Publisher: La Parola
Version reviewed: 7.06.0
Reviewed: November 28, 2008
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La Parola (LP) is an Italian Bible software product that has been translated into English. The author feels another
Bible software package is justified due to the features that LP brings to the table, as well as the fact that it is
free, open source, with an open file format. We’ll see below if those extra features do, in fact, make for product
that should be on your desktop.
La Parola means “The Word” in Italian.
LP reminds me very much of Theophilos’ interface. Basically, it consists of many self-contained windows,
each with a modest set of buttons. Most windows have the standard minimize, maximize, and close buttons at the
top, with a Synchronize checkbox, Note, and Help buttons at the bottom. You can open as many windows as you want
of any type. There are no restrictions on where you place the windows or what is in them.
When you first open a Bible with the View Bible button, a small window appears containing the Bible text. The
entire text of the Bible is in the window, and it is all in paragraph form. There is no special formatting or
anything to really offset Bible books from each other. Basically, it looks like a notepad version of the Bible
with bold chapter headings. “Red-letter” editions of Scripture show Christ’s words in blue (?), and Strongs-supported
versions show super-scripted Strong’s numbers next to the English words. There is a place on the main toolbar where
you can enter a Bible reference for quick navigation.
There is no special parallel mode, it’s not really needed with the window-centric interface. You simply add a new
window with the desired translation. You can keep texts in different in windows in synch by checking the Synchronize
checkbox. If you move the text in a Bible window with the Synch box checked, all other windows that have the box
checked will move accordingly. But since the Bible texts are in different windows it is much more difficult to
actually compare verses across versions than it is in many other Bible programs.
There is a “Show Passage” tool, however, that allows you to enter a number of comma-delimited passages from any
number of selected Bible versions. The results are shown in a row format. However, the results are grouped by version
instead of listed by verse, so this does not help with the comparison either.
It should be possible to easily create such a tool. The product already has a nice comparison window for various
Harmony parallels, such as the Miracles of Jesus and Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus. Just utilize that view for a Bible
parallel version and we’d be all set in this regard.
Commentary usage is a process that is very similar to working with Bible windows. Hit the View Note button to open your
desired commentary, then check the Synchronize checkbox to keep it in synch with your Bible texts. I’m not sure why the
button is called View Note, since it opens commentaries. Even more weird is the fact that the related command in the menu
is called “View Commentary.” Go figure.
Speaking of synchronization, the method is often very frustrating. Synchronization is triggered by whatever verse is
at the top of the Bible text in the focused book. So I cannot click on a bible verse and have my synched books jump, I have
to carefully scroll so that the verse I am interested in lands at the very top. Often its easier just to click into the
Bible reference field and enter the desired verse, even when that verse is in view in the Bible text you are reading!
The commentary text suffers just like the Bible text – sufficient in its plain vanilla presentation, but not fun to look
at. (I know, I know, who said Bible study was supposed to be fun.) Verse references in the notes are offset as a hyperlink.
Hovering over the link will show the Bible text in a popup window. Clicking on the link will open a new Bible window
positioned at the reference in question. However, I found numerous Bible references that were not linked. The commentary
text shows only what is related to the synchronized verse. In other words, its not a real book, you can’t move around,
jump to other chapters, or view a table of contents.
Next to the View Note button is another button called Open Note. What is the difference? I’m not exactly sure. It
appears the View Note button is more or less commentaries, while the Open Note button lists more or less dictionary
books. I say “more or less” because it isn’t entire clear, especially since all of the commentaries actually appear in
both lists. The Open Note button has the added Dictionary books, such as Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
Opening a commentary or dictionary via the Open Note button opens a window that is actually different than what you get
with the View Bible and View Note texts, and actually appears to have some smarts associated with it. But it turns out
not to be so smart. Or maybe I’m not. Either way, this window is totally confusing.
You are presented with a window pane containing four tabs – Commentary, Dictionary, Book, and Reference. The fact that
you can open commentaries, dictionaries, and books into this exact window makes its overall usage convoluted, at least
for the first three tabs. For instance, if I open a commentary, the commentary tab makes sense, as it lists the Bible
books in a tree-based list in book order. I can drill down and view the note for a particular verse. However, the
dictionary tab then doesn’t make any sense (it lists the Bible books in alphabetical order). Conversely, opening a
dictionary makes the dictionary tab very useful, as all the entries for that dictionary are listed here. You can drill
down to the desired word, or type it in the provided field, very quickly. But then the commentary tab is completely
blank. And not to beat a dead horse, but the Book tab only makes sense when opening an actual book. When I viewed G.K.
Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, the book tab showed a table of contents, as expected.
The Reference tab makes the most sense across the various book types. Use this tab to find all cross-references for a
given Bible passage. This works quickly, and very nicely, actually. Typing in Job 1:1 while in the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown
commentary showed me all entries for the commentary that contained a reference to Job 1:1.
There is no reason to make this so confusing. Each book type should open into a pane that is geared for that exact type of
book. End of confusion.
But the kicker is the fact that any entry that is opened via this method, whether it be a commentary, dictionary, book, can
be modified by you! All you have to do is start typing, or delete text, or whatever. When you close the window it will ask
if you want to save your changes. Answer [Yes] and your changes are immortalized forever. I personally think it is a bad
idea to allow you to change the text in non-personal books. Or perhaps, turn on this feature via a configuration setting
so that it is available to power users. It is just too easy to mess things up.
