Biblelator Program

Picture of the Biblelator Logo

Biblelator is a desktop Bible display and editing program in ongoing development that handles the commonly-used standard USFM and forth-coming ESFM files as its native formats yet has access to other references including online versions when the Internet is available. It's built on the foundation of our well-tested Bible Organisational System (BOS) software (that's the foundation of the helpful Bible Drop Box web service).

It's primarily aimed at Bible translators around the world who want to see the Scriptures translated into their own language or dialect but do not have access to UBS/SIL Paratext or who need access to the editor source code to make program modifications to handle a particular task, and/or want an alternative to Bibledit and translationStudio.

We currently have a prototype version (v0.43) working. We have been using it as a working editor since February 2016— originally for back-translating from one full-Bible project to another (both of which originated in Paratext), and now for working on the Open English Translation (OET) Old Testament. Biblelator doesn't have original language Greek display working well yet (only Hebrew so far), so it's not yet ideal for translating the NT from the original, nor are the parts for “native” projects (not shared with Paratext) well-developed yet.

It has a smallish main window from which you can open on-disk or online Bibles as viewable translation resources plus you can open one or more USFM Bible edit windows to work in. It currently includes approximately thirty built-in (downloadable) Bible resources (which are either freely licenced or for which permission has been granted) and can also display your own USFM and other local/on-disk Bible formats, some Sword (Bible and commentary) modules, and Digital Bible Platform (FCBH) online versions.

Program details

Documentation: You can look here to learn about the design philosophy behind the program.

Current status: Version 0.43 (or development version 0.44) can open reference Bible and lexicon resources in separate windows, and/or open a single window with a collection of resources inside, plus start or open one or more Paratext 7 (USFM) projects for editing. (Not fully tested yet for Paratext 8 interoperability, although it can certainly read and edit the USFM files.) This document explains the basic operating philosophy of the program. A few menu options still do nothing. We are still experimenting to change menu and window layouts around a little to give a sensible and logical user experience. Settings files between versions are not guaranteed to be compatible until v1.0, so at worst you may have to set-up your various windows again. Backup your work often. (Sorry, we'll try not to lose your work, but do take care, especially with development versions.)

Test installation: If you're interested enough to be a guinea pig and try the current test (unfinished) version on your Bible translation, you can find instructions here and then read this.

Feedback: We'd certainly like to hear about it if you're trying out Biblelator— either your successes/likes or failures and dislikes. Probably our Contact Page is the easiest way to just informally let us know.
For more serious feedback, you can view our own ToDo list here first, and you can submit bug reports and feature requests on GitHub (preferred, but requires an account), or you can just use the Contact Page of this site.

Language: Python3 —see also this. This means that you get the program source code, and are even encouraged to learn, change, or extend how the program works.

GUI: Tkinter (usually automatically installed as part of Python). It's not the prettiest GUI in the world but it's powerful enough and reduces installation pain (dependencies).

Platforms: Aiming for anything that can run Python3. The program is developed and tested on a Linux desktop as well as Windows-10, but we eventually hope to aim for OS X desktops, as well as Chromebooks, and Android and other tablets.

Mode: Stand-alone program. Online (cloud) operation is planned, with a graceful fall-back to offline.

Dependencies: Not too many hopefully—we want to make it as easy as possible to install— there's no compiling involved (but no fancy installer yet either).

Release date: The first basic (unfinished) test version (v0.30) was available in March 2016. Biblelator is used every day (and improved most weeks) by the developer. There is no target release date yet for v1.0. (Still a long way to go and the developer has an Old Testament to finish first, but Biblelator is being used on that Old Testament.)

Code availability: The foundation Bible Organisational System (BibleOrgSys) is available here. The Biblelator source is available here. These two repositories should be installed side-by-side in two folders. You must also have Python3 installed on your system. You can start the program by creating a desktop or similar link to run in Python3. Run it with --help to see all the available command line parameters. (If there's a problem, start it in debug mode with the --debug command line flag in order to get more debugging information printed on the terminal.)
Any of our code which is still in proof-of-concept stage and not yet publicly released can be requested using the Contact Page. Python developers familiar with Git might want to clone the development branch on GitHub.

