Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Simple Review of the ESV App

About two months ago, I purchased an 8GB iPod Touch. At first I had great buyer's remorse coming from the sense that I was now $200 poorer, but eventually my remorse turned to joy as I found all the different ways I could use the device in my day-to-day life. As soon as I had formulated my iTunes account, I went about what I'm sure every person who buys an iPod Touch or iPad or iPhone does...scavenge the free apps! Yes, free. There are a ton of free apps that are quite helpful if you know how to look for them. I have a free app that keeps track of what I eat, another that allows me to read PDF documents, and another that can play police radios from most places in the world. There isn't an end to the possibilities out there, if you don't mind taking a few minutes to scour the iTunes search engine.

Of course, the big thing for me was finding a good Bible app. I wasn't looking for a walking library like e-Sword or Bible Desktop offer for your computer, but rather something that could be simple and easy to use at a moment's notice. That's when I came across the ESV app, designed and released by Crossway. It was free, it was well rated by users, and I already loved the ESV. Oh yes, and it was free. So I downloaded it.

The first thing that I noticed about the app was the immense ease at which one can browse God's word. Tapping on the screen will present the option to "Browse," and clicking on that button will give you the list of books in the Bible, which you can easily scroll by sliding your hand across the screen. Click on the book you want, and it will expand to all the chapters. Click on the chapter number you want, and it will bring you to the first verse. From there you can scroll with your fingers to the verse you want to see. You can either read it in page format (the iPod held up) or landscape format (the iPod held on its side, obviously).

As I said, this is an amazingly quick and easy way to browse. I often show this fact off to people by asking them to pick a random Bible verse for me to go to (this is usually uneventful because almost everyone picks John 3:16). One time I was on the phone talking to my good friend Steven on a biblical subject, and he said, "Go to this verse." Literally within seconds I was there - a few flicks of my finger and I was ready for him to continue. This was definitely an improvement over a paper Bible, which would have required me to flip several pages, find the book, then go to the verse, all of which would have taken several seconds more. Keep in mind I'm not condemning the use of paper Bibles (I still have all of mine), only that, if you're looking for something useful for quick referencing, then this app is helpful in that regard.

Other options are included besides merely reading the Bible. The ESV app also includes the ability to highlight verses, fave a verse, and write a note. Highlighting literally creates a yellow highlight around the verses you want to stand out, and the fave function adds a verse to your favorites. My only complaint regarding these two functions: when you go to the list of highlighted verses you'll see they're placed in chronological order; the favorite verses are not. Hopefully a later update of the app will improve on this.

The note function is helpful for those moments when you want to jot down something really quickly. I've often used it during church when the pastor said something edifying regarding a verse. Like the highlight and fave functions, the app saves a list of all your notes, and, like the highlight function (thankfully), it stores them in chronological order. My only advice: make sure people at your church know what you're doing, and in this regard I have a funny story. When I first went to the church I am now attending, I took out my iPod and started recording something interesting I had heard from the pastor. When I was showing off the ESV app to church members at the pot luck, the pastor's wife commented, "Oh! I thought you were texting someone!"

In terms of bugs or common errors, this app is solid for the most part. The only thing I did notice was a start-up crash: if you're holding your iPod sideways when you load the app, the app itself will crash. If you turn the iPod on its side after loading, then the app does not crash. Otherwise, the program runs perfectly fine.

What's the greatest thing about this? All that I have discussed is available offline. That's right - no internet connection is required to use this great app and all it's quirks. This makes it an excellent program for on the go or for those times when the world has been thrown into chaos and internet is not accessible any where. During my recent trek from Savannah to Kansas City, I kept my iPod Touch close at hand and used the ESV app to study scripture while stopping for lunch.

Overall, it's a free app that comes with many good qualities. I highly recommend this app to anyone with an iPod, iPhone, or iPad and looking for a good Bible software. Just remember what I said: make sure others in your church know what you're doing before you use it during service!