Logos Bible Software: A Review
By Dan Phillips
For several months now, I have been using Logos Bible Software in addition to BibleWorks 7. I began with the Scholar's Library: Silver, then upgraded to Gold. I've also added language reference modules and commentaries.
I've used various Bible study programs over the years. At first, in the 1980's, I used Gramcord for Greek. Then I used BibleWindows (now called Bibloi). Somewhere in the 90's I switched to BibleWorks, which I've used ever since (ever since version 3, I think). I've been through it's buggier and more awkward stage, and now enjoy robust and stable version 7 on a daily basis.
I stepped into the Libronix Digital Library System in order to use the Theological Journal Library, for a convenient way to search Biblically related journals.
And so, Logos? I'd always passed by Logos because of its price, frankly, because I didn't really love the Libronix engine. Besides, I was very happy with BibleWorks.
Now I'm a Logos initiate. Here are my....
I've used Logos pretty extensive over the last half-year plus, and have developed a feel for it.
What stands out above all is what an amazing resource it is. You can do a "Passage Search" on any Biblical text and, within a few minutes, have all the references to that text in all the commentaries in your database, plus much more. For instance, I laid in Luke 4:29, and when the search was done I had about twenty commentaries, cross-references, listings in six Gospel harmonies, SermonCentral.com listings of ten sermons (with more available), a map, listings from the journals I have loaded, and a good bit more.
From that window, click on the "Exegetical Guide," and I have the text in Greek, references to any grammatical notes on it (Burton, in this case), the Novum Testamentum Graece's critical apparatus, and lexical listings on each word, including articles in TDNT and EDNT. Plus, there are syntactical diagrams.
If I click on "Search Entire Library," after a longer stretch I have every reference to that verse in every commentary, theology, book, dictionary, church father, journal, or any other Libronix resource in my database. The result is simply a massive array of resources, all available at a click. (In this particular case, it listed 665 resources.)
At that one click, the particular resource opens in its own window, at the place where the passage is referred to. If I then copy that passage to Word, it also automatically copies the bibliographical information in a footnote, formatted.
You can also study words, topics; you can set it up for a daily Bible reading schedule, or for use with devotionals. I have it set for Spurgeon's Morning and Evening.
My couple of experiences with their technical support were entirely positive. I had a live person online with me within a few minutes, and the answers I needed not long after that. Knowledgeable, friendly, responsive, top-notch.
Another wonderful feature is the extensive hypertexting. Every Bible reference is hypertexted, so that with a simple mouse-over you can see the verse. But it goes far beyond that. References such as Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, or Metzger's textual commentary on the Greek NT, contain names and symbols you may not immediately be able to identify. No worries: mouse-over, and you'll be reminded the manuscript name, date, library, and contents; or the church father's date, the scholar's name, and on and on. This extends to all manner of acronyms and resources and names, all available at a mouse-over.
Also, the fonts and type-setting (to use an archaic term) are very pleasing to the eye. It isn't all just 12-point Arial; the font and the layout are, as far as I can tell, the same as the hard copy version.
Plus Logos provides a great variety of tools for interaction with the text, including the ability to highlight text and affix the equivalent of marginal notes.
As I mentioned, I've already added to my initial investment. I intend to keep doing so. In fact, Logos notifies its customer base when it is contemplating converting a book to its format. By expressing interest, you move the book towards listing as a project, and get a discount on it to boot; I'm lined up to purchase several as it is.
It used to be that I'd go on vacation with a ton of books. Now I just bring my laptop — and, with it, thousands of books and journals. Thanks to Logos!
Impressions: less favorable
It is a bit ponderous. The search on Luke 4:29 mentioned about took 77 seconds, on a pretty fast computer. If you leave Logos to work on other programs, then come back to it, it can take some time to "wake up." But Logos is searching a massive database and, while I don't love that about it, I don't mind it. I just start the search, go work in another program, then return after a couple of minutes.
Plus, it simply isn't easy to make one's way around in lightly, quickly, and deftly in Logos; or, if it is, I still haven't mastered it. Switching translations, looking up words, checking individual resources — I haven't found the quick and easy way to do it.
It is expensive, I won't lie to you. But some of the sting is taken off if you qualify for Logos' very generous Academic Discount program; but it's still quite a few Happy Meals. Nonetheless, the result is an extraordinarily useful and powerful resource. How many times have you paged through book after book looking for something you think you remember reading? Logos could do the search in a fraction of the time, if you have the resource electronically.
Also, I admit to my shame that I find it not totally intuitive. It's a very powerful program, but very powerful usually = very complex. You can customize it to a degree, but the customizations aren't easy to find nor manipulate — and I say this as an IT professional. Contrast this with BibleWorks, which concentrates virtually all its customizations in one place.
To offset the complexity of the program, Logos provides a wealth of training videos for free, both with the program and online. Plus there are online sites, blogs, and many resources. But I have the frustrating knowledge that I'm only scratching the surface of a very powerful tool.
You know I reviewed BibleWorks very favorably both here and at my blog. You have to wonder which tool I recommend.
First, let me dither and beat around the bush a bit. Choosing just one of the programs is an apples and oranges proposition, or scalpels and chain-saws. To tell you which is better, you have to tell me what you want it for. If you want to cut down a tree, a scalpel is a terrible tool; if surgery — step away from the chain saw. And so, each program does what the other doesn't.
At first, I wondered whether Logos could replace BibleWorks. I looked for my favorite BibleWorks features. I can tell you now: it can't, and they weren't there. Logos simply does not do what BibleWorks does, even fractionally as well. I am absolutely in love with BibleWorks' speed, lightness, power, and integration. For exegetical work, it's a dream. But almost above all, I love the verse-by-verse text editor that brings it all together. And BibleWorks is very decently priced. For under $400, you simply cannot beat the gold-mine of tools BibleWorks provides.
you'll recall that I have upgraded Logos from Silver to Gold, have added resources, and plan to add more. Why? Because Logos has BibleWorks beat as a comprehensive, massive database. It simply is a tremendous work-horse of a resource for sermons, papers, theses, research — and Pyro posts! I'm glad to have it, and I expect to keep adding and upgrading.
The practical upshot is that when I do my Bible reading, studying, sermon prep, I have both open, and I use both. I use BibleWorks primarily, but also use Logos.
So which one do I recommend? Both. For working in the languages, and the text of Scripture directly, BibleWorks. For whole-field research and breadth and depth of study, Logos. My heart belongs to BibleWorks, but I've grown to respect and appreciate Logos. I only see it getting better and better, and expect to keep building and using it indefinitely. I'm glad to be able to use both.
For further reading
The review by Andrew D. Naselli discusses the concept, scope, strengths and future of e-books in general, and reviews Logos' Gold version in particular, comparing it with other Bible study tools.
Mark V. Hoffman has an impressive array of links to Logos and BibleWorks, including user-created downloads that can be added to each of the to resources, reviews and discussions of programs.
Phil Gons posts a helpful brief comparison of BibleWorks and Logos that includes links to other reviews and discussions.
There are scads of pbb (Libronix compatible) files available for free at Truth Is Still Truth. The scope is amazing; you'll find works by John Owen, B. B. Warfield, Boston, Watson, John Gill, Alexander Maclaren, and a host of others. They're all formatted for Libronix (which Logos uses), and they're all free. Find instructions for using the downloads here.
Any such resource becomes part of the Logos database.