General testing: We'd be very grateful for one or two people who could test the current version of Biblelator as a general Bible display program (i.e., like you might use Xiphos or Bibletime or e-Sword), and as a general text file editor. You don't have to be a Bible translator to do this. Contact us here.

Licence: Open source (GPLv3) —see also this quick guide.

Icon: Yes, it's a feather which hopefully will make the user think of a quill—an old-fashioned ink pen. Note, however, that they used reeds (not feathers) to make ink pens in Biblical times, but we didn't feel that would work so well as an icon. So please excuse the anachronism. Thanks to Josh Hunt for the icon work.

Future plans

The Biblelator preliminary releases can be used as a USFM editor (in unformatted mode—displaying the USFM markers and text fields line by line). New features are continually added to the development version (but still requiring testing and tweaking), and new alpha versions should be released every month or so.

As soon as the new USFM v3 is released (early 2018?) which will be used by Paratext 8.1, we plan to upgrade (the BOS and) Biblelator to handle the new USFM extensions.

The ultimate aim is to have a modular Bible translation editor that is capable of parallel display of multiple resources (in various languages and versification systems), while allowing a writable Bible translation project to be entered and edited (similar to the Paratext and Bibledit editors). Biblelator differs primarily by being designed from the start to be hackable (relatively easy for a programmer to extend or customise).

If you are testing the continuously developing Biblelator development versions, you can add bug reports and feature requests here, but meanwhile you can view our internal list of things to do here.

Another step is to see if (or other similar sites) will allow us to also access their online resources.

Editor comparisons

EditorUSFMUSFMUSFMUSFM (plus ESFM to come eventually)
View formatsFive complex views (but can be sluggish)UnknownUnknownUnformatted only so far—more planned
View chunksBy chapter (also whole book but too slow to use)UnknownUnknown2-3 versesVerse with context, by section, by chapter, by book, by verse
AutocorrectYes using cc tableUnknownUnknownYes (but still set-up in program code)
AutocompleteNoNoNoYes (several options)
AutosaveSort ofUnknownUnknownYes
Window modelArranges windows inside one large window (which usually must be maximised)UnknownUnknownUnknownIndividual small windows which can be placed anywhere on multiple monitors (so that other apps can remain visible)
Cloud backupYesUnknownYesYesPlanned

Feature comparisons

Statusv8.0 released in 2017 (some users still on v7.5/7.6)Deprecated (no longer being developed)Regular new versionsv9.2v0.43 early-test release
DevelopmentProgramming team is continually improving PTDeprecated (no longer being developed)Regular new versionsContinuous development and regular test releases
DistributionProgram itself is less restricted now with v8, but online Biblical resources are very restricted and still somewhat limited (see Outside Resources below)Freely availableFreely availableFreely available
Available on LinuxUbuntu 14.04 Trusty LTS, 16.04 Xenial LTSYesYesNoAvailable now (in development)
Available on Android tabletNoNoYesYesPlanned
Available/usable on Android phoneNoNoYesUnknownNo
Available on Ubuntu tablet/phoneNoNoUnknownNoPlanned
Available on 64-bit WindowsYesYesYesYesAvailable now (in development)
Available on 32-bit WindowsYesYesYesYes (beta)Available now (in development)
Available on OS XMaybe via Linux?DifficultYesYesUntested
Available on iOSNoNoYesNoUnknown
Available on ChromeOSNoNoYesNeed to use developer mode to install Python and/or to install a Linux using Crouton
Programming languageC#/C++?C++HTML/JSPython3/Tkinter
Original language Bible resourcesYes but separate encrypted download????Hebrew interlinear (Greek is planned)
Translated Bible and commentary resourcesLots but separate encrypted downloads????About thirty built-in (downloadable from our server)
Lexicon resourcesLots included????Strongs (better integration still planned)
Outside resourcesDigital Bible Library (DBL) restricted online resources (but may have to run PT7 side-by-side to access some resources)????Almost any unencrypted Bible on your system
Exports availableUSX, HTML, others with SIL Pathway????Close to thirty different export formats (via the BOS)
Typeset publishing pathPublishing Assistant (restricted distribution) with InDesign (expensive and can be sluggish)??????Through SILE (evolving)
Other toolsVery powerful and integrated????Planned
Modular (for users)NoNoNoPlanned
Automatic updatesYesNo??Eventually
Source code availableNoYesYesYes