I Love My Logos: A Review of Logos 4 Bible Study Software

Full disclosure: Logos and I go way back. During seminary, in the early 1990’s, my dream was to be able to run a word processor and some sort of Bible software at the same time and quickly paste text from the Bible software into the word processor. Doesn’t sound like much. Today we can do that on our phones. But at the time, it was the holy grail.

My first Bible software explorations were DOS programs—and they consistently disappointed. All that changed, though, when I scraped together my pennies and bought Windows 3.1, Microsoft Word for Windows and Logos 1.6. I’ve been a “Logos guy” ever since.

So when I write about Logos, I’m writing about an old friend I love, warts and all.

And there have always been warts. From the start, the company has had a bad case of Microsoft-think, which says (among other things) that new software will always be operated on new PCs. The result is that the software tends to be hard to afford and hardware-hungry—designed to run well on PCs that few pastors and teachers own yet.

Version 4 is no exception to Logos’ history in that department. Though many of us saw the arrival of version 3 for the Macintosh as a great ray of hope, Logos 4 for the PC is still dependent on more layers of Microsoft code than ever. (If you install it on XP, you can see this clearly as “prerequisites” install and install and install.)

Struggles with version 4

Version 4 suffers several other weaknesses as well. Logos 4’s completely redesigned interface and altered feature set strongly suggest Logos is aiming for a simpler user experience, probably in hopes of drawing in more new users. But the installation process is likely to cancel out much of the benefit in the “attracting new users” department.

I’ve installed the software three times. First, I installed it on a Windows XP Virtual Box in Linux (the Mint distro). The XP Virtual Box is where I do just about all of my “Rats! I still have to use Windows for this” computing.

For the second install (on an XP single core Intel laptop from around 2005), I ordered the DVDs from Logos, thinking it would save some time. I needed this older PC for backup while the newer one was in the shop for some warranty work. The third install was just for kids. I put it on a brand new Windows 7 machine I borrowed (I removed the software later).

If time is money, all three installs were—in themselves—major investments. You have to love Logos to go through the process and still be cheerful at the end. In all three cases, more than 12 hours of downloading was involved. Note to those considering ordering the DVD: don’t bother. As soon as you complete the DVD install and connect to the Internet, the application begins downloading an updated version that takes about as long as doing a download install without the DVD.

After each install, I had to wait out multiple re-indexings. The second install became stuck in a re-indexing loop shortly after the first set of updates downloaded. It took several indexing efforts, lasting hours each, before I realized something was truly amiss (hint to developers: it is not a good sign for your software when users have difficulty distinguishing between “normal” and “broken”).

I submitted a support email and received a reply a week (yes, a week) later indicating that I should remove the index file. Unfortunately, this helpful bit of advice was not accompanied by instructions on where to find the file, so I requested the missing information. It did eventually arrive, accurate and complete, but by then I’d hunted the solution down on the Web and recreated my index.

Advice to users: promptly disable automatic updates as soon as you have a stable install with all of the resources indexed. Then you can add resources or download updates in the future when you know you have a large enough time window to resolve any indexing problems that might occur.

On a positive note, the Windows 7 install progressed much more quickly (after the download), and the post-update re-indexing completed without a hitch.

The presence of minor bugs and missing features suggests that Logos 4 was rushed to market. Note to Logos: marketing not-quite-finished software is also not the way to convert lots of new users into long-time loyal customers. I say this as one who wants very much to see the company thrive and prosper for decades to come. But I recommend more patience and more thorough beta testing (with a whole new batch of testers when the first release candidate is ready—to compensate for familiarity blindness). We want new users to fall instantly in love and stay that way for years, don’t we? It’s worth delayed delivery to make that happen.

Why I still actually love Logos 4

Despite my gripes, I still love Logos 4. Exactly why has been difficult to put my finger on. It is certainly not because the previous version (Logos 3) is no longer an option. Installing version 4 does not remove version 3 (hat tip to Logos for transcending Microsoft-think on that one!) and many of the new resources that came with my Logos 4 install function in Logos 3 as well.

My fondness for version 4 is also not the result of a new killer feature I can’t live without.

