Multi-Platform Bible Software Survey Results

Mac, PC, and Handheld Bible Software Users Compared

by David Lang (Posted: 3/10/05)


A Modest Proposal

In recent years, CMUG has become well known for conducting an annual survey of Mac Bible Software users. The results of our first survey revealed an industry in a state of flux, as established Bible software developers attempted to transition to OS X, and several new players entered the field. Our second survey revealed a degree of stabilization, with some programs gaining ground and others appearing to slip somewhat. In May of this year, we'll conduct our third annual survey, and it will be interesting to see what it reveals about the current state of Bible software for the Mac.

We're not the only ones to conduct surveys, however. A couple of months ago, a prominent Windows Bible software developer put together a survey which explored the use of Bible software on a variety of platforms: from Windows to Mac to Handhelds. He then contacted a number of Bible software developers and reviewers asking them to publicize the survey to their users. The survey was conducted through SurveyMonkey, a web-site which hosts internet surveys. All those developers who participated in the survey would be given equal access to the survey's results, and could use the information however they wished. The developers were also given the opportunity to make suggestions for improving the survey before it went "live." To give the survey the appearance of neutrality, it contained a link to the Bible Software Review web-site. The survey itself was not, however, developed or sponsored by the webmaster of Bible Software Review.

To make a long story short, I was contacted and asked to promote this survey to the members of CMUG. My employers, who develop Accordance Bible Software for Macintosh, were also contacted and asked to promote the survey to Accordance users. After looking the survey over, I felt that it didn't appear to be biased toward users of any one platform or program, so I agreed to point CMUG users to it. Likewise, my employers agreed to make an announcement about the survey to Accordance users. We were each given a link where we could view a statistical summary of the survey results.

A Representative Sample?

The challenge with analyzing the results of any survey is that it's always difficult to determine whether the people who responded to the survey are really a representative sample of the population. Since this survey depended on individual Bible software developers to publicize it to their users, the results would naturally be skewed toward those developers who chose to participate. For example, WORDSearch and QuickVerse, two popular Windows Bible programs, each only accounted for around thirteen percent of the Windows users who responded to the survey. Are these low numbers an accurate reflection of these programs' share of the market, or are they an indication that the developers of these programs chose not to participate in the survey? Short of contacting every developer and asking them whether they promoted the survey to their users, there's really no way to tell.

The Mac Factor

I publicized the survey to the members of the Mac-Ministry e-mail list the first day the survey went live. My employers likewise publicized it to all those Accordance users who have asked to receive Accordance announcements by e-mail. Neither my announcement to CMUG, nor my employers' announcement to Accordance users, made a particularly strong plea for people to participate in the survey. Both announcements simply said that we wanted Mac users to be well represented among the respondents.

Apparently, that was all it took! During the first week of the survey, the results were absolutely dominated by Mac users. It wasn't until the end of that week that Windows XP users actually began to outnumber Mac OS X users. Now, after about six weeks, Mac users have dropped to a more realistic 19% of the total number of respondents. The early involvement of so many Mac users actually led me not to publicize the survey more broadly, such as through the CMUG web-site and such Mac media outlets as MacSurfer and AppleLinks. I was afraid if I did that the results would become hopelessly skewed!

What can we conclude from this early wave of Mac participation? Well, I think it's safe to say that Mac users are quick to respond to surveys! Ever since the days when the now defunct Mac EvangeList would mobilize Mac users to make their voices heard in the larger computing community, Mac-heads have consistently skewed the results of online surveys. Why? Because like most minorities, we tend to be more vocal than the "Silent Majority." We want those in the Windows world to become aware of our concerns, and to realize that ours is a perspective they are probably missing.

Bible Software Users

One of the most interesting things to come out of this survey is the information it gives about Bible software users themselves. Those surveyed were asked about their ministry involvement, their gender, age, formal education, kinds of computer used, etc. Here are some of the more intriguing tidbits:

Ministry Involvement

Of those surveyed, the following forms of ministry involvement were represented:
Pastors—26.2%, Priest—1.4%, Rabbi—0.3%, Part Time Student—9.7%, Full Time Student—8.8%, Part Time Faculty—3.4%, Full Time Faculty—3.3%, Lay Leader—18.3%, Sunday School Teacher—21.2%, Bible Study Leader—25.5%, Part Time Ministry—11.6%, Full Time Ministry—11.5%, Part Time Missionary—2.4%, Full Time Missionary—3.4%, Scholar/Researcher—12.8%

Fewer than 20% said they were "none of the above." This would seem to indicate that the vast majority of those who use Bible software are involved in some form of ministry or ongoing education. This was even more the case among the Mac users who responded, with just 12.2% of them answering "none of the above." Looked at by themselves, the Mac users who responded were more likely to be ministry professionals and students, as opposed to lay leaders, Sunday School teachers, Bible study leaders, and part-time ministers or missionaries:

