Guide, you'll need to download the "entity database" - this is a free download, but it's a bit big (30MB IIRC), so be patient.

The "Resource Guide" is a masterpiece of mobile Bible study design, and if BibleReader 5.0 shipped with this as it's only new feature, it would be totally worth the upgrade. The Resource Guide's primary function, as it's name suggests, is to aggregate all the resources in your library (commentaries, study Bibles, cross references, maps and even image/video content (the latter is still in it's infancy) related to the passage at hand. This is similar to the concept of a passage guide as implemented in some desktop Bible software, making it convenient to use multiple resources without constantly switching back and forth.

Viewing People, Topics, and Places in the current passage.

However, the Resource Guide doesn't stop here. Using the standard "Naves Topical Bible Index" as an outline, the Resource Guide breaks down the current passage into the entities mentioned earlier - "People" (Paul, Cornelius, Moses), "Places" (Jerusalem, Rome, Sodom), and "Topics" (Love, Forgiveness, Faith). Selecting any of these entities performs the aforementioned "Lookup" on the subject, searching your installed dictionaries, any annotations you may have tagged with the subject, images and graphics from study Bibles, as well as (in the case of "Places") maps. So if I've taken sermon notes from a message from the book of Acts, I may have my note tagged with subjects like "Paul", "Peter", "Hope", "Holy Spirit", "Jerusalem" and so on. Now, if I select the Person entity "Paul" in the Resource Guide, my note will show up in the results. Once you've built up a substantial collection of personal annotations, this can be a powerful way to take advantage of them.

Viewing Images for the "Place" Jerusalem (images from the HCSB Study Bible and free "Images from the Holy Land" sample)

Even multimedia can be viewed using the Resource Guide! Images/maps/charts from "enhanced" resources (something I'll mention at the end of this review - yes, it does end) also are pulled in. I won't elaborate on it here, but selecting a map/image allows you to pinch and zoom and/or view fullscreen. There's also a free "Images from the Holy Land" sample that works with the Resource Guide. You can bet you'll see more multimedia content in the future (including video!).

Resource Guide displaying user-created annotations (notes, tags, highlights and bookmarks).

The Resource Guide also aggregates any user-created Tags in the current passage. Tags are an extremely powerful way to organize your annotations. The possibilities are almost endless. As you can see in the screenshots, I have tags for speakers at my local church, so I can tag my notes from that speaker and view them accordingly.

I also use this to supplement the built-in entities with my own topics (see for instance, "SEPARATION (FROM GOD)" in the third screenshot above). I might create a tag for some doctrinal issue I've been studying, and bookmark all related passages I know of, adding this tag as I create each bookmark. I then can use this tag on my personal notes regarding the subject, and then when viewing the Tag in the Resource Guide, I can see all my bookmarks and notes. Highlights can be tagged in the same way.

Resource Guide Sections.
There are several "Sections" to the Resource Guide - all of which can be turned on/off and further customized (for instance, choosing which commentaries to search) from the Settings menu (tap the ">>" icon at the top-right of the Guide). You can also rearrange the sections themselves. The available sections are:
  • Content - A rather CPU-intensive option, I don't recommend it and it is off by default. Try it if you like.
  • Cross Reference - Lists all cross-references for the current passage. Currently only works with the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge resource.
  • Commentaries - See above.
  • Bibles - Allows you too see the current passage in any of your installed Bibles - awesome for comparing multiple versions (only one at a time, however)
  • People - See above.
  • Places - See Above.
  • Topics - See Above.
  • Maps - Displays maps/images from any Bible Atlas or enhanced study Bibles you have installed. These can be viewed with pinch & zoom, and in fullscreen.
  • Outlines - Pulls out any book outlines from enhanced commentaries/study Bibles.
  • Introductions - Pulls out any book introductions from enhanced commentaries/study Bibles.
  • My Notes - See above.
  • Tags - See above.
Select-text pop-up menu. Note "More..." button.
The power of the Resource Guide extends beyond the split window, though. As I mentioned in the beginning of this review (boy, wasn't that a long time ago!), selecting text in any resource brings up a pop-up menu, which along with typical copy, highlight, bookmark and note actions, sports a "More" option.

