Biblelator Program

Picture of the Biblelator Logo

Biblelator editor 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.

Bible Translator Editors

Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudio AndroidtranslationStudio DesktopAutographa LiteBiblelator
Primary platformWindows & Linux desktopsAndroid tabletLinux desktopAny online deviceAndroidWindows & Linux desktopsWindows & Linux desktopsLinux & Windows desktops (or anything that runs Python3)
Target userExpert/ProfessionalLess expertNon-expertNon-expertNon-expertExpert
Main featuresExcellent editing and extensive checking built-in; excellent world languages support; training videos available; developed and supported by a teamSimplified interface designed for tablets; files easily sent to full desktop versionFree and openCloud based with clients on most platforms; free and openSimplified interface; free and open; drafting software for the Bible, Open Bible Stories, translationNotes, translationWords, and translationQuestions; it provides the Bible translator lots of translation helpsSimplified interface; free and open; drafting software for the Bible, Open Bible Stories, translationNotes, translationWords, and translationQuestions; it provides the Bible translator lots of translation helpsSimplified interface; free and open; 5-app languages; show changes across versions; actively developedFree and open, designed to be hackable
Main limitationsLarge, complex (can be overwhelming); sluggish at times; users must agree with translation philosophy; restricted functionality without registration; very restricted access to resourcesIndividual developer offers limited support; limited/ancient open-licensed resourcesVery limited functionality and feature setVery limited functionality and feature setVery limited functionality and feature setNo installer yet; limited/ancient open-licensed resources; still a test version; individual developer using rare spare time

Editor comparisons

Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudioAutographa LiteBiblelator
File formatFull USFM (from PT 8.1 onwards)USFMUSFMUSFM2USFM2 basic only (no section headings, paragraphs)USFM basic only (no section headings, paragraphs)USFM (with ESFM to come eventually)
View/Edit chunksBy chapter (also whole book but too slow to use)Verses2-5 versesBy chapterVerse with context, by section, by chapter, by book, or by verse
Find/Replace functionalitySophisticated (incl. regex)Current chapter / current bookSophisticated (incl. regex)
Style-sheetsFull nested stylesNo (unformatted verse text only)No (unformatted verse text only)Limited style functionality
Switchable views/formatsFive views (Preview/Basic/Formatted/Unformatted/Standard but can be sluggish)Two panes vs four panesThree main options: ChapterUSFM, verse editor, formatted chapterUnformatted only so far—more planned
Multiple panes/windowsYes (panes)Four (collapsable) panesMANY view optionsUp to four panesYes (windows)
Multiple EDIT panes/windowsYes (panes)Yes (windows)
Able to show differences between panes/windowsYesNoYesNo
Window modelArranges panes inside one large window (which usually will need to be maximised) -- not ideal for multiple monitor setupsMultiple options, workspaces plus basic mode with tabsIndividual small windows which can be placed anywhere on multiple monitors (so that other apps can remain visible)
Displays illustrations in-lineNoNoNo
Internationalised menus/interfaceYesYesEnglish, Arabic, Hindi, Portuguese, SpanishNot yet
Fully internationalised editing (incl. RTL)BestLTR and RTLNot yet
Multi-user (handles file conflicts)ExcellentNot yet
Live multi-userYesNo
Able to show changes made by other usersYesNo
Real-time spell checkYes (causes slow start-up)Not yet
Real-time punctuation checkNoNoNoNoNoYes, doubled spacesSome
Real-time grammar checkNoNoNoNoNoNoNot yet
Real-time layout checkNoNoNoNoNoNoNot yet
AutocorrectYes, using CC tableYes (but still set-up in program code)
AutocompleteNoNoNoNoNoNoYes (several options)
Auto-suggestions ("AI")NoNoNoNoNoNoNo
AutosaveDefaults to offYesYesYesYes
Cloud backupSend/Receive to dedicated Paratext serverSend/Receive (WiFi)Yes, central philosophyYesUpcoming sync with Paratext Cloud and Door43Planned
Other backupsLocal zip file
Other sharingUSB Send/Receive, Chorus hub, networked folder (if careful)If supported by device portsNo

Integrated resource comparisons

Note: Of course, most systems can access online resources in other apps/windows. However, having integrated resources usually enables helpful features like synchronised scrolling, original-to-translation word/phrase linking, etc.

Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudioAutographa LiteBiblelator editor
Original language Bible resourcesYes, but separate encrypted downloadNoYesNoNoHebrew interlinear (Greek is also planned)
Translated Bible and commentary resourcesLots, but separate encrypted downloadsYesEnglish-ULT, UST, Hindi-IRV, Arabic-VDTAbout thirty built-in (downloadable from our server)
Lexicon resourcesLots includedYesNoNoStrongs, BDB (better integration still planned)
Built-in access to other downloadable translationsDigital Bible Library (DBL) restricted online resourcesNoNoAbout thirty built-in (downloadable from our server)
Import of local/on-disk resourcesYes, full USFM2Yes, USFMYes, basic USFMAlmost any unencrypted Bible on your system
Open-licenced resourcesSome in DBL (but still have restricted use)Some in DBL (but still have restricted use)YesExclusivelyYesExclusively
Resources updated automaticallyUser must check from menuYesNot yet

