Bible Software Review
With far more books than shelf space in my house, the idea that I could reclaim several inches of prime shelving by storing key Bible research tools on my computer is hugely attractive. Plus there is the added bonus benefit of being able to instantly search a huge number of resources from my laptop even when I am on a train or a plane. Bible software opens up a world of possibilities especially for non-Greek/Hebrew literate Bible teachers such as myself.
This review will focus on the two lead packages available for Apple Mac computers: Logos and Accordance. The latter is a Mac only programme; the former is available on the windows platform also. I will assume that you are not going to use the original language tools and that you are using the programmes for sermon preparation and personal study.
I have been testing both products for the last few months and find it hard to come out with a favourite. To be honest deciding between the two packages will probably come down to factors of personal taste and budget.
DO I NEED A BIBLE SOFTWARE PACKAGE?
Before we get into the details, the first question is to ask why we need to invest in this kind of software in the first place, instead of just using Bible Gateway or You Version.
www.Biblegateway.com and www.youversersion.com are very useful websites that give you free access to multiple Bible translations online. These include the premium quality translations like the TNIV, NKJV, ESV and the Message which often are not free to download onto mobile devices or computers for offline browsing. They are fully searchable from keyword or passage and there is the ability to perform relatively complicated searches like looking for every occurrence of the word “church” limiting the search to just the epistles of Paul. I find myself using Bible Gateway a lot as it is very easy to use and the opportunities to look at 22 different English translations, not to mention other language versions, at the touch of a button is very useful.
For basic Bible work such as importing Bible passages into your word processor for sermon preparation or onto your presentation software these sites are very useful. You Version does a great job in integrating your smartphone (windows, iphone, android and blackberry) with the website allowing you to download a daily bible reading app and then to log into the main site to see how your reading is getting on.
Some may argue that using these free online programmes are a bit like using wikipedia instead of buying Microsoft’s Encarta or using Google maps instead of buying Microsoft Route. If all you need is an electronically searchable Bible then you do not need to spend any money to get a good solution. But where the paid for and installable software programmes come into their own is in the following:
1. Using the Bibles offline which, if you travel a lot, is very helpful. I am not a proponent of reading all books via a screen, but reference books and commentaries in particular are perfectly acceptable to read on a screen and the joy of being able to have world class instantly searchable resources available at the touch of a button.
2. More nuanced searching. If, for example, you can’t remember the exact wording of a phrase from the bible, you can perform fuzzy searches that allow you to put in a couple of words and then see where they occur together. For example I did a search for “gospel” and “preach”. Accordance showed me every place where they occurred together in the same verse, complete with a graph to show me where in the Bible they appear most often.
3. Integration with other scholarly tools. If you get a decent base package (see later) you can with the touch of a button look up a range of commentaries on the passage you are looking at in the Bible. You can click on the name of place and click and see where that place is on a map. You can see where a word you are looking at is used elsewhere in the Bible. You can see what the word is in the original languages.
3. Availability of commentary series at discounted prices. I have literally got shelves and shelves of commentaries that I have pieced together over the years one at a time whenever I have walked past a Christian bookshop with a sale sign in the window. They usually end up on the higher shelves where it’s hard to reach them – if I can find them in the first place! If I take a commentary with me on a journey, it tends to take up a good proportion of my luggage space, let alone weight allowance, and then the chances are I have taken the wrong one with me, as I look for help understanding a parallel passage. And there is always the chance that key books are missing from my collections because I never bought them, or because I have lent them out. All in all, the idea of investing in a whole series of digital commentaries would solve all of these problems simultaneously, as well as saving me a lot of money. For example: the mostly excellent word biblical commentary series will cost you in print form about £1150 and they are not all easy to get hold of, whereas the Accordance package offers it for £250.
4. Primary language tools – if unlike me your Greek and Hebrew are in good shape there are a whole host of tools that you will enjoy using on Accordance and Logos.