"More" Text-select Menu
The two actions here allow you to perform search or lookup operations on the selected text. I'll get to search shortly, but for now, let's look at the "Look Up" function:

Selection Screen for Look Up - Note Strong's numbers (g####)
(You can choose to lookup up the entire selected phrase or individual words - including Greek/Hebrew if you are using a Strong's tagged Bible)
Lookup Menu
Here you can see that the Resource Guide is able to lookup the word you selected in your library, pulling out cross-references, dictionary definitions, maps/images, as well as mining your own annotations for hits. All the above notes on the Resource Guide apply here (with the exception of commentaries, as these are not generally subject-based). Cool!

I don't have any screenshots here because my installed original language (OL) tools are not very extensive at the moment, but performing a "Look Up" operation on a OL word or Strong's number will search any OL dictionaries or lexicons you have installed. Olive Tree has an extensive collection of these. If you're really into Greek/Hebrew, you'll love this - I'm not there yet (but I'm trying...). For now, be thankful that you've been spared a couple more long paragraphs...



Auto-suggest for search terms, and instant search result counts.

Search is another vital function for any Bible software, since search is something computers do so much better than us, and is such an integral part of Bible study. BibleReader gives us a couple different ways to accomplish this.

Search for Scripture References from Verse Chooser - also note the toggle buttons between Grid/List modes.
This is not technically search, but it's a little known-feature that is worth pointing out - when you pull down the "Go To" menu, there's a search bar - typing a verse reference in there and tapping "Search" will attempt to take you to that verse - you can use book names/abbreviations ("Mark", "Mk"), adding chapters or chapter & verse as you wish. While this particular search bar is devoted to references, the others all support this as well, so you can always type a reference into any search bar to pull up that verse (references even show up in search-suggestions).

Auto-suggest - note suggested verse-reference in the second window.
This one is cool - as you type in a search term, BibleReader show you how many hits it has found for what you've typed so far, as well as a list of possible terms you may be looking for, and even verse references if applicable.

Search from selected text - note Strongs numbers.

As we saw in the "lookup" section, selecting text in resource and choosing the "More" option allows you to search the selected resource for that text (or a subset of it). This allows you to begin a search right from where you are reading - very convenient! The search results will display within the same pop-up window.

Search results grouping and collapsing large numbers of results.

Note from the screenshot that results are grouped by book, and large numbers of results are shortened by book - tapping the "Show ___ More Results" button at the end of each book section expands the list. This makes huge results lists manageable and let's you dig in to the results one book at a time.

Search Options, Filters, Ranges.

The above screenshots should give you a good idea of the available search options (reached by tapping the + icon in the search bar)- you can specify ranges of books (and create custom ones), access your search history, and add "commands", keywords that allow you to form complex queries in a sorta sql-like way. TBH I don't use these often, but having the ability to really narrow down searches is a very powerful feature, and one that Olive Tree has been keenly aware of for a long time (even in the Palm OS days, BibleReader had amazing search capabilities).

Searching by Strong's Number.
However, any serious Bible study is almost certainly going to go beyond English translations, so original language (OL) search is extremely important as well. BibleReader supports this easily - in any Strong's enabled Bible, searching for the Strong's number, prefixed with a 'g' for Greek (g1080)and 'h' for Hebrew/Aramaic (h0829), will perform an OL search on that Bible. As you can see from some of the previous screenshots, OL search is even available from the "selected-text search" function/s (both "Search" and "Lookup" operate on OL words). You must be using a Strong's enabled (tagged) Bible, of course.

Search selection screen - note Strong's numbers. 
The correctly prefixed Strong's codes show up alongside the English words in the "pre-search" selection window. All the normal search (and lookup) functions mentioned above apply here to OL words. This makes Strong's searches a complete breeze - in the past one had to open the Strong's popup, memorize the number (no copy and paste!) and type into the search bar manually. Not fun at all.



Gesture Settings - Choose a gesture (swipe, tap, etc) and choose an action to trigger.

Another powerful feature in 5.0 are gestures - these require iOS 4.2 to work, they won't show up in previous iOS versions. This feature is incredibly powerful, yet so simple there isn't much to say beyond the screenshots. You pick a gesture (taps, swipes, with up to three fingers on the iPad - two fingers on the iPhone), and pick an action. Available gestures include one-finger double-tap, two-finger/three-finger single/double tap, two-finger/three finger swipe up/down/right/left.
Among my favorite actions to assign are
  • "Open my Bookmarks"
  • "Bible:[Next/Previous] Chapter"
  • "History: [Forward/Backward]"
  • "Open Library Quick View" - same as the "Library" button from the toolbar 
  • "Open History" - gives you access to the forward/back buttons - also available from the History button on the toolbar
  • "[Next/Previous] Split Window Tool" - allows you to cycle through Split Window functions: "Standard" (last opened resource), Notes, and Resource Guide.

