This past week, I was at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting, and I had breakfast with an old friend who used to work at Logos. We had a great time jawing about linguistics and biblical studies. He showed me his very nice fountain pens, and they were indeed nice. He likes to get in a park and away from distractions and just write. More power to him! But I found in myself an almost physical revulsion at the thought of writing without a keyboard. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a paper person, of course. I have friends who are paper people. But I am a digital guy. I love working in a digital environment. I can manage the distractions and still get stuff done. I just love the efficiency of working on a machine that can work as fast as I can think.
And that’s what I love most about Logos 10. It is noticeably faster than previous versions, especially on my Mac. I am a rather busy fellow whose fairly regular sermon preps must be done in off-hours. Logos makes that possible, and Logos 10 makes that sermon prep even more smooth.
Here at Logos, I consider myself something of a representative for our users. I actually meet new features with a quiet, skeptical eye, even when I have a small hand in creating them. I want to know: Will I actually use this tool? Here are the Logos 10 tools I am actually using for Bible study and sermon prep—or, because they’re so new—the tools I’m planning to use as time passes!
First is the vertical toolbar, new in Logos 10. I definitely met this with a skeptical eye. I was quite happy with my existing horizontal setup, and I’m something of a screen-space Nazi. When I first got a secret alpha version of Logos 10, deep in the warren of the Logos offices in Washington state, I promptly switched the toolbar back to horizontal.
But then I started hearing buzz. Our beta testers liked the new toolbar location. So I tried it, and I won’t go back. It really does make my screen usage more efficient for reading my Logos books. And I love having a nice big button that will pop up my top Bible.
When I prepare sermons, I’m often at a coffee shop and sometimes on an airplane. I like to maximize screen space; I have to. Sometimes I see how other people clutter their screens and fail to use all the space, and I can’t believe it. I rely so heavily on Logos that even these little things really matter to me.
Print Library Catalog
The biggest buzz about any Logos 10 feature has definitely been that surrounding the Print Library Catalog. This, too, I met with a skeptical eye, asking myself whether I and other users would actually use this. The buzz about this tool arose so high, so fast that the answer became obvious: Print Library Catalog is very much useful.
I began to consider why I was previously skeptical, and I had a quick answer: I have indeed used Google Books and Amazon to search books I don’t own—and books I do own, but which didn’t have a good index, or which happened to be at home while I was at the office or the coffee shop. Digital searching for keywords is almost always easier and better than using an index, anyway.
So, yes, I’ve been able to do something like Print Library Catalog for a long time. But one of the great things about Logos has always been that it pulls the tools of my Bible study and sermon prep life together. I have found over the years that I simply do not use my paper commentaries. Logos is just so convenient and efficient. It looks up passages quickly in my commentaries; it enables me to grab quotations easily and toss them into my sermon document; again, I just prefer digital sermon prep.
So what’s not to like about pulling a task I used to do in other apps into my favorite Bible study app? Now I can run one search instead of several.
For example, I bought Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics by Richard Muller, a very important work of historical theology that is frequently cited, a couple years ago. I’ve always wanted it in Logos. I just recently added it to my print library collection in Logos 10, and now search hits for topics I’m studying come up right in Logos, meaning Muller’s work becomes more useful to me.
Pastors who use Print Library Catalog in Logos 10 simply get broader—but still targeted—coverage in all their searches. This feature is worth the buzz.
As I move to the next feature of Logos 10 that’s valuable to me, it’s time to reveal a little secret: I have worked for Logos for seven years, beginning as a Logos Pro; I have taught others how to use Logos for something like 15 years; and yet I never could quite master the complicated search syntax we used to require.
I could sort of hack the system: I could generate searches through the right-click menu and then copy their syntax for use with my own keywords. But it still felt like speaking computerese rather than Biblese. I’m pretty tech-oriented, but I still found the old way daunting.
I just love what my colleagues have done to simplify advanced searches and to guide users in how to do them. Just the other day I was asked by a seminary professor with a PhD how to search for multiple Hebrew words that occur right next to each other in a particular order. The new “THEN” operator let me type a pretty simple query, one close to natural language—and it gave me lots of example searches to help me shape the one I wanted. All I typed—and I’ll use Greek here, because that’ll be a little easier for most users, and because it goes left to right, which is easier for the Word by Word blog!—was “ἀγάπη THEN τοῦ THEN θεοῦ.”
Knowing the simple operators like AND, NOT, THEN, and others is key, because “ἀγάπη BEFORE τοῦ BEFORE θεοῦ” finds something different (see below): it finds verses in which those words occur in that order, but possibly with intervening words. So if I’m looking for just one specific phrase, I want to cast a smaller and more precise net. The new Advanced Search tools helped me do that.
Next up: the translation tool in Logos 10. This, too, is something I used to use other software to do. I have a shortcut set up in Chrome to use Google Translate. But that means leaving Logos and, yes, possibly getting sucked into the social media vortex. Even though I said I can control myself and get stuff done, it’s still very nice to just right click some Latin or German in Logos and get an immediate machine translation.
