Learn about Bible updates and the future of the Theotek Podcast in this week’s show.
In my previous post, I shared that we’re changing our official home of the Theotek Podcast to Facebook Live. This is the first episode that we recorded using Ecamm Live over Facebook Live instead of using Google Hangouts and YouTube Live. Give it a watch below and go on over to our new Facebook Page where you can find all of our podcasts going forward.
In this episode Rick Mansfield showed up of the updates that came in Accordance Bible software 12.2.2, bringing a build-in web browser. I love this new feature because it mean I can use Accordance and access my Logos books and WORDsearch books all from one program.
Over three years ago the Theotek Podcast got its start as a trio of tech lovers took the YouTube and recorded what we first called Theotek News. You can see that first episode below. At first LaRosa Johnson, Antoine Wright and I discussed Bible software and more. It was pretty rough. That was when I was still writing for Christian Computing Magazine, Antoine still had the Mobile Ministry Magazine and I was into Google+ big time. LaRosa announced the sale of Olive Tree to Harper Collins. What a blast from the past.
Later we added Wes Allen and then Rick Mansfield and recently Mark Allison. We often branch out of Bible or Church software and technology into the realm of general technology. But we’ve kept at it for over 100 shows.
Now it’s time for a change. It seems Google’s changing the way they want customers to use Google Hangouts On Air. We feel like it’s no longer a reliable tool for recording our Theotek Podcast.
Going forward we’re going to use Facebook Live through our new Theotek Podcast Facebook page. The team will get together over Skype and Wes will record it on his Mac using Ecamm Live software, a great tool for streaming live to Facebook or YouTube, but not both. It costs $40 for the basic program. Then you add their Call Recorder for Skype which costs another $40. We tried it with our show this week and it worked really well.
We’ll still be active on Twitter @TheotekPodcast and you can still watch for a while at YouTube. Going forward that YouTube Channel will primarily consist of my stuff, like a review I did of the Google Pixelbook recently. By the way I also wrote about using the Pixelbook for Bible Study here on this site.
Please consider subscribing over at Facebook. Follows us on Twitter. Here’s my statement on the YouTube channel.
Paying $999 for a Chromebook, and $1,098 when you add the Google Pixelbook Pen, seems like a ridiculous extravagance for many of the mainstream tech site reviewers. I’ve seen reviewers say it was…
a “hard sell” for anyone who’s not already a Chrome OS user – TechCrunch
made for “well-heeled Android and chromebook fans” (yes they forgot to capitalize Chromebook) – PC Mag
only for the “die-hard Chrome OS fan” who looks for “the very best Chromebook available” – Digital Trends
Let me say at the outset that I think these reviews all came from people who don’t fully understand the power and elegance of Chrome OS, so they can’t fully appreciate the benefits of a high-end Chromebook like the Pixelbook. We’ll step back to look first at the hardware. Then, we’ll see how the Pixelbook handles Chrome OS and apps from the Google Play Store, including using Bible study apps, which we already covered in a previous post.
Google Pixelbook Review Video
Pixelbook Internal Hardware
In a word, the Pixelbook’s hardware is fantastic. I bought the base unit that comes with a 7th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of fast solid state storage. Those sound like decent specs for a Windows machine, but Chrome OS runs on a pretty lean machine, so a 7th gen Intel Core i5 with 8GB of RAM works nicely on Chrome OS.
In addition to the blazing speed, the Pixelbook looks beautiful. It’s incredibly thin and light. Other devices claim the same weight, but Google engineered the internals in a wonderfully balanced way. When you hold it in tablet mode or just carry it around it feels sleek. Just look at the clean lines and clear attention to detail.
The computer includes 2 USB-C ports that will both charge and transfer data. They will also work as external display ports with an adapter.
Google put a Hardware Security Module in the Pixelbook, giving it a business class level of security. While a home user like me won’t really appreciate this, business users might.
Convertible designs give users versatility that a traditional laptop doesn’t. Use it as a laptop for regular work. Then fold the display back nearly 360 degrees to use it as a tablet.
Adjust the screen so that it faces forward in a V-shape or Tent mode as seen in the image above. We can also use the Pixelbook with the keyboard facing down and the screen facing forward in a mode useful for viewing videos or presentations. Display mode lets the user adjust the angle more easily than tent mode.
Before I began using the Pixelbook Pen, the Apple Pencil was the best stylus I’d used. However, I prefer the Pixelbook Pen because it’s shorter, thicker and feels better in your hand. Because of the shorter length it has a better weight distribution than the Apple Pencil. Both work better than the Microsoft Surface Pen, but not much. All three work great. Pixelbook users needing a stylus will get a great one with the Pen.
The Pixelbook Pen has a button on the side that turns on the Google Assistant when the user selects on-screen content. Users can search with voice commands using the special keyboard button but this doesn’t work with the Pixelbook Pen, which is stupid. The Apple Pencil doesn’t do anything like that. Surface Pen users can work with Cortana via the buttons. I like the right-click button of the Surface Pen and wish the Pixelbook Pen had the feature or let users customize the one button it does have.
The Apple Pencil lets recharges via the Lightning Port on the iPad Pro. That sounds like a benefit, but it also means you have to charge it more often. The AAAA battery in the Pens from Google and Microsoft last forever. When they finally do quit, just swap them out. They’re hard to find in my small town, but I ordered a four-pack replacement from Amazon for less than $10. Now I’ve got plenty of backups in my battery drawer at home.
The Pixelbook Pen doesn’t drop its connection like the Apple Pencil. I have to plug the Pencil into the Lightning port on my iPad almost every time I want to use it. I never have that problem with the Pixelbook Pen.
