Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bible Study Software

A recent discussion among the Bible study teachers with whom I serve solidified something I've believed for several years now: if you can afford it, the right Bible study software is more than worth the investment.

Note, however, the I said "the right" Bible study software.

First, what is Bible study software? It's usually a collection of Bible study tools (multiple Bible translations, concordances, atlases, Bible dictionaries, topical Bibles, cross-referencing tools, original-language tools, commentaries, cultural studies, outlines, etc.) in CD or DVD format that you can install on your Mac or PC to make deeper Bible study easier for you. Just the copy-paste features of these programs alone (and the ease they provide in creating handouts and copying passages into handouts for classroom study) is a huge time-saver for me.

But these software programs only save time if they're compatible with your computer, are generally glitch-free, are easy to use for even the computer novice, can be updated or added to in the future, and offer what you need for your lesson preparation.

That's what I mean by the "right" software. Some systems just don't work well; others come loaded with extraneous tools most average Bible study teachers won't use, but not loaded with things we need; still others create problems on a PC; and some are just too complicated to figure out.

Our teachers have found two Bible study software systems to be consistently reliable, adaptable, glitch-free, and user-friendly:

The WORDsearch series system and related products (Bible Explorer, Bible Navigator, LessonMaker), and the Logos' Libronix system.

Both offer several bundle packages (meaning they've bundled a whole bunch of software products together into one package): everything from complete pastor's libraries to individual author collections to home library sets--all on CD or DVD (and downloadable). Both offer the same kinds of study products; both offer add-on and upgrade options; both are point-and-click-easy-to-operate systems; both offer a variety of price options (from tens of dollars to literally thousands, depending on how expansive you want your computer library to be). And both are available in PC or MAC formats.

I use WordSearch 7 and love it. My Bible-college son uses Logos/Libronix and loves it, too. I know several Bible study teachers or other lay leaders who use either one or the other, both getting rave reviews.

The bottom line is this: you'll have to look at both products (and their various options) and then decide what's best suited to your needs.

WordSearch 7 offers summaries of its basic features, a list of all products by category, a list of their most popular library sets, a list of their boxed products (vs. downloads), a list of companion products (including the Rick Warren Library and the CBD Reference Library), and a free trial version.

Logos offers summaries and a helpful comparison chart of their products, a list of their boxed products (as opposed to downloads), a list of all products by category, and a list of companion products (including collections by R.C. Sproul and Max Lucado) among other things.

Oh, and both offer group discount rates when buying several copies of the same product at one time (as in for a church staff or for students at a Bible college). That's how my son was able to get his "Pastor's Library" (student rate as a full-time Bible college student).

When you're deciding between the two keep these things in mind:

1. The two systems are not compatible with each other (you CANNOT mix and match between Logos and Wordsearch), so once you choose one, you pretty much need to stay with that one (unless you're independently wealthy).
2. If you are independently wealthy (or just want both systems), you may have trouble with your PC. I tried installing both (and I'm certainly not independently wealthy), but Libronix didn't like that I already had Wordsearch installed. I stuck with Wordsearch since that was the system with which I was most familiar, and since I'd already invested hundreds of dollars in developing my Wordsearch library (not to mention that I love it).
3. The two systems offer some of the very same titles in their libraries: various Bible translations, commentaries, study bibles, classics, scholarly works and individual author collections (John MacArthur, for example) can be found in both.
4. The two systems offer some products (specific titles and collections) that are unique to their systems (so chose the one that best suits your interests).
5. In general, Logos/Libronix seems more scholarly and geared slightly more for the academic world (based on their add-on book library selections), although Logos is very lay-friendly. Wordsearch seems to have more lay/general readership ministry resources available (lots of small group leadership stuff, lesson planning and discipling tools, etc...). You'll have to investigate both for yourself to see what will work best for you.
6. Don't just look at the base products, even if that's all you intend to buy. Trust me: once you discover how helpful these tools really are, you'll want to add on to your library. Check out the add-ons to make sure that, should you want to expand your library in the future, the system you select offers the kind of add-ons you think you might need down the road.

So...happy software hunting! And if you already use one or the other of these products, feel free to comment here so other readers can hear about your experiences!

Blessings to you all,


Anonymous said...

Good words, Joan! Thanks for including Logos at the top of the heap.

There should be no incompatibility problem with installing Logos and WordSearch on the same machine. Get in touch with me and I can get you some help, if you'd like to try again.

It would be a shame for you to miss out on all the benefits of Logos! :-)

Daniel Foster
Logos Bible Software

Joan said...

Thanks, Daniel. I really like the Libronix system, too, and would love to install it again. Each system has their strengths.

I'll be in touch with you when I have a bit more time (I'm under book deadline right now).

Thanks for commenting and for clarifying about the two systems.


rpavich said...

thanks for the post. I'm a Logos/Libronix user for about a year now and I love it.

There one thing I'd add to your comments though:

1.) Buy as much as you can afford at the time.

Logos was very helpful to me on the phone when I purchased, and the advice was to buy as much as I could and that was good advice. Yes, there are some things that I don't use at the moment, but I saved heaps of cash on the things that I didn't have to "add on"...

Paul said...

I just purchased Logos 4. It seems very powerful but I'm not impressed with it's poor performance (i.e. computer resources), poor documentation, and poor tech support from the company. WordSearch was much more user friendly and the one actually received responses from their tech support.