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PocketBible 3.0 for Pocket PC Review

Posted on 18-May-2006 13:05 by Darryl Burling | Filed under: Reviews

Introduction – the PocketBible Legacy
Laridian have a history of delivering a fantastic product for mobile devices. I’ve been using PocketBible for years and while I’ve often looked at or tried competitive products (some of which are free), I’ve normally come back to PocketBible because of its stability, ease of use, range of books or small footprint on the device.

With version 3.0, Laridian have taken PocketBible to the next step. The new version makes improvements across the board, and the improvements are significant in the difference it makes to the usability of the product.

Navigation and reading
Opening/Changing a book
One of the key things I’ve always liked about PocketBible is the range of books and Bibles available for it. Laridian supply most translations of the Bible on their site, as well as a wide range of commentaries, dictionaries and devotionals.

Finding a location
The old method of locating Bible verses is still there, but Laridian have put some thought into making this easier, so with version three there are two new navigation options.

The first option is a new system called “3 tap” which allows you to select a location based on book, chapter and verse – the key difference is that you use a single screen for each object. So after setting the option you’d click the navigate button on the tool bar which would give you a list of books of the Bible you can choose from.

Selecting a book changes the screen to the list of chapters in that book and selecting a chapter shows the verse numbers in that chapter. Once you’ve selected a verse the location is automatically displayed.

The second option is my preferred choice – particularly if you have a keyboard on your device. To use this navigation method you simply type in the location in its full or abbreviated form. Thus, entering Eph 2:1 will automatically navigate to Ephesians 2:1. This also works well if you are using the transcriber. With the Transcriber SIP open, just write the location you want to navigate to and it is displayed.

Moving around
In the old version of PocketBible using the D-Pad would scroll up or down one page at a time or tapping the D-Pad sideways would move to the next or previous chapter.

The default behaviour of the D-Pad has changed in PocketBible 3. Rather than scrolling up or down a page at a time when you rock the D-Pad up or down the page will scroll one line at a time.

If you use the side buttons the page will navigate one page at a time. Now, this might sound like a backward step, however, in version 3 Laridian have changed the way books flow from only displaying a chapter at a time to showing the entire Bible (or commentary, etc). So navigating in this new method makes sense.

Also, the additional ability to just enter a chapter location (such as 3:4 or 3.4) allows quick navigation to chapters or verses (just enter the verse number) in the book you are in. However, this still may not suit everyone, so if you liked it the old way, you can set it to work that way in the new Navigation section of the options menu.

In the past you would have used Daily Reader from Laridian to read books designed for daily use, however PocketBible 3 now includes support for devotional books itself, meaning you have one less application on your device and the integration between the devotional and Bibles is much greater. It also means that you can now have a devotional, a Bible and a commentary open at the same time.

To facilitate reading of devotionals there is a devotional menu option off the View menu from which you can open your favourite devotional. In addition there is a toolbar (hidden by default) that can be used for navigating between readings and marking readings as complete.

Working with multiple books
While it has always been possible to view two books at once in PocketBible, version 3.0 takes this to a new level in two key ways. Firstly you are no longer limited to two books at once. You can now open three or four books at once (obvious screen limitations apply). The most I’ve had open on my little 320x240 screen is six books and at this stage the returns are starting to diminish somewhat, however, the experience on a VGA device will be greatly improved.

In addition to multiple books being open, you can also synchronize multiple books. So if you are reading one translation and you’d like to see how another translations words something you can now sync the two translations and have them both navigate together.

Notes & Highlighting
Laridian have made changes to the way notes work in version three. In order to do this they’ve changed the format of the notes database, removed the ability to backup/restore your notes and enhanced your ability to make notes.

In version 2 the notes files were often corrupted during an ActiveSync which necessitated the backup and restore procedure. In version three the notes file format and name has changed (its now called Laridian Data.db) and is no longer corrupted by ActiveSync meaning your notes are now backed up when you sync your device with your computer.

If you are a PocketBible 2 user you should leave your old PocketBible notes on your device before you upgrade. PocketBible 3 should automatically detect and upgrade your notes for you to the new format.

Notes, Find in Notes
In previous versions navigation of footnotes and cross references showed up as a hyperlinked letter next to the word the note was with reference to. In version 3.0 because the layout of the books is no longer by chapter its no longer possible to put the footnotes at the bottom of the chapter. So now, you’ll notice a hyperlinked asterisk next to a word.

Tapping the asterisk will reveal the footnotes or cross references inline. Tapping the asterisk again will hide them. Of course you can change the way this works to either not display the asterisk at all or to expand them automatically by default.

User notes have also changes a little. User notes used to be located at the bottom of the chapter before cross references and footnotes. Now when you tap the hyperlinked “Note” you’ll be taken to a special notes screen which is dedicated to the note. I see this as good and bad. It’s bad because you can no longer see the passage you were viewing, but its good because you can read all the notes.

This view also gives simplified access to edit the note – by simply clicking the edit button. As previously tapping a link in a note will navigate to that note and it is easy to find your way out of the note back to the text. Perhaps it would have been nice if the notes display was similar to another book opening.

Speaking of books opening and notes together, another nice new feature of version 3 is the ability to view a list of all your notes. Tapping the List Notes option opens a new book with a list of all your user created notes. You can scroll through the list and select any that you want to view.

You can also tap the reference to navigate to the Bible reference the notes refer to, and again if you have more than one book open and they are set to synchronize you will find that both books will navigate to the selected location.

Another new feature of the new notes format is the ability to highlight passages in books – much as you would with a highlighter in a normal book. Just like with a normal Bible, when you highlight a passage it applies to the Bible that you hightlighed and not to others. So while a user note will be consistently visible regardless of the translation you might be using, highlighting a passage in the ESV will not highlight the same passage in the NIV.

This approach is quite good for highlighting passages during a daily reading that might stand out – particularly if you tend to use one translation for devotional reading and another translation for more detailed study.

If you don’t like yellow highlighters, you can always choose one of the other colors. There are more then ten colors to choose from as well as the ability to underline sections.

PocketBible 3 represents a major leap forward from Laridian and adds considerable functionality to an already polished product and makes reading the Bible on your Pocket PC far more engaging than before.

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