Only a few quality mobile Bible software study apps predate the iPhone, iPad, or any Android device. Olive Tree Bible Software successfully launched before the smartphone and, unlike most Bible apps released long ago, it’s still going strong in the modern era of smartphones, tablets, and even runs on a desktop or laptop. The makers of Olive Tree Bible Software recently updated the mobile app with a new Audio Bible feature letting users listen to God’s Word in addition to studying it as they could before.
While other big names in Bible study software offer more complex and possibly more powerful versions to run on a laptop or desktop, Olive Tree successfully matches their features. In addition, the app runs on all four of the most popular operating systems including Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Users can work on their phone, then open it on a computer. Later in the evening, while watching TV, they can still use the app on an iPad or their favorite Android tablet. It looks similar enough that the user won’t need to relearn the user-interface.
Let’s take a look at the user interface and compare the four versions. At the end of this article, you’ll get a recommendation on whether Olive Tree Bible Software should take up space on your devices.
Overview of Olive Tree Bible Software
Regardless of what device you open Olive Tree on, you’ll see three primary areas:
- Study Center
- Bible Study
On a tablet or phone, you open it up and the app takes you through a setup process. Once that’s complete, you’ll see the main Bible window. There’s a toolbar along the top of the screen. At the bottom or on the right you’ll see the “Open Study Center” with an arrow. If you’re on Windows or Mac, you’ll see the Study Center on the right side of the screen.
Open the Study Center and you’ll see a new window that slides open from the bottom on phones or from the right on tablets and computers. A phone in landscape mode also has the Study Center on the right.
In the Study Center, you’ll see tabs for four main tools…
- Resource Guide – looks for the current passage in every book in your library; divided and grouped by types of books.
- Parallel – open a second Bible or Book window to show two books at one time.
- Notes – shows all of your notes and lets you add new ones.
- Lookup – search for subjects to find them in your library of books grouped by the type of book/resource where the app finds the subject
In the Bible window, you get a toolbar at the top with seven buttons (from left to right).
- Menu – shows tools and help (more on the menu below).
- Library – find books, audiobooks, and updates to books.
- Devotionals – this is where you find your Bible reading plans as well as options for others you can download.
- Store – buy new books.
- Quick Settings – change the way Olive Tree looks or open the Advanced Settings to control the entire app.
- Search – search your books.
- Bookmark – add a bookmark to the current verse displayed.
Unfortunately, people using a Windows computer will not see the same user interface. The Windows app doesn’t offer feature parity, but almost everything you get on a Mac or on mobile exists in the Windows version.
The Resource Guide works like a digital assistant that looks at the passage you’re studying in the main Bible window and then searches the library to find all the related content. If the user goes into their app’s settings, they can change what shows up in the Resource Guide. It offers up to sixteen different kinds of data, but not all of them will show up by default. You can also arrange the various kinds of books in the order you want them to show up in the Resource Guide. When you move from one passage to another in the main Bible window, the Resource Guide updates its content. In the Resource Guide, you get…
- Content – turned off by default and shows various kinds of data from commentary entries and others. I recommend leaving it off since the same content shows up in the other sections.
- Commentaries – shows all your commentaries ready to open at the present passage.
- Related Verses – cross-references.
- Bibles – open a second Bible to the same passage.
- People – information from Dictionaries or Encyclopedias about people mentioned.
- Places – same as people but with geographic places and includes descriptions from atlases.
- Topics – topical references found in the passage from things like Naves Topical Bible.
- Maps – maps related to the passage from your atlases.
- Charts – any charts about the passage from things like study Bibles.
- Images – pictures found in your books about the passage.
- Outlines – comes mostly from commentaries
- Introductions – also comes from commentaries showing the intro of the book.
- Sermons – books of sermons will show up here if they include a sermon from the passage.
- Videos – same as images but with videos.
- My Notes – if you’ve added a note to the passage you’ll find it here.
- Tags – you can tag things and they show up here.
Just look in one of the sections to see the content from that section.
Notes in Olive Tree Bible Software are simple and easy to use. They also sync with the Olive Tree servers so you can take notes on one device and they show up on another. The Note indicator appears next to the first word in a verse. Type into the box and it saves the notes when you close it. Add a tag if relevant. You can even put it in a category. I keep notes I take when listening to a sermon in one category and notes for Bible study as I prepare for sermons in the Bible Notes category. Olive Tree also lets users change the Note indicator icon.
