I’ve had some questions lately about what kind of software I use in my studies. There are really only three contenders: Bibleworks, Accordance, and Logos.
I’ve been a BW user for almost 10 years, and Logos for 5. Accordance I’ve only used the demo for and on others’ computers, and seen it demonstrated by the programmers. Nevertheless, I feel familiar enough with Accordance to include it here. This is not, however, a formal review or feature-by-feature comparison. Naturally, as all three programs are aimed at the same general market, there is a good amount of overlap.
Some general notes-
First is the question of platform. If you’re an Apple user from birth, Accordance is probably for you, as it is the only long-time native Apple program. Logos has just released its release candidate for their Apple version. Bibleworks is PC-only, though if you’re a switcher or dual-system user like me, BW runs very well under Parallels and VMWare.
Second is the question of approach. Bibleworks does not intend to be an electronic library but markets itself as text-centric, and indeed, at this it excels. Complex searches, even comparing different texts or translations, are easy to input and return results almost immediately, even on older systems. (Time-taken displays with each search.) Logos is more of an electronic library with a broader mandate- commentaries,
devotional books, historical, archaeological, etc. Accordance takes a middle ground, with fewer books and resources than Logos, but more of a focus on Bible text-search functionality.
I know many PC users who run both BW and Logos in complementary ways. The programmers have actually worked out a way to pass words and references from BW to Logos so you can two-click out of BW into Logos. For example, I can right-click a verse in BW, open a menu and click, and Logos will run a search through all my commentaries and grammatical resources to find wherever that verse is commented on. Then I read through my resources in Logos.
All three programs have a learning curve, but have very responsive forums, blogs, etc. BW also includes a slew of helpful video files keyed to the help.
What stands out about each program? What are its plusses and minuses from my point of view?
- Blazing speed, even in complex searches. BW really sets thestandard here for ease and speed in setting up, running, and seeing search results. (Though Accordance, partly due to programming and partly due to being Apple-based, has some ways of displaying search results that put BW to shame.)
- Amazing bang-for-the-buck. BW includes lots of things in the base package that you pay through the nose for in Logos and Accordance- Gesenius, full BDB, Joüon, Waltke/O’Connor, Wallace to name a few, a mass of original texts in morphologically-tagged Greek or Hebrew AND English (Josephus, Philo, Pseudepigrapha, Targums, Peshitta, Apostolic Fathers).
- While BW has virtually every Bible translation you can think of in a multitude of languages (though not always the notes), it also has a robust text importer so you can make your own or import other things. What this translates into is that I have copies of all the LDS scriptures, and do much of my study thereon. This is a unique feature among these three programs.
- Notes – I can keep three kinds of notes in BW; one set opens automatically when I’m in that verse, a second set for when I’m in that chapter, and a third set untied to any particular passage, which I use for thematic, topical, or teaching notes. These notes can include links to passages, the Web, documents on your hard-drive, or “bookmarked” spots in Logos books. For example, my notes on the siege of Jerusalem include links to the Assyrian account of the siege in both ANET and COS. Clicking on them opens up Logos and the book to the right spot. (This is not yet implemented in the Mac version of Logos, and I don’t know how, under Parallels, I’d instruct it to pass web links out of XP through Parallels into Logos-Mac.) I’ve spent time going through all my past scriptures, lessons, notes, etc., and now everything is essentially in BW. (The note files are rtf-format, but with a custom extension.)
- BW staff are VERY responsive to feature requests, especially after a new version comes out. (BW 8 arrives in December.) They’re always responsive to bug notices.
- BW lacks syntax searching, an OT textual apparatus (like Logos and Accordance, which both have the BHS and new BHQ apparatus available), and some other grammatical texts I’d like. I wish I had some more options in terms of layout, etc. as Accordance offers.
- I understand BW’s focus, and appreciate the functionality that focus has provided. But I wish BW would include more notes short of commentaries, such as those from the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan has its own kludgy proprietary software on PC, so their stuff is available through Accordance) and the Jewish Study Bible (available in Accordance.)
- An intangible complaint- BW feels NT-oriented, and I am not an NT scholar. (I have a similar complaint for Logos.) There are more texts and resources for the NT scholar than the Jewish or OT scholar. To some extent, this is a marketing consideration. Many people willing to spend money on something like this are Protestant Christians, and that often means a Greek or NT focus. That said, I have been largely content with BW’s offerings for the OT. (I’d like some other databases, like Inscriptions, for example. I’ve had to buy them in Logos instead, and that lacks the oomph and ease of BW’s Hebrew/Aramaic searching. I was tempted by Accordance’s setup of the inscriptions, but still haven’t committed to spending money there.)