Extent comparisons

Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudioAutographa LiteBiblelator editor
Old Testament supportYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
New Testament supportYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Deuterocanon supportYesYes
Alternative book order supportNoYes
Front- and back-matter supportYesYes
Book introductions supportYes, but with poor scrolling supportYes
Chapter introductions support
Section headings supportYesYes
Section references supportYesYes
Cross-references supportYesYes
Footnotes supportYesNoYes
Specialised glossary supportNo
Translator/Consultant notes supportExcellentNo
Full study-Bible supportYes

Versification comparisons

Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudioAutographa LiteBiblelator editor
Bridged versesYesYes
Omitted versesYesYes
Reordered versesNot tested
Non-numeric verse "numbers"YesYes
Non-numeric chapter "numbers"Yes
Alternate versification schemes (incl. mapping)YesYes (mapping is coming)

Checking comparisons

Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudioAutographa LiteBiblelator editor
Spell check supportVery powerful and integrated (approved wordlists, affixation rules, computer predictions)NoNot yet
Consistency of translated termsVery powerful and integratedvia desktop versionSee translationCoreNoNot yet
Link checking (section references and cross-references)Very powerful and integratedvia desktop versionNoNot yet
Other toolsVery powerful and integratedvia desktop versionSee translationCoreNoNot yet well integrated

Publishing comparisons

Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudioAutographa LiteBiblelator editor
Exports availableUSX, HTML, others with SIL Pathwayvia desktop versionYesUSFM, HTML (1-column and 2-column) layoutClose to thirty different export formats (via the BOS)
Draft printing pathYesvia desktop versionThrough HTML (1-column and 2-column) exportThrough LibreOffice export
Document export path (and on to PDFs)With SIL Pathwayvia desktop versionThrough LibreOffice export
Typeset publishing path (and on to PDFs)Publishing Assistant (restricted distribution) with Adobe InDesign (expensive and can be sluggish)via desktop versionThrough SILE (evolving)
Direct PDF publishing pathvia desktop versionBuilt-in
Website publishing pathBuilt-in export to HTML (but no provision for hosting it)via desktop versionYes, after save to Door43 Content Service (DCS), a webpage is automatically created, and a clickable link provided in the appVia the Bible Drop Box
App publishing pathVia Scripture App Builder; also into YouVersion via the Digital Bible Library (DBL)via desktop versionThrough the Bible Drop Box and then the Bible Door app
Path to full Bible-study software version

Software comparisons

Note: This is a bit of a changing field, because an increasing number of Windows programs can run on Linux using Wine or Mono, and Android apps might soon be able to run on standard ChromeOS and possibly on other operating systems also.

Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudioAutographa LiteBiblelator editor
Statusv9.2 (released Nov 2021; some users still on v8)v9.1 (released Nov 2021)Deprecated (no longer being developed)Regular new versionsv12.1.1 (Oct 2019)v1.2.2v0.43 early-test release
DevelopmentProgramming team is continually improving PT (but has a large backlog of requests)Regular new versionsDeprecated (no longer being developed)Regular new versionsStagnated?OngoingCurrently moved to low priority
DistributionProgram itself is less restricted now from v8 onwards, but online Biblical resources are very restricted and still somewhat limited (see other translations above)Requires a Paratext registration codeFreely availableFreely availableFreely availableFreely availableFreely available
Installer availableYesYesYesNot yet
Available on LinuxUbuntu 14.04 Trusty LTS (PT 7.5,7.6β), 16.04 Xenial LTS (PT 8)NoYesYesYesYesAvailable now (in development)
Available on Android tabletNo (See Paratext Lite)YesNoYesYesNoHopefully
Available/usable on Android phoneNoNoNoYesNoNoNo
Available natively on ChromeOS (possibly ChromeOS will run all Android apps soon???)NoNoNoYesNoNoNeed to use developer mode to install Python and/or to install a Linux using Crouton
Available on 64-bit WindowsYes, 32-bit versionNoYesYesYesYesAvailable now (in development)
Available on OS XMaybe via Linux?NoDifficultYesYesNoUntested
Available on iOSNoNoYesNoNoNo
Automatic program updatesYes (although can be large which is not good in some internet-challenged areas; some new bugs get through; release notes not provided in advance)YesNoNoNoEventually
Automatic bug report submissionYesPartial
Openly documented and accessible verse synchronisation schemeCopenhagen Alliance versification specificationYes
Verse synchronisation works across devices (network aware)Planned
Programming languageC#/C++ with .NET/MonoC++HTML/JS/CSSJava (Android); NodeJS (desktop)NodeJS, React.jsPython3/Tkinter
Modular (for users)No, but some ability to add Python functionsNoNoNoPlanned
Planned new featuresUSFM3 support and more coming in v8.1Translation helps (host of open-licenced material); sync with ParatextCloud and Door43Many dreams but not enough time
Source code availableNoNoYesYesYesYesYes
HackableNoNoDifficult (C++)YesYesYesBy design (Python)


Paratext Paratext LiteBibledit-DesktopBibledittranslationStudioAutographa LiteBiblelator editor
Home and (v9.0 only) and Wiki and (requires account creation) (requires account creation)!forum/!forum/ and and and for
ReviewsNow-translation-teams-can-edit-scripture-on-any-device and Update-on-bibledit
Source codeN/AN/
Owner or creatorSIL & UBSSILFriends of Agape in partnership with Bridge Connectivity SolutionsRobert Hunt at