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My Favorite iPad Bible App

iPad has pretty dramatically impacted my life and workflow, and the iPad 2 is an even better experience! For one thing, it has completely re-invented my “reading life” for the better. And reading the Bible on the iPad is a fantastic experience. In a previous post I wrote about the apps I use the most and why. But in this post I want to zero in on Bible reading.

There are a lot of good, free Bible apps—and if you’re like me, you’ve probably tried them all. In one way or another, they all fall short of what I was looking for, except for one—Olive Tree. I prefer my Bible reading experience to be as seamless and “book-like” as possible.

In fact, for years I have wished someone would produce a “reading Bible”—one layed out not to save space or paper or money in printing, but for ease of reading. In my mind, this Bible would have a single column layout (across the page) with a clean, serif font. It would be divided into paragraph form with verse and chapter divisions somewhere “out of the way”—like the top or bottom of the page. It would be printed on a thicker, off-white paper that wouldn’t bleed through or rip easily. It would read like a book. (And it would probably be about three feet thick and cost a fortune!) But what a GREAT reading experience that would be!

Well, the iPad allows for such a customizable reading experience, and Olive Tree appears to have “caught my vision!” Here are the reasons I love reading the Bible on the iPad using the Olive Tree app:

Off-line Reading—it allows the full text of the Bible to be downloaded and available for off-line reading. (Most of the apps provide this, but some require a user account.)

Single Column Reading—small columns can disrupt flow and create more work for your eyes. This app allows you to have a single column view of God’s Word.

Paragraph Flow—have you ever read the Bible in paragraph form? (And I don’t mean with paragraph symbols.) It’s a completely different experience. Your mind processes the scripture differently than when it’s divided by verses. Verse divisions tend to cause my brain to separate and disconnect thoughts that may relate to each other. I have to consciously work against that tendency. Seeing the scripture in paragraph form changes this.

Verse Numbers Faint/Custom Colors—building on the last point, this app allows you to make verse numbers a custom color. I prefer to make them almost unnoticeable, for the same reasons listed above. I want my brain to connect the scriptures rather than to process a verse number every few lines or in the middle of a thought.

Page Color—this is also customize-able, but the off-white page color is pleasant to look at for a long period of time.

Font Style (serif)—san-serif fonts create a nice looking, but more difficult reading experience. Serif fonts make it easier for your mind and eyes to connect words and process thoughts.

Not a lot of Marks/Symbols, etc.—I love study Bibles, but for general reading purposes, I hate asterisks, bullets, footnotes, and other pesky little symbols that dance all around the body of text that I’m reading. Sometimes it almost feels like the layout team wanted you to see everything BUT the words! This app provides a good clean view of God’s words.

Lots of Customizable Options—Olive Tree has the most customizable options of any Bible reader that I previewed.

Library Options—the program also provides an online store with a lot of free books and resources, as well as many study tools available for purchase.

Other Less Important Features—for simple reading, the things listed above are what really matter to me. But the app has some other great features as well, like reading schedules, book marking, search, notes, etc.

No Account Necessary—a small thing, but I love the fact that the program and free resources don’t require me to “sign up.”

What are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite Bible study or reading app?

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  • I use Olive Tree Bible Reader on my iPhone and love it. You are so right, it is easy to read and I really like to use it to help when I’m trying to find verses with a certain word in it. God bless you, Bro. Schmidt…praying for your health…

  • Great thoughts. I use Olive Tree for my iPhone, and I love it. Many of the reasons you list are accurate, and I really appreciate the simplicity and accessibility it gives me for my daily Bible reading. Among other advantages, it makes it much easier to quickly pull up a chapter to read if I have a spare moment in a waiting room or something. It moves smoothly and transitions well, and as you mention I appreciate being able to connect thoughts without huge page breaks.

    One thing I do have is a separate Bible program on my phone (I use Mantis) for searching for specific scriptures, in soul-winning situations for example. This allows me to keep my place saved in Olive Tree without having to bounce around.

    Olive Tree continues to provide good updates to its software, and most of them have been welcome; when I first began using it, it only had a white background and a default Arial font, but things have improved. Frankly, it was my favorite program even before they added the sepia background and other options.

    My wife uses Olive Tree on her iPad and verifies that the experience is as superior as you state. We have in the past and continue to recommend it as a useful app that can help Christians.

  • I totally agree, Bro. Schmidt. I’ve been using Olive Tree Bible apps since my old Palm PDA, and they are great. I also share your vision for a nice, readable, book form for a Bible. I found a decent single-column Bible that would be almost perfect but for the awkward font they chose and the ultra-thin paper that bleeds through. I do think the Olive Tree apps are the best for digital reading.

  • Any thoughts on a good Bible for the kindle device?

  • I use Tecarta on my iPhone. To me, it has the most functional and common sense note taking ability of all the apps I’ve tried.

  • Olive Tree is pretty close to perfect for customized reading. The only features I wish it had is the ability to set margin and line spacing. It also doesn’t handle the font Hoefler correctly (my preference for iPad). Other than that, I’ve been very happy with it.

    If you haven’t discovered Instapaper yet for reading web articles, you would love it. It strips the body text out of web pages, sends it to the app for offline reading, and reformats the text in a single column view with your preferred font and size.

  • Have you checked out the GLO online Bible? I used (and still do on my iTouch) Olive tree for a long time but this new GLO is quite a tool. Like most other apps, some of it is free and others are for pay.

  • I like it . How does it read?


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