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Wordsearch 12 Bible Software [Review]


Wordsearch just released Wordsearch 12, a relatively minor update that includes new features that make it worth the $40 investment for current Wordsearch users. Now that BibleWorks no longer sells their great Bible study software, current BibleWorks users might want to find a new program to invest their time and money into. This overview will show you what is new in Wordsearch 12. After reading it, you can decide if Wordsearch 12 is a possible replacement.

If you’re just interested in what’s new with the Wordsearch 12 update, then skip this first section and head down to the New Features section below.

Wordsearch 12 Simple User Interface

In this section let’s take a look at the simple user-interface that makes Wordsearch a popular choice among Digital Bible Students.

wordsearch 12 home page

By default, Wordsearch 12 opens to the Home page (see above), mostly a place for the company to show their add-on books for sale. However, don’t click away too fast. You’ll also find links to:

  • Wordsearch Website – where you can buy books, get support or news about new products
  • Free Live Online Training – sign up for live webinars and get a 30% discount on future purchases after you complete the training
  • Video Tutorials – on YouTube
  • Affordable Distance Education – from Houston Baptist University
  • Devotional – opens your preferred devotion book

At the top of the program, there’s a set of three tabs (see above). The first is the Home screen shown above. The second is the Study area where you’ll spend most of your time. The last one shows the user’s Library (see below). From there you can open books, manage books installed, and search for books. Along the left of the Library area, there is a list that shows the kinds of books in your library. The top section includes:

  • Library – shows the books installed in your library
  • Bookmarks – bookmarks you create in books
  • Verse Lists – a list of verses that you create after searching in Wordsearch
  • My Documents – documents you create using the internal word processor
  • User Books – books that you can create yourself that show up in your library, just like your other books from the company

wordsearch 12 library page

Click the Study tab to find the guts of the program. You’ll see the newly updated toolbar that’s customizable. Learn how to customize it below.


On the left, you’ll notice a bar that says Resources vertically down the side. Click it to open the Resources browser. It has its own toolbar with five sections below it. In the Filter box, you can type the name of a book and it will show only books with that search string in the title. Type something like Holman to find books with the name Holman like the Holman Bible Dictionary (see below).

library filter

Wordsearch categorizes the Library using groups like Bibles, Dictionaries, Commentaries, etc. just like you see on the Library tab of the program. Click to expand the list and then click a book title to open it. To expand or collapse the folders, use the little plus or minus icons in the title bar above the Library box. Some people prefer to hide this while others want it open all the time. By default, you will see the bar but it hides until you click on it.

The other sections of the Library area include:

  • Favorites – store your favorite books here to find them quickly instead of hunting in the Library section, which helps if you have a large library
  • User Books – the program lets you create your own books, which you will find in this section.
  • Documents – like the User Books, but Documents are a different kind of user-created content.
  • Verse Lists – verse lists, like saved lists of verses created after a search, will show up here

Each book, when you open it, has its own window. Inside each window, there is another toolbar. This lets you do things like navigate to a passage, change which book that window shows, work with bookmarks and highlights, and more. To learn about each of the buttons, just try them out. A little label will pop up when you hover over the button.

Speaking of learning, as of the time I’m writing this, the Help file gives a 404 Error. The last version of Wordsearch did the same thing when it first launched. The company really needs to do a better job of creating a good help page before shipping it out. Programs like Logos and Accordance have awesome help online and inside the program.

bottom toolbar in wordsearch 12

At the bottom of each book window, you will see another bar. It has some buttons in the book window and there is a tab bar that spans the entire program window. The tabs represent the window panes not books that are open (see #1 in the image above). At the top, you see the tabs for each book that is open in that pane (see #2 in the image above).

Then above those tabs you see things like the Carousel controls and options (see #3 in the image above). The video above demos the Carousel in Wordsearch 11, but this works the same way in Wordsearch 12.

This explains the basic features. Wordsearch 12 has a lot more in it, but this gives users an idea of how the program works.