It mostly comes down to coolness. In some ways, Logos 4 is a departure. Versions 2 and 3 both adopted the aesthetic of the Windows versions they were designed for (ugly!), and Logos 3 improved only slightly on version 2 in the looks department. Logos 4 is the first upgrade to pay obvious attention to aesthetic appeal. Some might chalk this up to more Microsoft influence (like Vista: prettier instead of better). But Logos 4’s look disregards Windows look-and-feel conventions in noticeable ways. And let’s not undervalue an attractive interface. Other things being equal, good-looking beats the alternative. There just might even be some virtue in wanting to study the Bible in a beautiful setting.

Other improvements

There are many subtle usability improvements in Logos 4 as well. Where I always had to wait for the verse-copying applet to load in Logos 3, I now have a small, always-loaded verse-copying window in Logos 4. Since I copy verses frequently, this improvement alone almost erases the “slower than Logos 3” factor.

Also unlike Logos 3, the Bible search results window stays in the display mode in which it was last used. The result is that mine is always in aligned mode and I don’t have to switch to that view constantly.

I’ve found the new interlinear tool helpful as well. At first, I hated it. But after learning how to use both the old interlinear format and the new one, I found that I appreciate both in different circumstances.

When I want to copy a bit of Greek or Hebrew into my notes, I now merely right click and select copy (because the right click menu remembers which vertical tab selection was last used, so, in my case, it’s almost always set to “Lemma”). In Logos 3, I was never able to come up with a satisfactory layout that allowed me to do this in less than three clicks (usually with some waiting while something loaded).

Then there is the addiction factor. Since I started using Logos 4, I have intermittently experienced “Hey, wow, look at that!” moments unexpectedly as I wandered around the program researching things. I still don’t really know what several of these tools are for or how I can use them (e.g., tagging, the handout tool), but some days study feels like the “dime store” visits I enjoyed as a kid: always something nifty I didn’t know was there. Arguably, this “Hey, look at that” factor slows the process of serious research. But over all, it’s a good trade if I find myself more often drawn back to do more digging.

What I’ve always appreciated

Two more qualities I’ve always highly valued in Logos require a mention here. First, the growing abundance of available resources is a huge factor in why I remain committed to the product. For example, just a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to acquire the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (at the very end of the pre-publication rate window). So that long-hoped-for goal has now been realized, and my study process has been greatly improved.

Second, is it my imagination that Logos seems biased toward textual study rather than topical study? At times this tilt in the software annoys me. I miss version 3’s topic browser, or just want to punch in “baptism” or something and see articles by topic. Version 4 does approximate this, but seems to work most smoothly when studying a text in a Passage Guide or Exegetical Guide, or when zeroing in on words in a Word Study Guide. If that balance of features encourages pastoral users just a little bit toward expository preaching, I’m that much happier to own the product.

Conclusion

Though Logos 4 brings new annoyances, they are mostly different annoyances from those I’d grown weary of in Logos 3, and most of them are installation-and-updating-related and matter little after getting past those hurdles.

As for the Microsoft-think problem, I really don’t hate Microsoft. But the entire PC industry doesn’t need to be bowing down before them either. Rumor has it that Logos 5 may be a truly platform-independent application based on “HTML 5.” If that’s the case, we may finally see Logos break completely free of the “build it heavy, build it expensive, roll it out buggy” ways of Redmond.

But either way I’m likely to keep loving my Logos.


Aaron Blumer, SI’s site publisher, is a native of lower Michigan and a graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He, his wife, and their two children live in a small town in western Wisconsin, where he has pastored Grace Baptist Church (Boyceville, WI) since 2000. Prior to serving as a pastor, Aaron taught school in Stone Mountain, Georgia and worked in customer service and technical support for Unisys Corporation (Eagan, MN). He enjoys science fiction, music, and dabbling in software development.

4653 reads

There are 19 Comments

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Thanks for the information. About 4 weeks ago, a couple in our church here called me and told me they wanted to buy Logos 4 for me. I would have never been able to afford this program and I am grateful to God for this provision. I have a fairly new laptop that the church bought me for Christmas. While it took a while, I downloaded the program from the web and installed it with no problems. 2 weeks ago, it downloaded a bunch of corrections.

