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Tag Archive: Logos

Some Concluding, Year-End Musings on 2012

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012 (11:59 pm), by John W Gillis


Logos: Logos Bible Research scored huge in my estimation this year. I had struggled to be productive with earlier versions of their software, but version 4, released just about 3 years ago, represented a dramatic improvement in usability and performance, and I started drifting toward it then – especially since they were also beginning to release quality Catholic resources (e.g. works by Aquinas). Then, this Spring, they put together a series of terrific Catholic base packages, all of which included an outstanding edition of the CatechismCatechism of the Catholic Church. Logos version 5, released a couple months ago, adds some nice capabilities to an already terrific product, and has also been published in a separately-branded Catholic product line called Verbum.

Like the standard Logos 5 offerings, the base packages seem disproportionally weighted toward the upper end of the price range, but the entry-level Catholic package, The Catechism of the Catholic Church Collection (in the $50 range), is simply the best set of resources available at anywhere near that price for Catholics looking for a digital study platform. Check it out. It lacks an NAB, but that can be surmounted – and the versions it contains, the RSVCE and Douay, are better versions, anyway. Besides the CCC, it includes the Roman Catechism, the conciliar documents from both Vatican Councils as well as Trent, the essential dogmatic reference works of Denzinger and Ott, and the (daily) Catholic Lectionary. It is an outstanding value, and the resources work together brilliantly. I’m really impressed.

WORDsearch: Continuing the Bible Study Software theme… After rushing WS10 out the door last Christmas week, Lifeway finally got the product to the right spot with a series of version 10.5-enumerated updates released to WS10 owners beginning in June of this year. With a (Greek only) morphological search tool, user-created book types, a History window, and a sermon management tool, WS finally filled some long-standing functionality gaps. But for me, it’s too little, too late. I’ve been a loyal WS user since 1992 – my first (DOS) version of WS came with the NAB, NJB, NRSV, and a Strong’s-tagged KJV, plus TSK; it was Bible Study bliss. No application has served me better over the past 20 years, but it’s time to move on. This program simply cannot compete with the heavyweights. New owner Lifeway (i.e. the Southern Baptist Convention) has had a year and a half to demonstrate a commitment to improved professionalism with the product, and it has not materialized. The only changes I’ve sensed are an increased interest in chasing the latest cultural fads (you can now tweet your Bible Study results from within the program, if that’s your thing), and a decreased likelihood that the platform will be seeing anything like the excellent Catholic resources that are showing up steadily from Logos. On the increasingly rare occasions that I’ve opened the app to work with it recently, it has usually been crashing. Forget it. Thanks for everything; it was great while it lasted.

New English Translation of the Roman Missal: It’s been just over a year now since the introduction of the new translations of many of the prayers in the Liturgy of the Mass. Although they can be awkward and clumsy at times, and although I still haven’t memorized the new versions of the Gloria or the Creed, I think they are overall a big improvement, and are working quite well, with the exception of the Sanctus. I get the Isaiah basis for the change, and consider it an important corrective, but of the half-dozen or so churches where I worship with some regularity, there is not a single congregation that proclaims it smoothly. There’s even one where the priest himself still says “God of power and might” – probably because of the difficulty of getting his people to use a common cadence in proclaiming the new version. It needs attention.

On Obama’s Reelection: I have to admit, I was stunned by the election results. I was quite confident the country would reject Obama, after having four years to see for themselves what you get when you vote for someone based on the color of his skin – as so many people have openly (even gleefully) admitted to doing during the messianic frenzy of 2008. Mitt Romney was admittedly not the easiest guy to get behind, but he offered a genuine chance to correct some of mistakes that have been made, get the economy growing again, and bridge some of the rancor that has afflicted US politics since the Nixon years, but which has reached utterly dysfunctional levels now under this most divisive and partisan of chief executives.

Romney’s loss was disheartening. Partly, that’s because the “kill Romney” character assassination campaign strategy worked for the Democrats, despite the fact that Mitt Romney might just be the most decent guy to have ever run for that office – he’d certainly have to be a serious candidate in any such ranking. That is not a good omen for the future state of presidential politics in this country. But it’s disheartening also partly because of the sheer political force displayed in it by the progressive movement. The Democrats didn’t just convince too many potential Romney supporters to stay home, they wielded a large voting bloc that was willing to support the progressive agenda in plain daylight, not just as a kneejerk reaction to Bush burnout.

