I was recently encouraged to write my thoughts out in regard to my experiences with Logos and Accordance Bible Software packages, as I am a user of both. Here in Ghana we have pretty good internet access, so I thought I had better seize the moment before we sail on. Why do I blog about these sorts of things? I believe one of the best uses of your computer is to use it to do Bible study. Good software can help save you hours of time, giving you more opportunity to study, rather than search through resources.
BACKGROUND – a history
To begin with, let me say that I have used Bible software for about 15 years now. I could write a lengthy blog on how I have seen Bible software develop over the years while using a number of products, but in summary I started with Quickverse, then switched to Wordsearch and then moved onto PC Study Bible. When these products no longer met my expectations, I did some research and finally found Logos Bible software, then a Windows only software package. It was at version 2 and at the time was called ‘Series X’. I got a good deal on the Scholars Package and I was instantly sold. I loved it and when version 3 came out, I upgraded to Silver. In fact, they ran a special later and I got Gold as well. I added a few commentaries plus a handful of other resources during a sale so as a result I built up a nice tidy little library.
Then a huge problem came. I began to get disillusioned with the Windows platform. I was tired of configuration problems, instability and viruses, so I decided I wanted to get an Apple Mac. In fact, my first personal computing experience was on an Apple II computer, but the college I attended used PC based computers and so I switched. The problem was I had a nice little investment in Logos and I didn’t want to lose it. So I carried on in the Windows platform for this reason only. However, everything changed when I was visiting my brother one summer and I saw him running Windows on his Mac using VMware Fusion, a virtualization software package. I realized that I could run Logos for Windows on a Mac and to top it off, there was talk of Logos releasing a native Mac version. So off I went and got Macbook Pro. Getting an Apple was the best computing decision that I have made in many years. Running Logos for Windows on Fusion worked ‘reasonably’ well too!
I also began to get into original language studies, so I did some research on the best electronic tools. Logos could do some of what I wanted, but they had still had not released a Mac version of their software and I was anxious to use native Mac software to learn New Testament Greek. I had heard about Accordance Bible software for many, many years as one of the ‘premium standards’ for original languages study, so after swapping some emails with other Logos users who had Accordance as well, I decided to buy a copy. I instantly and thoroughly loved Accordance, which I will describe later.
Meanwhile, Logos released version 1.0 of it’s native Mac software only to abandon it in a short time and skip to version 4.0, based on their newly released Windows version. Logos 4 Mac has been in “full release” for over two years now. Not only does this software allow me to ditch the windows version, it preserves my investment in Logos from years ago.
So this comparison is with Logos 4.3 SR8 and Accordance 9.5.2. While I am not an expert on either program because it seems every week I learn something new, I would say that I am a medium power user of both programs. For the sake of this review, I am only comparing the Mac version of Logos with Accordance.
A COMPARISON – the good, the bad and the ugly
Logos Bible Software (Mac)
The Good: Logos has always been very good at providing an interface in which you can teach someone a few basic things and they can immediately begin to do some Bible study. Load up the program, key in a topic or a Bible reference in a ‘guide’ and Logos will generate a report based on your resources to get you started. This in itself does not constitute Bible study, but this is very disarming for those intimidated by the nerd factor of Bible software. To go further however, you need to watch some videos and spend some time gaining experience on the software.
In the genetics of Logos software is the company’s orientation towards resources. In fact, in the early editions of the software their library was called the Libronix Digital System. Logos set up a pre-publication scheme whereby users could register interest by committing at a very low price to help with the production of a resource. Once enough users signed up to cover the production costs, the resource would be produced and those who had participated got really cheap deals.
Having this huge library of resources is a huge benefit. When I was in formal studies, most everything I ever needed or wanted to buy was on Logos. This meant that I didn’t need to carry books and I had the benefits of them being integrated into my Bible software.
Credit to Logos, the user interface of version 4 is a big improvement over their previous versions and is reasonably intuitive. They also have ports of their software to iOS and Android so that you can read your resources on the go by syncing licenses and notes online ‘in the cloud’. It’s literally a ‘seminary’ type library to go.
The Bad: Logos has tried to keep the Windows and the Mac versions of its software as close to each other as possible in design. This has benefits on many levels. It also means that there are compromises. Some hard core Mac users will likely find Logos to lack some of the elegance that you would expect. Even conventions such as how do you close a tab is different than the standard ‘mac convention’ and certain Logos menus clearly look like they do not belong on OSX. Some would argue this is a necessary evil for parity in being a multi-platform software package and they are probably correct.