This last action (or pair of actions) is perhaps my favorite. It allows me with, in my case, a double finger swipe up/down, to switch between my sermon notes, for instance, and the Resource Guide or a commentary. When I swipe to return to my notes, they are open right where I left off, and I can continue. This let's you cycle quickly between your note, a commentary, and the Resource Guide, returning you right to where you left off each time. You can also assign basic utilities like turning sync (between windows) on/off, new-lines for verses, etc. Just open it up and explore - you'll surprised at some of the actions available.


Annotation Sync: - Manage your notes.
This is the last feature I'll cover, because I have to stop somewhere, and this review is way too long already. BibleReader 4.x featured Evernote sync, allowing you to sync your notes to an Evernote account, so you can access them from your computer. It was okay, but limited - only notes where synced, and you had to use Evernote, which never was a big hit with me. I found my self looking for Evernote sync in other applications, not because I wanted Evernote, but because BibleReader wanted Evernote, and I don't like using multiple duplicate services.

Manage/Organize your bookmarks.
Manage/Organize your highlights.
Now, with 5.0, Olive Tree has rolled out a new cloud-based sync service, accessible at All your annotations, including notes, highlights, and bookmarks, are sync'd up by simple registering your BibleReader with your (free) account , and choosing "Sync" from the My Stuff menu. Sync multiple devices to share annotations across them. You can manage your annotations from the website, and sync the changes back to your device.

Go to "Settings" menu, tap the "Account" button to log in, then tap "Sync" in the "My Stuff" menu.
For Evernote fans, don't worry - the new system itself syncs to Evernote. Not only that, but once you sync your Olive Tree account with your Evernote account, you can copy any notes from your "Bible Notes" Evernote notebook from 4.x into the new notebook for 5.0, and sync them back to your device (5.0 created a new notebook for it's annotations - this was done to ensure that no notes were overwritten). Basic XML export is also available for backup purposes, and you can expect to see more services added in the future.

External sync services - currently only Evernote and XML as supported.
Note: At the time of writing the Evernote sync was not working correctly - I'll update this with another screenshot of the Evernote notebooks once it's working.


BibleReader 5.0
There's so much I could write here, but I'll try to be brief - I know, that's a bit pathetic at this point.

The Resource Guide obviously is more useful with more content - I know some will be cynical about this, but it's unavoidable that the more resources you have, the more useful a "RESOURCE" Guide is. Duh. However, not all content is equal. Items can be enhanced by Olive Tree to make the Resource Guide use them better. For instance, my Ryrie & Scofield Study Bible notes show up in the Resource Guide as commentaries. That's a good start, but the HCSB Study Bible notes have been enhanced to work even better - the Resource Guide not only gets the notes as a commentary, but pulls out book introductions, outlines, (features we didn't get to here!) maps, images/charts, etc.

Unfortunately, some resources don't work in the Resource Guide yet at all. One such item is the Thompson Chain Reference Bible - it's chain references don't show up as cross-refs, and none of its study material shows up in the Resource Guide - it's like it doesn't exist. However, this is the only resource I know of that acts this way - other study Bibles should at least work as "commentaries"

Right now only a limited selection of items from Olive Tree's store have been enhanced, but you can be sure more are on the way - BibleReader 5.0 is the future for Olive Tree, and they'll want all their resources to work as well as they can. The good news is that when an item you've bought is enhanced, the upgrade is yours for free - just open the Library on your device (something I haven't discussed here) and choose the "Check for Updates" button at the bottom. Also, you can browse the in-app store from the Library - all enhanced content is marked with a star, and there's a separate category for it as well.

Enhanced Content Section in in-app Store.
Sammy (7 yrs) looking up Strong's definitions
There's still so much more I could write about, but ultimately you have to use this app to really appreciate it - for $0.99, it's definitely worth a try - it includes two Bible versions (KJV and ASV) and two commentaries (Matthew Henry and Jamieson, Faussett and Brown), so you can start playing with the Resource Guide right away (after the free database download).

Speaking of which, if you're interested in jumping in on Olive Tree's latest creation, now's a good time - until January 2nd, 2011, almost all resources purchased on are 25% off - that's a great discount, and if you choose one of their many collections, you can get a further discount (over 60% in some cases). I am not paid to say this (although I wouldn't complain!). I'd just wish somebody else had told me about the online sales when I first made the investment - books can be expensive, even if they are virtual!