While I am still learning the program, I already love it. Even with the glitches here and there, it is a great tool for Bible study.

SDHaynie's picture

My church gave me Logos as a gift when I was ordained back in 1993. I loved it but ran into the same problems that you describe. However, on one of my book store tours of Grand Rapids during my deputation years I came across PowerBible at an incredible price and I thought, "Why Not?". I have found that it is much more efficient, problem free, and works seemlessly in cut and paste with Windows and other Microsoft apps (Word, PowerPoint)...and at a MUCH lower price.
Yes, its true that Logos has a some extra bells and whistles that are especially useful for seminary level investigations, etc. but I have found the word studies, commentaries, lexical helps, variety of versions, etc. on [URL=http://www.powerbible.com/ PowerBible[/URL ] to be largely sufficient for sermon/lesson preparation.

Shawn Haynie

Bob T.'s picture

I have been using BibleSoft's PC Study Bible. Much less than Logos and Version 5 is very adequate. However, my wife and I just bought two Apple MacPro laptops. We love Apple but find many programs not available. The "Pages" word processor is good but we are use to Microsoft Word. There is a Microsoft Word available for Apple.

My BibleSoft will not run on Apple. The option is to buy "Parallels," a program that allows you to load and run Windows and then run all the Windows programs you want. I may do that. Parallels cost $84.95 and Windows 7 costs $199.00 and from my understanding can only be loaded on one computer. So it is expensive. However, I will be able to run Biblesoft and any PC windows programs. Evidently you can switch back and forth from OSX to Windows without shutting down anything. The key is to always go online through Apple Safari so as to avoid Viruses and other internet dangers. I may try Logos sometime but from what I have read here it is probably very space greedy and too many problems. Also, it is very expensive. I am from the pre computer generation and use a lot of books anyway. I have been able to handle turning pages a lot better than some of the software that's around.

My problem is we are in need of downsizing our home. Too big and too much property to care for. I have a large study with 10 thousand books at peak. Now down to 7 thousand but hard to select what to get rid of. I want to get down to about 3 thousand and replace some with books on computer. I have many commentaries, Dictionaries, lexicons, etc., including Calvin, on Biblesoft. If anyone knows of programs with good books for reading and reference let me know. This is difficult. Books are like friends. I feel like I am discarding friends. But, as they say - you can't take it with you anyway. I would imagine heaven will be filled with research and knowledge opportunities we can't imagine. I like the computer on Star Trek. You just ask and it answers. No fuss. Perhaps the Kingdom will have infinite knowledge available from God himself, obtainable wherever you are by just asking. I say; "Lord, what about what you said in....;" Answered with, "Oh Yes, well you failed to comprehend..."

Diane Heeney's picture

I think I'm in much greater need than Susan. (why don't we have a smiley with puppy eyes??)

I wish I could still find something I picked up at Larry's blog. It was a panoramic viewer of an incredible library...can't remember where it was actually, I think he said he wanted his office to upgrade to it. I told him I thought that was what the vestibule of Heaven would look like. Smile Larry, if you're watching, do you have the link for that still?

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jim Peet wrote:
I'm convinced ....
A company that releases a buggy product is not worth the price at any price ... much less a very high price
And it took them 1 week to get back to you! Shame on them

I suspect that they were completely surprised by the support load when Logos 4 rolled out. I'm not entirely sure why this was the case, but it does happen to good companies sometimes. In the years I've used Logos, I've never had any trouble getting prompt support when I needed it until the early weeks of the L4 public release.

I don't wish Logos any headaches, but I do hope that the apparently overwhelming support situation will result in some lessons learned.
I'm not sure what the philosophy is over there support-wise. When I mentioned the idea of Logos for Linux again in a thread (or maybe it was email) somewhere, one of the responses from Logos folks was that this would be too hard to support. But really, most stuff in Linux world is supported by the user community. There is a user community at Logos also that is often helpful (in fact, I think that's where I found instructions for deleting my messed up index), but it would be even better if more of the software was "open." I realize a business like Logos can't survive on the open source model, but I can't see why some kind of hybrid couldn't work. That is, the stuff that really has to be secret--like what sort of encryption your using to protect publisher's content--and various other indispensable trade secrets could be developed separately with a whole lot of the rest in modules that are open and interact with the "secret stuff" via a public API (application programing interface).