Part of the success and growth of Logos is due to their incredible marketing engine. They really know how to promote their products. This sometimes means that you can receive a lot of information. This year has been particularly bad. If you are signed up for email messages of various types, expect to get multiple messages even on the same day. Also if you configure the ‘Home Page’ to receive these messages, you will receive them when you open up the program.
While I think the founders, Bob and Dan Pritchett are some of the nicest people online, the company has grown and therefore my technical support encounters have become increasingly impersonal. My last few encounters have been professional, but less than personal. Worse, none of them really solved the issue which I called about.
The Ugly: The software is very slow, particularly on older hardware. Some would say tediously slow at times. If you have multiple windows tracking at once, it will jerk along or spin particularly if you don’t have a computer with a fast hard drive or even better, a solid state drive. Logos has sought to address this and has had some success. Yet the passage guide on my computer can take a very long time to populate with hits on my various resources. The work around this is to collapse various sections so that they don’t populate until you need them, but this is an unfortunate and additional step.
Worse, it is buggy. I crash it or find a bug at least once a week. I dutifully submit reports on these every time I find them in hope that Logos will improve the software. However, this sort of experience on full release software is tragic. To make matters worse, not long ago I lost data which rendered my library collections inoperative. On top of that, my ESV interlinear stopped working. The only answer tech support could give me was to delete certain things and download them again. The problem is this is impossible because high speed internet does not exist in many places in West Africa. So what this in effect means is that this software package that I depend on to work, can’t be depended on and if push comes to shove, I need to have a high speed internet connection to sort it.
This also highlights the software philosophy of Logos. Instead of developing code to a point that it is hardened and refined, they appear to use the ‘release early, release often‘ strategy. In the last two years, Logos 4 Mac has received at least 60 updates by way of new versions and service releases. This has it’s strengths in that users get software features more quickly, however it also means that you as the user may experience more ‘bumps in the road’ than you would otherwise with a less frequent release cycle. Also, for people like me who can’t get the latest update to fix a critical problem, it means that we are stuck out sometimes waiting until we can get to a high speed internet connection for an update. Don’t take this software to the moon with you!
Despite these frequent updates, Logos for Mac fails to hit the mark as far as trouble free computing. In a day and age where users expect more from their computing experience, I find this downright ugly.
Accordance Bible Software
The Good: Accordance is very advanced and sophisticated. I liken Roy Brown as the ‘Steve Jobs’ of the Bible software world. He knows his stuff and Accordance has been creating their software for years with features that have been ahead of their time, even when comparing it to Windows counterparts. Accordance takes a very, very disciplined approach to software and as a result everything in the package is well executed. The Accordance Bible Atlas module is the best in the industry. Also the Timeline and Photoguide packages are second to none. Everything is mature, tight, efficient and it never ever crashes.
Original language students will find a vast array of quality resources and while Accordance does not have as many resources that Logos has, none of what Accordance offers is fluff. All their resources are of high quality and are tightly integrated into the over work flow and design of the software. It is hard to describe, but Accordance has designed the software in such a way that it keeps your attention on the Bible text. This is not to say this couldn’t be done on Logos, but you can tell in the genetics of Accordance that the Bible is central. Even the use of ‘Tools’ such as interlinears are done in such a way that you can use them, but the software gets ‘out of the way’ so that you can focus on the original text if you are so inclined.
Accordance is lightening fast, even on older hardware and the search capabilities are beyond this world. Everything is configurable. If you search on shoot outs or comparisons of Accordance with other Bible software packages on the internet, you will rarely find that Accordance has been out performed. It’s just that hard to beat… like a study Bible on steroids. Need to hit the road with your resources? Accordance has apps for iOS devices such as the iPad.
The sales and support staff are brilliant. I have made multiple after hour enquiries only to get a response from Helen who is already working the email in the early hours. You get personal, family like service on every encounter, even on weekends and holidays.
Accordance also gives me as an overseas worker a discount on purchases, which means I don’t have to wait for a special sale or deal to buy something. The fact that they honor me in my line of humanitarian work is humbling and makes me want to give them my business.