Important note: this only applies to items purchased on - not the in-app store! Items purchased from the online store are added to your account, and can be downloaded to your device once you register it. It's a bit more work, but it's worth it IMO, since you have all your resources available to all your devices instantly, and upgrades are much easier to get. Just FYI.

Okay, rather than a ceremonious conclusion, I'll just shut up - take my comments at the beginning as my closing comments. I do want to give a big thank you to the great team at Olive Tree Bible Software, for all their hard work, and for the amazing result.  It's truly an amazing operation.

That's it - I'm stopping right now. By the way...


  1. Nice update, nice review. But I'm still confused that I can't see my bookmarks while I'm reading. I've a huge collection of bookmarks in a range of category's (before they introduced highlights) . But in 'reading-modus' I can't see if a text is bookmarked or not. That must be possible with a simple icon or something else?

  2. Hmm.. I think you are right - there is no marker for bookmarks specifically. This would probably not be a major feature to add (there are already markers for notes in the text). A workaround I use (and why I didn't realize right away what you were missing) is to tag your bookmarks - then the tags will show up in the Resource Guide, and you can get to your bookmarks that way. However, if you have a "huge collection" of bookmarks, tagging them all might be impractical, at least until bulk changes are supported (either from the site or from BibleReader). I'll run this by the Olive Tree team and see what they think.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I'm a bit disappointed by the restrictions in look. Unless I misunderstand, there is no way I can get the reader to look as it did in the previous version. Everything is sepia, which I don't particularly like. Why did you do this? I should be able to change the look of everything, including the menus (i.e. themes), and especially pop up windows which now have no option to change the background colour. This level of customization is provided by every other bible reader out there that I know of. Please consider (re) adding it.

    Again, unless I'm mistaken,

  4. First off, I should clear up any confusion - I do NOT work for Olive Tree - I do participate in their beta testing program, but I have official say in the development, nor do I speak on behalf of Olive Tree - they have very kindly endorsed my review, but it is mine only nonetheless.

    Secondly, I would suggest that you be patient regarding the theme - I am fairly sure that theming will become available again - this was a major overhaul of the UI, so it's natural that the theming will have to catch up.

  5. FYI, the suggestion RE pop-up window colors has been made, and I can say that there is a good chance we'll see it relatively soon - themeing will probably take longer (keep in mind each theme is almost another UI, at least as far as graphical elements go).

  6. I have a problem with v5 not being able to set background color of pop-up windows, like I could in v4.

  7. Yep - that is currently not available - however, as I said previously, it is very likely to become so soon.

  8. This was SUPER helpful to me since a recent all-app upgrade had my morning readings looking ALL NEW and me not knowing how to navigate. I'm grateful for the length and screen shots! THANKS!

  9. Thank you so much for the kind words. I'm glad you found it helpful!

  10. Hi Zak, Thanks for your review and info - it was excellent - especially since there is not much else out there yet. I have spent the last snowed in day or so in NYC re-learning the software - at first I was put-off by the changes but the more I use it the more I love it - it is a huge step forwards - especially the resources piece. I worked most of it out before seeing your review but I was struggling with the sync - thanks to your review I see that it is now independent from Evernote - a good move it seems. Cheers and thanks again for taking the time to put together your write-up even though you are not with OliveTree. Andrew. PS Congratulations to the OliveTree crew out there - this is a great upgrade.

  11. Thank you too. ;-) I agree, the new sync system is a major step forward for Olive Tree - so many possibilities that would never exist if they were tied to a third-party service.

  12. It's a new year and I'm eager to take my personal Bible study to the next level. I never would have been able to make sense of the new release without your help. Now I'm convinced that OliveTree (which has been MY favorite Bible resource site for YEARS) has given me just what I was looking for!

  13. As Zachary has said theming is a really big process but its in the pipeline. I don't have a delivery time table but it's being considered. You can however turn the book cover design off under "Advanced Settings" > "Color Settings", then set the "Use book image" option to "OFF" and you will be able to change the Main Background Color & Split Window Background Color to whatever you like. If you change your mind you can always switch back to the book design whenever you like.

    Keep an eye on iTunes for additional updates and refinements throughout BibleReader 5 that are on the way (can't give a time table other than should be soon).

    Thanks again Zachary for your time and energy as a beta tester for us here at Olive Tree and this great writeup. Good night all and God bless!

