When I viewed the new WS 8 desktop for the first time something didn't seem right, but I couldn't figure out what it was.
Then it hit me - the text under the icons on the toolbar. Yup, the text. First, it was a very poor choice for a font.
I don't know what it is, but it seems ill-defined. Second, for some reason WS decided to abbreviate nearly anything over
5 characters. So you have winners like Rslts, VLst, Commty, and Dsktp. I can't figure it out.
There is plenty of real estate, so why abbreviate? All I know is it looks very corny. In the end, it's a very small thing.
But it annoys me every time I see it.
On the left side of the screen is the Resource pane. The pane "flies out", which means it pops out when you move over to
the left side of the screen, then slides back out of sight when not needed. This is done primarily to conserve real estate,
but the pane can easily be pinned in place if you don't like that behavior.
The pane shows your entire categorized Library. All WS titles are categorized in groups such as Bibles, Commentaries,
Devotionals, Study Notes, and more. Select a book and it will appear on the desktop. You can also list books alphabetically
by title or author if you can't remember that certain book. A filter feature on the pane is very handy, as well as the ability
to re-categorize books into any category you wish.
The Resource pane also lists resources other than WS books, such as your own personal documents, Favorites, and Verse Lists (you know, VLst's).
As you open books and they are displayed on the pane, WS will arrange the desktop for you. The best thing about the WS desktop,
in my opinion, is that books that are opened that are in the same category as an already-open book will not open in another window,
but appear as a separate tab in the same window. So, not only are all your similar books close to each other on the same window
pane, much real estate is preserved for other windows. While not perfect, it is the best attempt at solving the issue of managing
real estate while opening a large number of books. It is very well thought out, and light-years ahead of Logos' haphazard method
of handling windows.
But, WS does not hold you to this arrangement. You are free to undock windows and make them their own window, or drag them to a
different window where they will automatically dock as another tab. This is the best of both worlds, where the software arranges
the desktop intelligently, but gives you the flexibility of tweaking to your heart's content. Also, the currently selected book
in each window pane has it's own button at the bottom of the screen, so if you wish to maximize one particular window you can
easily access the other windows. This is especially nice if you maximize a window, you can still get quickly to other windows on your desktop.
Resources are automatically linked as they are opened. You can turn of linking by unchecking the link box that appears on each
window. Other features on the window bar are the ability to highlight text, bookmarking, and next/previous chapter buttons.
Some books even present a "special features" button, which gives quick access to special items in that book, such as a list of
charts or maps.
WS's implementation of the Parallel Bible view, at least as far as aesthetics and ease of use, is the best of all the software
that I tested. While it doesn't have the cool comparison capabilities of Logos, WS has done a nice job of making it very
readable. You can drop or add versions with ease, and you can quickly switch back and forth between row and column view,
something you can't do in any other software. Even the row view, which I normally do not like as I find it hard to really
compare verses, is done very well. The parallel bible view has a really nice feature that allows you to search for a word,
which it locates in each of the versions in your parallel view. This allows you to very easily see how a word is used and
translated across various versions. Unfortunately, the implementation was buggy, with the engine often finding and highlighting
words that were not my search term. After studying it for a while, however, I realized the errors only occurred in the ESV. If
you do not have the ESV in your parallel view there should not be any issues. Hopefully WS will be able to smooth out this
out in a future release. (They did, see Support section.)
Like QuickVerse, WS incorporates a web browser right into the interface. You can open up a browser window and navigate to any
web site on the internet. You can bookmark favorite websites directly to your Favorites list, so useful resources are only a
click a way. While I understand the progression, and can see the inherent usefulness of a browser, I personally am hesitant
about incorporating a tool that, with a single errant (or purposeful, for that matter) click, can bring unmentionable crud
directly into your Bible study software. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, I guess.
On a related note, WS offers a Word Definition tool, which is basically a browser pre-set to four different word lookup
sites - Encarta, Cambridge, Dictionary,com, and Webster's. I like the feature, but I personally wish it simply offered a
built-in dictionary of some sort, simply due to the speed factor. It is easier for me to use WordWeb,
which I have in my Windows Quick Launch bar, then to use this feature.
One of WS's most useful capabilities, and the one that drew me to it, is the Xref tool, or, Cross-Reference capabilities.
Open the Xref window and it will give you a list of every single location in all your library where the currently selected
verse is mentioned. For instance, not only do you see commentary entries on your verse, but you see other commentary
entries for other references that reference the current verse. It expands your Bible study immeasurably. This view changes
each time you change verses in your Bible view, so it is important that it is fast. And fast it is. Not near as fast as
SwordSearcher's similar functionality, but fast enough. But, you have the ability to define and choose "collections" which
are a subset of books that you want the Xref tool to cover, instead of your entire library. This feature elevates the tool
to a new level, as you can focus specifically on a set of books, or your favorite commentaries and study helps, or whatever.
Not to mention that it's even faster, since it has fewer books to scan. And you can just as easily jump back and have it
search your entire library.
Other useful tools that WS provides include a Verse List and Instant Verse Study. I dismissed verse lists initially, as I
didn't see their value. While not at the top of the list, I have found them to be useful. Basically, you create a verse list
with a subject title, and enter verses that pertain to that subject. I have a predestination verse list that lists all the
verses that have been involved in the debate. You can also give sub-titles to sets of verses. This makes it much more useful.
For instance I have a Psalms Verse List. Inside this list, I have sub-titles such as "Do not fret," and, "Blessings of the
God-fearing man," under which I list the Psalmist's remarks on each one.
I wish some of the tools, like the XRef, Topic Explorer, and Notes, were dockable instead of requiring their own window.
It would be nice, for instance, to dock my Notes into my commentary pane, where I think it should go. But, that is only a small thing.