Accordance vs Logos
The base packages come with the promise of hundreds of resources and dozens of Bibles. For example the basic logos package comes with the promise of
14 Bibles and Interlinears, 4 Commentaries, 6 Reference Books, 7 Bible Intro & Surveys, 2 Maps, Photos, Media, 6 Ministry Resources, 5 Ministry Resources, 10 Theological Books and 25 other Resources
However the basic commentaries and tools on offer are not particularly helpful to a UK pastor, and I would still recommend investing in a further set of tools such as the Word Biblical Commentaries series, the IVP Tyndale commentary service or the IVP reference collection featuring the excellent New Bible Dictionary, Dictionary of Paul and his letters, Dictionary of the Jesus and the Gospels, New Dicionary of Theology, Dictionary of the Latter New Testament, Dictionary of New Testament Background, Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Dictionary Biblical Imagery, plus the IVP Background Commentary on Old and New Testaments.
Its very hard to chose between Accordance and Logos. As someone that used Libronix (the previous version of LOGOS) I was more at home in that environment and the look and feel of the LOGOS product is clean and contemporary. The added benefit of an integrated Ipad/Iphone app is a nice touch – although I couldn’t get most of my books to work on it – but apparently that will be sorted soon. Accordance took a little getting used to but the best features for me included integration of the map programme into my Bible dictionary and timeline. For example, if I click on Damascus on the map, I can instantly see the timeline of its rulers or a link to the bible dictionary to see where this city is picked up in the rest of the Bible.
Both Accordance and Logos come with a big thumbs up from me. I hope the table below will help you choose the one for you. Also a visit to both websites is a must as they are packed with introductory videos that will help you get a feel for the products. I recommend buying one of them and also investing in at least the IVP reference collection – with these tools on borad you will have set up a formidable library which can travel with you wherever you go, and which will hugely benefit you in your sermon preparation, personal study, biblical knowledge. Enjoy!
|Base package price||$149 (scholars 9)||$120|
|Price for NIV addition||Free download||$79.95|
|IVP essential reference collection 3 containing:
New Bible Dictionary
|Ease of installation||Easy to install the base level – very familiar self extraction tool . The problems came installing add ons. It wasn’t straight forward to add the NIV Bible and I had to contact the customer service to do this. Similarly installing the IVP reference collection involved going into directories and copying files across and then trying to get the main programme to recognise them||Choice to either download the programme straight from the site or buy a physical CDROM, but either way it is very easy to install. There are a number of walk through videos available to watch online, but all subsequent purchases need to be downloaded. There seem to be a lot of updates and so there are large periods of time your computer needs to be connected to a very quick broadband connection. There’s a lot of indexing that seems to need to take place and it takes a very long time – in fact logos encourage you to do this overnight as it takes so long.|
|Customer Service||Excellent – live chat feature gave me an instant response online.||Very helpful emails from Craig. Next day response (when time zone is taken into consideration )|
|User interface||Found it didn’t look as neat as Logos or even the older libronix – could have been just a poor choice of fonts and icons. Lots of flexibility of how the windows were laid out – but perhaps less would have been more in this regard.||I was a big fan of the libronix system – it could be because it is what I have used most often. But there was a simplicity about the user interface. Logos 4 is more difficult to use – especially now there is a command prompt rather than just being able to use menu commands.|
|Search||Basic bible search involved opening up the Bible you want to search and then inputting your search term. Took a little getting used to.||Basic bible search felt slower than accordance. Because of the one integrated search bar – you can quickly find yourself searching your entire library when you might have just wanted to do a simple bible search.|
|Ipad Support||Not yet – a promised iphone/ ipad app has yet to appear. There is a nice widget that links with the apple dashboard feature that allows for very quick look up of passages without firing up the main programme.||Yes – currently you can download onto the IPAD a range of books for free – which you can then use offline. New bible dictionary 2nd edition is the most useful. You can use a number of bible translations but not NIV. The intention is that you one day you will be able to access any of your downloaded packgaes onto your ipad – this is not fully available yet but many of the books you have on in your package will now work.|
|Range of add ons||Word biblical commentary 58 volumes $399 (£250)||Word biblical commentary
$499 (£310) at time of going to press