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.
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.
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.