Publisher: Logos Bible Software
Version reviewed: 3.0e
Cost: $25 - $1,380
Reviewed: April 26, 2008
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Logos is the General Motors of Bible Software. It has the biggest market share, but more nimble, and perhaps functional,
competitors are nipping at its heels. It still has a lot going for it, but is starting to grow long in the tooth. And
to complete the analogy, it has both vocal critics and ardent supporters.
Bob Pritchard is the founder and CEO of Logos. After reading his book, Fire Someone Today, a wonderful and refreshing
guide on how to run a small software company, my admiration of Bob grew immensely. He seems like a wonderful and intelligent
programmer and businessman. But does that translate into useful Bible software? We will see.
In a way, I didn't look forward to reviewing this particular package, saving it for nearly the end of my work. Logos has
such breadth, and so many tools, that I knew I would not be able to mention all, or maybe even most, of them in my review.
Though I made a disclaimer in my Intro that I simply would not be able to review every single attribute and feature, this
premise probably hurts Logos the worst, as it has the most to show. In spite of that, I hope the spirit of the review
gives it a fair shake.
I first have to get something off my chest. When Logos starts, it plays a 10-second musical ditty. I'm not sure why, but it is
extremely annoying. The fact that there is no option to turn this off is simply baffling. It means you can't start Logos on your
laptop and not draw attention to yourself from anyone in the vicinity. [ Update 4/28/08: A reader informed me on how to turn this
off. God bless that man! ]
The Logos interface takes some getting used to. It certainly isn't flashy, or the easiest product to use, but is one of the most
powerful. If you choose not to use the Home Page feature, which I will discuss below, Logos first opens up with a blank screen.
You can use the My Library popup window to select the books you want on your desktop. As you open your books, they all appear
in individual windows overlapping each other on the right half of the screen. You have to either use the "Tile" buttons to have
Logos automatically arrange your windows, or you must drag them around to a desired location. Windows that overlap each other
have a set of tabs at the bottom so that you can reach books that are "behind" the current book without having to shut down or
move the window.
However, in spite of that, Logos has a tendency to get cluttered quickly, and does not manage its real estate as well as some of
its competitors. This is unfortunate, as Logos has such a wealth of tools and features that it becomes tedious to constantly battle
the "window creep," as I call it. This is one of two places where Logos falls down significantly; the user interface often gets
in the way of what you are trying to accomplish, and I often found myself having to stop and close or relocate windows in order to
continue with my work.
Logos has taken an interesting approach to linking resources. When you open a book, it is not automatically linked to any other
books. You must click the link button on the top of the window and select a link "set". There are six link sets, so you can assign
one set of books to one link set, and another book to another set. This provides flexibility not available in any other package,
allowing you to move around in one set of books without disturbing the current place in another set of books. However, I wish the
books would automatically default to linked, as I find the first thing I always have to do when opening a new commentary or such is
to link it.
Double-clicking on a word in any text will open up a related resource. This resource is whatever book Logos best decides fits the
particular word that was clicked. This is called "keylinking" and can be very powerful method aid in your study. Most other packages
always have a default single action that occurs when you double-click on a word in text, but keylinking opens up a wealth of options
and personal choice in the matter. There is a Keylink Options window that will allow you to change the behavior of the keylink feature,
and the order in which various secondary resources will be used for the word in question.
If that wasn't enough, if you right-click on a word you are presented with literally dozens of choices on what to do with that word.
You can have it open a window with all the various keylink options (very helpful for a full word study), execute a Bible word study, do
a number of different searches on that word, or look it up in a number of listed dictionaries or encyclopedias.
The heart and soul of Logos, in my opinion, is all the tools and cool things you can do over and above studying the text and accompanying
linked materials such as commentaries and dictionaries. Some of them are built-in to the engine, and some of the are add-ins that come
with some of the boxed products, and all can be purchased individually from the web site. There are so many features that I can't hit
them all, but here are some of them that stand out.
Compare Bible Versions: This is a really slick parallel version comparison. You choose your Bible texts and a base version, and this
tool will show you for each version, the percent of words that are different than the base version. In addition, each text is listed in
a columnar fashion, with the different words actually highlighted so you can quickly see how each version differs from your base. Very nice.
Bible Clusters: This is just a graphical version of the Compare Bible versions tool, using a scatter-graph to show which versions are
closest to each other.
Difference Rivers: Another graphical view at version differences. It basically
shows a line graph, with each point on the x-axis relating to a verse in the passage, and the thickness of the line for each version
varying at each point according to its divergence from the base version.
Home page: Logos power users shun those who use the Home Page as 98-pound Bible study weaklings. :)
But I find the Home Page a useful starting point to use Logos. Basically it is a startup window that gives you four options: Quick Search,
Passage Study, Topic Study, and a Word Study. Since one of these is what I do 95% of the time when I fire up Logos, the Home Page is very
useful to me. Various providers of Logos resources often provide different Home Page variations tailored to their product.
