The Northern Spy Reviews Logos for Mac
By Rick Sutcliffe
CEO Bob Pritchett, describes this as a family business, though it now has over 160 employees, and regularly sends the Spy's other mailbox (in the TWU computing science department) ads for programmers who want to write "code that matters". Located just across the bump at the forty-ninth parallel and down to Bellingham WA, it's got potential for a relationship, though none of his students have taken the bait as yet.
For years Logos has been offering the PC world an ever elaborating library of Bible study software, but the Spy has steadfastly ignored same, as he'd always rather run real software on a real computer, and never mind the cheap imitation machines that crash daily. Things are looking up, for Logos products are now available on the Mac.
He was sent for review the Scholar's Library (standard level) on disk for $629.95 (no printed manual included). This is one of a series of products available in five versions, ranging from the Bible Study Library at $259.95 to the Scholar's Library: Gold at $1379.95 (W*nd*ws has two more versions including one at $149.95)
The program installs as Libronix DLS, which, as readers will recall from a couple of months ago, confused the Spy, given that the packaging just mentions Logos Bible software, and Libronix appears only in the fine print copyright notices. Apparently Libronix is a Logos subsidiary, which makes sense, as it could be marketed as a standalone eBook library manager and used in other contexts.
At the Scholar's Library level the customer receives a vast number of Bibles, Bible MS fragments, lexicons, reference materials, study tools, and a considerable collection of history, theology, ministry, leadership, and other resources. At the very top end (:Gold), a number of additional works are added into the mix, including critical apparatus, apologetics works, more references, and multivolume sets such as The United Bible Society Handbooks and the journal Semeia. The Logos site has a detailed comparison chart of the various products along with a large number of supplemental offerings that can be added as one-ofs (for a price of course).
When you first fire up Libronix you get a news (home) window and an alert box (can be turned off). This gives Logos two opportunities to upsell to new library materials, upgrades, and the like. For instance the latest alert wanted to know if I would like to upgrade my Nelson unlock (if I had it) to over 500 works, including additional materials by John MacArthur and new reference works the company publishes.
For Christians, the Living Word means everything, and the Written Word (mediated by the Holy Spirit) that reveals Him is their only source for doctrine. Getting it right is therefore critical. (Aside: some travelers found in Christian churches tend to extend this to being right about everything else as well, an unfortunate side-effect, but one that will pass when both faith and self-righteousness become sight.) However, this means one needs to know: 1. What the word says, 2. What it means in the original context, 3. How to apply it in the current and personal context.
Bible software handles the first of these and assists with the second. The third may be aided via an extensive library of commentary, apologetics, and Christian living advice, as well as an uncommon dose of common sense, though it is always amazing how much light the scriptures themselves throw on the commentaries.
Thus, the heart of any Bible software is the search engine, and Libronix, as befits a library manager paradigm, places this menu immediately after Apple's obligatory File and Edit menus and approaches the function liberally. (Should he use that term here?) The user has the option of a basic search (defaults to all available resources), a Bible search (defaults to all available Bibles but can be specified down to specific versions, Bible books, or even MS fragments), and Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic morphological searches (type the English word and specify the conjugation or declension).
A morphological search will produce a list of results with the tagged original language context, paralleled in what ever texts the user has specified. The default for Greek is all the Logos-supplied texts that come with their morphological tags. It took the Spy a couple of tries and a trip to the help files to determine how to use this tool, but it is quite powerful, even if non-intuitive.
Crossing the bar, the "Go" menu offers the choices "My Library", "Topic Browser", and "Reference Browser" for direct access to the complete indexed text of specified or selected resources. For instance, one can pull up the complete eBook text of, say, a specific John MacArthur title, if it is available in the purchased collection. Using the View: menu, one can then display a hyperlinked contents pane for navigation through the book in question.
The "Favorites" menu allows one to maintain a list of commonly accessed texts, partly for restricting searches, if so desired.
The "Tools" menu allows one to manage the contact details, set up an account and purchase additional books and resources from Logos, define "collections' do some library management, do Bible study with a passage or exegetical guide, a word study, or a parallel version (KJV, NIV and NASB) comparison. For instance, Typing John 1:1-2 in the passage guide gives a list of all the resources (commentaries, etc) with material available explicating that passage. The exegetical guide for the same passage (you can switch back and forth from either) gives a word by word breakdown of the verses hyperlinked back in to the context. (It would be better if the hyperlinks were to a Greek Lexicon, though.)
Logos earns an A+ from the professor for the web site, which not only has detailed product and individual resource info, but support, blogs, RSS feeds and a wealth of information.
In all, the Spy has only minor quibbles. First, as previously noted in this space, installation was confusing, with a customer ID, a customer code, an activation code, and a serial number to consider. It required an email to complete the process. If this arcane installation process is a PC world staple, it's no wonder the Mac side harbours so many refugees. Second, personal information is requested multiple times--when installing, when setting up an account, in the program info, when asking for the widget (Bible lookup), etc. Once is enough. Third, the Tools/Account Management menu item has nothing to do with the user's account at Logos, and is merely yet another repository of personal information sent to them for who knows what purpose. Fourth, some information of the website is not coordinated. For instance, the product info says that the Scholar's Library: Silver is the lowest to have the Vulgate, but the product comparison shows it is now in all versions. Fifth, and perhaps most important, there is no obvious way to add works to Libronix except through Logos. Finally, two products, and a few of the site tools, such as software update, are still PC only.
The bottom line: The Logos product is not (yet) the thousand pound gorilla of Bible study software. That honour goes to Accordance, available only on the Mac, and for many in religious Studies, sufficient reason by itself to buy that platform (their killer ap). On the other hand, for scholars it is light years ahead of, say, free software such as the late Ken Hamel's Mac version of Online Bible--not that the latter isn't a useful program for casual study, but it's future is perhaps unclear.
However, the Libronix/Logos product is, nonetheless compelling, especially for a first version of an initial Mac offering. The UI is well done (doesn't look like a port), searches are fast and comprehensive, the morphological mark up excellent, and the web-based support superb (contact support not tested enough to say). If what you want to do is manage a large library of related materials, this is the product for you. It would be interesting to see Libronix as a standalone eBook manager, at least allowing user materials to be added, and perhaps as a university textbook container. (Somebody has to do it, so why not?) Buy at least the scholar level, if you can spring for the bucks. Highly recommended.