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The purpose of this article is to provide a comparative overview of BibleWorks, Logos/Libronix and Accordance, all premier Bible software programs. This year each of these companies has continued to provide the market with incredibly powerful programs and resources for an in-depth study of the Bible.
Since this is a comparative overview, I will start by comparing each company's underlying philosophy of design and direction. A company should be evaluated based upon how well they succeeded in developing their product in the direction they intended. I will then highlight the areas these programs excel and lastly will discuss how each of the companies has responded to continuing issues raised consistently in past reviews. This is not an in-depth review of each of these products and their features. For more information I would suggest reviewing each products website along with the video demonstrations that are available there. Links to the websites are provided below.
First some disclosures: I do not work for any of these companies. I have used Logos and BibleWorks for many years. I am new to Accordance, using the Scholar's Core package, along with the emulator to work on a PC. I will be sending my comments to each of these companies in advance of publication for input and edification to attempt to avoid comments due to a lack of understanding of how the programs operate. Let me emphasize: these are incredible programs developed by incredible companies. While some programs do some things better than others, any negative comments must be taken in perspective.
Before writing this overview, I checked each of the websites, forums, blogs and related sites to read some of the comments from users regarding how these programs stack up. There are some interesting comparisons and examples. While the differences outlined on the forums and blogs are valid, in my opinion they should not be the determining factor as to which program is best for a given customer. While fun to read, they tend to overstate the point a bit. One thing is certain; there is passion and loyalty for each of these products. Such loyalty is well deserved due to the excellent customer service each company provides their users. I will attempt to be sensitive to these loyalties in this article.
Philosophy of Design and Direction:
As I evaluated these programs, what struck me is that most of the differences between each program and their strengths are directly related to each company's philosophy of design and direction. A customer will be satisfied if their needs are matched with the program's philosophy of design and direction, which is the focus of this article. By reviewing the forums, newsgroups and user websites one will find a high level of satisfaction for all of these programs.
Accordance 7.1 for Mac (will run on Windows with a provided Mac emulator)
Marketing phrase: "Dig into the Bible, not your Bible software"
Based upon my review of the information available on their website, the company's "interface concepts section" states that "the Bible is central", "searching is central" and "ease of use and economy of effort are a priority". They are developing many new resources that would allow a user to build a Bible reference library. It is also obvious that they are Mac focused and oriented, however they provide a Mac emulator that allows the program to run on Windows PC.
Focus Summary: Bible centric, search centric with emphasis on design and ease of use.
BibleWorks 7.0 for Windows
Marketing phrase: "BibleWorks is the premier original languages Bible software program."
Based upon my review of their website, BibleWork's main focus is on the original languages with emphasis on searching. The company actually discourages their customers from investing in an electronic library. If you go to their products page you will find the following:
"We continue to encourage our users to think carefully before building large electronic libraries. You may conclude that most of your money should go into print media. There is no guarantee that computers will be able to read today's electronic books in ten years (remember DOS?)."
The company provides a limited number of additional texts in HTML Help File format.
Focus Summary: Original language centric, search centric.
Logos/Libronix 3.0b for Windows (Mac version in production)
Marketing phrase: "More content, better tools, incredible value"
Based upon my review of their website, Logo's main focus is on making Bible study easier and more rewarding. "That's what Logos Bible Software is all about. It consists of a free software engine (the Libronix Digital Library System), addin modules that provide specialized functionality, and collections of electronic books targeted to your needs." The company is completely focused on the concept of an electronic Biblical library along with providing tools and modules to integrate the entire library for the user.
Focus Summary: Electronic biblical library centric, report (addin) centric with emphasis on integration.
Which Program is Best?
The question often asked is, which program is the best? The answer is, it depends on what you want to use it for and what is most important to you as a user. Each company's philosophy of design and direction determines their focus, which if done well, defines their product. My conclusion is that each of these companies excels in creating a product that matches their underlying objectives.
Strengths of each program:
Before addressing specific areas of excellence, it should be noted that each of these programs are able to perform basic Boolean searches with similar speed and simplicity. Searches that originate from the biblical text are all fast and easy to accomplish. I would assume that between 80-90% of the searches that most users will want to do could be accomplished by all these programs easily and quickly.
Accordance Bible Software:
I am very impressed by the design that incorporates power with simplicity. The program operated quite fast in the Emulator, and I imagine would perform even better on a Mac. If there is a common word used to describe Accordance it would be "elegant". I have found this to be true. Areas of excellence include:
- Searching - Searches are consistent from window-to-window, tool-to-tool and text-to-text. The overall design of the program allows the user to perform complex searches relatively easily. Given this is one of the areas of focus; the program should excel in this area and does.
- Graphical Constructs - The way that complex graphical searches are accomplished is very elegant with consideration given to efficiency of effort.
- Maps and Timelines- The new atlas and timeline modules are very interactive, flexible and fun to use.
- Speed - Accordance performs all functions with efficiency and speed.
- Usability and Design - It is difficult to find much fault with the design of this program. It is Mac oriented and as such a Windows user may need some reorientation. They continue to develop the program to accommodate a growing library that allows users to manage larger libraries.
- Available Resources - A review of the modules offered indicates excellence in quality, variety and selection. The list has grown significantly in 2006, and looks likely to continue.
- Customer Service - The company maintains a website, blog and forum. The responsiveness to customer requests and technical problems is outstanding.