Passage Guide: The Passage Guide is my single, most-favorite feature in Logos. You type in a passage and a window appears with
everything you would want to know that can be provided by Logos on that passage. There is a Commentary section, a Cross Reference
section, a section listing parallel passages if they apply, important words listed in this passage (each of which can be clicked for
more detail), Bible Cluster and Difference Window graphics, maps, music (yes, some passages have related music), related topics, and
illustrations. Each section I listed is expandable and hyperlinked to all the various referred resources. It is basically a
launching-pad for a full study session or message/lesson preparation.
Exegetical Guide: The EG is very similar to the PG, except that all the sections are related to a deeper original language-oriented
study of the passage.
Compare Pericopes: I'm sure you are familiar with Bibles that have summary titles at the beginning of passages that give you an
idea of what is in the next few verses. Did you know these are called "pericopes"? I didn't either. Many scholars, especially the
more elitist ones among us (I'm sure you know one or two) snub their noses at pericopes, demeaning them as arbitrary or encouraging shallow
Bible study. Whether you agree with that or not, it is pretty cool to see a colorful side-by-side comparison of how the pericopes vary
across Bible versions.
Bible Word Study: Enter a particular Bible word (such as "sacrifice" or "peace") and this tool will give you a list of various
definitions, all the keylink options associated with this word, and a Concordance search with corresponding Strong's numbers.
I had a tough time rating the interface. It is clunky and unnecessarily complicated, but you can do so much with it, and it offers so
much, that after spending time with it I came down rating it a bit higher than I wanted to initially.
The 2nd biggest Achilles heel (the first one referenced above as an inefficient interface), is it's search speed. Logos is slow. It is
slow to load, slow to search, and considered sort of a lumbering giant. Sure, when the work is done, it is done in a bigger and better
fashion than most Bible software packages could dream of. But getter there is an exercise in patience. The joke is, doing a search
in Logos is the perfect time to go refill your cup of coffee.
There are a number of types of searches.
First, you have a Basic Search, which lets you search for a phrase in a book, or a pre-defined set of books. No-frills or options
here, just what it says - basic.
Second is the Bible Search. You get a few more options, such as choosing the Bible books, or range, for your search, or whether
you want your search returned in chapter format or verse format. When you search against multiple Bibles, the results are in a
chart format so that you can see if, and how, the search shows up in each Bible. This is a very nice feature.
Third, is the ironically named Speed Search, which does not refer to how quickly your searches are returned, but that a single
Bible text will be searched as you type. I'm not sure if this is really valuable or not. In all fairness, since you are allowed
to utilize this search against only one Bible, it is fairly quick, But it is annoying for the search to keep restarting as you type.
For instance, if in doing a search on "Holy Spirit" it did searches on "ho" and "holy" before it got to " Holy Spirit."
An Advanced Search, which has just about every single type of option and search feature you can imagine.
To round it out, there is a Fuzzy Search and a Greek Morphological Search.
From the search results for any type of search, you have a number of tools to work with against the result set. For instance,
you can have your results turned into a graph, with a bar graph showing the percent of hits in each Bible book. You can also
utilize a Concordance, perform a Strong's analysis, and a few other useful items.
Also included is a fairly useful Topic Browser. You type in a topic, which is matched with a predefined set of related topics.
You choose one, and a list of all resources tagged with sections on that topic are displayed.
Again, I don't want to belabor the point, but the search is a microcosm of Logos - powerful, but slow and sometimes cumbersome.
Resources is where Logos absolutely shines. It has the biggest and most varied library of all the Bible Software packages reviewed.
Logos seems to have quite a bit of clout with the publishing community and leverages that to your benefit. Over 6,000 titles are
available for the software. Yes, that's three zeros. Suffice to say, there shouldn't be anything you need that is not already provided,
whether you are interested in ancient or modern texts, new commentaries or the church fathers, illustrations, maps, study guides,
dictionaries, they're all here, and usually with tons of choices in each category.
On the flip side, Logos is not known for having the cheapest books around. For instance, the NIV is $50 if you need to purchase it
separately. In most Bible packages the NIV is usually in the $15-$30 range.
Which leads me to my next point. Be prepared to spend money if you go with Logos. Not only are the books expensive, but the boxed
sets are expensive as well. It is true that the included resources cost thousands more than the boxed sets. But it is also true
that Logos makes some books and addins available only in the boxed sets, so if you do not start your initial Logos purchase with
one of the boxed sets, it is possible you may never have access to some of the more popular books.
An example of this is the ESV Reverse Interlinear.
It is an interlinear Bible (showing the Greek with English translations under
the words), but instead has the English as the normal flow with the Greek underneath it. As far as I know it is only available
in Logos, but only if you buy one of the boxed sets; it is not available separately.
Logos also employees a brilliant program called Pre-publications. Logos will offer titles that the user community can pre-order.
Once enough orders have been placed to cover costs, production begins. If not enough orders are placed, you don't pay. It's a
win-win, as the user community has a direct voice in what gets published, and Logos doesn't have to guess and take risks on uncertain titles.
The Notes capability of Logos is solid. You can create a note for a verse, or a section (which is a "chapter" when in a Bible book),
or for a selected piece of text. The latter two stay with the particular book on which they were created, but Verse notes are accessible
from every single book or resources that references that verse. I really like this capability.
