Give me a quick overview.
The correct word for Logos is “immense.” A package like Logos Gold ($1,550) is immediately overwhelming. It isn’t that you don’t have time to read the books included. You don’t have time to read the titles of the books included. It’s big.
And Logos doesn’t stop there. It’s so expansive you feel like you never stop discovering new things. You’ll find really engaging modules like an interactive display of the Psalms by category and showing the verbal parallelism throughout. Logos has developed its own commentary series. You can listen to audio books right within the app. You’ll even find a series of very nicely done video courses on the Bible and a kind of Christian Netflix (FaithLife TV). Logos will generate PowerPoints for you, create handouts for your SS lessons and more. The sheer scale is just incredible.
And ironically, that power and size is the biggest challenge for an average user. It’s easy to get overwhelmed very quickly. Used well, Logos can be breathtakingly powerful. But if you aren’t careful you can sit down to study and actually just end up browsing through books, media, videos, completely forgetting what you came to do. It’s critical that you learn to use it well.
What’s it like on my computer?
The first thing you’ll see on opening is a home page. You’ll see an introductory video, an artistic verse, daily readings, and tons of articles or videos. It’s kind of a Facebook feed of Logos news and resources.
Click away quick—before you get stuck! Go straight to the read button where you can choose your book or the search button where you can search across your entire library. Guides will help you filter those results better and tools offer everything from a Bible atlas to a measurements converter.
Logos has worked hard to create individual modules for various exegetical needs. Their new Psalm analysis module lets you sort by author, structure or genre and then see a helpful display of Hebrew parallelism in each Psalm. The Proverbs explorer is even more helpful, letting you sort by theme, the type of people it addresses, type of parallelism and more. One real favorite of mine is the NT use of the OT, letting you easily distinguish allusions, echoes, citations and quotations. These are really powerful modules and quite useful within their given purpose. And because Logos developed them internally they don’t exist on competing platforms.
Having so much packed into one app is great but you will feel overwhelmed. Several times I left the app and went to Logos’ marketing to figure out what books I actually owned. Thankfully there is a way to create a subset list of books to work with. Find that window right away and put aside the 75% or so of books you’ll actually use. I would also prefer that a set like Tyndale be bundled into one resource rather than taking up 49 slots in my library list.
The interface is honestly pretty daunting. I’ve used Bible software for upwards of 10 years and tinker around with coding, but it took me 15-20 minutes to figure out how to do a simple word search. Other new Logos users have told me the same. Thankfully you’ll find really excellent videos and other helps to get you going and I highly recommend that you start with Logos’ free thirty day training course. Logos will send you that email automatically. Do it. Seriously—do it.
Marketing is a similar point of mixed strength and weakness. Logos has the slickest marketing of any platform, and I love clever methods like pre-publication pricing and user voting. But Logos marketing is also a bit too intrusive for my tastes. Remember when you got a brand new Lego set as a kid but the box advertised an even bigger set you could buy? The first thing you’ll see upon opening Logos is essentially a lot of ads for more books. It kind of takes the fun out of what you just purchased and makes Bible study a case of perpetual window shopping. Some of the bundled resources in your package are actually teasers to get you to buy the rest of the books in the set.
Finally, speed is a problem. It takes 43 seconds to open Logos on my machine (2015 Macbook Pro, SSD, 8Gs of Ram). Logos is the slowest application on my computer by a long shot. Some graphic resources can take 15 seconds or more to open and modules will hang for a few seconds from time to time. Maps are difficult to use because they download as you go. At least three times in the last ten days I wanted to use Logos but didn’t because (1) I couldn’t get it to open or (2) I didn’t feel like waiting for it.
But to some extent this is a function of how massive the software is. The company wouldn’t be this large or the program this developed without clever marketing; it runs slowly because it’s truly huge; the interface is overwhelming because there’s so much you can do with it. You can also solve some of these problems by how you use it. Create collections for the books you actually use, get rid of the opening screen (pro tip—in preferences and the gear), and don’t buy packages of resources you won’t actually use. All the same, Logos needs to address this issue.
What’s it like on my phone (or tablet)?
The word that always came to my mind with the Logos mobile app was “slick.” Visually it’s very clean and fun to use. It’s powerful but with a simple interface. The mobile app is one great reason to consider Logos.