Pastor—33.6%, Priest—1.9%, Rabbi—0.6%, Part Time Student—10.8%, Full Time Student—10.8%, Part Time Faculty—4.6%, Full Time Faculty—7.1%, Lay Leader—14.6%, Sunday School Teacher—18.6%, Bible Study Leader—23.3%, Part Time Ministry—9.6%, Full Time Ministry—14.7%, Part Time Missionary—1.9%, Full Time Missionary—5.1%, Scholar/Researcher—19.4%, None of the Above


There appears to be a huge gender gap among Bible software users. 87.6% of those surveyed were male, and a whopping 94.4% of the Mac users who responded were men! The disproportionate number of men who responded to the survey may correlate somewhat with the high percentage of professional ministers and seminarians, two groups which tend to be largely comprised of men. Yet even when we take that into account, the number of women using Bible software seems surprisingly low. Perhaps this is an indication that Bible software developers should be doing more to meet the needs of female students of the Bible.


The age of the survey respondents formed a fairly standard Bell curve, with those aged 46-55 forming the largest group.

Level of Education

When asked about their highest level of formal education, the survey respondents likewise fell into a fairly standard Bell curve, with those attaining a college degree comprising the largest percentage. However, when looked at by themselves, the Mac users tended to break the curve. The chart below compares level of education among Windows and Mac users:

As you can see, more than half of the Mac users surveyed had some level of formal education beyond a college degree, as opposed to about a third of Windows users. Looked at another way, Mac users accounted for roughly 30% of those holding a Master's or Doctorate degree.

Now, as much as I'd like to conclude from this that Mac users tend to be smarter and better educated than Windows users, there are a couple of caveats which need to be made. First, we return to the problem of whether or not those surveyed are a representative sample of the general population. As we'll see a little later on, the vast majority of the Mac users who responded to the survey were users of Accordance Bible software, a program which boasts the original language capabilities needed by most pastors and scholars. Does the preponderance of Accordance users mean that users of other Mac Bible programs were underrepresented? Perhaps if more users of other Mac Bible programs had responded, the Mac percentages would be more in line with those of the Windows users. Conversely, if users of certain high end Windows programs were not made aware of this survey, the percentages of those Windows users educated beyond a college level might be artificially low.

Whether the result of a real statistical difference or a self-selecting sample, the education divide was corroborated by two additional survey questions. When asked whether they had attended seminary, just under half of the Mac users said they had, as opposed to 22% of the Windows users. And when asked which, if any, biblical/ancient languages they had studied, a much higher percentage of Mac users claimed to have studied each of the languages listed:

Windows Users
Mac Users
Greek 35.2% 915 58.8% 401
Hebrew 22.5% 586 47.4% 323
Latin 11.5% 300 19.6% 134
Syriac 0.9% 23 4% 27
Arabic 1% 27 4.3% 29
Aramaic 3.6% 93 12.2% 83
Coptic 0.2% 5 1% 7
Amharic/Ethiopic 0.3% 7 0.7% 5
Other Ancient Semitic Languages 1.3% 34 6% 41
None 58.1% 1513 35% 239
Other (please specify) 2.2% 56 2.9% 20
Total Respondents   2602   682

It's interesting to note from the table above that even though there were roughly four times as many Windows users who responded to this question, there were several languages in which Mac users actually exceeded Windows users in number as well as percentage! Again, does this mean that Mac users are somehow smarter than Windows users? Probably not. But it may tell us something about the breadth and depth of Biblical scholarship being done on the Mac.

As noted above, differences such as these must ultimately be taken with a grain of salt. But at the very least, I think it is safe to say that the Mac can be seen as a viable option for ministry professionals, scholars, and students engaged in indepth study of the Bible.

Getting the Word Out

The second section of the survey included a series of questions aimed at discovering how those surveyed were likely to get information about Bible Study software. Respondents were asked which magazines they subscribed to, which online review sites or blogs they frequented, which religious or professional organizations they were a part of, etc. All of this is valuable information for developers trying to figure out how best to advertise their products, but it's not really interesting enough to summarize here. The only question in this section which I will consider here is the one which asked "What most influenced you to choose the Bible software you use most?" The following chart summarizes the answers given:

In general, most people chose their Bible software based on the recommendations of others or on research they had done via the internet, and this was true for both Windows and Mac users. There were a few significant differences between the two groups, however. Written reviews figured much more prominently in the Mac user's choice of Bible software, while Windows users were much more likely to discover Bible software in a retail store. The effect of print, radio, and direct mail advertisements appears to be negligible for both groups.