Capture screen content and save it or annotate it with Google Keep
Search content by selecting it with the Google Assistant button the Pixelbook Pen pressed while drawing around content
Take notes without unlocking the Pixelbook
Draw or take notes in apps designed for this like my favorite Metamoji Note or Squid
Use the pen as a laser pointer in presentation app when connected to an external display or Chromecast
Pixelbook Keyboard and Trackpad
I’ve used plenty of terrible keyboards and great keyboards and I love the Pixelbook. It’s better than my MacBook Pro from 2013. I hate the new MacBook keyboards. The Pixelbook’s as thin as the new Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro with their butterfly mechanism keyboards, but feels superior when you type.
It’s easy to type accurately quickly for hours with comfort. The interesting soft silicon surface that flanks either side of the trackpad feels great while resting your palms. It’s a brilliant non-skid surface and I’m glad Google thought to put them their. I hope they don’t discolor too much over time. Cleaning them was easy after I got a bit of residue from a soft drink on my hands that I didn’t notice. I just wiped it with a damp cloth.
The keys have a hint of texture making them easy to type on. They’re back-lit, but the light is a little strange. They don’t look that great in light making it hard to see the key labels. In a dark room they look fine.
The keyboard layout’s perfect and the useful function keys along the top of Chrome OS does away with the ridiculous F keys on most computer keyboards. You don’t need them in Chrome OS.
Google added a couple of keys to the new layout of their Chromebook keyboard. First, there’s the Google Assistant key. We’ll cover that more below when we discuss the Assistant. There’s also a nice Launcher button in the spot above the Shift key on the left side of the keyboard. It functions similar to the Windows key on most Windows PCs. Tap the key and start typing the name of an app to show it and then tap or click to launch the app or web app. It also functions like a CAPS LOCK key for those who miss it using a key combination.
As effective as the keyboard works, the trackpad is better. I hate trackpads, so any computer that keeps me from pulling out my Bluetooth mouse has to be good. I paired my Logitech MX Anywhere 2 mouse with the Pixelbook the first time and used it for a couple of hours. Now it sits in my bag. I actually prefer the Pixelbook trackpad. It’s spacious, accurate and smooth.
I did have to turn off the tap to click feature of the trackpad in Settings. I’m a lazy typists who lets my wrist rest on the space beside the trackpads so my thumbs kept tapping the trackpad accidentally, so I turned off the feature. I don’t mind losing tap to click. I prefer to click when I use a trackpad.
When you use the Pixelbook in laptop mode and tap the screen, the hinges aren’t strong enough to hold the screen in place. It wobbles a bit. If you plan to use it as a touchscreen only for watching videos, display pictures or a presentation to a friend, then use the tent mode to keep this from happening. I’ve also gotten good at holding the top or sides with my other fingers as I tap with my thumb for quick taps while in laptop mode.
Pixelbook Display and Audio
The 12.3″ LCD 2400 x 1600, which gives us 235 pixels per inch, looks beautiful. Text and images look crisp and color accurate. It’s bright enough that I mostly use it at 50% brightness except in bright rooms or sunlight. I don’t watch a lot of video on my laptops, but I can on the Pixelbook without compromise.
Natively, the Pixelbook comes out of the box running at 1280 x 800. That’s a little low, even at 12.3 inches. However, it worked fine while using it at this resolution.
Users can change to the native resolution of 2400 x 1600, but you won’t be able to use it that way for long because text looks too small to read (see below). I left it at 1280 x 800 (see above) until recently, when I switched to 1350 x 900. That makes things look smaller but not too small to read even for my middle-aged eyes. Everything still runs smoothly and I can fit more on the screen, a great option when using Bible apps on the screen with two books open at once. Since most Android Bible apps fill the entire screen on Chrome OS, the lower resolution works fine.
Like most laptops, the Pixelbook speakers aren’t great. The sound okay for occasional listening, but no one will want to use this device for a lot of music, gaming and movies if they put a premium on great audio. Get some excellent headphones and plug them into the audio port, which the Pixelbook has, thankfully.
Pixelbook and Google Assistant
I’m not a big Google Assistant user, but the Pixelbook adds this function both in the keyboard and the Pixelbook Pen. The Pen has a dedicated Google Assistant button that works as well as the Google Assistant does using it any other way. There’s also a dedicated button for the Google Assistant, as we mentioned above. Tap it and the Assistant starts listening.
Google Assistant will search the web, add appointments, tasks or notes to Google Keep. You can also control things on your Chromebook, launch apps and interact with the system.
The Pixelbook Pen lets you press the button and then circle something on the screen. The Google Assistant will then show relevant information based on what you circled. Here’s a list of some of the things you can do according to the Google help article:
Find restaurant information by circling its name on a website
Circle a photo of a famous person and find out who it is or learn more about the person
Add a date to your calendar by circling it
Create an appointment
Play media like videos from YouTube or music from Google Play Music
The Apple Pencil can’t do many of these things and the Surface Pen can do some of them. Siri and Cortana don’t work as well in my experience as the Google Assistant for most tasks.
Chrome OS comes with a number of important benefits that a lot of people don’t see because they’re too focused on the limitations.
Chrome OS is dead simple by itself with easy use and quick reset to factory default settings via Powerwash.
Google Play Store adds complexity but also functionality that makes the complexity worth it.
Great web apps that you can now use offline (Google Docs, Sheets, etc).
Microsoft Office Mobile apps compatible with Chrome OS with Google Play Store apps.
Chrome OS is more secure than other operating systems thanks to no viruses affecting it yet.
We do see some limitations with Chrome OS. It’s harder to do complicated video and photo editing. Running two apps on-screen at the same time doesn’t work yet in the stable version of the operating system. Google’s working on it.