I'm not a software engineer, so I tend to glaze over when I start hearing all the "why this is impossible" points in these conversations. But I also glaze over because I've seen amazing things accomplished in the open source world--things that really should not be possible in a such a messy unregulated playground. But somehow it works.

Diane Heeney's picture

Susan R wrote:
Diane Heeney wrote:
I think I'm in much greater need than Susan.

Look over there!

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-violent089.gif[/img ]

Now, Bro. Bob, what time shall I be over to take those books off your hands? Ya'll can keep the software- give me the hardbacks. You simply can't curl up in bed with a laptop.


I was really hoping you might come up with my coveted puppy-eyed smiley...and look at you. Tsk, tsk tsk.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Matthew Christensen's picture

I enjoy my Logos 4. I have been using the Silver version since the early versions of Logos 3. I still sometimes use E-sword because of some of the resources that Logos still doesn't offer (at least for free) but otherwise I now use Logos for most of my Bible and Greek studies. If you do plan on buying Logos make sure you do have a pretty current system.

Matthew Christensen's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
.
I'm not sure what the philosophy is over there support-wise. When I mentioned the idea of Logos for Linux again in a thread (or maybe it was email) somewhere, one of the responses from Logos folks was that this would be too hard to support. But really, most stuff in Linux world is supported by the user community. There is a user community at Logos also that is often helpful (in fact, I think that's where I found instructions for deleting my messed up index), but it would be even better if more of the software was "open." I realize a business like Logos can't survive on the open source model, but I can't see why some kind of hybrid couldn't work. That is, the stuff that really has to be secret--like what sort of encryption your using to protect publisher's content--and various other indispensable trade secrets could be developed separately with a whole lot of the rest in modules that are open and interact with the "secret stuff" via a public API (application programing interface).

I'm not a software engineer, so I tend to glaze over when I start hearing all the "why this is impossible" points in these conversations. But I also glaze over because I've seen amazing things accomplished in the open source world--things that really should not be possible in a such a messy unregulated playground. But somehow it works.

I work in the software industry and for a company like Logos to make a Linux usable version would cost countless of dollars and a great deal of time. The Linux only base of users is so small that normally you can't justify that time and money. Logos is working on a Mac version which has taken them longer than expected. Don't expect them to look at Linux for even a second until the Mac version is stable.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I've heard the "this would take too many man hours" response before as well, but the real problem is that the software is currently not built in a way that it can be "opened" to a community. If it were, folks in the open source community could develop the Linux version... and Logos would not have to support it at all. It could just say "There is a Linux version but we do not support it." Linux users are used to getting support from fellow users.
So, yes, alot of man hours would be required, but not to "produce a Linux version," rather to make things more modular so that the stuff that has to be proprietary can remain proprietary but the stuff that doesn't (like most of the interface) could be opened up.

Once it's open, it's up to people who want to do it to build the Linux version.

(But there may be another way. What if an organization were formed to which the proprietary stuff could be licensed? Then the whole thing can be somewhat open. But this would still require that it be designed so that the UI is separate and open to developers.)

The other objection I see pretty often is "If the open source community can build something like Logos, why haven't they done it yet?"
The answer to that is

  1. There are several open source projects that have made some good progress but they have not come close to the quality and power of Logos yet. This is largely (I think) because...
  2. You have to have a very strong, high quality set of resources to offer. I might be tempted to switch to an open Bible program myself except that I can't get the tools I really want in any of them. This is because the copyrights are owned and digital reproduction must be carefully licensed. I'm all for that. I'm not really a believer in "open for openess' sake." To me, "open" is just a good solution for the fact that the Linux userbase is too small to develop a version just for them and make the money back by selling it. You get folks who love it to develop the software as a hobby.
    Without a really attractive set of resources to offer, your developer/tester community is just too small. You need lots of people (by open source standards) interested in a project for it to work in the open source model.[br ]
  3. With products like Logos already so mature and feature rich, the open source projects will progress at a crawl until their projects are attractive enough to really catch on. There is a tipping point to reach. If a company/product like Logos (or one of its competitors) were to announce an open source project w/an api for their "engine" (or whatever you want to call the proprietary stuff), it would immediately attract a large (relatively) following because folks would know the resource collection is going to be great and also that much of the interface has been opened up and will probably also be really good fairly quickly.

