2004 Mac Bible Software Survey Results

What you had to say about Bible Software for the Mac

by David Lang (Posted: 7/22/04)


In May of 2003, on something of a whim, I posted a survey asking Mac users to voice their opinions about the various Bible Study programs available to them. The results of that survey were incredibly informative and occasionally surprising, and they prompted at least one software developer to make some pretty significant changes. So this year, we decided to conduct our Second Annual Mac Bible Software Survey, in the hope that you would again give us a frank picture of what you see as the current state of Mac Bible Software.

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Last year, a sizable proportion of the survey respondents did not use any Mac Bible Software at all, typically because they weren't aware that any existed. This year's survey respondents seemed much better informed about the different options which are available. Last year there were no "clear winners" among the various Mac Bible programs, while this year, one program was used by a solid majority of the respondents. Last year, two shareware programs had garnered a respectable little following, but this year, they seem to have been eclipsed by a third. And, of course, this year there is one more Bible program available to OS X users than there was last year. All in all, a lot has changed in the course of a year, a fact which confirms the appropriateness of making this survey an annual affair.

A Representative Sample?

George Gallup or Barna I am not, so it's difficult for me to gauge exactly why the responses to this year's survey were so dramatically different from last year's. Have Christian Mac users in general become more informed about the Bible Study software which is available, or did this year's survey respondents simply represent a more informed cross-section of the Mac-using community?

As near as I was able to ascertain, just under a third of this year's respondents had also participated in last year's survey, and one would naturally expect them to be fairly well-informed. Similarly, a large number of respondents appear to have been members of Mac-Ministry, CMUG's own community e-mail list, so again, one would expect them to be relatively aware of the Bible Software options available. Nevertheless, this year's survey did receive mention on such Mac news sites as MacSurfer, MacMinute, and AppleLinks, as well as on Bible Software Review. In addition, I notified each of the active Bible Software developers and urged them to point their users to the survey, though only a couple appear to have done so.

In hindsight, I probably should have included a question asking how each respondent had heard about the survey; but as I said, I'm no Gallup or Barna!

The Usual Disclaimers

That leads me to the first of several disclaimers I need to make before we get into the meat of the survey results. As should now be clear, 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 any corrections or suggestions those of you with more expertise in this area may have.

It is also important to note that I am not exactly an impartial commentator here, since I work for the developers of one of the programs being considered (Accordance Bible Software). I've worked hard to be as objective as I can be, and my employers have had absolutely no input into the design of the survey or the writing of this article. Still, there is always the possibility that my interpretation of the survey results will be colored by my particular perspective. To counterbalance this, you can view each of the survey responses and draw your own conclusions from them.

Finally, as an "insider", I may know a little about the various Bible programs being discussed, 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, with all that said, let's look at the specifics of the survey results.

Choice of Bible Software

Because many people use more than one Bible program, we asked those surveyed to name their primary Bible software, any secondary software they might use, and finally, any additional programs they might have. The following graph shows how many people used each program as their primary or secondary Bible software.

Compared with last year, Accordance and MacSword saw the biggest increase in usage. Accordance was used by less than 45% of last year's survey respondents, while this year it was used by just under 53%. MacSword, which was used by 2% of those surveyed last year, was used as the primary or secondary software of more than 23% of this year's respondents. Usage of Online Bible (OLB) was comparable to last year, with just under 25% naming it as their primary or secondary Bible software. AGES, which produces collections of classic Christian books in PDF format, was always used as a secondary resource. Internet search engines, as well as Bible Software for handheld and Windows computers, were likewise typically used as secondary resources. iLumina, which was released for OS X last October, has already garnered a small but enthusiastic following.

If we focus on the programs people named as their primary Bible software, we get the following percentages:

Of the programs listed above, Accordance, Bible Reader Free (BRF), iBible, iLumina, MacSword, and Online Bible (OLB) are currently being developed for the Macintosh, and fully 86.5% of the survey respondents listed one of those programs as their primary Bible software. The rest of the programs listed here are platform independent (such as AGES and Internet Bibles), non-Mac options (Palm and PC Software), or legacy Mac applications which are no longer being developed (MacBible, BibleViewer, etc.). The fact that most of those surveyed are making actively-developed Mac programs their first choice in Bible Study Software is an encouraging sign, especially in comparison with last year's survey results.

It is also interesting to track whether certain programs are favored by particular groups of users. The following chart differentiates the primary Bible software used by pastors, missionaries, scholars, paid ministry staff, volunteers, those who described themselves as having no ministry involvement, and those who described themselves as having some other form of ministry.

Here we can see that Accordance held the largest slice in each category, and was the overwhelming choice among pastors and scholars. Accordance was weakest among missionaries and those with no ministry involvement. Free or relatively inexpensive programs such as Online Bible and MacSword tended to make their strongest showing among missionaries (for whom funds are often limited), volunteers (who do not get paid for their ministry involvement), and those with no ministry involvement. iLumina, which has more of an educational emphasis than most other Bible programs, was most popular among those with no ministry involvement.

In addition to being asked to name their primary and secondary Bible software, those surveyed were given a place to list any additional programs they might use. Some individuals really do use three or more Bible programs, but in most cases, this space was where people listed software they used to use, but had now pretty much given up on. This made it difficult to collect meaningful statistics for the additional programs people listed.

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