Wordsearch 12 Tips

Here are a few tips to make Wordsearch 12 easier to use:

  • Info Window – Turn on the Info Window from the View menu and in Settings, and Info Window adds the translations you want to see. I just added my favorite. When you hover over a Bible reference link in a book, it will show up instantly in this window. This way you can see Bible passages without moving your currently open Bible to a new book of the Bible. That especially helpful if you set your commentary up to follow the Bible so it advances with your Bible.
  • Desktops – Use Desktops to organize all your work for the various parts of Bible study process, like Word Study, Commentary Study, Devotions, and more (see the demo video below).
  • Automatic Backup to Cloud – Backup all of your user-created content to the cloud from within Wordsearch. This doesn’t work with the new OneDrive Integration, but rather on Wordsearch’s servers. See below for how to do this. It is a shame it does not also automatically restore each time you open. If you only use Wordsearch on one computer that’s no big deal, but I use it on three and could use this kind of automatic syncing available in competitors’ programs.

New Feature: Wordsearch 12 Lexicon Explorer

The new Lexicon Explorer excites me more than any other new feature in this upgrade. It makes original language study easier. The video below explains how to use the new feature.

Any book that has Greek or Hebrew words tagged, like the HCSB Reverse Interlinear or any Greek or Hebrew Bible works with the new Lexicon Explorer. Also, Wordsearch offers a discount on lexicons. Those discounts may or may not still be in effect by the time you read this.

wordsearch 12 lexicon explorer
Double click on a Greek or Hebrew word to open the Lexicon Explorer. Hit the options button to customize what it shows.

To open the Lexicon Explorer, just find the word you want to study in a book that has Greek or Hebrew Strong’s tags and double-click on it. This will open the Lexicon Explorer, which shows you all of your books that display lexical content. For example, the image above shows the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. When I scroll down I also have it set to show all my favorite Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries. In the New Testament, you will see Greek lexicons.

lexicon explorer button

There’s a Lexicon Explorer button on the toolbar by default, but it’s only there so you’ll notice the new feature. It doesn’t show any lexical entries. Get rid of it using the steps for customizing your toolbar explained below.

Why should anyone care that Wordsearch 12 includes the Lexicon Browser? The software lags behind other programs in language study, but this one tool makes it easier for users to find the meanings of Greek and Hebrew words without translating Greek or Hebrew. It’s a simple way to learn the meanings of words and for most teachers, pastors or lay Bible students, that’s enough.

New Feature: Enhanced Cloud Backup

Wordsearch users can now back up their user-created content efficiently.

wordsearch manage backups

Follow the steps below (shown in the animated GIF above):

  • From the Options menu click Manage Backups
  • Choose Schedule automatic backups and then Next
  • Choose Automatic backups
  • Choose Every time I exit Wordsearch
  • Choose Cloud under Backup destination

Now every time you exit the program it will backup your notes, documents, etc. to Wordsearch’s servers. To get the content downloaded to a second machine, go back into the Options and choose to restore it.

New Feature: Sermon Illustration and Outline Tools

A pair of new improvements will help preachers. The Sermon Illustration Database now works with Notestacks. Wordsearch added Notestacks in a previous version. Think of 3×5 cards that composition teachers made students create as they found research material for a term paper. Create stacks with content you find in your study. Now the Sermon Illustration Database uses Notestacks.

sermon illustration toolbar button

Open it by clicking on the icon in the toolbar. You can add note cards with illustrations on them. Identify the card as an Illustration by clicking the Type drop down box and choose Illustrations.

sermon illustration database

You can also create the following:

  • Sermons
  • Papers
  • Lessons

sermon illustration templates

Create cards in the database by clicking on the New button or the Template button. The template button will let you pick a kind of sermon template. Watch the video above to learn more about the tools.

New Feature: OneDrive Integration, Sort Of

Wordsearch 12 added integration of OneDrive, an online storage and syncing tool created by Microsoft and integrated with Microsoft Office. A lot of users of Bible software will work in Microsoft Word so Wordsearch added the ability to export documents to OneDrive. Now you can write your sermons or Bible studies right in Wordsearch and then save them to OneDrive. This backs them up offsite and gives you access to them on an iPad or other tablet thanks to the OneDrive mobile app.