Of course, all of the resources and media packed into Logos take space—lots of space. On your computer Logos Gold needs 30 Gigs. That’s fine on a computer, but not for mobile. And this is where the Logos app really shines. The app downloads the book as soon as you open it. That means that so long as you have wifi or data you can use your entire library anywhere. Think of it as just-in-time warehousing for computers. It’s impressive.
Like anything, there’s a certain drawback to that. When you open a new tool, your book will hold for just a split second or two. So go ahead and download modules you use often. Offering the best of both options, I found this solution both impressive and seriously helpful. The Logos mobile app is very full featured and does a lot, but it does have delays and runs slower than some competitors.
What’s it cost?
Software nerds will be arguing until the end of time about which platform works out to be cheaper. It’s all in the details. Logos will give you an incredible number of resources for one package price and the price to buy them in print would be astronomical. I recommend that you ignore both of those numbers. Just look down the list at the resources you will actually use. That’s what you’re actually buying—you don’t get bonus points for having a long list of titles.
In general, I would say Logos’ pricing is a little steep. The smallest starting package is $250. The package intended for pastors is a painful $1,550. Honestly, the same budget will go further with competitors and their sale prices are typically deeper—sometimes a lot deeper.
One thing I really like about Logos’ pricing, however, is their monthly free book and ongoing sales. As with Olive Tree and Accordance, be sure to sign up for their promo emails and try not to ever pay full price for a major resource. It’ll probably go on sale at some point in the year. I’m also impressed with the number of resources they bundle with their free mobile app. If all you ever do based on this series is to go download the Logos mobile app, I’ll be glad I wrote it.
Cons: Slow speed, intrusive marketing, and a scattered interface are fairly major issues. The front page feels like Facebook—not where I want to be with Bible study. All of the media, though nice looking, can ultimately be a distraction to true study.
Pros: If you can think of something to do with your Bible, it’s here somewhere. And there’s a lot you’ve never thought of doing as well. Nearly every major Bible study tool exists somewhere in Logos. The syntactical and discourse search features are really powerful. The interactive media modules are truly helpful and unparalleled in other Bible software. Logos unquestionably has the largest library of books and the most advanced feature set.
Notes for Advanced Users
Things I’d love to see:
- The mobile app is really, truly excellent. I would love to have more control of the text layout. Call me weird, but the cross reference notes annoy me and I can’t take them away. The ultimate would be to take out references and everything else but the text. Nobody quite does that yet, but Logos is the furthest away. That being said, I think the look of the Logos app is really nice and page-turn is a big bonus.
- It’s strange to me that Logos doesn’t use the Mac menu bar but has its own icons below. If you use it full screen it’s nearly the same, but it does make Logos feel more like a port than written for Mac. It also wastes screen space.
- The interface honestly could use significant improvement. Searches should be simpler, clearer and faster. Some things are honestly very strange. Try a Bible search for a common word like “God.” Why does Logos put the results on multiple pages like a web browser? Why does grid view give verses that extend beyond the screen? Question of the century—why is there a major module under documents for creating word find puzzles? Sometimes Logos feels like a lot of different modules or features that have been bolted together and it’s time for someone to sit down and plan out the whole thing.
- If Logos simplified their interface and addressed the speed problem, I would view the software quite differently.
- Ongoing upgrades should be cheaper than they are. It simply costs too much to stay current over the long haul.
Things I like about Logos:
- Modules like the Psalms and Proverbs explorer, the Parallel gospel reader and the NT use of the OT will push me back to use Logos from time to time. I also think some of the manual tagging of persons, places and things (down to the level of pronouns!) is a truly transformative way to work with the text. So searching for “<Person Jesus> AND <Place Jerusalem>” will yield “the devil took him to the holy city.” (Thanks Mark Ward for this example!) To me, this is a crown jewel for Logos—something no one else has really matched in thoroughness and quality.
- Related to that, the work they have done to collate and sort biblical passages (both in their Bible sense lexicon and their linguistic analysis) is both extensive and impressive. Granted, it’s human sorting so it’s not inerrant. But it saves me time and has fewer mistakes than I would make.
- I’m also quite impressed with some of the advanced linguistics work that has been done, from morphology to syntax and even discourse analysis. Related, I love the integration with Louw and Nida (the ability to search by semantic domain). It’s useful, powerful, and a linguistically valid way to work with the Greek text.
- Logos is a huge company. I feel confident that they’ll exist for a long time and that an investment I make will continue to stay relevant.