I love my Pixelbook and feel like the $999 plus $99 for the Pixelbook Pen was a good investment. I’m productive with it writing article on my blog, writing sermons and Bible studies, researching my sermon and Bible study passages and doing general Internet tasks. I can edit photos most of the time since I’m not a serious photographer. Snapseed and the other online photo editing tools I use work fine with my Pixelbook. I also don’t do complex video editing. Most of the time I’m just cutting off the front or back of a video and splicing together a few clips that I then upload to Facebook or YouTube.
If you’re like me and want a great piece of hardware, then Pixelbook is your pick. It’s the best Chromebook money can buy. If you don’t want to spend $1000, then I can also recommend the Samsung Chromebook Plus or Pro, both also great Chromebook with an active stylus. The Samsung stylus is smaller and not as good as the Pixelbook Pen and it doesn’t have the Google Assistant built-in. The Samsung Chromebook Plus or Pro keyboards aren’t as good and the trackpads on both machines stink compared to the Pixelbook. The screens on those devices look as good, but I prefer the 12-inch nearly square 4:3 aspect ratio. Also the Pixelbook feel like a premium laptop and even works for occasional tablet use.
The Pixelbook works great for Bible study and sermon prep with only a few compromises. This boils down to your past usage and how much you need some of the more complicated features available on a Mac, Windows PC or even iOS with the iPad Pro. I prefer the Pixelbook for most of my writing tasks and even most of my online work.
The Theotek team offers up some of our favorite gift ideas for the 2017 Theotek Christmas Gift Guide in this Theotek Extra. In this gift guide, three of our team members share their options for great Christmas presents for the Geek on your gift list. Here’s the video of our gift guide. We didn’t do an audio version since this is such a visual show. Watch the video below and then check out the links for each item in our round-up after the video.
Wes Allen’s Gift Guide Suggestions
Wes showed off his TASCAM DR-40 4-Track Portable Digital Recorder. He uses it for professional reasons, since he often records video and audio for his work with the ABCNJ tech ministry. Here’s a sample video that Wes shot using the recorder.
That sounds pretty good. Here’s another sample test recording audio in various situations.
The recorder costs a little over $170 at Amazon. Wes recommended this as one of Our Favorite Things during a past show.
Wes also shared the newest version of Scrivener, a great writing tool for people creating a little more complex projects, like a book or research paper. He uses it also for sermon writing and keeps them all in a single folder by year in Scrivener. Literature and Latte just released version 3.0 for Mac and is working on the Windows update. Get it for $45 unless you own a earlier version. Then you can update it for $15 off. The iOS version costs $20.
Mark Allison’s Gift Guide Suggestions
We get a few recommendations from Mark Allison. He started things off with the TPU Docking Stand Holder for the 38mm Apple Watch. It holds the Apple Watch on your night stand or desk and you can use it like an alarm clock with the watch plugged in and display set to turn on showing the time. It only costs $6.34 on eBay.
Next we get the Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker for $32.99 on Amazon. This Bluetooth battery-powered speaker lets you play your music from a phone or tablet on the go or at home. He loves his. It comes in black, blue or red.
Mark also recommends getting an SSD for your computer. He picked one up from Newegg, but you can find them anywhere. He said that the one he has isn’t necessarily the best. Get one that fits your storage needs and size of your laptop. Putting one in your computer shouldn’t take too much technical skill. The hardest part is replacing the boot drive and getting all your software back on the drive. Also, many newer computers don’t have user-upgradable drives. For example, you can upgrade the new MacBooks or MacBook Pros. These can cost as little as under $100 and as much as over $1,000 for extremely fast drives. He said that getting a more costly drive usually means faster performance and more storage.
The last thing Mark recommended didn’t have anything to do with tech. It’s Millie’s All Natural Organic Gluten-Free Vegetable Sipping Broth. It’s like tea without the tea. These come in tea bags and you pour hot water over them and let them soak about 3 minutes. As of the time of this post, they’re not available where he gets them, on Amazon. They offer other flavors that are available now, like Thai Lemongrass for $15 for a pack of 12 bags. You can ask Amazon to email you when they’re ready.
Kevin Purcell’s Gift Guide Suggestion
I picked just one gift to recommend. I just picked up the DJI Spark mini drone. It’s a high-end consumer grade drone with a 12MP camera that also shoots in 1080p video. The battery lasts about 15-20 minutes. It’s on sale for $399 now, but normally costs $499. I recommend getting the bundle that includes a remote control that connects to your phone or tablet. It also has the propeller guards and extra battery, which you’ll likely need.
Other Great Gift Options
If you need a few more recommendations, we’ve got some ideas. First, consider gift cards. Find out what platform the person uses for their smart phone. Get Apple Gift Cards for iPhone, iPad and Mac users. Get Google Play Gift Cards for Android users. We also love Amazon Gift Cards. That way we can pick out whatever we want. Also consider giving them some store credit for their favorite Bible software from Logos, Accordance, Olive Tree, WORDsearch and others.
The Pixelbook, Google’s latest high-end Chromebook, competes at the upper end of the market against the likes of the Apple iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro. It’s a beautiful machine in all aspects, but if you’re reading this site you probably wonder if someone can use the Pixelbook for Bible Study. I’ll try to answer that and recommend whether you should pay the premium price.
You may think of the Chromebook as a “browser” computer that only runs the Google Chrome browser. That’s no longer accurate for a few reasons. First, web apps work well in many cases. There’s also a number of great Bible study websites if you don’t want to install an Android app.
Second, in America at least, most people enjoy full-time access to the web at home, work and even on the go with Wi-Fi hotspots on phones or in coffee shops and airports. The popular idea that Chromebooks are just hardware web browsing machines is false. Google dispels the “myths” as they call them about the Chromebook in a video they produced.
The myths Google dispels in this video include:
They’re just browsers
They have no storage
Chromebooks don’t run real software
They only work online
We get web apps that work off-line and most Chromebooks today come with the Google Play Store out of the box. Others will get it soon in an update to Chrome OS.