The Bad: While Accordance has a lot of important and quality materials for Bible Study, if you are engaged in seminary or university studies, there will be materials that you will want that cannot be obtained for use in their software. This leaves you two choices. You either buy the dead tree versions, or buy Logos as a supplement for reference library purposes. I have met more than one Accordance fan that has been forced to buy Logos just for the resources. While I didn’t initially start out with Logos for this purpose, now that I am living on a ship, even if I had dead tree versions of books there would be no way that I could practically drag them around the world with me. Accordance just can’t beat Logos in the resources department.
Also, contrary to Logos, if you want to just start using Accordance without really learning the software you probably won’t get too far. There is an ‘Assistant Window’, but it is not as comprehensive as the ‘guide tools’ on Logos. All this being said, the software is not hard to use and there are over 50 free excellent videos which you can watch on iTunes to help you master the fundamentals, then move onto more sophisticated tasks. The videos are the best in the industry that I have seen.
On the technical side, I am a bit disappointed that the Greek texts that Accordance uses have not been tagged with Louw Nida numbers. I am a fairly firm believer that working with languages according to their semantic domains is very useful. While I know there are philosophical reasons why some aren’t inclined this way, I wished there was an option to do this in Accordance.
Last, contrary to the intuitive nature of Accordance as a software package, the Accordance website does my head in. I am not sure why, but figuring out what you need to buy to achieve certain things seems less than straight forward. Maybe it works for others, but I often find I need to wander around a fair bit until I am certain I am getting what I really want. I certainly think it could be more intuitive.
The Ugly: I really don’t know what to write about Accordance that I would put into the ‘ugly category’. It just works. I can see no major faults. Honest!
Drum roll please… And the winner is – Accordance! This is my ‘go to’ Bible study programme for a number of reasons:
- Accordance just works. This was why I left Windows and bought a Mac in the first place. There is no excuse to find bugs and to experience crashes on a weekly basis in full release software. I have submitted multiple bug reports to Logos and have never once received an apology or a thanks. As near as I can tell, Logos expects me to help debug their software or just put up with it. If my standard is that crashes and bugs should be as rare as everything else on my Apple computer, then Logos for Mac is not ready for prime time. I know the guys at Logos are working their guts out to fix this, but I have to “call em’ like I see em’”. What’s worse is that they are working on releasing version 4.5 which includes more features. Personally, I would rather see the software stabilize before more features are introduced. Maybe they can fix a lot of bugs while introducing more features, but personal experience to date does not give me confidence.
- Accordance just focuses on Bible software for the Mac. Accordance isn’t trying to get into multiple businesses, run websites, produce magazines, etc. Accordance is extremely focused and they just want to produce quality Bible software. I like this focus. I want software that fully takes advantage of the Mac and gives me the ability to take it onto other portable Apple devices. I’m happy to compromise multi-platform capabilities or other website services to be able to take full advantage of why I came to Apple. This exclusive focus also means that they have developed their software in such a way that all features are implemented to an extremely high standard without bugs and the software is very, very fast.
- Everything on Accordance is tightly integrated. If you do nothing else other than buy the base package, you have to buy the ‘Graphics Bundle’. This tightly integrated bundle gives you the Bible Atlas program which in my opinion is clearly the best in the industry. You also get a brilliant Timeline module and the Photoguide. If you are a visual learner, this will bring your Bible reading alive as you look at the places on the map, click for photos and understand when it happened in relation to other events. In fact, all the Accordance modules are tightly integrated in such a way that it enhances your Bible study, but stays out of the way.
- Accordance is very well suited for original language studies. In fact, even for people who don’t want to learn Greek, Bill Mounce has now produced a ‘Biblical Greek Primer’ course which is based on Accordance and will help you do original language studies without having to become proficient in Greek. I will blog more about this later, but this is a HUGE development for more casual computer users and language learners to get started.
- I like the personalized service at Accordance. Roy, Helen, Rick, David and Dr. J to name a few, make the company personal and I appreciate being treated on a personal level than just another caller on line one. It reminds me of the small town shops that I grew up around. It is refreshingly professional, personal and friendly.
All this being said and my opinion expressed, at the end of the day, software is a preference. Software is a tool. Use what works for you. It should never lead to back biting or carnal competition. We are all on the same team. I’d like to think that I have friends at both companies. Times change as well. I have no clue what the computer market will look like in ten years, so we all must hold these things lightly. Keep in mind that I started years ago on Quickverse!
Finally, as I said in the beginning of this review: I believe one of the best uses of your computer is to use it to do Bible study. Regardless of which path you choose, get into the Word and study it for all you can. It’s deeply rewarding and never before have there been so many resources and capabilities at our fingertips!