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September 2000

Tim's Top Ten: Software Comparison List

By Tim Eason

Microsoft PowerPoint has been the standard in presentation software for many years. It has also been the program of choice for many churches that use it to display text and graphics during services. While PowerPoint has served the Church well, some limitations have become apparent when used in a worship setting. For instance, spontaneous navigation of a presentation is difficult. If a worship leader decides to sing a song that has not been prepared, there can be an unacceptable delay while the lyrics are accessed. Another challenge in this situation is to hide the computer operator's actions. Assembling presentations for worship every week can be a time consuming process because PowerPoint was not designed with the Church in mind.


During the past several years, Christian computer programmers have stepped up to the plate to meet the ever-growing projection needs of the Church. The stories behind the development of these programs are inspiring. No one would have guessed that eventually a choice would need to be made on which worship display software to use. Just one program would have been great! We are going to take a look at ten applications designed for worship and leave the choice to you.


Except where noted, these programs take advantage of Windows 98's dual-graphics feature. In order to utilize this function, the computer must be equipped with two graphics cards or a graphics card with two or more outputs. If your computer only has one card, it is fairly inexpensive to add a second card. Graphics cards can be found for under $100 at most computer stores. Using the dual-screen function allows a program to use your computer monitor as the control screen, while the second graphics card is connected to your video projector for displaying the songs. Most of the programs listed are available in a demonstration format. I highly recommend trying each program in a worship setting before purchasing. Be sure to visit each web site for more detailed information.


HymnShow
HymnShow imports and automatically formats texts from HymnSearch, Integrity's Worship Software, or CCLI's SongSelect. Each song is saved as a slide. Slides can then be assembled into a medley. Navigation is accomplished with hot-keys and programmable bookmarks. This is a single-screen application. Backgrounds may consist of solid colors, gradients, or picture files. Any font and font color may be used.


Media Shout
Media Shout is the new kid on the block. This program incorporates many advanced features for a version one application. Media Shout uses a script format to organize a series of cues. Types of cues include text, lyric, graphic, Bible, video, and audio. Cues inserted into a script may be set to fire automatically or manually. A preview monitor shows a selected cue before it is fired. Transitions and soundtracks may be assigned to most cue types. Media Shout will also access MP3 audio files.


Omega Worship Song Programmer
Background story as told by Steve Ericsson:
"We developed the software in late 1980's as an alternative to overheads and PowerPoint and other slide based programs for our clients. Due to an outpouring of requests from visitors to our client churches, we decided to overhaul the software and develop it to run on Windows so it could be distributed individually, or as part of a display system."


Overview:
Worship Song Programmer is a straightforward, easy-to-use application to display songs with a dual-screen enabled computer. Songs may be searched by title, first line, or key line. A song set may be put together for orders of worship. Clicking the desired song in the list will display the song contents on the control monitor. Double-clicking a section of the song will display the lyrics on the second screen. Font attributes and background colors are user selectable. A Mac version of this program is also available.


Presentation Manager
Presentation Manager uses dual-screen technology to assemble and control the projection of songs, pictures, and Bible passages. Using the optional digitizer card enables Presentation Manager to overlay words onto live video or AVI files. 3000 songs are included for churches with a CCLI license. Play-lists of songs are easily sequenced for orders of worship. A search feature is included to spontaneously locate and display songs. Nursery alert and other messages can be overlaid during a presentation. Five bible translations are included.


Projections for Praise
Background story as told by Jessica Riner:
"Once upon a time an innovative housewife and church volunteer had the brilliant idea to pre-package praise and worship lyric slide shows. She had a lot of creative talent... but she didn't have the technical know-how to develop software. She called her prayer-group friend and computer graphics guru to help her. And that was the beginning of their partnership Christian Design Concepts was born and Projections for Praise is the first of many graphic concepts to be developed."


Overview:
Projections for Praise is a very easy to use application that accesses self-running PowerPoint presentations. No slide preparation is involved. Each CD contains 16 songs that may be selected from a menu screen that appears after the CD is inserted. A navigation menu is located in the corner of each screen, allowing the operator to choose verses and choruses for display.


Prologue Worship Leader
Background story as told by Lou Douros:
"We began through the frustration of linear systems while providing graphics for Promise Keepers events. By giving the operator heads-up display of graphics choices, we eliminated the associate director position and gave the operator the ability to manage the 1200 possible cues at each event. Prologue is in it's second full, non-beta year at PK events, Maranatha Music Worship Leaders Workshops, Nationally Broadcast Concert of Prayer and it's first full year at Saddleback Church's Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, Assemblies of God Celebration 2000 (Indianapolis RCA Dome), Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Amsterdam 2000, North American Baptist National Conference and thousands of churches across America."


Overview:
Prologue uses an intuitive drop-and-drag interface to access songs and build worship services. A preview window shows the operator the slide, or "cue", to be shown next. Backgrounds may be placed into songs by simply dragging a graphic from the image bin onto the song cue. Some very elaborate transitions, including an impressive fade effect, may be applied to the cues. Prologue incorporates a nursery alert feature, which allows the operator to display a number or 5-letter message in the corner of the screen.


Songbase/Video PresenteR
Background story as told by programmer Dave Berryman:
"Originally, the program was designed to aid in production and organization of chord charts for our worship team in Kelowna, BC. Dave Ruis was leading the team and he suggested that I should develop the software to include a few choice features that would appeal to most worship leaders. The Vineyard Music Group saw the program and gave permission, which allowed us to place all their music into the program. They continue to support the vision of making music and chord charts readily available to the body of Christ through our Songbase program."


Overview:
Songbase is primarily a song management program designed for worship leaders. Its companion program, Video PresenteR, is designed to project lyrics from the Songbase database. Video PresenteR is a dual-screen application. Songs may be searched by title or lyric for immediate display. Songs may also be pre-selected for use in an order of worship. Font attributes that can be adjusted include size, color, line color, and shadow color. 100 backgrounds are also included for application to the slides.


SongShow Plus
Background story as told by programmer Doug Reece:
"SongShow Plus received its inception back in 1995 just months before our church was to install a new computer based projection system. Several in the church who were technically astute immediately started suggesting how we could use PowerPoint for presenting our songs. Being part of the worship team myself for several years, I realized that the features PowerPoint provided, while good, were inadequate for the kind of worship setting our church has, which tends to be more spontaneous than linear. As a professional software developer, I gave this some thought and decided I could build a program that would be more suitable to our needs. I few months later, we unveiled the new projection system along with an early rendition of what would become SongShow Plus. Version 1 became available for sale in the fall of 1997."


Overview:
SongShow Plus incorporates several powerful features. When building a worship service, a user can search the song database by title, keyword or phrase, key, tempo, or even theme. If this search engine sounds similar to CCLI's SongSelect, that's because SongShow will interface directly to SongSelect and DASAN's Songbase, saving hours of time creating a song library. SongShow will access PowerPoint and other third-party software. This program also includes a song usage report. Version four adds many features such as new transitions and Bible access.


WorshipBuilder 2000
Background story as told by programmer Don Wuebben:
"I have 17 years of Information Technology experience with the last 6 years managing a document imaging archive of over 2 billion pages. Over dinner with my worship pastor I learned that his secretary was spending 3 hours preparing slides for each worship presentation. It wasn't a big leap to translate what I had been doing in Corporate America to the Church and say, 'There has to be a better way.' WorshipBuilder is that way. Worship is my passion. Technology is just an enabler."


Overview:
WorshipBuilder works in conjunction with Microsoft PowerPoint and Word, which run in the background. Elements of a presentation are stored in various categories, such as songs, announcements, and graphics. PowerPoint presentations, graphic files, document files, and HTML files are among the file types recognized by WorshipBuilder. When preparing a worship presentation, these items may be placed into an order of worship. With one click of a button, WorshipBuilder will automatically create a new PowerPoint presentation from the information in the order of worship. WorshipLeader is a presentation controller program. This feature allows non-linear control of the worship presentation. The control screen gives the operator access to any slide in the presentation, which will be shown full-screen on the projector when selected.


Worship Software
Background story as told by Philip Manwaring:
"Worship Software was developed by Dan Homp when he was asked to take on the music program at a small startup church. He quickly realized that there was much involved in organizing and running a program with excellence and decided to create a tool to help him administrate and find great resources for each occasion. He later teamed up with Integrity to further develop the program as a product to help worship leaders everywhere."


Overview:
Worship Software is a program that manages music staff, equipment, songs, and worship services. The SongView plug-in adds the functionality of displaying songs in a presentation format. Song sequences may be programmed in advance. An operator may navigate the presentation by referring to a printout and using hot-keys. This is a single monitor system that allows for on-the-fly song selection through a small, discrete window at the bottom of the screen. SongView also includes a simple announcements feature that displays text-only information.

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