Every Chromebook includes at least 16GB of local storage and the Pixelbook has at least 128GB. Plus many add extra storage through an SD card reader, although Google didn’t include a reader on he Pixelbook, frustrating some buyers.
The Pixelbook gives users a high-end experience making it my favorite general use computer over my MacBook Pro, Surface Pro and iPad Pro. I used to own all four, but carry the Pixelbook and choose to use it more than any of the other three. In fact I just sold my MacBook. Here’s what you get with a Pixelbook.
Beautiful high-resolution 12.3-inch screen with 2400×1650 res display.
Excellent chiclet style keyboard that’s easy to type on quickly and accurately.
Large smooth and accurate clickable touchpad that I use over a mouse 100% of the time
Thin light and stylish design.
Two-in-one convertible design that you can use as a laptop, tablet, and in stand mode.
Incredible 8-10 hours of battery life that charges in about an hour from dead.
2 USB-C ports that charge the computer and transfer data.
Spacious 128GB solid-state drive that’s fast.
I usually prefer to connect a Bluetooth mouse for mobile computing with my laptops. I hate trackpads and always pair one with my Surface Pro and MacBook Pro, but I don’t on the Pixelbook. That’s a high compliment from me. It has a fantastic trackpad.
Some people might see 128GB of storage and balk at that. That’s not nearly enough for most people on a Windows or Mac laptop. However, on a Chromebook that runs Android apps, it’s more than enough. That’s because the OS and apps don’t take up as much space. The only reason you’ll need more is if you store large videos or tons of music, photos or other large files. Even the space-hogging Bible apps that you can download from the Google Play Store will not eat up that much of that 128GB.
Samsung sells a pair of Chromebooks that comes with a stylus. I owned both the Samsung Chromebook Plus and the Pro, but sold them both. First I upgraded to the Pro and then sold it to get the Pixelbook. I’m glad I did. The Pixelbook is larger than the Samsung stylus which makes it more comfortable to use. I’m testing the built-in screen annotation feature with PowerPoint and may switch from using my iPad if I can make it work well enough. Right now it takes a screenshot to mark it up, but does offer a laser pointer, which might be enough for what I’m doing.
Using the Pixelbook Pen
There’s a great search feature available only on the Pixelbook with their Pen until another manufacturer gets access to the API that makes it work. Select something on-screen and the Google Assistant will search for the context within the selected area. Here’s where that helps Bible students. Circle some text on the screen and the Assistant will search for it. For example, I chose to search for “false prophets” from 1 John 4:1 and you can see that the Google Assistant did a search for it for me (see image above).
While doing presentations, the Pen lets you mark up your slides. I’m planning to start using a series of PDF file pages instead of PowerPoint. The Pixelbook Pen works much better in this case than it does on PowerPoint or Google Slides. I hope Google updates their own Slides app for better use in situations where the presenter wants to mark up the screen. If you want to see a similar style of Bible teaching, check out John Piper’s A Look at the Book. I’ve included an example from YouTube below.
Getting Other Things Done
Thanks to the Microsoft Office Android apps, I can write in Word and use PowerPoint somewhat. Word’s fine, but PowerPoint’s weak on Android. The presenter view doesn’t do on-screen annotations as easily as the Windows or iPad program. I put my scripture on the screen and mark it up during my Wednesday Night Bible Study at church. I dislike the way PowerPoint handles this in Android because you can see the mark up buttons at the top of screen on the external display. That’s distracting. As I said above, I may use the built-in laser pointer, but not yet.
Thanks to Android apps I can now do some video editing and great photo editing. I use the following apps for these tasks:
Now for the reason we’re here. Can you use the Pixelbook for Bible study? In a word, yes! However, there are a few trade offs.
I usually install the Logos and Olive Tree Android apps on my Android phone and they both work on the Pixelbook. Accordance promises that they will soon ship an Android app that will at first let you read your books primarily. They plan to add more advanced features over time. It’s currently in beta, so go learn more about it in their forums, but it’s clearly beta and not ready for most users not tolerant of instability and lack of features. It will be great, I’m sure.
The Logos Bible study app doesn’t include all the advanced features available on the Mac or PC version. Olive Tree’s mobile Bible study app and computer apps work similarly. That’s because it’s not as advanced or as complicated as the other two desktop programs. The WORDsearch Android app is atrocious so just use the MyWSB.com web app. It gives users a better experience.
If you use notes to record your study discoveries, then you’ll get frustrated using the Logos Android app because the note attached to a verse covers most of the screen. I like to open a notes file and then look at the Bible text and type in my observations. You can do this in Olive Tree easily, but it’s hard to do in Logos. Olive Tree puts the notes on the right side of the screen and you can edit them while viewing the Bible window on the left (see above).
Logos only shows the notes in a pop up window when you first open the editor or tap an existing note (see image above). If you want to attach the note to a verse reference, then it will strangely cover the entire screen (see image below).
The current version of Logos Android beta app has a bug that only opens a notes file in a separate screen. It won’t open in 2-screen view. Hopefully they’ll fix that soon. Even when they fix it, the note doesn’t automatically sync to the note attached the currently showing Bible passage. If you have a lot of notes you’ll have to scroll through the long list of notes till you find it.
Here’s my work around. I open the app on my phone and then type into the Logos notes file on my Pixelbook. I’d use Olive Tree more for this, but most of my best commentaries and references are in Logos, not Olive Tree. Since most of us own a smartphone, this is a reasonable workaround. If you use Olive Tree primarily, then you’ll enjoy the experience. Open the notes file in the right side. If you’re like me and use Logos as your primary app, then you’ll hate using notes on a Chromebook.
