25 September 2009

Getting the best out of Bible software: Logos

Logos Scholar's Library  - Guides, tips and treasures

I have a lukewarm relationship with Logos. I love the power and the resources, but I can't get used to the interface. This doesn't stop me from recommending Logos for anyone who wants to integrate secondary literature with Bible tools, because  they have the price right and the technology works, and it keeps getting easier to use. Now that it is available on the Mac as well as PC , it is available to everyone, and their SD card  option makes it easy to install on netbooks too.

These notes are based on Logos 3 (aka Libronix). Logos 4 is now also available, and some people prefer it, though it costs more. It does have some cool analysis tools and some new resources.

If you have thought Logos was too complex, here's a quick start.
And if you can't quite work out how to get it to do what you want, I've uncovered some of the hidden tricks and treasures for you.

Choosing the package

This is harder than you'd think, but it is due to the fantastic choice available.
They have done their best to package things according to different types of user:
First look at the  comparison chart  and prices for their bundled packages.

My advice

If you want to dip your foot in, I suggest you get a basic package then add modules or books later:

If you want to buy a ready-made collection, ask yourself:

  • "Do I like to work things out for myself?"
    - then get the Original Languages Library (which has all the foreign language tools but no commentaries)
  • "Do I like to read what others have found out"
     - then get the Scholar's Library (which has fewer language tools but all the commentaries).
  • "Do I have a generous church or lots of money?"
    - then go for the Silver or Gold or Plantinum.
The Gold Scholar's Library is expensive, but it is worth considering as a missionary gift to a pastor or school, because this puts a basic library in their hands.

Getting more (or less) than the Logos packages

When you buy the Gold collection, you don't have it all. You have 700+ volumes, but there is LOTS more available for separate purchase.
Search their products or look at the huge list of All Books   (be prepared to wait - they have 12000+ titles! - though it depends how you count)

Logos are superb at turning printed works into searchable texts linked to other resources such as Bibles and dictionaries.
Some of the books are available elsewhere on the web, for free. Nevertheless, the Logos versions are valuable because they are more searchable, and they have internal links to Bible references and language aids etc, and they are accurate even for Greek & Hebrew.

Some resources which are NOT included in the Gold are surprising.

The Gold collection includes about 20 English Bibles, including the main commercial versions while  BibleWorks and Accordance have far more. Missing from Logos are some Bibles of historical importance (eg Geneva and Tyndale), some from outside the Protestant world (eg Douay-Rheims and JPS) and some translations of non-Hebrew texts (eg the Septuagint and Peshitta). But Logos is ahead of its rivals with interlinear Bibles which give quick and easy access to the original languages.

Most of the original language ancient versions are included, except the Samaritan Pentatuech (which is available in Accordance but not presently in BibleWorks) and the OT Peshitta (available in BibleWorks and Accordance).

Installation tips (and groans)

I have installed Logos many times, and it rarely goes smoothly.
The good news is that over the years things have improved, and their help department is great - they respond quickly, with detailed instructions.
A few ways to avoid pitfalls:
  • make sure your computer is connected to the internet. It makes registration easy, and solves some issues.
  • you will need to put the Serial No in the Account Manager (on the "Tools" menu) to install your product. The first time you run this, it may ask you for your email and other details. If it still doesn't ask you for your Serial No, try running the Account Manager again.
  • if you have multiple licences (bought at different times, with different email addresses), email Logos and ask to get everything on one licence
  • when they ask you to 'synchronise' your serial number with their central server, let them do it. This means that you don't lose any login information.
  • install everything - don't leave it on CDs. The space available on modern hard drives is huge.
  • after you think you have installed everything,  put the CD back in and click on menu "Tools", "Library Management", "Location Manager". Let it list all the Unlocked resourses which aren't installed and click on "Copy Resources" if it finds some. (It's surprising how often this is necessary)
Don't be afraid to register. If your computer or hard drive dies, they will let you reinstall them, and they are happy for you to install them on two computers (for example one at home and one at the church office) so long as you are the prime user of both - see their  instructions for installing on another computer

Getting Started

The richness of Logos is a problem. There are so many ways to search, with a different types of windows to display the information, and the user can arrange the windows in any way they like. No two people use Logos in the same way, so the designers leave a great deal open to the users. This is a challenge for the new user, who can face the empty screen like an author with writer's block. Here's how to do basic tasks:
  • Study a Passage - click on "Home", "Study Passage" and type a Bible reference. This compiles links to commentaries, and reference guides, quick version comparisons with highlighted differences, parallel passages and online sermon links. Click on "Exegetical Guide" for even more.
  • Study a Bible Word - click on "Home", "Study Word" and type a word from the Bible. This pulls together lexicons and other resources using that word, with links to Hebrew & Greek words and a concordance organised by the original word form.

  • Study a Topic - click on "Home", "Study Topic", or click on "Search", "Basic Search" and set it to "All Available Unlocked Resources" then type any subject word. This takes some time but produces links to any Bible passage, dictionaries or books which use that word in its various forms. 
    - if you have too many results, use "Topic Browser" (click on "Go").
    - if you have too few results use "Search", "Fuzzy Search", but be prepared to wait a VERY long time. 
  • Study comments on a Bible passage - click on "Go", "Reference Browser", select "All Available Unlocked", Type="Bible", and type the reference. This creates links to every resource which includes this reference.
  • Find something found earlier  (this happens a lot, because so many new windows open) - click on "Go", "History" to get a very nice graphical image of where you have been.

Time-saving tips

Save Workspace
There are so many different ways to use Logos, you will want to use different layouts for different things.
So when you have things set up nicely, click on "File: Save Workspace", and give it a memorable name.

Simple Searching
There are lots of different ways to search. Click on menu: "Search" and you'll find a bewildering list of search engines.  Here's how to cut through the confusion:
  • To search inside the text you are reading, press Ctrl-F.
    This opens little search box opens in the bottom status bar of that window, like in Firefox.
  • To search a range of texts press Ctrl-Shift-S.
    This opens whichever search engine is likely to be the one you want (depending on what you are reading)

Aligned hits in Context.
If this is offered as a display option, try it. It is particularly useful when looking for similar phrases or constructions.

Keyboard shortcuts
You can take control of the multitude of windows by a few keyboard shortcuts:
  • Ctrl+W = close the current highlighted window
  • Ctrl+Tab = step through previous windows, starting from the most recently viewed 
  • Ctrl+G = Go to the reference box to type in a new location.
  • Ctrl+Shift+1 = bookmark a position in a window.  (1 - 9 are 9 bookmarks)
  • Ctrl+1 = go back to that bookmarked window and position.
  • Ctrl+PgDn = shows the same text in the next Bible (listed alphabetically).
    (Doesn't work well with other types of resource).

Useful features you might not know about

Customise Toolbars

Click on menu "Tools", "Customise" to add new toolbars. This is more than just adding icons for features which can be reached by the menu. You can add shortcuts to a webpage, to load a particular workspace, to run some script, open another program etc. etc. Unfortunately you can't have different sets of buttons for different Workspaces.

Turn on Page Numbers

In menu "View", "Visual Filters", click on "All Resources", highlight "Page Numbers" and click "Add". Wait a while - it has to turn this on for many resources. Now, when you look at an electronic book, you will know which page number you are citing.

Star diagrams in Word Studies

Click on Home, and type a word in "Study Word", then look at "Root Words".
These diagrams are not just pretty - they display a lot of information.
The words are different sizes according to how many times they are used,
and when you click on one you get a quick English concordance search for that word
(though only where it is translated by the English word you looked up).
However, if you click on the Greek or Hebrew word at the top of the quick concordance list, 
you get a Bible Word Study based on that Greek or Hebrew word so you can see all the ways it has been translated (but be prepared to wait!).

Compare Bible versions

Click on menu "Tools", "Bible Comparison", "Compare Parallel Bible Versions".
The results can be confusing though this is VERY clever.
Not only does it show differences between texts (which is relatively simple)
it manages to show the comparison version in a different colour in the right place!
(well, most of the time - it gets confused with less literal translations)

Setting General Options (making Logos do what you want!)

Click on menu "Tools: Options: General". There are so many options, you are tempted to ignore them, but some of them are important.
  • General: "Restore Desktop to Last Session".
    There is always something you forgot to do last time.
  • Interface: Turn off "Play Sounds".
    You'll use your laptop in a quiet library one day and be embarressed!
  • Text Display: "Prefer Sans Serif".
    This is much easier on the eye for computer displays.
  • Text display: "Transliterate".
    You can choose which languages to transliterate, from Arabic to Ugraritc. Although it doesn't work with all resources, it is extremely impressive that it works at all! You can reverse it again if you want to copy and paste the original characters.
    (To transliterate in reports and tip windows, use "Tools", "Options", "Bible tools", "Ancient Languages").


Change Default Bibles & Resources

  • When you hover over something, you can make your favourite Bible show
  • When you search, you can make your preferred versions appear.
  • When you click on something, you make the most useful resources open.
For example, when you hover over a Bible reference, you might want the original Greek or Hebrew, or a modern translation, instead of the King James Bible which you get by default. And when you click on a Bible reference, you may want to open both the original text and a literal translation, or for an OT text you may want LXX + BHS.
  • Click on menu "Tools", "Options", "Keylink"
  • change "Data Type" to "Bible"
  • highlight your preferred Bible version in the big list (eg "Biblica Hebraica.." and click "Promote". This moves it to the top window.
  • if you want more than one, promote another too (eg "Septuaginta") plug Greek NT (eg "Nestle-Aland…")
  • put "2" in the "Number of windows to make sure Greek & Hebrew OT both open
To open your vavourite lexicons when you click on a Greek word:

  • Click on menu "Tools", "Options", "Keylink"
  • change "Data Type" to "Greek"
  • highlight a couple of other lexicons and "Promote" them
    (if you have a good internet connection, it is a good idea to include "Perseus")
  • put "3" in the "Number of windows (or whatever number of lexicons you want each time)
To show Greek & Hebrew when hovering over English:
  • This is only possible in tagged English translations, eg NASB or KJV, so open one of these
  • Click on menu "Tools", "Options", "Keylink"
  • change "Data Type" to "Greek Strong's Number"and change "When mouse hovers.." to "Preview keylink..."
  • change "Data Type" to "Hebrew Strong's Number"and change "When mouse hovers.." to "Preview keylink..."
  • now, when you hover over a word, you see the underlying Greek or Hebrew word with a short lexical entry

Quick Greek & Hebrew lookup

My first reaction to Reverse Interlinears was negative, because you lose all touch with the underlying structure of the language.
But actually they are very useful, and you can do some things which a normal Greek text doesn't do.
  • double-click on a word and your default Greek or Hebrew lexicon opens
  • hover over the horrible morphology abbreviation and it is expanded in a hover box
  • right-click and pick "Englishman's Concordance" and you get a list of all the translations of that Greek or Hebrew word, highlighted in context

See all the translations of a Greek or Hebrew word, highlighted in context

This is a very welcome artefact of having a reverse-interlinear in Logos.
  • select a "Reverse Interlinear" version such as the ESV
  • right-click on the word anywhere it occurs in the text
  • on the right of the popup box, highlight "lemma"
  • on the left, click on "Search this resource"

Explore Greek word usage outside the NT

You can quickly list all occurances of a Greek word in
  • LXX
  • NT
  • Intertestamental Greek literature
  • Philo
  • Apostolic Fathers
To do this:
  • Click on menu "Tools", "Bible Study", "Bible Word Study"
  • copy and paste the Greek word into the top bar
  • OR change to a Greek keyboard and type the word
    (I recommend the free Tyndale Unicode Kit  but you can also click on the "a" in the bottom-right taskbar and use the Logos keyboard)
  • OR copy and paste the Greek word
It also analyses the word to help identify common subjects or objects, or look for similar syntactical forms.
A wider search of Greek literature would be useful. I don't know why Josephus is missing,
and translations alongside would be an obvious additional help.

Detailed work on the Greek & Hebrew texts with SESB

None of the Logos packages include the critical apparatus for Greek & Hebrew texts.
For this you need the add-on package SESB - the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible
See the SESB review here , where I conclude it is BETTER than the paper versions
So, if you are someone who uses BHS, UBS and/or NA27, give them away and buy this!
(If you don't know what these acronymns are, you probably don't want this package)

Actually, you may not need anything else, if you are wanting mainly Bible text tools.
So, instead of buying SESB as an add-on, you can buy it as your starter pack.
(though if you are a Mac user , you need to buy at least one of their Libraries).
It includes the whole Logos search engine and tools described above.
It merely lacks all the extra books, which you can add later if you wish.
And if you are a fan of BibleWorks, you can use it with that - see my BibleWorks tips

Pretty stuff - Timelines, Maps, Genealogies

I don't mean to put these down by calling them pretty - they manage to convey a lot of useful information in a good-looking format.
  • Timelines - click on "Tools", "Bible Data", "Timelines"
  • Genealogies - click on "Tools", "Bible data", "Biblical People"
  • Maps - click on "My Library", type "Maps", "Logos Deluxe Maps", open "Content pane" (icon on top right)


Personal Conclusions

There are many features I haven't mentioned - diagramming, complex gramatical searches, lectonaries, verb rivers - a beweildering array of features which a user keeps coming across.

I love the way Logos turns books into searchable texts. They are superbly accurate and the texts have all the linkages built in to make them work with each other.
I admire the tools Logos provides - the different powerful ways to display information and powerful comparison and linking tools - though I find them unintuitive to use.
I get confused by the layers of windows which open all over the place, though this may be due to my untidy mind. After all, they only opened because I asked them to!
I get frustrated by the slowness of seemingly simple searches. Of course this is often due to searching huge databases, but it is difficult to restrict searches in order to speed them up.

I know that Logos are working hard to put these things right, and I hope they succeed, because Biblical Scholarship needs them.
Accordance and BibleWorks are easier to use (in my opinion) but they don't have anywhere near the same number of resources.
If your work revolves mainly round analysing the text or translations, I'd recommend Accordance (on Mac) and BibleWorks (on PC), but if you want to link the Bible to related sources, commentaries, journal articles, devotional books, archaology, classical theology, etc etc, you need Logos.


James and Katie Kerr said...

great review, to change Bible version all you need to do is click right or left and it switch between versions.

Donovan said...

I know your review is about Logos for windows, but when you say "I love the power and the resources, but I can't get used to the interface. This doesn't stop me from recommending Libronix..." I can affirm this statement from a recent convert to Mac.

I am grateful for Logos for Mac because it allows me to access my library. Logos is absolutely fantastic because of it's HUGE library of resources. That said, the interface for Logos for Mac is even worse than the Windows version. OK, it's only version 1.0 and less than a year old... but still, the interface for both windows and mac versions of Logos is not that hot. The passage, exegetical guide reports are great for a quick workup on a passage or word, but to go beyond that you have to configure multiple windows to create some sort of work flow for reading the Bible.

To this end, increasingly I am advising Logos users who are like me that love Logos to purchase a secondary program, particularly if you want to do language studies. My recommendation is that if you are a windows user, then consider buying Bible Works. If you are a Mac user, get Accordance. IMHO, Bible Works and Accordance have far superior user interfaces. When used with Logos which serves as an excellent commentary and reference library, you have a powerful combination for studies.

Unknown said...

very nice blog