The OneDrive integration does come with limitations. First, it is not an automatic backup, which is what I hoped we would get when I first heard about it. I wish I could back up all of my user-created content to a folder in OneDrive and then automatically import it each time I open Wordsearch. Also, the user will need to connect to OneDrive each time they use it. That’s a silly requirement. If I’m clicking the button to open OneDrive, it should automatically connect me to OneDrive without clicking a button to connect. Unfortunately, it does not.

To use the new OneDrive integration, click the OneDrive button on the toolbar. If you do not see it, then you turned it off in Options, Settings, and Toolbar.

A box pops up and the first time it will ask you to enter your OneDrive account information. After that, it will stay connected until you close Wordsearch. The next time you open the program, it will ask for you to connect and then shows your OneDrive folder. Find a folder to create your new file and then click on New to make a new document in OneDrive. After you’ve created some documents, then you can open them using the same steps. The dialog box also lets you move documents around or create new folders.

The program won’t open Word files. It creates the files as HTML files and you can open them in Word, a browser or of course, in Wordsearch.

New Customizable Toolbar

If you want to customize your toolbar you can do that easily from the program Settings. Right-click a blank space on the Toolbar to bring up the Toolbar section in the Program Settings box. You can also get there by clicking on Settings and Toolbar from the Options menu. Put a checkmark on the buttons you want to show on the toolbar. I recommend turning on the following, which are off by default:

  • Bible – click to open your preferred Bible, with a drop-down list to show other Bibles, or you can click it to open a chosen Bible
  • Commentary – same as the Bible button, but for Commentaries
  • Web Browser – opens a web browser inside Wordsearch that you can use to open other bible study sites or an online word processor like Google Docs or Office online and lets you add Favorites to sites you might use a lot in your study, like the online Bible study sites from competitors, like Logos or Bible Gateway

wordsearch 12 toolbar

I remove the following:

  • Unlock Purchased Books – I don’t need this unless I buy a new book then I can do this from the Help menu
  • Desktop on second display – if you don’t have a second display and never present from Wordsearch, then you don’t need this
  • Other features – come back after you’ve used Wordsearch and feel comfortable with it and remove buttons for features you don’t use much


For $40 you get a few cool new features. People who are not Wordsearch users might not find enough to make the switch, especially since it will cost more to get a decent library. However, anyone using Wordsearch 11 or older should get this update. While the Base Library only costs $40, the more useful libraries range in price from $100 up to $3,000. Get the free Starter to test it out and then I would recommend upgrading to the Teaching Library or the Preaching Library to start.

wordsearch libraries

The program has some weaknesses. It handles original language study better than before, thanks to the Lexicon Explorer. However, I would not recommend it to BibleWorks users. I would recommend it to people who do not need advanced word studies in Greek or Hebrew.

The new OneDrive integration is a half-baked tool. I wish I could save my user-created documents, notes, notestacks and other content to OneDrive. When BibleWorks went out of business it made Bible study software users realize they are beholden to the company that makes their software. I’m more confident that Microsoft will be around longer than Wordsearch.

Also, the “enhanced” cloud backup of your content to Wordsearch needs more enhancements. As mentioned above, it automatically backs-up but does not automatically restore. So, if I create a word processor document or highlight some verses on my MacBook when I exit the program it backs this up to the Wordsearch servers. However, when I open Wordsearch on my Surface Pro it doesn’t automatically restore the content. I have to remember to tell the program to restore it. That would be more acceptable if there was a button on the toolbar, but you have to go into the menu system.

The mobile apps are atrocious and little more than book readers. So if you need a great iPhone, iPad or Android app that lets you do study while you’re away from your computer, Wordsearch may not be the best option.

All that said, people new to Digital Bible Study should give Wordsearch a closer look. It has one of the best online Bible study sites where you can access all of your books. Plus, the company offers a great library of add-on books to choose from and they often offer freebies and discounts.

Kevin Purcell
Kevin Purcellhttp://www.kevinpurcell.org
Dr. Kevin Purcell is a pastor, writer, and tech enthusiast. He serves High Peak Baptist Church as pastor. He is passionate about digital Bible study and enjoys helping others delve into God's Word using tech tools. Kevin is married to Barb, an elementary school teacher, and is father to two college-age sons. Pastor Kevin blogs at https://www.kevinpurcell.org/



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