Christian Computing Magazine, August 2006, pp. 20-23
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This review is a follow-up article to CCMag's reader survey that showed Logos as the #1 Bible software package.
Logos Bible Software 3 – It’s Worth Every Penny
By Kevin Purcell - firstname.lastname@example.org
Logos Bible Software is a feature-rich, yet easy to use tool for reading and studying the Bible and Bible-related resources. Logos runs on an engine called Libronix Digital Library System that is used by many companies, including Logos Research Systems (the engine’s creator) and Thomas Nelson’s eBible, to name just a couple.
In our recent poll of readers, Logos was the number one tool owned and used. I have used Logos regularly for well over a year. My first experience was with the older version and it was not a good one; the new LDLS is much better. When I was first given a copy of LDLS it was Thomas Nelson’s eBible. I immediately fell in love with it.
Now in version 3, Logos is at the same time a simple to use tool for digital Bible study beginners and a complex, feature-rich powerhouse able to handle almost any Bible study need thinkable.
The Logos Home Page
When you first open the program, you get a useful, customizable home page. You can add a Bible Reading, a Quick Launch section providing access to recent tools documents and workspaces, prayer request lists and books on prayer, a lectionary reading for the week and devotionals. If you have an Internet connection, Logos provides news and blogs from Logos at the bottom. The My Library section which gives you a “Book of the Day” with a link to that book or the My Library dialogue box, which lists every book you have installed both locked and unlocked. This section also shows an image of random books with a new title flashing every few seconds. I often forget I have a book till I see it flash here.
The Home Page concept is what makes Logos so simple for new users. If you’ve never really used Bible Software before, then you can quickly get started doing advanced study using only the Home Page. Type your passage in, check “passage guide” for a huge collection of resources that relate to that passage. Logos lists the five most used commentaries first and then lists the rest.
As you can see in this picture, immediately to the right is a box with four links. The first opens the passage in a parallel versions window. You can see your text in as many different versions as you want or have installed. The second link opens a window with your passage in every Bible you have installed and unlocked. The third is the most helpful. It is called the Exegetical Guide and we will discuss it later. The final link searches every book you own for the passage. This can be helpful to find sermon and Bible study development material.
The biggest problem with the Home Page is that it points users down the wrong path exegetically. With the Passage Guide as the first link and commentaries listed first in the results window, it makes it seem like that should be one’s first step in studying the Bible. The first step should be to read the passage in multiple translations and make observations; then do language study. Reading commentaries should be the last thing a student does before writing a sermon or Bible study. The work flow of the Logos Home Page setup is backwards. This might be the reason many advanced users of the package turn off the Home Page altogether. I choose to use it, but one of the first things I do is click the links in the upper right corner before clicking the links to the plethora of commentaries, no matter how tempting.
The Exegetical Guide
When you do click on the Exegeitcal Guide link you find a plethora of useful information. It shows the Greek or Hebrew text, lists the most important words with a link to hear a pronunciation. You also get dictionary links. The little plus sign can be clicked to see the definition in that dictionary without having to open the dictionary. If you want to open it, just click the abbreviated title.
You will also find a link to “Visualizations” which in my version contained only the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek NT. OpenText is a project which is “a Webbased initiative to develop annotated Greek texts and tools for their analysis” (from the www.OpenText.org site). It visually shows the relationships of all the clauses and words in the Greek text. This can be helpful in trying to understand what words or phrases modify what other words or phrases in a text as you study. By the way, if you don’t have this book in your package, you can diagram the passage yourself using the Sentence Diagramming tool. I use this in English as part of my regular Bible Study. But language students usually use this in Greek or Hebrew. If you have already done a diagram for a passage it will be listed in the Passage Guide when you look up that passage.
The biggest problem with the Exegetical Guide is its speed. My computer is a workhorse with a lot of power, and it took forever to do an Exegetical report on a chapter from the book of Numbers. You can begin working on the early verses while it’s still finding information on the latter verse. But there is a lag as it searches.
Logos has some innovative tools not seen in other software. The Lemma Density Graph (see the previous picture and look for the colored graph next to each word) shows how often that word is used in the different parts of the Bible. Click the graph and, if you have the add-in (not all versions have this), Logos opens a tool called Graph Bible Search Results. It will show usage by book.
The Rest of the Passage Guide Report
Once you are finished with your original language study, you will want to go back to the Passage Guide report you generated and reread your text. You will see the commentaries, cross references like Treasury of Scripture Knowledge and then another innovative, visual tool called Biblical People. This add-on shows the relationships of people in the passage you are studying. Logos says it “makes understanding complex lineage and interpersonal relationships in the Bible easy …” (from www.Logos.com).
Some of the other great tools in the report are the Literary Typing report which shows the genre of the text you are studying, the Parallel Passages report which gives references that either cite your passage or are cited in your passage, and the Important Words report, which gives links of significant words in your text. As I said before, I like to diagram my passages in English. Any previously created diagram will be listed in the Passage Guide with a link to open it.