- Bibleworks 8 is to appear in December. Details are up on the site, and I’ve seen it in person, but not used it extensively. BW also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so feel free to order, install, and try it out yourself.
- www.bibleworks.com , bibleworks.com/forums, and http://bibleworks.oldinthenew.org/ for a blog repository of user-produced texts and other things.
- The engine itself, the program, is free. You pay for books and texts you want. Some are free, like the abridged BDB Hebrew lexicon.
- This program is what I wished the LDS databases had been back in the day. (Every time a new LDS program is introduced, such as Gospelink, the interface becomes dumber and dumber, and no new content is ever added.) Think of Logos as FolioViews on crack; everything is linked to everything else, with some exceptions.
- Responsive. When I’ve raised complaints or concerns about something, Logos reps have often worked with me in personal ways.
- When Logos decides to publish a book, you can often buy it at a large discount through the Pre-publication program. This is the only way I have been able to acquire my library, given my general lack of coin as a student. (See the Making of a Pre-pub)
- Logos has more texts and books available than BW (not being a library program) and Accordance. Lots of stuff available, including scholarly and semi-scholarly books. Sometimes you can buy books that include a disk with the unlocked Logos version for free, such as Collins’ Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.
- Logos is noticeably Evangelical-oriented, particularly if you spend any time in the newsgroup. Lots of useless fluff in the packages. This is understandable for marketing reasons, but still off-putting. I don’t own any Logos packages for those reasons, though I’ve purchased many individual books and sets. Recently they started putting together some other books into themed bundles, some of which are relevant and attractive.
- Logos can import texts, IF you pay for a special module which has to be renewed each year. Unlike BW you can’t distribute them to other people UNLESS you pay some more cash. I have not used this and wouldn’t based on the a) yearly license renewal and b) BW’s superior and included importing and searching capabilities.
- Reverse interlinears from Logos are very useful if you have little or no Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic training, but still want to play with those languages. See here for a lengthy video description. To my knowledge, Accordance has something similar, though weaker, and BW doesn’t have anything similar, though they both offer other ways of working with original languages.
- Logos is at work on version 4 for PC, which I have not seen. The Mac version will continue to be updated feature-wise.
- www.logos.com, blog.logos.com, logos.com/prepub, logos.com/mac (forum is a newsgroup) news://news.logos.com
- Lots of customizability totally unavailable in the other two. Excellent for the control freak who likes to tweak every setting.
- Along those lines, Bibles display in their poetic layout in Accordance, which is nice.
- Accordance is a native Mac program, and has been Mac-only from the beginning. This translates into a program that feels very Mac-like, looks very nice, and functions beautifully.
- The balance between text-focused functionality and electronic library, in terms of both availability of texts and functionality is attractive.
- Accordance offers the availability of texts I can’t find anywhere else like the Textbook of Aramaic Documents, “popular” Zondervan stuff like the NIV Study Bible and NIDOTTE, Jewish Study Bible, Hebrew/English Talmud Bavli, Qumran Sectarian texts (coming to Logos), Samaritan Pentateuch, etc.
- First to offer cross-grades, though they are currently quite limited. That is, if you buy an electronic text for another program and eventually decide to switch programs completely, you can get a discount for buying the same book in another format.
- EXPENSIVE. Generally, you pay for everything. There’s no prepub program like Logos, and while there are lots of different packages available, it’s potentially quite pricey.
- Can’t import other texts as text, to my knowledge.
- Accordance’s offerings and forums feel more scholarly and less NT/EV than BW and Logos. There are Catholic, Jewish, and other sets, as well as texts that I feel the other two would not market due to perceived or real unprofitability.
- Accordance offers a demo, which is very limited, as well as not the most recent update (8.0 instead of 8.1). I should also note that many of the screenshots on the site reflect an older version of the text that looks… not as good. What you get is much better than what you sometimes see.
- I regret, in some ways, that I really really like Accordance… but found Apple only recently and have already invested so much money and time in these other two programs.
- http://Accordancebible.com, http://accordancebible.com/blog/, http://accordancebible.com/forums/
What do I recommend? I’m a big BW fan, but what works best for you will be a function of how much original language work you do, what platform you’re on, and how much money you have. And of course, nothing says you can’t own all three :)