    So there's my case for a very different business model, but, hey, a guy can dream.
    But if they go do a web based platform-free design in L5, there will be no need for all this opening up. It'll run on anything out of the box.
    (I just hope "web based" doesn't mean "you have to be connected to use it")

John Fallahee's picture

I am a big fan of Logos 4 and recognize its challenges.
If you are frustrated, I have created some training videos to help.

Some are free, and some are for a fee.
If you interested, check out www.LearnLogos.com

I hope you don't mind me letting people know here at your blog.
It just made sense to share this since the blog is about Logos.

Here is a $5 coupon for your blog readers: sharperiron
It will expire April 16.

Greg Long's picture

Bob, I, too, use PC Study Bible 5. Aaron's review is somewhat encouraging to me. PCSB 5 runs slowly at times and the support isn't the greatest. Even after all the money I've spent on it I've considered trying to switch to Logos, but it's just been cost-prohibitive. All I hear about is Logos, Logos, Logos. But now I know that it's slow and buggy, too! Yay!

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Steve Newman's picture

I've been using PCSB for 10+ years and been generally pleased with it. I'm curious why colleges, seminaries, etc. never seem to have caught on with it. It's a more than adequate product for most general work, has a lot of features, and is generally solid if unspectacular as far as performance. I've never had to call tech support on PCSB. Of course, I work on computers for a living, but still, I've worked with a lot buggier products.

Jason L. Skipper's picture

Logos was indeed overwhelmed when they released L4. Sure, there were problems, but the power users wanted it. Perhaps it wasn't the best way for them to deal with the issue. I think they should have kept it in beta a few more months.
That being said, Logos has a great community ( http://community.logos.com/forums/76.aspx ) where one can speak with support personnel and others who know the program well. There's also a wiki ( http://wiki.logos.com/ ) with many answers.
In the end, email is not a good way to deal with support at Logos. I do have one exception to that. I dealt with Bob Pritchett, president of Logos, on a weekend about support issues and he was very prompt in dealing with me. I was impressed.

Jason

Dick Dayton's picture

Not trying to throw a glitch into the machinery, but I have been using Bible Works for Windows for many years. My original version was so old that it was beyond update, so I bought the new one a while back. It is a bit pricey, but sure does a lot. I believe that the Faith Pulpit, from Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, ran a two column article comparing softwares, with each of the columns written by a professor who used either Logos or BWW.

Dick Dayton

Jason L. Skipper's picture

Aaron,
Have you run Logos4 in Linux very much? If so, how long and with what results as far as performance and stability?

Jason

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, there is no Linux version. I use Logos 4 in a Windows XP Virtual Box in Linux. So it's really running in Windows but the Windows is running in Linux.
No issues at all. Works like a charm. Might be a tiny bit slower than in a regular Windows environment, but judging from what I've seen using L4 in Win7, not really noticeable. The slow-down factor is that you have to run the VirtualBox first, then start Logos 4. So that's annoying. But I still have two or three other apps I have to use in Windows, so I have the Vbox up a good bit of the time anyway.

Virtual Box is free from Sun Microsystems. It's a pretty easy install in Ubuntu or Mint by just downloading the appropriate .deb file then giving it a click. (There are a couple of versions of Virtual Box and you want to make sure you get the one for your version of Ubuntu here: http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Linux_Downloads)

More technical stuff...
I recommend 4GB of RAM or more and use Linux with the "PAE kernel" (I believe the latest Ubuntu and Mint both have a PAE option when you boot up). The PAE (Physical Address Extension) allows your 32 bit version of Linux to access all 4GB of your RAM... which is quite useful if you're running a Virtual Box with some heavy apps like Logos 4.

Note for Linux Mint users (Mint is the best distro for beginners IMO)... the latest version of Mint is always built on the latest version of Ubuntu, so the Virtual Box version you want should be Ubuntu 9.10 for Mint 8 and when Mint 9 comes out (any day now), that would be Ubuntu 10.04.

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.