Here’s another workable option. Open your Bible app and a Word document, Google Docs file or some other text editor and use the keyboard shortcut to switch quickly between the Bible app and the text editor. Use ALT+TAB to switch between open apps.
I’ve used the Pixelbook plus Samsung Galaxy Note 8 for two screen work for a few weeks now almost every day. I really like this workflow. I write my personal observations, then open word study tools and record those findings. Finally, I open other books like dictionaries, atlases, and then commentaries.
The great screen, keyboard and trackpad make writing on the Pixelbook a dream. I love the crisp text even in small fonts. They look great and easy to read. The keyboard makes typing a pleasure and the spacious trackpad means no mouse needed. It’s accurate but registers accidental palm touches while you’re typing, so I turn off tap to click, like I do on my MacBook Pro. That’s a product of a large sensitive trackpad.
I write my sermons in Microsoft Word, which you can download from the Google Play Store. However, I notice that it’s not stable on the Pixelbook. It doesn’t crash, but typing can get laggy and sometimes the arrow keys on the lower right corner of the keyboard don’t work. Sometimes the space and shift keys just don’t register. This happens only in Word, so it’s an app specific problem. To avoid this, use the online Word web app instead. It’s nearly identical to the Android app for most users.
Don’t forget the great online Bible study sites. Logos, WORDsearch, Bible Gateway and many others include some nice features. The first two give access to most of your library if you already own books for use in their mobile and desktop apps.
I love using the Pixelbook as my primary Bible study and sermon prep tool. Here’s the list of strengths that make it my favorite laptop:
Great accurate and crisp screen
Beautiful and comfortable keyboard
Large accurate and sensitive trackpad
Great 8 hour battery life that charges quickly from a dead battery
Android apps mostly work well on the Pixelbook
Web apps fill in the gaps of poor web apps
It’s not a perfect situation. Here’s what I don’t like:
Android Bible apps not as good as Windows and Mac versions
Word is buggy on the Pixelbook and Android PowerPoint’s not as good as iOS or the desktop version
Video editing is harder on a Chromebook than on a Mac where it is best or Windows where it’s nearly as good as Mac
For the first time, I prefer using a Chromebook nearly 100% of the time. I still prefer my desktop apps for a few Bible Study tasks, like complex word studies and sentence diagramming in Logos. However, I could even do those on my Pixelbook if needed without too much compromise.
The Pixelbook’s not for everyone. People committed to using Chrome OS won’t find a better option, if they don’t mind the $1000 for the computer and $100 if they want the Pen.
If you work on a website for your church or ministry or if you create images, videos or art for worship, then this podcast is for you. We talked about the creative tools that we use and what we think of Adobe’s recent update to their Creative Cloud suite. Plus watch the podcast to find out about alternatives if you don’t like the subscription model of paying for your creative apps.
If you’re interested in the new tools from Adobe, check out their website to learn more. We talked mainly about photography programs Lightroom and Photoshop since that’s what we use most. But the other apps got some love and they added a new subscription storage option.
Alternatives to Adobe Creative Tools for Ministry
MacPhun does a great job with some of their new apps. They now offers something called Luminar 2018 and it works on both Mac and Windows. Luminar does Raw photo file editing. It has the advanced features of Photoshop and Lightroom built into Luminar. Pre-order for $60 or upgrade from $40. And for HDR tools check out MacPhun’s Aurora package. These are both great creative tools for ministry.
For iPad and Mac users Pixelmator does a nice job. They also will offer Pixelmator Pro which give you a single window interface and it does what it does really fast. It’s not as good at text and Lightroom may do a better job with some adjustments, but the app on iPad and on Mac is a great option.
Final Cut Pro from Apple is an expensive alternative. It’s a one time only fee, but the price is $300. However, that’s 6 months of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. It only runs on a Mac.
LumaFusion on iPad gives the user a great user interface, a powerful video editor and lets you edit with a finger. That gives me precision editing that I can’t get with my mouse. It includes a multi-track editing interface. You can have 3 tracks for video, audio and images. Then add 3 more audio tracks for things like voice overs or music.
Most people think of Camtasia as a screen recorder. It is, but it also allows for simple video editing with simple titles and call-outs. It’s great for creating videos of software.
On the audio editing side of things Adobe offers Adobe Audition. However, Ferrite is in iOS audio editor that we can use for some great audio projects.
For Windows and Mac, use the free and open source program called Audacity. It’s powerful and simple at the same time. The supporting community makes a lot of plug-ins.
On the Mac there’s Sound Studio by Felt Tip Software. It’s an excellent option for sound creative tools users.
Those who need to create websites might user Dreamweaver form Adobe. However, we mentioned a few alternatives for web design.
WordPress is a content management system and a web host, although you can self host using the files from WordPress.org.
Rapid Weaver for Mac is the most like Dreamweaver. It’s a piece of software on your Mac that creates websites.
Squarespace is like WordPress because it’s a content management system. You’ll have to use their servers as your host and it costs a little.
Our Favorite Things
We’ve got a few more recommendations. We always offer “Our Favorite Things” which are recommendations from the Theotek team. Here’s the list of Our Favorite Things.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
People who need a great text editor for Mac will love BBedit. Mark Allison recommends it for text editing and for programming.
Rick didn’t recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 he got to test out Accordance Bible on Android because he hates the limitations of Android tablets and Samsung’s launcher. Samsung puts an overlay on top of Android called TouchWiz on his tablet and now it’s called Samsung Experience on their latest phones. Since he does a lot of the training for Accordance, he wanted to share his screen to record help videos for their new Accordance Android app. Samsung doesn’t let you connect an HDMI adapter like other devices. So he found a tool called AirServer Connect in the Google Play Store that lets him share the screen to Reflector. It tricks Reflector into thinking the Android device is an iPad or iPhone. Reflector tricks the device into thinking your computer’s an Apple TV. There’s also a version for iOS and on the Amazon App Store.