I have always enjoyed using BibleWorks. I find this program to be an incredible value for those primarily interested in Biblical Original Languages. The price of this program given the number of excellent resources is quite exceptional. They strive to include as many resources as they can in their base product. The program is fast and capable of some very complex searching. For those working extensively in the original languages that do not desire to expand into a full electronic Biblical library, BibleWorks is hard to beat. Areas of excellence include:
- Value and Pricing - As stated, the value a customer receives from this product is exceptional. There is only one base package that includes almost everything a person would need for a truly in-depth study of the Bible using the original languages. The only additions most users would want to add would be BDAG and HALOT.
- Product Packaging - Buying BibleWorks is easy, since there is only one package available to purchase. The company strives to make their customers' buying decision affordable, easy and value-oriented.
- Searching - Searching is powerful and with the addition of several dialog boxes, relatively easy. Given this is an area of focus, the company should and does excel in this area,
- BHS/LXX Parallel Searching - I have found their module using the BHS/LXX for comparing the OT Hebrew and Greek exceptionally useful. It is integrated into a separate window that includes lemmas, an information box providing word analysis, automatic set up of multi language searches and tabs to organize several searches efficiently.
- Vocabulary Module - The vocabulary module in BibleWorks is very useful, flexible and powerful. A great way to create lists and onscreen flash cards to develop vocabulary skills.
- Speed - Speed is important to the developers of this program. So much so, they actually show the time it takes to perform as search along with the other search results information.
- Customer Service - Ask anyone who has interacted with this company and they will rave about the customer focus and attention. Most of the time a requested feature is made available within days. BibleWorks continues to develop new features and add Biblical texts, along with some original language oriented modules.
Logos is focused on creating a seminary level electronic Biblical theological library. The design is library-oriented, which includes the ability to create bibliographic summaries, sort resources by author, title or topic, as well as create user-defined collections. This is a company that has excelled at integrating a large electronic library using addin reports and other tools. Additionally, they have the largest selection of resources available. This is their focus and they are excelling at achieving their objectives. Areas of excellence include:
- Available Resources - Logos has an incredible assortment of quality resources available, and is growing the list through their publishing partners and pre-publication program by literally thousands of books annually. Those interested in an integrated electronic Biblical and theological library should look at Logos.
- Library Integration and Design - Logos has designed their program around integrating and incorporating a large library, bringing to the user articles and resources pertinent to their studies. The interface is designed around reports that integrate information from the library. While complex searching is available, Logos has created an interface that allows users to obtain significant information without having to run searches.
- Pricing and Packaging - Logos has several different packages that are value-oriented and designed for different users in mind. They deliver many of their resources as a download from the web, and provide all their resources together on CDs or DVDs.
- Syntax Analysis and Searching - Syntax searching and analysis are new to Logos 3.0. At the time of this writing, Logos is the only program with the databases in both Greek and Hebrew capable of syntax searches.
- Making Original Languages Accessible to English Users - Logos is the only program of the three being reviewed that offers Interlinear Bibles and Reverse Interlinear Bibles. Logos has integrated easy to use reports that assist users in working with the original languages without being proficient in those languages.
- Customer Service - Logos provides websites, newsgroups, blogs, as well as several user developed sites. The company interacts with their customers, requesting input and responding to suggestions. Logos has a public beta, allowing anyone to provide user comments to program updates in development. Logos continues to develop features into their program.
How have these companies responded to critical review items?
Great programs still have areas that reviewers consistently address as possible concerns. As I read many past reviews of each program I identified a common concern for each of these programs. I believe how a company responds to user and reviewer concerns is important. That is the purpose of this section of the article.
Accordance: Pricing, packaging and product delivery
The most common negative comment reviewers make regarding Accordance has been their pricing, packaging and delivery of their products, which has been almost exclusively by CD. Most reviewers comment that the core packages from Accordance are more expensive than comparable packages from the other two companies. I have seen this point argued to the contrary on some Accordance related sites and forums. Direct comparisons are difficult and become quickly out of date. My review indicates that Accordance core packages are more expensive considering comparable content than their competition. However, additional module prices are more comparable, such as the BDAG and HALOT. If pricing is an issue, one should review each of the websites and determine for them, given the tools and resources they are considering purchasing, how much of a factor this is. Lastly, the company is providing more content available as downloads from the Internet, avoiding the need to purchase various CD's to get the resources desired.
BibleWorks: Difficult interface and learning curve
Many of the past BibleWorks reviews state that the learning curve is steep and interface is difficult for new users to work with. BibleWorks has responded starting with 6.0 and continuing with 7.0 by providing video training, inexpensive training seminars, and incorporating user friendly dialog boxes that assist users in utilizing the powerful features of the program. The program can still be intimidating, especially for those not proficient in the original languages.
Reviewers will often comment on speed related issues when using and searching in Logos. With the addition of 3.0 the company added a Bible Speed Search and has continued to focus on speed related concerns. Their recent beta provides caching on certain reports that took longer than customers expected to process. Still, there are some searches and reports that can run more slowly than a user expects or desires.
As consumers we are blessed to have these programs available to us. There is no bad buying decision, just possibly a better or best decision by matching customer needs with product focus and design. The purchase of any of these programs needs to be viewed as an investment rather than and expense, as the payoff when put to use should be eternal.
Resources for follow up:
Other Reviews: http://www.accordancebible.com/about/reviews/index.php
Unofficial Blog: http://bibleworks.oldinthenew.org/
http://www.stilltruth.com/ (Look under Technology/BibleWorks Downloads)
Other Reviews: http://www.bibleworks.com/reviews/
Newsgroups info: http://www.logos.com/support/lbs/newsgroups
Training Videos: http://www.logos.com/training
http://www.digitalsword.com/blog/bibleworks/ [Ed.]: No longer available.
Other Comparative Reviews:
My favorite, very balanced, by John Glynn:
Others comparative reviews referenced in the above article: