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motukarara reviewed on 11 Dec 2007
Our church had been using an old near-death pc with powerpoint for displaying hymns and visuals during the sermons. It was so painfully slow and unreliable that I decided I'd buy the church a new machine and software.

I did a shootout with every "worship application" I could find, both pc and mac. The criteria we used was a combination of reliability, media playing capabilities, ease-of-use for barely-trained volunteers and the ability for a more savvy operator to "improvise" during the service and create speaker support on the fly.

At the end of the shootout i took 5 of the best apps up to the various volunteers and sat each one down and tried working them through how the various applications worked. In each case the favorite application was propresenter (mac only) with liveworship in second place. Both use a similar "slide layout" view where you can just poke what you want to see on screen and it dissolves up.

In the end, propresenter won out because it has built-in bibles, the ability to switch to a live video via firewire (albeit slightly delayed. Its a cheap stopgap replacement for a switcher though) and a separate organization for sermons, announcements and songs. The mac version performed faster than the pc version, so I bought the church a core 2 duo imac.

Its a tough call for me. Liveworship has worked out for us, and most of the volunteers have gotten comfortable with it. The built-in-powerpoint-support doesnt exist for the intel build, so we end up running all guest powerpoints (and man do people love making ugly powerpoint presentations) with keynote.

However, while liveworship has the bigger feature set and buzzwords, there are some issues. Managing your backgrounds and movies requires a lot of time. You have to right click on each image individually and choose delete then confirm it. If you do bother importing a powerpoint as an image sequence, you have to manually delete each of the slides (and each slide build) manually or they clog up your image library.

The layout options are rudimentary, but honestly, that just keeps the screen from getting too muddied with volunteers doing the layouts.

To keep parity between the pc and mac version, all the extra formats that mac quicktime can play via plugins (wmv, flv, etc) are disabled. I find this extremelly frustrating. I can see why they'd want to keep the file formats cross compatible, but since merging bits of liveworship presentations between multiple machines is absurdly complex and frustrating, I would MUCH rather them make it so that you get a warning on importing and saving, (but allow you to use the files anyways). I suggested that on the liveworship forum and the suggestion was seemingly ignored.

Merging lw files between machines is so convoluted that nobody in our church is willing to create presentations on machines other than the one used on sundays. As a result, the extremely generous licensing plan for liveworship is... well, at least for us, its pointless aside from people learning the software on their own time.

Our church had over 400 hymns in powerpoint that nobody was wanting to re-enter. I ended up using the liveworship powerpoint conversion utility, (which seems to rely on you having powerpoint on the machine using it) and was able to convert all 400 hymns with minimal effort. We are still going through and tweaking layouts and fonts and backgrounds for each, but having the song there in the first place makes this a simple task, which only has to be done once per song.

I'm giving lw 4 stars. Its not perfect. There are some frustrating limitations and the software has been in a perpetual state of beta since I purchased it. However, despite the negative points about the software, I am convinced I bought the right package for our church. Its not the easiest to use, or the most powerful, or the most feature packed, or the most stable, or the most compatible, but it was the most balanced of all those variables, offering all the features we needed with an interface that was simple to learn and with the power there for the people willing to spend enough time to figure out how to use it.

If I was buying for my own use, I would totally buy propresenter. Buying for a small church with multiple helpers? I'm convinced liveworship is the best option.

If you are seriously considering worship software, I encourage you to download demos of Liveworship (mac & pc) propresenter (mac only), easyworship (pc only), songshow+ (pc only) and mediashout (pc only). A side by side comparison is infinitely better than all the words I can write.

Hope that helped!
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