Wes decided to “waste time” with his pic. He chose the Stranger Things video game based on the hit Netflix Original series that recently released in season two. It’s a fun time waster on Android and iOS.
My pick this week was the new Kindle Fire. I got the 10-inch version, but they offer an 7 and 8 inch mode. It’s faster than the earlier version and seriously fun. You can also install the Google Play Store with some tricks found here. The 10-inch starts at $150 but you can get the 7-inch for only $50 and the 8-inch for $80. They have a durable 7-inch version for kids that starts at $100 and comes with a 2-year warranty that lets you replace it even if the kid drops and breaks the screen. I really love mine.
The iPad assists mobile Bible study thanks to a lot of iPad Bible Study apps. But which one should you use? How good are they and what can a person do with them. Let’s look at the best iPad Bible Study apps to help preachers, teachers and Christians study the Bible.
iPad Bible Study Must Haves…
Recently we differentiated between mobile Bible Study apps and Devotional or Bible reading apps. Please see that post to understand the difference. The apps below fit in the more advanced Bible Study Apps sector. Users can use them for Bible reading and devotional Bible reading as well, but they are more than that. Here’s what I think every good Bible Study app should include that might not show up in a simple devotional or Bible reading app.
Original language tools
References like commentaries, Bible dictionaries, atlases and more
Dual pane view showing the Bible in one and a reference or language study tool in the other panes or showing two or more translations on the screen at once
Feature-rich note taking within the app
The apps below all give us more than the four features above, but these are the bare minimum. I think they should also be good at helping you do your Bible reading. No one should have to install two Bible apps on a phone, tablet or Chromebook.
UPDATE: Note that the screenshots and descriptions are of the latest beta of Logos Bible for iPad that will hopefully get released soon. Read more about it in the Logos forums and if you have an Android device you can actually sign up for access to the beta and download it now.
The Logos Bible app is unique compared to the other apps in this roundup. It offers a Home page that shows a ton of content by default. I actually turn off much of this. Here’s what you get right after installing the app.
Featured Bibles – top Bibles that Logos thinks you’ll like and want to use.
Group Invites – Logos has the Faithlife community a kind of Christian social network that focuses on their products. You get invitations to join certain groups and they show up here.
Today’s Readings – reading plans for Bible readings, book readings, etc. Tap on them to see the most recent reading for that plan.
Reading Plan Invitations – like the group invites, these offer potential reading plans like a Gospels in 90 days or Read Mark in a month.
Verse of the Day – a graphical representation of a new verse of Scripture each day that you can quickly share online.
Faithlife Today – the news about Faithlife, their products or interviews and skills development videos all focused on Bible study.
News – text-based news links to the Logos blog.
In addition to the Home screen, we also get other tabs (buttons across the bottom of the app’s screen). These show your Library, Bible, Work Spaces, and a Plus button to add a new work space/tab. The Library button opens your list of books in the library so you can open them. Each book opens in a new Work Space screen. The Bible button opens a list of Bibles so you can add one to a new Work Space. The Work Spaces shrinks each work space and you can swipe between them. This screen also lets users sync the various screens. If you have a copy of the Bible on one Work Space and a copy of your favorite commentary on another, you can sync them so that as you navigate through the Bible from book to book or passage to passage, then the commentary will follow and keep up. Move from Matthew 18 to John 10 in the Bible and a synced commentary or Bible will also move there.
The app lets users tap and hold on a word and a context menu opens. Here’s what the context menu will show you.
Copy – copy the selected text
Look up – do some language study or look up in a dictionary
Search – search your library, the Bible or book for selected text
Share – post to social media or send to friends via a text message or an email
Highlight – just like you would some text in your paper Bible with a highlighter
Note – add a digital margin note like you might in your paper Bible
Clipping – collect content in a clipping document while researching a topic or passage
Visual Copy – creates an image of the text to share online or save for presentations
In the upper right corner there’s a menu button (three vertical dots) that give options for the more powerful features like:
Change Resource – replace the current book with another
Search – search the Bible or open books and the entire library
Passage Guide – research tool finding your text in reference tools like commentaries and more
Make a Note – adds a note to the current passage or part of the book
Add to Favorites – like a bookmark feature
Text Comparison – shows the text in multiple translations all on-screen at the same time
Make a Clipping – collect content just like you do with the button in the context menu above
Exegetical Guide – runs an original language research of the present passage
Visual Copy – same as the context menu above
Share – like the context menu above share content with others
Book Info – shows the front of the book info like publisher, author, etc.
View Settings – change things like text size, font etc.
The iPad in recent versions of iOS offer a kind of widgets that Android users enjoyed for a long time. In iOS you find these on the iPad when you swipe down from the top of the screen and then swipe right to show the list of Notification Widgets. Logos has a widget that displays their Verse of the Day image that you’d also see on the app Home screen. Tap it to launch the Logos app and it opens to that verse in your currently open Bible.
The Logos Notification Widget doesn’t do as much as the Accordance widget. I wish it had a version chooser or let you open recent books read like the Accordance widget.
Users can get the app free, but it works best if you own a library of book from Logos.com. Get one of their Logos Base Packages to bundle a library of books and save money versus buying each book individually.
Bible by Olive Tree
While Logos may offer more complex features, Olive Tree offers a simpler app with a great set of tools for doing advanced Bible study on a mobile device. In fact the Resource Guide might offer the simplest method of accessing all the content in the library related to a given passage on any of the mobile apps in this roundup.
The Bible shows up in the left side with the Study Tools on the right. Inside Study Tools you’ll find the Resource Guide along with a library button, a notes button, and the Lookup button, which lets you look up words in word search in dictionaries, the Bible and your notes.
