eSword is probably the best free bible study software that you can pick up. eSword is easy to use and has a fair amount of features. However it is only for PCs, so if you own a mac you will have to use the alternative MacSword.
The main translation that is missing in eSword is the NIV, due to copyright issues. It has the English Standard Version, which is a very good translation, as well as many more (including ASV, ISV, MKJV, KJV). Also, if you want the Message, NASB or NLT you will have to pay between $10 and $20 – you cannot buy the NIV yet. It also has various other languages, and has Greek & Hebrew versions should you wish to delve deeper.
Compared to online options, it is therefore lacking in bible translations.
Commentaries and Dictionaries
As with the bibles, there are some you can purchase and some you can get free with eSword. The best free commentaries are John Gill’s exposition, Mathew Henry’s commentary, John Wesley’s notes and The Treasures of David (on the psalms by Charles Spurgeon). There are a fair few dictionaries too, with Easton’s Strong’s and Smith’s bible dictionaries providing good resources.
You can also download various other stuff such as daily devotionals, maps, books and STEP “Standard Template for Electronic Publishing”.
It is worth looking at all of the free downloads, to see which you prefer and feel add value to your studies. Most of these are quite old (i.e. 100 years!), as the copyrights have expired. However don’t let that put you off, they are really valuable and rich resources and have helped me immensely with my studies.
Ease of use etc.
eSword is very easy to use, and this is a huge selling point. It easy to install the software and the various module. The whole menu system is also easy to understand and use too.
You can search either by using the drop down list on the side of the program, or by typing in a reference. Both work well. You can also search for keywords.
… all of the commentaries will automatically be synchronised …
… all of the commentaries will automatically be synchronised …If you are reading a verse then all of the commentaries will automatically be synchronised to show the relevant section. The same also happens when you click on any word. This means that you do not have to spend that long searching for things. You can also click on any cross references and it will take you to that verse. One really nice touch is that if there is a verse being cross referenced then you can hover your mouse over it, and the verse will show without you having to leave the selection you are currently on.
It is very simple to navigate around eSword, due to the clear and logical layout. It is quick to switch between bible translations or parallel lists, commentaries and dictionaries and the like. I also find it easy just to move around the bible – due to the slidebar on the left. You can see a screenshot later in the review.
Copying to your notes
It is very quick to copy any verses or commentary bits into your own study notes, with buttons provided to do so. There is the option of including your own personal bible commentary as well, though I have never used this myself.
There is plenty of help available including some tutorials that can be viewed on line, and also a manual that you can download. These are all held on the website, as detailed below. There are also a few forums on the internet, one of which is listed in the links section at the bottom of the review.
The presentation is not flash, and very much in the mold of PC software from a few years ago. However, this really is not an issue as the navigation (mentioned early) is just so easy. I think am just used to better looking things now I tend to use a Mac more! There are some screenshots below:
The future outlook
eSword is a popular application, with five million downloads of the software having been made by January 2007. The last release of an updated version was in December 2006 (and before then July 2005) so the application is likely to improve over time, just like a fine wine!
Overall, this is a great free piece of software. If you can’t afford to buy a fully fledged package then this is well worth getting your hands on. I personally have found it very beneficial when studying them bible, so if you aren’t one of the millions of people that have downloaded it then get in now!
- Very easy to use
- Good commentaries and dictionaries
- Simple to copy into your own notes
- PC only
- Lack of some of the big bible translations, the NIV can’t even be purchased
User Modules (additional unofficial legal free resources):
Modules available for purchase: