The best Bible study software worth paying for

Logos Bible Software

Logos Bible Software 3

Logos is to Bible software what John Lewis is to shopping – wonderful choice, but sometimes bewildering. It has far more than you could ever need, and often more than you can really afford. In fact, Logos has almost every resource offered by all the other publishers combined (except Pradis), and plenty more besides.

There are two major downsides. One is cost. The most expensive “base” package in Logos is Scholar’s Library Gold, which costs almost £1,000, and even that includes ‘only’ 700 of the 9,000 titles available. The rest have to be added at additional cost. Having said that, few users will need Scholar’s Library Gold. A far cheaper option is the Bible Study Library at £180. This still includes 18 English Bible versions, and over 150 other resources, which are a nice mix of contemporary and historical.The second downside is complexity. To get the most out of Logos you have to understand how best to use it, and this will require an investment of time. Don’t misunderstand me. Logos have made the software incredible easy to use ‘out of the box’. You can just type in a bible verse, topic, or even a Greek/Hebrew word, and very soon all your resources will be searched, with the results presented in a very readable format. There’s plenty you’ll be able to do with Logos without learning all its quirks and powerful features – it’s just that if you do learn them you’ll be able to do a whole lot more. Thankfully Logos offer a great deal of help through their excellent telephone support and online tutorials.

Verdict: If your budget will stretch to it, and you’re willing to commit some time to learn the software, Logos is about as good as it gets. It’s particularly suitable if you think your study will deepen in time and you will later want access to more thorough resources. But if you struggle with computers, or aren’t able to commit the time to learn, you may be better off with one of the alternatives.

Alternatives:

  • WORDsearch 8, £35 to £350: WORDsearch is simple, has dozens of resources, and is very expandable (though like all packages apart from Logos, few scholarly resources are available). A typical package is the “Thompson Chain-Reference Leaders Library” which can be downloaded online for about £150. It includes 16 Bible versions (including KJV, ESV, NIV and NKJV) and 134 other reference works, almost all of which are out of copyright ‘classics’. There are hundreds more resources available, many of which are recent publications. However, these add-ons can be expensive – the 47-volume set of Welwyn commentaries is £350.
  • PocketBible, £35-£135: Despite the name, PocketBible is available for desktop computers, as well as pocket computers (you need a Palm, iPhone or Windows Mobile device), and resources can be shared between the desktop and pocket versions. It offers excellent value – even the cheapest package includes the NIV and 12 other Bibles, though there are not many other resources available. PocketBible is relatively simple to use, partly because it has a fixed display. This makes it easy to find your resources (they’re always in the same place!), but it can be annoying when you can’t stop resources you don’t need cluttering up your display. If you value simplicity above all, it could be the right choice.
  • QuickVerse, £20 – £550: A terrific modern interface, and many excellent resources, even the mid-range QuickVerse Deluxe (£65) which has 226 books including the ESV and NKJV. However, it has several annoying quirks and is missing some important resources (including Calvin’s commentaries). As one reviewer put it, “QuickVerse is very much like a few girls I dated in college. Very attractive, but the more time you spend with them the more you wish you were with someone else.”
  • PC Study Bible, £35 – £400: PC Study Bible is a reasonably number of resources (between 51 and 147), most of which are actually quite useful. The interface makes it easy to find cross-references between resources, though it is a little idiosyncratic in places. It’s also rather overpriced, though thankfully the publisher often has sales, so if you buy at the right time, you could get some easy to use software at a good price.
  • Pradis, prices vary: Pradis is a frustrating product created by Zondervan. It is only averagely competent, and its purpose seems to be largely to keep Zondervan electronic titles in-house. This means Pradis has several exclusive resources, but it also means it is lacking resources from several other publishers (it doesn’t even have the ESV or NKJV, for example). Best avoided if possible.

Comments

  1. Thanks for mentioning PocketBible for Windows. Just to clarify: You can, in fact, close resources you don’t need, close entire panes (i.e. all your Bibles, all your commentaries, all your dictionaries, etc.), open new panes/books, and rearrange the layout to your satisfaction. What makes PocketBible different is that you don’t have to know this in order to START using the software — it comes up the first time with everything open and available. And we have more content coming all the time.

