Mac Bible Software Survey Results

What you had to say about Bible Software for the Mac

by David Lang (Posted: 7/2/03)


Some time ago, I asked you to voice your opinions and perspectives about the current state of Bible software for the Mac. And boy, did you! If I'd known then how much work I was creating for myself, I doubt that I ever would have posted that little Bible Software survey. But now that I've had the chance to sift through the two hundred or so responses I received, I'm convinced that it's the best thing I could have done: both as a CMUG editor and as a Mac Bible Software developer.

Who Responded to the Survey

The CMUG Mac Bible Software Survey received mention on several Mac news and information sites, such as MacCentral, MacSurfer, and AppleLinks. So in addition to the regular members of CMUG, there were a large number of respondents who were new to CMUG.

Just over half of those responding described themselves as being involved in some form of ministry, whether as professionals or volunteers. These included professors, pastors, missionaries, worship leaders, writers, editors, Sunday school teachers, and lay ministers of various kinds.

Just as varied were the many different theological traditions represented. There were Calvinists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Eastern Orthodox, charismatics . . . even a Mormon or two. There were King James-only advocates on the one hand, and those with far more theologically liberal leanings on the other.

Despite this multiplicity of backgrounds and perspectives, all of the respondents had several things in common. First, they were all serious Mac users: outspoken, opinionated, and fiercely loyal to their platform of choice. Second, they were all serious about wanting to use their Macs to study the Bible. Most were not content merely to look up verses and perform an occasional word search: they wanted multiple translations, Greek and Hebrew tools, maps, multimedia, and an interface as easy to use as Apple's iApps.

OS X Rules!

Perhaps the most surprising thing the survey respondents had in common was their choice of operating system. No less than 84% of those who filled out the survey were either already using OS X, or planning to migrate to it in the near future. Considering the fact that Apple estimates only about 20% of Mac users have made the jump to OS X, this is an astounding number. I'm not exactly sure why there was such a high number of OS X users among the survey respondents, but I suspect that because so many of them were referred to the survey by major Mac news sites, they represent a very well-informed and fairly cutting-edge segment of the Mac community. Whatever the reasons, it's clear that OS X was the overwhelming choice of operating system among those who responded to our survey.

Another striking thing about all these OS X users was how absolutely sold out they were to the new operating system. Almost to a man, they turned up their noses at the idea of having to launch the Classic environment, and many of them were fiercely critical of any program which deviated from Aqua interface guidelines. It appears that once people make the jump to OS X, they don't want to have to look back to the "old" Mac operating system. The irony of this phenomenon is that until recently, they had been just as zealous for that operating system which now they want nothing to do with. Clearly, OS X rules, and the demands of OS X users must be taken seriously by developers.

Choice of Bible Software

While the survey respondents' choice of operating system was overwhelmingly consistent, their choice of Bible software was surprisingly varied, especially when one considers the limited number of Bible programs currently available for the Mac. The following table gives a breakdown of the software being used, and the number and percentage of people who use each program. (Note that the percentages given represent the percentage of the total number of respondents who used each program, and do not account for the many who used more than one program.)

Software Used Number Percentage
Accordance 84 44.6%
Online Bible 48 25.5%
iBible 12 6%
Bible Reader Free 5 2.6%
Mac Sword 4 2%
AGES Library 7 3.7%
Internet Bibles 14 7%
PC Software 26 14%
Palm Software 11 6%
BibleViewer 2 1%
MacBible 15 8%
BRS/WORD Processor 2 1%
Thompson Chain HyperBible 1 .5%
HyperCard Bible Stack 1 .5%
Other 5 2.6%
None 23 12%

Of the programs in this list, only the first five are currently being developed for the Mac. The rest are platform independent or non-Mac solutions, as well as legacy Mac applications which are no longer being developed. We'll look at each of these programs in turn to see what our survey respondents had to say about them.

A Few Disclaimers

Before we do, though, let me give a few quick disclaimers:

First, I work for the developers of the first program in this list (Accordance Bible Software), and so am not exactly an impartial commentator. I've worked hard to be as objective as I can be in my analysis and observations, but there is always the possibility that my interpretation of the survey results will be colored somewhat by my particular perspective. To counterbalance this limited perspective, you'll be able to download a pdf file of every survey response I've received (edited only to remove any personal information such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.). That way you can draw your own conclusions about the current state of Mac Bible software.

Second, I am not a professional statistician or market research analyst, so it's quite possible that my analysis of the data could contain statistical errors or be presented in amateurish ways. I'm open to correction and suggestions, but I do ask that you Math and Business majors out there have some grace for someone who is clearly venturing outside his area of expertise.

Finally, as an insider, I may know a little bit about the various Bible programs available for the Mac (and even a few of those available for the PC), but I do not claim to have an extensive knowledge of any program other than the one I help to develop. Consequently, if I make an erroneous statement about another program, it should be viewed as resulting from my ignorance, rather than from any malice or intention to mislead. Let me know of any such mistakes, and I'll gladly correct them.

Okay, I think I've given enough disclaimers to satisfy any lawyers out there, so let's get back to looking at what YOU had to say about the state of Mac Bible Software today.

General Observations

Before we look at the specific feedback each program received, let me make a few general observations about the current state of the Mac Bible Software market.

First, there are no clear winners among the various programs which are currently being developed for the Mac. No program was universally hailed as the "one to get," and many respondents felt the need to use more than one program to help fill in perceived gaps. Many users also appeared to be shopping around, trying out the various free programs and trial versions in an attempt to find something they could really enjoy using. Clearly, each of the Mac Bible Software developers has some serious work to do if they want to achieve "mindshare" among Christian Mac users.

It is equally clear that there is a substantial number of potential users out there whom none of the Mac Bible Software developers have managed to reach. More than twelve percent of the respondents currently use no Bible software at all, typically because they aren't aware that any is available. Add to that the number of users who are merely using Internet resources, or who are using PC Bible programs in emulation (or on dedicated PCs), and you end up with nearly one-fourth of the respondents who are not using any Mac Bible Software at all. Then there are those still using legacy Mac applications which have been dead or on life-support for years. Many of these people would like to purchase a good Bible program for the Mac, but have either been unaware of or unimpressed with the current offerings.

Another unfortunate trend was the number of Christian Mac users who regard PC users as having it better when it comes to Bible software. Forty percent of those who responded to the survey felt that Windows Bible programs were equal to or better than the programs available for the Mac. Personally, it pains me to think of Christian Mac users thinking there are greener pastures on the Windows side of the fence, so I've devoted a separate article to debunking this notion that, as one person put it, "Windows rocks the Mac's world" when it comes to Bible software.

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