From time to time, we will be looking at Christian open source projects, chatting with the project leader, and trying to get an overview of what the project is about. We hope to be able to highlight useful applications for the Christian who uses open source software.

For our first Project Spotlight, we'll be looking at BibleTime

BibleTime is a Bible study application for Linux. It is based on the K Desktop Environment and uses the Sword programming library to work with Bible texts, commentaries, dictionaries and books provided by the Crosswire Bible Society.

I have recently started to hang out in IRC with the guys who work on BibleTime, and thought I'd talk about what they're doing and where they're heading with the next version of BibleTime.

Development Status

The current version of BibleTime is 1.6.5, and is the last KDE3 version. The developers are busy working on a KDE4 port, to be released as version 1.7. After version 1.7, BibleTime will be slowly moved over to being a pure Qt4 application, allowing it to be compiled for not only Linux/KDE4, but also Windows and Mac OS X.

Using BibleTime

Here's what BibleTime 1.7 looks like on my computer (complete with my KDE4 dark colour scheme, and my custom dark BibleTime theme to match KDE4's colours):

Screenshot of BibleTime

BibleTime is a fairly simple application to use. The core of the application is, of course, the Bible text viewer. The window has controls at the top to facilitate navigating around the Bible, and the current verse is highlighted. Each verse reference can also be dragged over to the bookmark manager to create a bookmark.

BibleTime features a "bookshelf" (top left) which contains all the various texts that can be downloaded from the Sword project's site via the Bookshelf Manager. It also has a "mag viewer" (bottom left) that shows footnotes or related items from the current text. This is especially useful for a translation like the KJV which contains references to Strong's concordances. As you hover over each word, it displays the associated entry in the concordance.

Since BibleTime is a frontend for the Sword library, it supports all the bibles, concordances and other texts available at the Sword Project's site (which can be downloaded direct from their site via the Bookshelf Manager, as I alluded to earlier). This means that you can even download Greek and Hebrew texts, a great help to Bible scholars and pastors, I'm sure.

Interview: Martin Gruner

Martin Gruner is the senior developer of the BibleTime project. He's been working on BibleTime for the last 3 years. I asked him a couple of questions:

RS:

How long have you been involved with BibleTime?

MG:

Since late 1999.

RS:

How did you get involved with the project?

MG:

Well, I switched to Linux because it is free, and looked for Bible software that would run on Linux. So I found The Sword Project, and BibleTime (BT) in particular. I had the chance to meet the project lead of BT, Joachim, in person, he lived quite nearby. We developed a friendship, and one of the pillars of our friendship was our common work on BT.

RS:

How often do you get a chance to work on the project?

MG:

Much less than I would hope to. I check and respond to mail daily, small tasks are done immediately. But I don't have much time for development these days. If that happens once a week, it was a good week. =)

RS:

What is your role within the project?

MG:

When I joined the project, I had no experience with C++/KDE/Qt, BT forced me to learn a lot. For several years I acted as a developer, with the amount of work increasing slowly. When Joachim decided to leave the project (I believe in 2007), I had to take over the project management as well. Unfortunately, there was no other long-term developer on the team at that time. This situation has improved dramatically in the last year, and now there are several dedicated people who work on BT regularly and diligently. I am often humbled by their dedication.

Given the fact that I do not have as much time as when I was a student, my role changed a bit from development to management. My goal is to provide an environment for talented and gifted people such as Eeli, Gary, Thomas and others to share their skills with the world through our project. That means I care about the cmake based build system, try to help with difficult questions, to participate in design decisions and to work out, together with the team, a project schedule.

RS:

How does the project make decisions?

MG:

Like most projects, I suspect. ;) Usually somebody makes a suggestion. Others comment, and consensus is reached.

RS:

How does being a Christian influence your work on BibleTime?

MG:

Maybe not enough. Many times there should be more motivation than there really is in me.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be a part of BT if I were no Christian. The interest in God's unique word was the reason for Joachim to start BT, and it motivates us to keep it going. It might even turn out that it is kind of a lifetime project for me.

RS:

How does the team resolve conflict?

MG:

By being ready to make compromises, most importantly. We create BT to serve others.

In the rare cases where we cannot reach consensus on a question, people respect the opinion of more "merited" team members. That might mean that in the end I have to make a decision, but as I said this is very rare and a situation that we all try to avoid. It is a basis that an opensource project cannot operate on in the long run.

I really cannot remember any serious conflict that we had in BT. There is a great atmosphere of cooperation and mutual help, and I am very glad about that.

RS:

Anything else you want to say?

MG:

Stay tuned about BT! 2009 will bring exciting changes. We hope to offer a crossplattform version of BibleTime this year, that is no more dependent on KDE, and it will run on Linux, Windows and MacOS (at least, hopefully).

In Conclusion

BibleTime is a handy resource for preparing Bible studies, sermons, or just looking up passages electronically. With more developers on board, and moving to use just Qt4, it looks like BibleTime will be going places in the near future.

That's all for our first Project Spotlight. We hope to bring you more information on other Christian open source projects on a monthly basis.


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