  2. @Craig: Yes, you’re quite right I didn’t express that as clearly as I could. I know it’s possible to change the layout, but you have to configure this – you can’t just drag and drop. For example, when I’m using Libronix, normally I would have open an English Bible, a Greek NT, a commentary and a dictionary. But sometimes I re-order the layout for a few minutes, perhaps because a particular word I’m studying is mentioned in a couple of dictionaries and I want to see both at the same time, but don’t need the commentaries for that point. With PocketBible making a change like that seems much more permanent, so it wouldn’t be worth adjusting the layout just for those five minutes on the one word. Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, with PocketBible, once you’ve got your display as you like it you tend to stick with it.

  3. I think it’s a matter of getting used to how each program does the same thing. In the case you describe I’d consider opening a new dictionary pane, put the two dictionaries in it, then maximize that pane. When done I’d close that pane and everything’s back to normal (or close to it). Obviously you could describe another situation that would be harder to solve, just as you could describe a situation that’s hard to do with Logos.

    There’s a fundamental difference in approach, though. Logos offers maximum flexibility at the expense of a steeper learning curve. PocketBible specifically addresses the 99% of Bible software users who aren’t Bible scholars and who don’t live in their Bible software 8 hours a day. They want to have quick and easy access to their resources without futzing around with the UI — even though the results of the latter might be superior. In the time it takes to do it perfectly with Logos, the PocketBible user does it “good enough” and has moved on to another task.

    With all this said, one thing I’ve learned in 20 years of doing this is that everybody thinks the Bible software they use and/or wrote is “intuitive” and everything else is a mystery. So it’s not so much a question of good-better-best but rather one way/another way/yet another way.

    This was a good series of articles. Glad I ran into it.

  4. Pastor Mark,
    I agree…Logos is indispensable! (Scholars Silver)

    I can’t figure out how I ever got along without it!

    The true is; before Logos, I wasn’t “really” studying…I was devotional reading and calling it study…sad to say.

    bob

  5. Thanks for sharing. The tool that has been most helpful for me has been from scripture4all.org (Interlinear Scripture Analyzer).

  6. Logos sounds good. I just use the free Bible software, eSword.
    It’s easy to use and pretty powerful. Thanks for your reviews.
    Mark

  7. I have used Logos since it first appeared back in the 80′s. I’ve upgraded and now have the Scholars Gold package with several additions. I have also attended the training sessions that are offered from time to time.

    You are correct that there is a rather steep learning curve. But once you master the basics the program just seems to keep on giving.

    I think your analysis is spot on and quite useful.

  8. Robert Hayes says:

    Lets be a little blunt, LOGOS for all it’s wonderful benefits is way overpriced. As compared to what you ask? As compared to what the average Christian household can afford, so its like a lot other things in the secular world, its designed for those who have money, not the Christian masses……..$1300 or more for the top of the line package, common guys this is an elitist pricing mentality and in this recession era, likely heading to depression times, the people who can pay these Cadillac prices will become an ever growing minority. Why do you think they stopped selling their product through dealers and made it a factory direct style. THEY KNOW, so why not make it all yourself while the gravy train last and cut out the middle man………….Logos is little more than a BIG BUSINESS OPERATION, in a Christian format……..All that would be required to prove that would be to see the company’s pay scale and benefits for their top people and their profit margins, all of which I can guarantee will not be made public for all of us to see…….. The product is hard to learn, slow and fixes for those shortcomings would be too costly to pass on to a public that is already paying through the nose. LOGOS in a way is like being hooked on a narcotic. You buy it and your immediately aware that to get to next level will require more…….. And that’s what they want. Get you hooked on those never ending carrots out there beginning you to spend a little more, and a little more, and a little more……….Its knowing about God’s word a little better, for those who can afford it……..

  9. When it comes to bible study software, in my opinion, Logos is the Cream of the crop. I have been using Logos since it first came out years ago and it was on 3 1/2″ floppies. I now have Logos Platinum Edition and have spent almost $1700 on Logos products. If you want to dig a whole lot deeper in God’s Word then this is the product you need. To me, there is no other bible study program that even comes close to Logos. It is the numero uno of bible study applications.