This accords remarkably well with my company's experience of trying to get the word out about our software. We've found that most new customers learn about Accordance through our web-site or the recommendations of our users. Retail stores and traditional forms of advertising, on the other hand, have never been a very effective way of exposing people to our software. In the end, Mac users tend to have to go looking for the software they need, as opposed to just stumbling across it in a store or magazine.

Technology Used

The third section of the survey asked users about the kinds of technology they used to run Bible software.

Desktop, Laptop, or Handheld?

Overall, 77% of those surveyed used a desktop computer, while 54% used a laptop, and 25% used a handheld. Looked at separately, however, Windows and Mac users varied significantly in their use of hardware. Of the Windows users, 82% used desktops, while 50% used notebooks. Of the Mac users, 62% used desktops, and 76% used notebooks.

Of those who use a desktop alone, only about 10% were Mac users. On the other hand, Mac users accounted for around 35% of those who use a notebook rather than a desktop. Of those who used both a desktop and a laptop, about 25% used a Mac. It would be interesting to know how many people use a PC desktop and a Mac laptop, or vice versa, but I was unable to determine that. In general, it would seem that Mac users tend to favor laptops over desktops, and that Macs are a more popular choice among those who need a laptop rather than a desktop.

With respect to handheld computers, Mac users were slightly more likely than Windows users to own a handheld (26.6% as opposed to 24.5%), but not dramatically so. More dramatic was the correlation between laptop use and handheld use. Of those who use a desktop but not a laptop, only 14% also owned a handheld computer. Of those who use a laptop but not a desktop, 22% also owned a handheld. Of those who use both a desktop and a laptop, 38% also owned a handheld. This correlation between laptop and handheld use may indicate that users of portable computers are more likely than desktop users to require other mobile devices, or it may simply be a question of economics. Those who can afford a laptop instead of or in addition to a desktop are more likely to be able to afford a handheld device as well.

Broadband or Dialup?

When asked about their internet connection, 34% of those surveyed use a Cable modem and 35% use DSL. Just over 20% were still using dial-up, while nearly 80% were using some form of broadband connection. Such widespread adoption of broadband is likely to increase Bible Software developers' use of the internet as a viable means of delivering content to their users.

Windows, Mac, or Linux?

When asked which operating system they used to run Bible software, 73% used some form of Windows, 19% used either Mac OS X or the classic Mac OS, and around 9% used Linux. Of the Windows users, 5% also used a Mac, either on a Macintosh computer or in emulation. Of the Mac users, 19% also used Windows, either on a separate PC or in emulation. Around 7% of Windows users and 6% of Mac users also ran Linux.

Bible Software Usage

The fourth section of the survey asked how often and in what ways people use Bible software. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed claimed to use Bible software seven days a week, and about 75% said they use it at least three days a week. Half of those surveyed use Bible study software between 2 and 10 hours a week, with the largest group falling in the 4-6 hour range. When asked what percentage of their Bible study was done with electronic tools as opposed to paper resources, 76% said they relied on software at least half the time, and 20% claimed to use software 90% of the time.

When asked about the specific ways they use Bible software, the most popular responses tended to be the most general tasks, such as "in-depth research by topic" (read: doing word searches), "daily Bible study," "passage-by-passage exegesis," and "original language word study." More specialized activities, such as preparing sermons or academic papers were proportionally less common. Least common were activities which pretty much require a laptop or handheld, such as "taking notes during a sermon."

Bible Software Used

The fifth section of the survey asked those surveyed to list specific programs used and to rate any programs they happened to be aware of.

Of the Mac users who responded, 78% used Accordance, 14% used MacSword, 15% used Online Bible, and 7% used AGES. iBible accounted for just 1% of the Mac users surveyed, while Bible Reader Free wasn't even listed as an option (it was mentioned by one person in the "Other" category). iLumina was not listed as an option under Mac software (it was for Windows software), but it was mentioned enough in the "Other" category to account for 2% of the Mac users surveyed.

Although Online Bible just edged out MacSword as the second most used Mac Bible program, it would appear that Online Bible is primarily being used as a secondary or supplemental program. 60% of the Online Bible users also used Accordance, and 30% used MacSword. Only 20% used Online Bible by itself. Contrast this with 43% of MacSword users who did not also use Accordance or Online Bible, and 65% of Accordance users who did not use Online Bible or MacSword. Why are so many Online Bible users turning to other programs? The continued lack of an OS X native version seems the most obvious answer.

The final three questions of the survey asked respondents to rate the effectiveness of various Bible study programs for three different levels of study: personal, pastoral, and scholarly. This was a question about the respondents' perceptions, regardless of whether or not they had actually used the products listed. Unfortunately, Accordance and Online Bible for Mac were the only Macintosh programs listed in this section.