Machine translations are not people translations. I’ve had many occasions to make this point in my own work on English Bible translation. But I was genuinely surprised when I first tried this new tool on a knotty bit of Latin in Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology and got a perfectly readable and—to me—obviously correct rendering of the sentences.
I will not use this tool every day. But I will definitely use it; it will be there for me whenever I encounter paragraphs such as these.
I’ll confess to a little more ambivalence about this feature—but I’m genuinely intrigued by it. It’s the Popular Quotes tool in the Sermon Builder. I was taught by own homiletical mentor to let my illustrations and quotations arise naturally out of wide reading. My mentor taught and modeled a system in which the preacher reads biographies and theologies and periodicals and fiction and anything else with a careful eye to what Bible passages any given anecdote or insight might illustrate. And then the preacher carefully files those away so that when preaching that passage, he’ll have a ready-made quote or insight or story. And given that I do not preach every Sunday, I’ve been able to keep up with that advice even as I’ve been a little less than diligent in keeping with the system. I can usually find illustrations from recent reading, just using the synapses between my ears.
But I’ve often thought that pastors who preach two to three times per week, which is what they do in my tradition, may just not be able to keep up the sheer amount of reading necessary to support their sermons with the kinds of choice illustrations my mentor used and still uses. It just has to be okay for preachers with different circumstances and different gifts to use illustrations and quotations collected for them by others. Better a pithy comment found for you by Logos than by your personal reading—if your personal reading would have found none at all.
So… the Popular Quotes tool in the Sermon Builder accesses existing collections of pithy comments on all kinds of relevant topics, and it allows you to drag and drop them into your sermon. Again: the purist in me wishes I could come up with all my sermon illustrations without help, but it is a simple truism of rhetoric that people are helped in many ways by good, striking quotes. And it was very nifty for me to go back into a recently preached sermon on Ruth 2, search for “kindness,” and drag and drop a great comment from J.C. Ryle into the very end of my sermon, a sermon I may use again. This is Logos helping actual preachers, like me. I work here because Logos helps me, and I like to help Bible preachers.
Import past sermons
I want to alert you to something else that’s new in Logos 10. I am, as I said, not a regular preaching pastor, though I teach regularly in Sunday school and other venues. But most of my writing is not for sermons, so I personally use another app for all my writing. But if I were preaching every week, I can’t think of anything that beats the Sermon Builder in Logos for writing and Sermon Manager for filing sermons.
In any case, the new tool in Logos 10 is the sermon importer. You can easily toss Word docs into the Sermon Manager, and it will intelligently figure out important details for you, so you can access that sermon later. I do find that I have to file my sermons away carefully, no matter what system I use, so that I’m ready for last-minute situations—and so I don’t preach the same illustration to people!
Text to speech
The last Logos 10 feature I’m personally excited about is the text-to-speech feature on our mobile apps. I’ve been using Logos a lot more on my iPad Pro and my iPad Mini recently (yes, I have two iPads, largely because the Mini fits in the telescoping gadget arm that enables me to read in bed at night as my wife sleeps!). There are a number of little improvements that have been made in those apps along with the release of Logos 10. It’s all just more polished and useful. But I am especially interested in having my phone read my Logos books to me while I drive or do yardwork.
We’ve been able to do this on desktop for a while (just hit ⌘R on Mac), but having it on mobile is a game-changer. Sometimes I really do just need to get through a book, even if I’m not able to pay 100% careful attention. I love audiobooks for this reason, and Goodreads tells me I’ve listened to 197 of them in the last few years. I’m also listening to numbers 198, 199, and 200 right now in various apps. Some genres, like commentaries and probably technical journal articles, aren’t good for audio listening; and computer voices always require a little extra focus. But I subscribe to the read-by-whim school of reading, as well as the keep-pouring-soup-through-the-sieve school. I just like to always be pouring as much wisdom and knowledge into my brain as I can. I feel confident that there are some titles in my Logos library that I wouldn’t have listened to but for this new tool. I’m pretty excited about this possibility. Truth in advertising: I have only tested this feature in Logos so far, but I did once listen all the way through a biography with my favorite iOS voice, and it stuck with me. I was definitely able to follow and enjoy what I read.
A reminder to Apple users—and I believe it’s similar for Windows and Android users: I have to urge you to make sure to select the best voices on your OS. For iOS, I think it’s “Allison”; for Mac OS, I think it’s “Ava.” (I do not know what to recommend on Windows or Android.)
I’ve given you a pretty personal look at my favorite Logos 10 features. And I hope you hear in my approach that I’m on your side. I just want to see Bible teachers preach and teach with the best tools, and the one I’m always turning to is Logos. It does seem that in every release, we’re able to do new things that our users are genuinely grateful for. And that pleases me greatly, both as an employee here and as a Bible teacher who uses the same Logos tools you do.
For more information on Logos 10, just go to logos.com/10. You can decide then whether an upgrade or a new base package is right for you. Preachers out there, I generally say you should get Standard Logos Gold unless you’re sure you’ve done your homework and have a better idea. And those of you who are more academic, or have better book budgets, do what I did many years ago, and get at least Platinum. To check out a full list of books and tools you’ll get, please do go to logos.com/10. Study the Bible with the best tools, and live in the Word!