The Resource Guide is one of the Study Tools and it will arrange your library content by category. All the Related Verses, Commentaries, other Bibles, People, Topics, Maps, Charts, Introductions and more will show up in lists one after another. Each list will show your books ready to open to the content related to the passage or subject found in the verse showing in the left hand window. Tap them to see the content.
On the top left there’s a menu button to show…
Suggested Resources – an ad for a book Olive Tree’s pushing at that time
Store – link to buy new books from within the app
Messages – content from the blog often written by our own Theotek contributor LaRosa Johnson
Reading History – the list of texts you’ve read in the Bible
Notes – Shows your user notes
Highlights – show your user highlights
Book Ribbons – shows your user book ribbons which are like favorites
Saved Passage – similar to Book Ribbons with a list of passages you’ve saved as bookmarks
Tags – a list of all the tags you’ve created so you can make your own topical Bible
Sync – lets you sync your app notes, ribbons, etc. with Olive Tree’s servers
Help – the Olive Tree help system
Across the top of the Bible Screen we see two toolbars. The topmost toolbar has the following:
Library – opens your library
Reading Plan – opens the reading plan screen with suggested reading plans you can add or your own reading plans
Store – opens the store to buy more books
Quick Settings – change things like font, screen color (low light verse regular) and others
Search – search the Bible
Ribbon – add a ribbon to the current top most verse
Below the top-level toolbar you’ll see a second toolbar that shows two buttons, the Select Verse button that opens a Book/Chapter/Verse style navigation tool and a lock button that keeps the toolbar from disappearing. I prefer this and I’m glad Olive Tree added this button for use on the iPad. The iPhone version is best without the toolbar showing so you don’t cover up too much of the text on the smaller screen.
The strength of Olive Tree’s Bible is the simplicity and great library available. It also has the best notes feature available in these three. However, the weakness comes from the desktop app. The Accordance and Logos desktop/laptop apps offer far more than Olive Tree’s.
Download the app for free and get some free books to try it out. Then check out their store for more tools. They don’t focus as much on bundled libraries of books, although they do offer them. I like this because you buy only what you want or need.
Bible Study With Accordance Mobile
At first look, the Accordance Mobile app seems like little more than a basic Bible and book reader tool with split-screen display options. Admittedly, I’m not a frequent user of Accordance Mobile. However, as I dig deeper and take time to discover the features, I realize they a user can do a lot with what looks like very little at first.
The Accordance user-interface opens, after you’ve downloaded books, to show a Bible. There’s a handle on the right side that opens a second window with another book. Tap the title of the book to bring up the library list of books. The left window library lists shows a list of the installed Bible Texts while the right shows Texts, Reference Tools like Commentaries or Study Bibles, and your Notes files.
Open the Notes file and you’ll see your notes. To add a note, select a word or verse and a menu pops up above it. Tap on Note and screen offers to add the note to one of your Notes files. Start typing inside that pop up box. It has a button to change the font, size, color and make the font Bold, Italics or Underlined. Sadly, even though you can see your notes on the right, you can edit them in place. To edit a note, select it and it offers to let you edit the note with a full-screen editor. This covers up the text. I like to make observations about the text in my notes and I can’t see the text in Accordance. That’s the same problem you have with Logos. At least in Logos you can open the Note file and edit in place. It’s hard if you have a lot of notes in your file.
Unfortunately, I experienced a problem with Notes Sync via Dropbox. They don’t use their own servers and rely on Dropbox to sync between the desktop and mobile app. ON the desktop it’s automatic, but not on mobile. That’s a huge weakness of Accordance if you’re a heavy notes user like me.
If you open a book with Strong’s Numbers tagging attached to the text, like the ESV or HCSB or KJV, then you can select a word and a box will pop up showing the original language information. You get the English word, Strong’s number and the Greek word. Then it shows your favorite Greek word dictionary. OT shows Hebrew. Then tap on Search at the bottom of the pop up and it finds that word through the NT. The Amplify will let you search by word or the key number.
The Library button lets you download your books over the Internet. You can also sync those if you have both the desktop and the iPad connected to the same Wi-Fi network. It doesn’t work if your desktop isn’t connected via Ethernet.
The second button from the left lets you sync via Dropbox or via Wi-Fi. Notes and user tools sync via Dropbox while the syncing directly over Wi-Fi syncs your books from the desktop to the iPad.
Accordance users will get a number of free books. However, it will work better if you buy a package to use on your iPad. The free Accordance Lite includes some good tools like ESV with Strong’s plus some public domain books. To add books you can buy books or get a Collection. They start with the free Lite package and go up to more advanced sets like the Pro sets in English, Hebrew or Greek that each cost $999. If you want all three you can get what they call the “Triple” package in the Learner or Discoverer levels. There’s also a graphics-focused set of tools called the Graphics Learner, Discoverer or Master.
PocketBible Bible Study
I love PocketBible from Laridian because it’s the first mobile Bible study app I ever used on my PocketPC a long time ago. Then I moved to Palm and there it was. I went to iPhone and then iPad and it was still available. On Android, eventually it came along for the ride.
When you first install the app it offers a great help screen that shows you how to use the app from the get go. It’s the best on-boarding experience for a new user. Then you’ll get a single window, but no Bibles yet. Open the button at the bottom of the toolbar on the right. Find the Add/Remove books and download all of your books. If you’re not registered, you can do that in the tutorial that opens when you first install.
After you get some books installed open a book using the top button on the toolbar. You can use the Settings (third from the bottom) to add a second window. The rest of the buttons on the toolbar include:
Navigate to passage
Calendar for Bible reading plan
Button to open the toolbox pane (more on that below)
Panes chooser lets you pick how many window panes to open at a time
Reading controls for books with audio included
Menu where you can add/remove books, change other app settings and control books
The toolbox holds another toolbar with six icons as follows (see the right most box in the image above):
Select a word, phrase or more and a menu pops up above it with buttons as follows:
Copy – copy the selected text
Share – post to Facebook or send it over text or email to name a few
Find – search the selected text
Look Up – search your favorite dictionary
More… – opens another menu with a number of other tools, functions and book controls
Laridian offers a number of books to buy. They offer PocketBible Library Collections ranging from $60 on up to $380. You can also buy books or commentary sets.
