Creating a STEP-Compatible Book Reader

A program which is able to read STEP books is called a book reader. Such a program can stand alone, or STEP compatibility can be incorporated into existing Bible software. In either case, we'll refer to the program as a book reader.

While STEP is an open standard and the STEP specification is readily available, the creation of a STEP-compatible book reader is not a trivial task. BSISG offers certain tools which simplify the process, but "simplicity" is a relative term.

Key technology hurdles in implementing your own STEP book reader include:

  • Your reader must be able to read RTF. The RTF specification is enormous and is constantly changing. Parsons Technology can give you information on which aspects of RTF need to be implemented, but plan on implementing all character and paragraph properties, including tables. You'll also have to implement embedded WMFs. Microsoft provides sufficient information in the RTF specification to support the parsing of RTF text, but displaying the document once it has been parsed can be tricky.
  • You must implement Unicode. Unicode is the international 16-bit-wide character encoding standard which permits STEP books to be published in any language in the world. You'll need to be able to map from a Unicode character to a font, which you must provide, for every supported language. Since the user will want to search for words and phrases in any of the supported languages, you'll need to support typing in any language. You'll have to map the English keyboard to other languages and convert the entered text to Unicode.
  • The STEP specification defines how Bible references work. There are several different verse numbering schemes, and varieties of opinions on which books constitute the Bible. Your program needs to be able to understand reference citations to all the Bibles in the STEP specification, of which there are generally more than most Bible programs currently support.

Toolkits from BSISG

If you're planning to develop a book reader and want to use the STEP Logo with your product, you need to get the Book Reader Toolkit from BSISG. The cost is $995 per year and includes:
  • Use of the STEP Logo on versions of the program developed while your toolkit license is active.
  • Copy of the STEP Publishers Toolkit for creating sample books for testing your book reader. (Note that you can't use this toolkit to create STEP books for distribution under the STEP Logo, nor will you be assigned a STEP Publisher ID, which is necessary for the creation of legitimate STEP books.)

If you plan to deliver STEP content along with a STEP book reader, you might want to sign up for the STEP Publishers Toolkit (see Information for Book Publishers). If you choose to do this, just let the STEP Administrator know that you intend to create a book reader and ship content. You will be eligible to use the STEP Logo on your reader as well as your content.

A short-cut for some programmers is to buy the STEP Programmer's Toolkit from Parsons Technology. The toolkit consists of a collection of 32-bit MFC Extension DLLs which implement an RTF control and provide object-oriented access to the STEP data files.

Just because your development environment lets you access DLLs does not mean you'll be able to use these MFC Extension DLLs. You must be developing using the Microsoft Foundation Classes in order to take advantage of these DLLs. Versions of the DLLs are available only for the latest version of the Microsoft Visual C++ compiler.

If you are developing on a platform other than Windows 95/NT, you're on your own. You might want to talk to one of the current STEP software companies about licensing source code to give you a head start.

The current price for the STEP Programmer's Toolkit is $1495.

Summary of Options for STEP Programmers


Description Cost
STEP Reader Toolkit includes use of the STEP Logo on your software and a copy of the Publishers Toolkit for development use only. One year, renewable. $995/year
STEP Publishers Toolkit includes the rights granted under the STEP Reader Toolkit plus the normal rights granted under the Publishers Toolkit license. One year, renewable. $4125 first year,
$995/yr. thereafter
STEP Programmer's Toolkit includes 32-bit MFC Extension DLLs for programmers using the Microsoft Foundation Classes. See license agreement for other terms. $1495

Creating a STEP Conversion Program

It's possible to create your own Conversion Program, which would let you build STEP books then use an existing book reader to read them. You'll have many of the same technological challenges as above, but with some thought it might be possible for an experience programmer simplify the task by restricting the features implemented. For example, there's no reason why simply books couldn't be created in a straight ASCII text format, with a minimum amount of RTF added during the conversion process to make the book look like STEP. The only thing you'll need is a copy of the STEP Specification and some time on your hands.

Communicating with Existing STEP Book Readers via DDE

Most of the Bible programs available today offer some form of communication with the outside world via DDE and/or OLE. If you are thinking of creating a custom application and would like to take advantage of STEP, it might be possible to wrap your application around an existing book reader.


I thought STEP was an "open standard." Why all these licenses and fees?

You're right, STEP is an open standard. That is, it is controlled by a group of companies (not just one company) that publish books and software in STEP and full details are readily available (that is, it's not private information). You're free to implement your own books and book readers in the STEP data format without paying anyone any fees.

On the other hand, if you'd like to use the software developed by Parsons Technology for BSISG to make it easier to create STEP books and book readers, there is a cost. A small part of this cost goes to offset the enormous investment Parsons has made in the development of these tools. The rest covers technical support and the cost of marketing STEP itself.

In order to protect the reputation of STEP and the reliability of the "STEP Compatible" attribute of books and readers, it is necessary to have some controls on the use of the Logo, which is a registered trademark of Parsons Technology. Parsons makes Logo licenses readily available. If you develop your own STEP books or book reader without using any of the BSISG tools, you can still license the STEP Logo.

I thought STEP was a group effort. Why does Parsons hold the trademark on the STEP logo?

The owner of the logo is responsible for defending any abuse. Until and unless BSISG is adequately capitalized to facilitate such protection, Parsons has agreed to take this responsibility on behalf of the companies involved in STEP. Licenses to use the logo include terms that allow ownership of the logo to be transferred to whatever organization the STEP participants later decide is in the best position to exercise the responsibilities thereof.

In order to keep control over the logo at arms length, Parsons has licensed Loizeaux Brothers Publishers, as the STEP Administrator, to license the logo to companies producing products complying with the STEP specification. Parsons does not have any control over who gets licenses, nor when they get them.

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Copyright 1999 by the Bible Software Industry Standards Group (BSISG). All Rights Reserved.