Another visual innovation in Logos is the Passage Guide report is the Verb River and Bible Cluster by Word Choice graphs. Both of these tools show the differences between translations. Using English translations, these will warn you if a passage has wide variations in translation. If a particular word, phrase or passage is very similar in most translations, then there is not likely to be any textual variations. However, if the graphs are all over the place, it will be a good idea to pay close attention to that verse or phrase in the original languages to guard against making theological conclusions based on just one translation.
At the bottom of your Passage Guide report is usually a long list of topics which can be overwhelming. Glance through the list to find a topic that is particularly useful. In my Numbers passage I noticed the term “honor” and since I am going to talk a little about the Honor of both Moses and Joshua, I clicked it. It gave me about a dozen resources where this topic is discussed.
Other Useful Tools
The Home Page is not all about the Passage Guide and the Exegetical Guide. You can do a word or topic study as well. With one click you have a huge list of resources to help you do a study of a particular theological term or a character study.
The Home Page may be one of the most unique things in Logos, but many advanced users don’t even use it. Rich DeRuiter is a Logos user and he says he doesn’t bother with the Home Page. He says, “The best thing about Libronix is the extensive and (for the most part) helpful library of resources.” Since Logos and eBible are so customizable, if you want to turn off the Home Page and start up Logos using the last set of books and tools you had open, you can. Or you can create a Workspace with your most-used books and save it. Then tell Logos to open it to that Workspace. One way to help organize the huge collections that the more advanced package comes with is to use the Favorites. Like bookmarks in a Web browser, Favorites take you to resources. Pick a book and start reading it. Each time you open Logos you can go to that work through the Favorites menu. Since I always use the same five books to do parallel passage study, I set it up as a favorite. Now I link to that favorite. You can set up all kinds of favorites.
Many users take all the notes in their Bible study tool. Logos has a bad reputation with its notes feature. However, it is simple and does the job. It allows you to attach notes to a word, a verse, a passage or by topic. It highlights the passage using an underline, a box around the word, an arrow or many other visual cues. The easiest way to add notes is to right click a highlighted word, verse or passage and then click add a note. You can set up multiple notes files and tell the program which files to show. The notes feature in Logos is at the same time too complicated and too simple. It is harder to get to it than it needs to be. In other software programs you can open a notes window and just by clicking on a verse or chapter or even a word you can add a note simply by typing in a notes window. It is too simple because there is very little in the way of formatting. One employee of Logos said this is by design. If you want to do complex formatting, then use a Word Processor. I happen to agree, but not all Bible Software users do. If you want advanced features in your notes, then Logos will disappoint. The final problem I have heard some people have with Logos notes is that the feature is unstable. Fonts will change on them and notes move from one passage to another. I have not experienced this but one of the users in the Logos newsgroups has.
Reading a book on screen can be challenging; Logos does help by letting you resize and change fonts to make it easier. However, I wish there was a way to export a book to a mobile device so you could read it on the road. Better still I wish that Logos would offer ability to sync with a mobile version. Thomas Nelson offers a PDA version of eBible. At this time, I know of no computer Bible software package that syncs to PDAs or Smart Phones. This is not a strike against Logos as much as it is against the entire industry.
One of the greatest strengths of Logos is the support you get. You can go to the Logos Web site and click on support and you will find articles, how-to video tutorials and a link to their great newsgroups. If you have Outlook Express or Thunderbird, then you can add their newsgroup server and ask questions, make suggestions and even read your notes. Check out http://www.logos.com/support/lbs/newsgroups for more information. On the bottom of your home page you will find some Blogs about how to use the software. If you buy a package from Logos, you will get a set of Morris Proctor’s Video Tutorials on disc. If you find them useful, sign up for his “Camp Logos” a two day seminar on how to use Logos. You will find more information at https://www.mpseminars.com/index.cfm.
If you are still using version 2.1, then don’t even think about it. Upgrade to 3.0 for free. You can see what’s new at http://www.logos.com/logos3. While some of the features I’ve covered will not be available in all packages, there are enough new tools in the base package to make it a worthwhile download for current users. If you are looking for a program or are unhappy with yours, give Logos a look; download the free version and see how it looks. You can add on books a few at a time or do the more cost effective thing – buy a package. Logos offers a variety of packages. The packages available from Logos start with the Christian Home Library for $149.95. The biggest and most expensive package is the Scholar’s Library: Gold edition, which will set you back $1,379.95. For the full comparison and listing of all the packages Logos offers go to their Web site at: http:// www.logos.com/products/info/comparison.
Thomas Nelson’s versions are not as expensive but also not as complete. They range from the eBible Discover Edition at $49.95 up to the Platinum Edition costing $399.95. Check them out at http:// www.nelsonministryservices.com/nms/dept.asp?dept_id=5069.
Despite the slow search speed and the less than complete notes function, Logos is a very complete collection of books offered in a feature rich, but simple to use interface. Whether you download the free version and only add a couple of books or you buy a package, it will be worth every penny.
© 2006 by Christian Computing Magazine. Used by permission of the editor.