The editor itself is capable. It is HTML-based and is WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get). One button will turn all the Bible
texts in the note to Bible links. There is also a very powerful Reference Link capability, which allows you to link to any section
of any Logos book. Nice.
There are some good options for expanding the Logos interface to your own liking. First, the toolbar is customizable, a modern
concept that most of the other software packages have missed. Plus, you can download a number of very useful toolbars from the
Logos offers a Sermon and Illustration Add-in that allows you to enter your sermons and illustrations into Logos just like they
were a Logos book. They show up in searches, Topic Searches, passage guide, etc. It is really cool and powerful to see your
illustrations show up next to all the Logos illustrations when executing a search, say, in the Passage Guide.
Unfortunately, and here we go with more of the same, Logos has taken a wonderful idea (no other software package has a true
Sermon/Illustration book capability) and muffed it by providing the most archaic and backward editor I have ever seen. I have no
idea why a normal editor was not made available for the Sermon Addin. For instance, you offset italics by using the "/" symbol,
and bold headings with "!!". The "editor" will automatically indent for you, and does not allow you any freedom when trying to
place your text exactly where you want it. I kid you not when I say you have to fight the blasted thing every single step of
the way. It is one of the most frustrating interface experiences I have ever had. It is true that when it is all said and done,
the end product is wonderful. But to give you an idea, the process is so tedious that after entering my initial set of sermons I
have never entered another once since. The addin is $50 if you purchase it separately, which I did. I would advise you to save
your money. I would also ask Logos to heavily discount the addin, or fix it, as I think the description on the Logos website is
A Word document importer is available, which is nice, but the fact of the matter is that you still have to edit the imported text,
and you are right back at square one.
Finally, Logos actually offers the ability to create your own, bona-fide Logos books. The feature is called the Personal Book
Builder, or more affectionately, the PBB. The PBB comes in two flavors - the Private edition, which does not allow distribution
of your books, and the Standard edition, which allows distribution. But here's the kicker. The Private Edition costs $100, and
the Standard Edition costs $250! If you weren't sore enough from that kick, Logos has the gall to require an annual renewal fee.
The Private edition will squeeze you for another $25 every year, the Standard edition $50. Logos finally buckled recently (sort of),
and as of 1/29/2008 they are waiving the annual feel if you use your PBB in conjunction with teaching (I have a feeling a bunch of
people suddenly decided to become teachers). [ Update 5/3/08: A reader informed me that Logos also dropped the price of the
Standard edition on January 29 as well. It is now only $170. Still expensive, but no longer crazy-expensive. :) ]
But, Logos is not done kicking you yet. Kick #3: You can't read any PBB-distributed books unless you have a PBB Key.
Unfortunately, the key is ONLY available if you purchase one of the boxed sets. So, unless you shell out the clams for one of
the expensive products, you don't get the fun of acquiring the wealth of PBBs out there. If you built your Logos library slowly,
as I have, you are simply out of luck.
Logos offers a number of options for support. Official support is available via the phone or email. The web page offers more
options such as a FAQ and knowledgebase. An email sent to the official support address was never returned.
Because Logos has the largest user base, there is a very active user community. Most of them can be found at the newsgroups,
which are available at: http://www.logos.com/support/lbs/newsgroups.
Or, if you have a newsreader you can point it to http://news.logos.com.
A number of user-initiated support files are also available at various web pages, one of the most well-known and useful is
at Still Truth.
The Logos engine is actually free. You can download or order it from the website at no charge. You can then start to add
to your library. However, this method is strongly discouraged by Logos. They make it very difficult and expensive long-term
to go this route. They want you to purchase a boxed set, and will make sure you are forever at a disadvantage if you don't. Keyword: forever.
Without a boxed set you miss out on books that you can never acquire individually, you can never access the wealth of user
created PBB books, and you will pay top dollar for purchasing the books individually as you need them. In fact Logos says on
their web site in not so many words that you should start in Logos with a boxed set or you will be sorry.
However, the boxed sets are not cheap either. There are seven products, the cheapest is $150 while the most expensive is $1,380.
There is no doubt that the value of the boxed sets is very high compared to what you pay if you purchased the immense resources
that come in the set separately.
Here is a very helpful PDF file that contains a full description and comparison of each boxed set: Logos 3 Comparison Chart.
If you are looking for a solid Bible study program with good resources that is reasonably priced or free, look elsewhere.
But if you are a major student of the Bible, a pastor or teacher, and have cash laying around, then Logos is a very good investment.
I would be remiss not to mention that Logos has licensed the engine to many companies who provide Logos-based products under
their own brand. The biggest publisher is Thomas Nelson, who has its own eBible line of product with mostly books and Bibles
published by Thomas Nelson, of course. You can jump into your Logos investment on a smaller scale by choosing eBible. For
instance, you can get the eBible Deluxe edition with a very nice set of books for less than $25. Here are some links that might help:
Old eBible products on clearance
New eBible products
Try Logos for Free
Finally, you may want to try Rejoice Software. My first Logos product was the NAS
Electronic Bible Library Version 2, which in my opinion is the best starter Logos package, for only $25.95.