LP has a couple neat little features I have not seen in any other software. There is a Weights and Measures tool, which
will allow you to convert various measurements and capacities from Bible times into contemporary units. There is also a
neat little command line field at the bottom of the screen. From here you can type various commands as shortcuts to
navigating the UI. For instance, you can type "show John 1:1" and the Bible text will jump to that passage. If you are
a keyboard master, this will usually be much faster than using the mouse. Unfortunately, I could not find a hotkey that
would automatically jump into the command line for me. In other words, you actually have to pick up the mouse and click
into the command line in order to use it, which negates most of its usefulness.
LP provides a basic search field directly on the main toolbar. After you type in your search text, a second drop-down
box next to the search box will populate with all verses from the currently-focused book that satisfy the search criteria.
Simply select the desired verses from this list.
A more advanced search option is also available. Using this tool you can search on a word or phrase, or utilize Boolean algebra
to search on various word combinations. You can also pick your Bible version, subsets of verses to search on, and even
choose to save your results to a Verse List. Searches are return in a separate, simple window. Nothing fancy here.
A full cross-reference tool is provided under the name “Get Information.” You use this to enter a verse reference or topic,
and LP will return all the resources containing that reference or word. Results are returned very fast, and, though not nearly
as nicely done as, say, SwordSearcher, it does the trick. Note that the Get Information window is available in the context
menu when you right-click on a verse. The context menu allows you to launch the window with either the verse you are on, or
the word you clicked on. This provides a very nice quick-n-dirty access to this useful tool.
LP comes with the basic set of public domain resources that accompany all of the free software products. I wish I had just created
a central “free resources” link for all these products, as they are nearly all the same – KJV, ASV, Matthew Henry Commentary,
Easton’s Bible Dictionary, etc.
If it just ended there, as it often does with most free Bible programs, I’d assign a score of 1 or 2 to this category and move on.
But LP has gone the extra mile. Built in to the product is the ability to directly import modules in the following formats:
e-Sword, OSIS, and ThML. You instantly have a huge pool of resources from which to choose. I was quickly using more contemporary
resources from my e-Sword installation, and I successfully imported a number of documents from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library,
most of which are provided in ThML format. (If you don’t know what CCEL is, you should take a look. It is a
fantastic archive of classic Christian writings, made possible by Calvin College.) The e-Sword modules imported perfectly.
I had a little more trouble with ThML documents. I was able to successfully import Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian
Religion and the People’s New Testament commentary. However, a few others, such as Calvin’s Commentaries, did not import
successfully. Still, this should not dampen the usefulness of LP in this area. I wish other software products would be so
ambitious. Of course, they have no incentive to do so, something LP doesn’t have to worry about, being a free product.
LP provides a method to create your own note file. Creation of the file is straightforward using the Manage Texts feature from the menu.
Once my note file is created, it is fairly simple to right-click on a verse, and create/modify your note in the text editor window.
Although I must admit, I was a bit concerned when I saved the note and it asked me if I was sure I wanted to save my changes
to “#010130120000-010130120000”? I hope "yes" was the right answer.
The editor is basic, but solid, with all the standard formatting options one would expect. However, due to the nature of LP's interface,
these format options are not on the editor window itself, but on the main
program toolbar. Not only are they easy to miss (my first review of LP assumed they didn't exist, until the author corrected my mistake!),
but they feel like "a long ways away." I know this is silly, but I don't like having to move my mouse so far from the editor to click
on the formatting options, though standard Ctrl hotkeys exist so that you don't have to even touch your mouse.
You can link to other verses, as well as notes and files, though the process is a manual one. It would be nice if LP would recognize and
instantly link verses in your note text.
One small unexpected feature in the editor did keep tripping me up. Normally, double-clicking on a word in any text window will launch
a popup window with the entry for that word in a specified dictionary. This is very useful. However, this feature is not turned off
in the editor. So, when I double-click on a word to highlight it, wishing perhaps to bold it, or create a hyperlink, the dictionary
popup launches at the same time, and I have to keep closing it. The default editor functionality should override here and not induce
the dictionary feature.
While your notes are available in all versions, there is no visual indication that I could find that a particular verse has a note.
However, you can use the View Note feature to open a new window on your notes file. Once you check the synchronize button on this
window, your notes file will synchronize to your Bible text, which is not an optimal alternative to a visual clue in the Bible text,
but is an acceptable alternative.
You can also create your own concordance from any book. Basically you get a word list of every word in the text you are working on,
though you can limit the text to specific passages when create a concordance on a Bible version. This was a very interesting feature.
Though not a tool you’ll probably use daily, I can envision times when you want to know all of the words in the text and how many
times they are used.
Finally, as I already mentioned, the file format is completely open. So you are free to create your own books. The Help file has
the related documentation, though I did not attempt to do any work in this area. I like the fact that the file format is free. It
provides awesome power to the user, and would be especially effective if LP’s user base grew to the point where you could find a
wealth of user-created books.
LP provides a decent Help file, covering all areas of the product. The product also checks for updates at user-set intervals,
though this feature can be turned off.
There are no forums or user communities that I could find, at least in English. Most of the web page is in Italian, so I have no
idea if there are more Italian resources available. On the plus side, turnaround time for my email question to technical support
was only five hours, which I think is a record.
LaParola is free, and it provides a wealth of resources through its comprehensive import capabilities. And it has a couple neat
features, such as the Weights and Measures tool, and the command line. But other than that, or unless you speak Italian, there
really is not any super-compelling features that would elevate LP above any of the other free software packages out there.