  14. I have just loaded version 5 and found it very confusing (I had just got used to version 4 - which was brilliant). Having read your instructions, I have now made some alterations and nearly got used to it. However, I can still not see how to lock the orientation (stop the screen rotating) as in version 4. Previously, all you did was tap the left hand bottom corner - now what do you do?

  15. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do. BibleReader 5.0 does not have this ability. This has been the subject of much discussion, and I'm afraid it's a final decision (of course, it could change). I suspect that this may be part of iOS guidelines - Apple may not like apps messing with rotation lock or other system settings - this is why apps can't usually change the screen brightness, for example. However, this isjust speculation on my part.

  16. Thanks for the detailed review...I am currently testing Logos, Accordance, and Olive Tree on my iPhone to see which platform I am going to go with. I, too, have been using Olive Tree since the 90s on a Palm III then later on a T5 which recently died...thus the switch to iPhone.

    One question though: Is there any way to get version 5 to "see" the 40 or so free downloaded ebooks that I already have for version 4.12? Or do I have to DL them all over again? You'd think that a new version would search for previously installed stuff.

  17. You shouldn't have to download the books over again - was this an update (from the iTunes/App Store) or a new install? If, for example, you had the free "BibleReader for Bible Study" installed with resources loaded, and then purchased the $0.99 BibleReader (5.0), the later will not see the resources in the former. If you already were using the $0.99 version, then you should see the installed resources after the update.

    You might want to wait till the 5.0 update for the version you already have (in this example, "BibleReader for Bible Study"). Olive Tree has many different bundles that include the BR app and various resources, and at the moment only one has been updated.

    RE you comparison, I have to admit, it's a tough call. The clear and decisive advantage of the desktop/mobile platforms like Accordance, Laridian, and Logos (besides the huge resource library of the last) is the ability to share a library across desktop and mobile devices. Unless of course you're well off enough to purchase the same resources twice for two different applications. Yet, as far as I can see, Olive Tree is clearly in the lead on mobile devices specifically - I was impressed with Accordance as desktop software, but when I saw the iPhone app, and decisively let down. The same goes for Logos on the iPhone, and although Laridian's PocketBible is at least more "mobilized", it's UI and navigational features scream "Palm OS 3.1"!

    I may write more on this in the future, but for me, the iPad with BibleReader is effective enough to where I don't feel a need for dekstop Bible software (if all I had was an iPhone/iPod, it would be a different story).

  18. No, it wasn't an update. I was using the free version of 4.12 before. Version 5 did not show up as an update but as a new install. It really blows me away that developers would create a product that can't find previously installed PDB files...of course, it may not be the developer's fault -- I've never worked with a device as locked up as a non-jailbroken iPhone.

    My desktop platform is linux and so it will not affect my mobile decision. I already have sword installed (BibleTime in KDE) with all the wonderful FREE resources that Logos, Accordance, and Olive Tree are are charging a significant amount of $$$ for (like a tagged GNT).

    For me, the winner will be the one that has the cheapest ESV and tagged GNT (although the free untagged SBL will do, which so far, I believe Olive Tree is the only one offering).

  19. The issue with not finding the old files has been around since the iPhone app came out - as far as I know there's no way to make it work otherwise - apps are safely sandboxed.

    Happy to find you're a fellow Linux user! I've been using Mac for the last few months due to work constraints (although my MBP runs Ubuntu), and I always wanted to try out BibleTime and some of the other offerings (I believe a "Sword' compatible version was available too?).

    Curious, how do you sync with your iOS device? I never had any luck with that.

  20. LOL...yeah. At the moment, most of my syncing is through google (gmail, calendar, google docs, etc). I tried syncing through iTunes running in a virtual WinXP (VMPlayer) install, but I get an instant BSOD when I plug in the iPhone...still looking for a work-around. Hopefully someone will come up with something (soon) that was as great as jPilot and Palm in Linux.

    In the meantime, I have a WinXP desktop machine with a shared directory running iTunes, and I just shuttle files (music, ebooks, etc) back and forth with that. It's a pain, but doable for now.

    BibleTime is sweet. From their website: it uses the SWORD programming library to work with over 200 free Bible texts, commentaries, dictionaries and books provided by the Crosswire Bible Society. I wish there was an iPhone version (there is a Mac version). It is my primary Bible study tool, and so I always have my laptop with me everywhere I go. I was hoping to duplicate it on my iPhone so that I don't have to lug the laptop around, but so far I haven't found a tagged GNT and Hebrew Bible (which are both available in BibleTime) that don't cost a small fortune.

