Lifeway, the new owners of WORDsearch finally released their anticipated WORDsearch iPad app today and while it will be nice to get access to all of my content in my WORDsearch library, the app has a few design flaws that I’d like to mention with hopes that they can fix these.
The app has a simple and clean interface, which I like. By default you will only see one Bible open at the first, but you can add a second for a commentary or another translations. Each pane has its own toolbar at the top and bottom.
To open a book, go into your library and choose the book from either the list or bookshelf view. If it isn’t on your iPad, it will display a window offering to download the book. Hit the down arrow at the right and wait a bit. The first few times you use the app, you will have to do a lot of downloading.
Across the top you have…
- Library button – open to use your library or buy more books
- Translations button – open to use your other Bibles
- Passage button – tap the passage heading at the top and a drop-down list of the books of the Bible will open so you can navigate to another passage
- Search – search the Bible
- Bookmark – add by tapping and then delete by tapping the red ribbon added to the text
The bottom toolbar has the following buttons …
- Study Pane button – shows a list of your downloaded commentaries so you can open in a new window pane; you also get other study helps like highlights, notes and bookmarks on the live passage; to show your notes swipe the window to the left
- History button – you can select passages listed to go back to them
- Display settings – lets you toggle words of Christ in read, paragraph v. verse view, background style (white, sepia and black for night view) and five text sizes
- Info button – for FAQs; lets hope we see more here like full-featured help and info about the current book or translation
- Close button – will close the book (not available in single pane view)
If you tap and hold a word in the Bible, you will get some options. You can copy the selection or get a definition of a word selected. The options choice brings up another popup window. You can highlight the selected text with one of a number of colors. You can also underline or erase any markups. The erase button confused me. It’s just a red diagonal line. I wasn’t sure what it did until I underlined a word and then hit that button which removed the underline. It deletes any highlights or underlines. In addition to markups, you can add a note or a bookmark.
The books scroll with the swipe of a finger. When you get the top of the cached page, it will load more text of your Bible. This took some time, but when I closed the app and reopened it, the load time shorted drastically.
What I Like
First, I like being able to read my WORDsearch library on my iPad. I hate reading from a computer, but I love reading on my iPad. Second, I like the simple interface. They didn’t try to do too much. All the basic tools are available, like dual pane view, notes, highlighting and bookmarks.
If you switch the library interface to the bookshelf view, then you can see your library easily. Each category of book has its own row and each row scrolls horizontally to show all of your books from that category. Scroll down to see all the different categories in your library from Bibles to Commentaries, Devotionals, etc.
I’m glad they allow the user to change the look of the page. You get a white background, sepia or black. People like the black backgrounds with white text for night-time reading mode.
WORDsearch started well. Other apps don’t work as nicely as this one despite being available for years. Their interface designers have a good foundation to build upon.
There’s no excuse for your library automatically opening to the book store as you open the app the first time or you tap the toolbar button the first time after opening a book. I’m guessing WORDsearch sees this app as a way to sell books first and a Bible study tool second. This commercialism leaves a bad taste in users mouths.
When downloading books, it would be nice to have a download all button so that you can add every book in your available library to your iPad. This would take up a large amount for those with big libraries, but would save time for those with medium to small libraries.
For some reason, I can’t see all of the books in my Bible. I’m not sure if the publishes won’t let me see them or they just aren’t showing up due to a glitch. I’ll contact WORDsearch soon to fix the problem.
Instead of a scrolling list of the books of the bible, I’d really like a grid view for navigating to a new passage (see the Logos example above). They’re faster. Also, I want to choose the book, chapter and the exact verse. Right now you select the book and chapter only. What about Psalm 119? If I want to read the last few verses I will have to scroll through the chapter or select chapter 120 and go backwards.
The library window should default to the bookshelf view. The long list of books in the List view is daunting. If you want to find a book in the last item in the list, Word Studies in my case, it will take a while to scroll down.
Strangely, the library button disappears sometimes. I think this is a bug, but it should never go away. Rotate the display and it will usually come back.
The app grays out the settings button when you’re in the bookstore. Why? I should still be able to tap it. This kind of design choice confuses users unnecessarily.
Also, the overall performance feels a bit sluggish. You tap things and the app does nothing for a moment before responding. This has to improve. iPad users expect a fast and smooth interface. You don’t get that in WORDsearch. For example, when you have two panes open and hit the lock button to synchronize the two windows as you scroll through the Bible, the second pane takes a full second to respond. That’s too long. At first I thought it wasn’t working. In other places the app responds slowly.
Finally, WORDsearch didn’t include customizable reading plans so that I can use my iPad to read and track my yearly Bible reading. At the minimum it should let you track your Bible reading. WORDsearch has to add this first after they fix the speed and hopefully some of the other suggestions above.
The WORDsearch Bible app won’t replace your current app, if you’re happy with it. If you’re already a WORDsearch customers get it now. Since the app costs nothing, try it out for free. iPhone users need not apply; there isn’t an app available for you. I hope that changes soon.