In the Resource Guide, part of the Study Center, you’ll see a section called My Notes. There’s a place to add a note with one click from that section. You can also open existing notes which will show up here. I’d recommend going into the settings to move the My Notes section closer to the top if you think you’ll use them a lot in the app. Olive Tree lets you rearrange the order of things in the Study Center. Unfortunately, this order doesn’t sync with the other apps, so you’ll have to change it on each device.
Unfortunately, the notes feature is a little too simple. You can’t really do much other than type simple text and the app adds links to Bible verses. There’s no formatting, but a lot of people don’t care about this. I would like to see numbered or bulleted lists.
Next to the Resource Guide in the Study Center, there’s a whole tab for Notes. If you use them a lot you can open this up. To add a note, you can also click on the verse number in the main Bible windows.
Notice that, in addition to adding notes, you can also add a highlight, copy the verse, save it (this is a kind of bookmark that you see in the main menu of the program/app), plus share the verse to social media. The “More…” button opens other commands. In this case, the only button not seen is one that lets you move the verse to the top of the window.
Strong’s Books and Quick Details
Strong’s Books brings original language study to Olive Tree’s Bible Software. You can use them to get definitions and Greek or Hebrew meanings in the Quick Details window or the handy pop-up windows.
If you buy a Strong’s tagged book, you can open it and each major work becomes a clickable link. Click it and a popup window shows the book’s dictionary entry for that word. For example, see above that I opened the NASB with Strong’s. I clicked on the word “days” in Luke 8:22 and it opened up the NASB Strong’s Dictionary.
At the bottom of the popup window, you’ll see two buttons.
- Search – finds the entries for the word in the Bible.
- Lookup – looks the word up in other books you own that use Strong’s numbers, like the Complete Word Study Dictionary or Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. You can then open that definition in a new window that hovers over your Olive Tree Window. **This is on Windows and Mac only. On the mobile apps for iOS and Android it opens in either the main window or the parallel window which normally houses the Study Center.**
If you don’t want to open popups, on a Mac or PC (not iOS or Android), there’s something called the Quick Details window. It sits in the lower left corner and when you hover over a word, it shows the information for that clickable word in the window. See above where I clicked on “guard” and it shows the NASB Strong’s Dictionary entry for the word.
Other Study Center Tabs
We’ve already looked at the Resource Guide and the Notes tabs in the Study Center that shows up at the bottom of the mobile app or the right side of the computer apps. The other three tabs include My Stuff, Search, and Library.
The My Stuff groups all of your notes, highlights, book ribbons, and saved passages into one place. The Search tab gives options for searching. It has a drop-down list to narrow searches so you can look for stuff in the whole Bible, just the New Testament or Old Testament, or a range of books or a single book. There’s also a way to create your own search ranges. The Library shows your books. You can also see these from the Library button on the toolbar. The desktop apps have a library pane that you can open or close and it shows up on the left side of the Bible window.
Recommendations for Potential Buyers of Olive Tree Bible Software
People who want a kind of intermediate Bible software study tool should take a look at Olive Tree first. It doesn’t come with the complexity or the cost of Logos, Accordance, or WordSearch. It’s cross-platform, which you can say about Logos or Accordance, but it looks nearly the same on all four major platforms, something you cannot say about Logos or Accordance. WordSearch works great on Windows, but their mobile app isn’t worth your time unless you just want to read and search.
Olive Tree excels at simplicity, cross-platform user-interface, and offering just enough to make it more powerful than a simple Bible study tool, which is why we didn’t include it on our roundup of the 10 Best Simple Bible Study Apps. Because it’s more affordable than the big boys, it’s a great tool for lay Bible students and even preachers who don’t need the more powerful features available on other programs.
The program or app comes free either at their website or in the various apps stores. Find out more on their website. Buyers can also get Collections starting at $40 for the Bible Study Essentials Collection of a modern translation of the Bible plus Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, Olive Tree Bible Maps, and the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. The Bible Study Premier Edition costs $150. You’ll get more Bibles with at least one Strong’s Bible, plus more language study tools and atlases. To see one of these collections, head over to their NIV version fo the Premier Edition.