  21. UPDATE: Sorry, this is kinda off-topic now for an Olive Tree blog post, but I just found PocketSword for iPhone (a Bible reader front-end based on the SWORD library backend). That sounds promising...

  22. What are "ribbons", and how do they differ from bookmarks?

  23. Check out these videos: (iPhone) (iPad)

    Essentially they are just quick, temporary bookmarks. They have a visual indicator (the ribbon) which bookmarks do not, but they cannot be tagged, categorized, etc. But since creating them is a one tap deal, they're good fo holding your place when jumping around a resource.

  24. John C, Orientation lock is coming with version 5.0.1 and we are in the process of testing that now. We also have many other feature enhancements that will make their way to 5.0.1. Features like full screen text reading similar to that found in our previous version 4 release and an option for a compact 66 book grid view. As soon as we've tested these features they will be released to iTunes. :)

    Follow our blog at: for more details that should be released later this week.

    For the latest updates you can follow us on twitter (@OliveTreeBible) and Facebook ( as well:

    Zachary, maybe you could do a follow up post when the new features are released? :)

  25. @Scott and everyone else - I am testing the 5.0.1 RC right now, and will post a review of the iPhone/iPad BibleReader using that version when it's released (or at least submitted for approval). So all the new features for the "little" people will be well represented. : )

    @John C - I told you it could change. ; )

  26. Thanks for your review, very helpful. I love this new app,,,, btw,,, for my dollar, the sepia look is kinder on my eyes,,, the harsh white hurts my eyes after a lengthy read... w

  27. You mentioned using gestures. I use the iPod Touch. Where are gestures defined? Thanks for the great review!

  28. Hope I didn't miss this above.. but when I highlight a verse, it is now highlighted only in the version of the Bible I am reading. Before, a highlight made in one version was also a highlight in all other versions. Anyway I can still do this?

  29. @RG Fleck: You need to be using iOS 4.2 in order to use gestures. They are configurable from the "Advance Settings" menu.

    @Doug: Yes, you can - it's a bit tricky (this is detailed in one of Olive Tree's YouTube videos - unfortunately I don't remember which). If you highlight a verses by tapping the verse number and choosing the "Highlight" option, it will be highlighted across all Bible versions. Highlights made by selecting text with the standard iOS text select are specific to that resource. Sorry this wasn't clearer in the review - I only found out about it recently.

    I'm working on the followup to this review that will cover the iPhone version, as well as the new features coming for iPhone/iPod users in the next update!

  30. Hello Mr.zak89,

    My dad is currently using the Olive Tree software program & wishes to receive the update for 5.0... but he's worried about him losing all of his bookmarks for version 4.0.....Does apple safeguard that or......?

  31. Dear Anonymous,

    If he performs an update via iTunes or the App Store with the $0.99 BibleReader, all his user-created data (notes, highlights, bookmarks) will be transfered seamlessly.

    Keep in mind that Olive Tree has several "spins" of BibleReader available (different default Bibles, etc). Right now ONLY the $0.99 version has been updated - so if he is using another version (say, the $9.99 NKJV BibleReader or the free "BibleReader for Bible Study"), he won't be able to transfer his highlights and bookmarks (notes can be synced to Evernote and transfered that way).

    If his bookmarks however are in the $0.99 version, than the update should load all of them without an issue.

    I guess the simplest way to put is that if he is getting version 5.0 via an UPDATE, he's fine - if he has to install the $0.99 version separately, then he is not using the correct version so the data won't be imported - as long as he doesn't delete the old version though, the data is not lost.

    So much for simple. If you're still confused, let me know and I'll try to explain further. It's a bit complicated I admit - due to the number of "spins" of BibleReader.

  32. I have 5.0 on iPad with KJV-Strongs.
    Suppose I tap on an English word, and I want to see all verses that use the same original language word.
    If I tap a word, I get the Strongs number and dictionary entry. Then, I can then tap the mag glass to bring up the search panel, type in strongs number, then get the list of verses. But is there an easier way that doesn't involve remembering and typing the Strongs number?

  33. There is now, but it costs $15. Olive Tree is adding "concordances" to their library. Right now only the KJV one is available:

    This resource will do exactly what you're thinking of. You tap the word, hit the "Lookup" button, and then tap the entry for the concordance. You can view an english word and see all Greek/Hebrew words that correspond to it, or a Strongs number and see all the words that KJV translates to.

    A very useful resource.

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