Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crossing Swords with Mac Bible Software (Part 1)

Several months ago I completed a comparison/review article of Mac Bible software Accordance and Logos. This article was supposed to be posted online elsewhere, but for various reasons never made it. Since Logos is close to releasing an updated version of their Mac Bible software, I've decided to post my comparison review here now. The article is somewhat lengthy, so I'll break up the posts into a few parts.

Software reviewed

Accordance Bible Software 8.4.7, Library Premier ($299)

Logos Bible Software/Libronix DLS 1.2.2, Scholar's Library ($629.95)

Christians in the 21st century are the recipients of a wealth of history and the theological reflection it provides. If we look at the nearly 2000 years of the development of Christianity since Jesus walked the earth, several milestones are behind us such as the rise of a small band of believers into the largest religion in the world, the printing press and its ability to reproduce the Bible en masse, and, much more recently, the rise of computer technology. Many of us probably take it for granted that God's Word is available to us in so many electronic forms, but it wasn't that long ago that Bible software first made its way to personal computers.

Today all kinds of Bible software is available to us on mobile devices, as well as on powerful desktop and laptop computers. We can enter search terms and have software scan an entire library of biblical resources in a matter of seconds—a task that would have taken many hours if not days or weeks to accomplish via reviewing printed books. While I will have more to say on the philosophy of technology and its use later, the primary focus of this article is on two key Bible software applications available for Macintosh computers: Accordance Bible Software and Logos Bible Software. I'll begin by providing an overview of each, then offer a comparison, and conclude with some insights on philosophy of technology and the pros and cons of each software package.

A Word About Logos

Available on the Microsoft Windows platform since 1995, Logos Bible Software for Mac arrived in December 2008. At the time of this writing the latest version is 1.2.2, with version 4 currently in pre-Alpha testing. Logos is going to bring the Mac version up to 4.0 to better be in line with its Windows version, also at 4.0, so there are no 2.0 or 3.0 versions for Mac; for details on the development of Logos 4 for Mac see http://www.logos.com/mac/disclaimer. Logos actually runs on the Libronix Digital Library System (DLS), a platform developed by the Libronix Corporation, which in turn is a subsidiary of Logos Research Systems, Inc., developers of Logos Bible Software. While most of the time I will refer to the software simply as "Logos," in a few instances I may refer to it as "Libronix," "Libronix DLS," or a combination of these names.

My first experience using Logos goes back to version 1.6 on Windows many years ago when software still came on floppy disks. Although I've been a regular Mac user for eight years now, I continued to use Logos on Windows due to the fact that I already had access to a fairly extensive library of reference resources that I could not access on my Mac without making additional purchases. With the release of Logos on Mac, however, I decided to upgrade my library in order to simplify access to my Bible reference tools.

Word Problems: Making the Switch

Switching from my Windows version of Logos to the Mac version did come with some challenges. Logos uses a confusing system of Customer ID and Confirmation Codes in order to properly activate and synchronize your library. My first attempt to install Libronix DLS on my Mac resulted in an installation that had a Customer ID that did not match my Windows installation. The end result of this goof was that I could not import any of my Scholar's Library content installed in Windows to my Mac installation of Logos.

Uninstalling and reinstalling the software did not remove my license code. After poking around a bit online I came across a Libronix uninstall application for Mac (see http://www.logos.com/support/mac/uninstall). This reset my Customer ID and let me start from scratch. After some fiddling around, I finally got my Mac installation to match my Windows installation customer ID. Now I was able to insert my software CDs and add them to my Mac installation of Libronix. Almost. Some CDs were in a format that was too old to work with Mac Libronix. After doing some more digging, I found most of these resources available for download from Libronix in the newer format.

I sent an email to Libronix tech support on a Saturday and heard back from a helpful fellow named Don around mid-day on Monday. He provided me with a link that would update my Windows Libronix titles to the newer format that will work with Mac Libronix. I was presented with a daunting list adding up to more than 1GB of content to download to my Windows installation on Parallels, my emulation software. I downloaded the missing files, then had to locate them on my Windows installation drive, then had to copy them to the Libronix resources folder on my Mac. There should be an easier way for Windows users of Libronix to make the transition to the Mac version.

In the end, five titles were missing from my Mac installation including one of my favorites, The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. After more email exchanges with tech support, I was informed that not all older format books were available for updating or download for use on the Mac. At any rate, my Libronix Windows library finally made it to my Mac. Logos customer service was helpful and did solve most of my issues. All in all, it would be better if a first-time installation of Libronix on Mac explained things a bit clearer, such as the importance of matching Customer IDs and such.

Inside Logos

Being a seminary graduate, as well as an author, I chose the Logos Scholar's Library (currently $630 retail, with the most basic Logos package, Christian Home Library, starting at $150). The Scholar's Library includes nearly 500 books including more than 40 English Bibles, dozens of Bible commentaries, original language texts and helps, several theology texts, and a number of books on preaching, teaching, etc. The first time user of such software can easily become overwhelmed by the amount of resources available in such a package, which is why it's important to understand at least the rudiments of using the Libronix DLS.

The Libronix DLS is key to getting the most out of Logos Bible Software. Without at least a moderate level of understanding of Libronix, your vast library of Bibles and additional resources may as well be in a pile in your garage, making the resources unorganized and hard to find. Fortunately, Logos did not simply shovel a quick and dirty port of their Windows version and call it the Mac edition. Instead, they took some time to carefully put together the interface to provide the Mac experience Apple users are accustomed to—an interface that should be even more refined by the time Logos for Mac 4.0 is released. This means, in short, that Logos on Mac, for the most part, behaves like a native Mac application.

The main Logos screen makes it easy to get started with your Bible studies or devotions. At the top, "Latest News" reveals new products, training opportunities, and other news of interest. The triangle on the left allows users to open or collapse any of the main options (helpful for de-cluttering this screen). Next is the "Bible Study Starter." Think of this as a sort of Google-for-your-Bible-software tool, offering three main search areas: "Study Passage," "Study Word," and "Study Topic." Under "Study Passage," for instance, just type in a book of the Bible, a specific passage (or range), or even a name or names from the Bible and click on "Go!" or hit "return" and Logos begins to pore over your library, returning organized results in a new window. As far as I can tell, Accordance lacks a topical search function that is as simple as the feature as implemented in Logos.

Like its Windows counterpart, Logos/Libronix offers quick access to your library from the aptly named "My Library" window (command-L or, from the File menu, "Go," then select "My Library"). This lists every book you have access to ("All Unlocked Resources"), those you can unlock by purchasing ("All Locked Resources"), and everything, whether locked or unlocked ("All Known Resources"). The "Arrange By" filter allows you to view everything or list your resources by author, title, or subject. The search box beneath these options allows you to type in a keyword, phrase, name, exact title, etc. in order to narrow your search results. My Library is a quick way to find a specific resource and it works very well. As useful as it is, I find Accordance's "Library" palette more useful, particularly when you'd just like to browse your library but do so within broad categories such as Texts (Bibles), Parallels (ready-made parallel studies), English Tools, Greek Tools, Hebrew Tools, Reference Tools, Maps, etc.

Continued in Part 2

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