Among Accordance users, satisfaction appears to be high. The following chart lists the percentage and number of users for each response:

Type of Bible Study Very Weak Weak Average Good Excellent N/A
Personal 0% (1) 1% (6) 3% (17) 10% (60) 85% (485) 1% (4)
Pastoral 0% (1) 1% (3) 2% (11) 10% (54) 78% (429) 9% (51)
Scholarly 0% (2) 0% (0) 1% (8) 7% (39) 87% (487) 4% (22)

As you can see from the table above, Accordance was perceived as being good or excellent by the vast majority of its users. Its lowest rated category was pastoral Bible study, but it is important to note that this was only because a larger number of people—presumably those who were not pastors—chose "not applicable."

How was Accordance perceived by non-users? More than half of the Mac users who do not use Accordance selected N/A for all three categories. Presumably, this is an indication that they were not particularly familiar with Accordance. Of those who did have an opinion, most rated Accordance Excellent or Good for all three categories. Accordance appears to be largely unknown among Windows users, though those who did have an opinion about it generally rated it well.

Turning now to Online Bible, here is how it was perceived by its users:

Type of Bible Study Very Weak Weak Average Good Excellent N/A
Personal 1% (1) 1% (1) 18% (18) 46% (60) 27% (27) 8% (8)
Pastoral 1% (1) 3% (3) 14% (13) 44% (41) 20% (19) 17% (16)
Scholarly 2% (2) 9% (8) 25% (23) 28% (26) 22% (20) 15% (14)

About two-thirds of the Mac users who did not use Online Bible chose N/A for all three categories, but those who did have an opinion generally rated it average for personal and pastoral use, and average or weak for scholarly use. As with Accordance, Online Bible for Mac was largely unknown among the Windows users.

What were most Mac users' perceptions of Windows Bible programs? The programs which appeared to be best known among Mac users were Logos, BibleWorks, and QuickVerse (in that order). With respect to personal and pastoral study, Logos and BibleWorks were generally rated as "good," while QuickVerse was most often rated as "average." For scholarly study, BibleWorks was pretty evenly split between "good" and "excellent," Logos was generally seen as "good," and QuickVerse was largely perceived to be "weak."

In Their Own Words

The final question of the survey asked "If you could make a suggestion to all the people who develop Bible software, what would it be?" Obviously, this was the hardest question to quantify, but also the most interesting. Here's my own rather unscientific perception of the comments people made.

As an Accordance developer, I'll start with the comments made by Accordance users. These tended to fall into several basic categories:

  1. Positive comments about Accordance.
  2. Calls for other developers or book publishers to support the Mac.
  3. Specific feature or module requests.
  4. Complaints about price.

Of the feature requests, many were for features which Accordance already has! Some of these people may be using older versions of Accordance, but I suspect most just don't know that those features are available. Obviously, my company needs to do a better job of exposing users to everything they can do with Accordance. That's not to say, of course, that Accordance already has every feature that was requested, but it was surprising just how many people were asking for capabilities they already have.

The comments made by other Mac users were much harder to categorize—more diverse and generally much longer and more detailed. There were pleas for more developers to support the Mac, complaints that Online Bible is not yet OS X native, requests for Bible and book publishers to support open source programs, and some fairly involved feature suggestions.

The comments left by Windows users were even more varied, and a lot of it depended on which Windows Bible program they used. In general, I saw a lot of pleas to:

  1. Simplify or improve the user interface.
  2. Create a common platform for electronic books so that they could be used with more than one program.
  3. Develop tighter integration among various resources.
  4. Reduce the price.


In the end, this cross-platform Bible software survey held few surprises, but it did reveal a fair amount about who is using Bible software and how it is being used. Obviously, I've looked at these survey results from a decidedly Mac-centric perspective—this is, after all, the web-site of the Christian Macintosh User's Group! I'm sure other developers and reviewers might interpret the data differently, but I have tried to be fair and accurate in my summary.

The advantage of this external survey is that it has enabled us to look at the Bible Software industry—and the users who keep it going—as a whole, rather than just the small segment of it which CMUG tends to consider. The advantage of CMUG's annual survey, which will be coming up again in May, is that it looks more closely at the needs and concerns of the Mac Bible Software users. Yet regardless of whether we look at the big picture or own little pond, surveys such as these ultimately give you, the user, a chance to be heard. Hopefully, the developers are listening.

Other Articles:
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: First Impressions of the G5 iMac.
Searching for God in Mac Bible Software: A comparison of speed and accuracy.
2004 Mac Bible Software Survey Results: What you had to say about Bible Software for the Mac.
Getting the Bible's Number: How to Use Strong's Numbers in Mac Bible Study Software.

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