Christmas Present Ideas – Bible Software

I have already told you how much I love books. Every book needs a Christian owner who will cherish it, care for it, place it lovingly on a bookshelf, and, ideally, even read it! But the truth is, with so many great books on the market today, most of us simply don’t have time to read every book from cover to cover. Of course, it’s good to sit with a book and just read it. But there are also times when we want to dip into books. Times when perhaps we are studying a certain passage in Scripture. This is when Bible software comes into its own. The ability to search a book or a collection of books for a subject or specific Bible reference is invaluable.

There are several different types of Bible software available. They each provide a different tool that is designed to do a different job. Comparing them is a bit like comparing a screwdriver and a chisel. Sure, you can use a screwdriver to do some jobs for which a chisel would be more appropriate, but if you tried it the other way around, you’d notice the difference! There is overlap in the design, but they are very different. I’m only going to talk today about two Bible software programs. Both of these are serious programs that, most importantly to me, make it possible to search through a remarkably large number of books. These two programs are Accordance and Logos Bible Software.

I should declare at the outset a significant bias. I have used Logos for a number of years and have a relationship with them whereby purchasers from this blog get a significant discount, and I obtain a referral payment. I have no such arrangement with Accordance.

Because I have been using it for so long, Logos has enough of a hold on me that it delayed by years my inevitable final switch from a PC to a Mac. “What would be the point of a computer without it?” I would have said. Parallels, a virtual PC program for Macs, means that I can run Logos alongside all my other Mac programs. Of course, it still doesn’t look as elegant as the Mac programs, but it works better and faster than it did on my reasonably high spec PC. Macs just don’t crash very much. There is no other way of saying it—Logos on a parallels virtual PC is fantastic. It is faster to open, and runs most searches more quickly than it ever did on my reasonably specked PC!

It is probably unfair for me to compare the interfaces of the two programs as I have only recently begun using Accordance and I am already very familiar with Logos. I can say that Logos is a fairly typical Windows program, using Internet Explorer as its base. Accordance, on the other hand, is a native Apple Mac program. Users who are passionate about one platform or the other will tend to like one or the other of the programs’ interfaces.

The fact is, the two interfaces are not at all alike. If you are used to one of them, the other will seem quite strange, since the interface philosophies between the two applications are very different. The Accordance team has focused their attention on what they call the “work flow” in studying and getting information on the Bible or a specific Bible tool in depth. Some people I know who are more familiar with it than I am definitely love it.

By spending a bit of time learning the ropes it is possible to do many of the same searches. I find, however, that I still like the simplicity of Logos’ passage guide, although you have to do some work identifying groups of books and adding them to the search to actually mine the depths of your library. Being able to simply enter a passage, hit the search button, and watch Logos search for that verse through the immense library of books I have amassed over the years is a major bonus.

Accordance, although its historical focus has centered less on a ‘library’ motif and more on searching individual books, does, in fact, have a similar feature with its “search all” function (available from “File – New” for some reason, rather than “Search”). The results are similar, although they are presented in a different manner. Until recently I thought that one thing which neither software program appeared to do well was to focus that search to a specific Bible verse rather than an entire passage, especially in theology journals. A search for Ephesians 1:3 would often return results on the whole of Ephesians 1, or worse yet, on the entire epistle. In Accordance, however, a new search in the “all tools” section provides a format which can say “Ephesians 1:3 <NOT> Ephesians 1:2.” This will do what I described by excluding references to that verse, and it will also exclude references to the chapter as a whole. A recent improvement to the Logos search engine allows a very similar function. You need to call up a basic search and type something like Bible=”Ephesians 1:3.”

Please do not complain about the speed of either program in performing this mammoth task. Just think how long it would take you to do this from a manual approach! Get up, walk downstairs, put the kettle on, and it will probably be done before the kettle even has a chance to boil. If you have a Mac, it may finish before you even leave the room! The only drawback with a big library is that you can return too many results to sift through. But when studying an obscure verse and wanting to know what thousands of writers have had to say about it, having this information at your fingertips is invaluable. You simply couldn’t do it at all without Bible software, so to complain about the interfaces seems a bit churlish.

On the other hand, I did like the ability of Accordance to select a few verses and generate a report on the relative importance, frequency, and uses elsewhere in the Bible of the words found in it. Logos has a similar feature which is more graphical and is apparently based on CIA technology for analyzing the importance of large volumes of data. There are some search features for specific books that Accordance has which are very different to those which Logos has implemented.

To be quite honest, neither program really excites me in its user interface. The truth is, both Logos and Accordance are not quite as easy and intuitive to use (especially for the more complex searches) as someone who hates to read manuals or watch video training would like! Logos intends to port their software to the world’s best operating environment. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the much delayed end result, and certainly don’t delay buying a Mac for that reason!

For me, the key reason to purchase Bible software is because of the number of books you can get with it. In that regard, Logos wins hands down. The range and breadth of materials available is simply stunning, and massively outweighs the list available for Accordance. Some of the most important ones (such as the Word Biblical Commentary series and the Theological Journal Library) are available for both programs. (I am told that in the latter on Accordance it is possible to search by author, something which I haven’t yet figured out in Logos.) But there are a number of helpful scholarly resources not available for Logos that are available for Accordance. These include (most importantly) Zondervan materials such as the Essential, Personal Growth, and Scholarly Bible Study Suites, and two standard lexicons, NIDNTT and NIDOTTE, as well as some other scholarly resources.

Few pastors or serious students of the Bible would be anything less than ecstatic to receive a gift like this, provided they are not so computer-phobic that they simply use it as a very expensive tea coaster! Perhaps you could club together with members of your church to gather sufficient funds to invest in a copy of one of these programs for your leader.

If you can afford it, and already own a Mac, you should seriously consider buying both programs. It is worth buying Parallels and Win XP just so you can use Logos! If you don’t have a
Mac, the choice is simple—buy the biggest Logos Bible Software package you can possibly afford, since you can always bring it with you if you do ever make a jump to the Apple platform.

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