PocketBible isn’t as polished as some of the other tools. However, it’s one of the easiest to learn and costs less for collections than some of the above options.
Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop
This last option’s not a Bible app at all, but rather a utility that lets you connect to a desktop. Install the Splashtop Streamer utility on your Mac or PC and let it run automatically. Download the app for iPad and run it. After you log in you’ll see all of your computers running the Streamer listed. Tap the one you want to log into. It opens the computer and shows the screen.
Now you can control anything on the computer including a full desktop class Bible software program. Above you’ll see it running with Bibleworks 10 showing on the screen.
With all the Bible study apps available on Android, iOS, Windows and Mac, it’s easy to get confused about which app a person should use. I’ll post a few recommendations over the next few weeks, but today I want to discuss a fundamental question. What do you plan to do with the app?
People use their Bible study apps in different ways. How do you plan to use your Bible study app? Will you merely read the Bible, track your reading with a reading plan that the app provides or do you want to create your own personalized Bible reading plan? Will you highlight the passages on occasion or add personal notes, like you can do with a pen or pencil in the margin of your paper Bible? Maybe you want to work on a research paper for a Bible class in college or seminary. Some people need to translate the Bible into another language as part of a translator team or for a tribe in the jungles of South America in mission work.
There are apps that can handle all the above functions of reading or studying the Bible, but many apps work better for some of the things listed above and don’t do others that well.
Bible Reading and Devotional Bible Study
Some people want little more than a book reader that displays at least one translation of the Bible and that’s it. Maybe they want to search the Bible and even track their daily Bible reading. We call these devotional Bible reading apps. The list of common ways people describe these kinds of apps include…
Bible reader app
Devotional Bible app
The last name is a misnomer. I think Bible study apps include features that simple Bible reading or devotional apps don’t often include. Also, calling a devotional or simple Bible reader app a Bible app is like calling both a minivan and a NASCAR vehicle a car. They’re both cars but different people drive them. Jimmie Johnson, the driver of the #48 Lowes car in NASCAR may drive a minivan on occasion, but a man who drives his kids or grandkids to and from school or baseball practice probably never drives a racecar.
Here’s what every good devotional Bible app or simple Bible reading app should offer users.
Bible reading in all the popular translations like KJV, NIV, CSB or ESV and more.
Highlighting of verses
Add personal notes to the Bible app
Sharing on social networks
Copying to other apps to send a verse in email or a text message to your spouse or friend
Search the text of your translation
Customized display of text (fonts, sizes, background colors)
Would you expect any other features in a simple Bible reading app? Please respond in the comments to add other features that you would include at a minimum. But read the next section first, since many of the other features a person wants in their Bible app will mean they really need more than a simple Bible reader app. They want a Bible study app.
Bible Study App
Bible apps with more than the above features typically fit in the class of Bible study apps. These app developers target scholars, pastors, Bible teachers in Sunday school or informal communities of Bible students or people who want to study the Bible for personal development and spiritual growth.
The list of basic minimum features you should expect in a quality Bible study apps include…
All of the features included in a Bible reader or devotional Bible app
Includes other resources like commentaries, Bible dictionaries, atlases, study Bibles, language study tools like Strong’s dictionaries and lexicons
Advanced search tools that do more than find a list of verses with the word “grace” or “holy” like boolean searches
Multiple windows showing at the same time on-screen
Notes with advanced formatting
Library management that shows all of your books and lets you download or even remove books
Offline reading and study tools
Some of the best apps in the iOS or Google Play Store don’t include all the features in the above list. For example, Logos Bible from Faithlife doesn’t let you do Exegetical study (original language study) on their iOS and Android app without an Internet connection. However, I’d still call it one of the better mobile Bible study apps available.
What do you expect in a serious Bible study app? Let me know by commenting below.
Google took to the state and announced a slew of new gadgets for geeks like us to drool over. In this episode of the Theotek Podcast, we talked about the new Google tools. We had some strong opinions about them so watch below or listen at the bottom of this post.
In all Google announced some phones, a new Chromebook, a few new Google Home devices and other accessories. Here’s the list of the products with links to the Google device store pages for each item.
Google Pixelbook Chromebook – $999 for the 128GB drive model with 8GB or RAM and a 7th Gen Intel Core i5; add $200 for 256GB drive and $650 for 512GB and a Core i7 processor; also add $99 for the stylus.
In the podcast we talked about the above products. Most of us agreed that the new Pixel 2 phone looks like a great new edition of the pure Android experience. It has a great camera with nice form factor. The Home Mini voice activated speaker seems like a nice lower price option for those who are heavily invested in the Google ecosystem. The Home Max competes with Apple’s Homepod for a high-end music listening experience that also includes the Google Assistant like the Google Home and Home Mini.
We weren’t as excited about the Pixelbook because of the price. At $999 for the baseline model, that’s a high price for a Chromebook. My Samsung Chromebook Plus looks and feels like a premium Chromebook at less than half the price. However, people who love ChromeOS will love this Chromebook. It seems like a very nice piece of hardware.
We agreed that they announced a coolest new product called Google Pixelbuds. They offer a high-end music listening in Bluetooth form. The wireless earbuds look a little wired but include a great translation feature. You can talk to people speaking another language, like Chinese or Spanish. The Pixel Buds will listen and then translate. If it works like the demo showed, it will make a great option for people who travel or deal with people who speak another language.