It could very well be that we’ve reached – or at least come close to – a tipping point as a culture, where a majority of citizens are willing to vote themselves “other people’s money” from the public till, and to delegate to the state the responsibilities of human freedom, from citizenship to family to personal health and well-being. If this is so, then we have reached the end of the usefulness of the great democratic experiment, and are descending into tyranny – one that will surely tout the infamous conceit of manifesting the will of “the people”. I wouldn’t expect it to end any better than its leftist forerunners have.

On perhaps a bright note, this debacle has produced in me a certain loss of faith in both the American people and in the political process – faith that was in reality misplaced to begin with. It has caused me to lose a good deal of interest in politics – or more accurately, in current events – which should serve both to free up time for less ephemeral concerns, and to orient my priorities more meaningfully.

On the Vapidity of the American “Opinion” Bureaucracies: Related to the collapsing opposition to leftist thinking in America is the success on the part of the progressive movement to establish a fifth column focused on the formation of opinion and the control of knowledge for political ends. I refer, of course, to the thorough progressive domination of the agenda-setting and opinion-defining institutions of education (both mandatory K-12and university-level) and mass media. As it is abundantly clear to me that the greatest threat to America as a place of “liberty and justice for all” comes from a combination of the “news” media and the educational institutions, I’m all in here with Pat Caddell, in his rant from this past autumn:

On Gun Control Hysteria: On this, the Feast of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, it seems appropriate to complain that I was deeply distressed by the (media-driven) national meltdown of propriety and circumspection following the dreadful grade-school massacre in Newtown CT a few weeks ago. The notion that so many people were ready and willing to exploit the situation for dubious political purposes before the bodies of the dead children were even cold is chilling. Perhaps especially galling is the site of notoriously pro-abortion politicians crying crocodile tears over the carnage while intoning that “we must get serious” and “something must be done” to “protect the children”. Would it be impolitic to point out that during that very day, well in excess of 3,000 children were murdered in this country using devices – and furthermore, in the performance of acts! – that were not only perfectly legal, but which boast the unbending political protection of the very hypocrites who wailed the most loudly into the megaphones of self-righteous convenience on that sorry day? I hope those of us who retain some semblance of intelligence will be permitted a healthy degree of skepticism at the proposal that the repetition of such senseless bloodshed might be avoided by limiting the capacities of ammunition clips available to law-abiding citizens, causing mass murderers (of the gun-toting type, not the forceps wielding sort) to have to either buy their clips on the black market, or stop to reload a few times in the middle of mowing down a screaming group of defenseless women and children.

On Christmas: I’ve disliked the holiday we call Christmas at least since I was a young father without two spare nickels to rub together. As I’ve gotten older, my financial wherewithal has (predictably) improved significantly, and my Catholic faith has taken root and flourished into a principal self-understanding, but I don’t like the holiday any more. I refer to the holiday celebrated a few days ago that marked the close of the “Christmas Season”, a largely secular and irreligious period of consumer indulgence that began some time around Thanksgiving.

There is another day, a Christian Holy Day, also celebrated a few days ago, at the conclusion of the Advent season, and which marks the beginning of a Christian Christmas season, which has several permutations, being in the first place an Octave that concludes on January 1st, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God; in the second place a traditional period of gaiety extending twelve days, until the eve of the Feast of Epiphany (January 6th, though this can get moved to a Sunday), and thirdly as a liturgical season extending through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, on the Sunday following Epiphany. This Holy Day and season celebrates the most remarkable thing that ever happened: the Incarnation of God in human flesh – in the flesh of a baby borne of a woman.

I’ve never been able to figure out how to celebrate the Holy Day amidst all the silly hoopla of the holiday, and I need to figure it out before I find myself thrown in to deep depression some one of these years.

WORDsearch 9 Released: Initial Impressions

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 (2:07 am), by John W Gillis


WORDsearch 9 was released Monday, roughly two years after the release of version 8. This is the third release of WORDsearch developed on the Bible Explorer platform for CROSS eBooks. Long-time WORDsearch users who have been waiting for a return of the search results management genius of the old Ref List will not find what they’re looking for, but some significant improvements have been made to version 8 nonetheless.

The biggest improvement, by far, was a complete reworking of the window syncing mechanism. In the two previous iterations of WS, as in Bible Explorer, each window (for books organized on a book-chapter-verse structure, such as Bibles, commentaries, outlines, etc) had a sync button, which could be turned on or off by the user – a general preference setting would determine which state the window originally opened in. Every book which was synced would cause all other synced books to follow along with it as it changed context.

In WS9, there are now four distinct sync groups to which any sync-capable window can be sg01 assigned, meaning that certain windows can be synced to each other, while other windows can be synced together in a different context. This multi sync-group functionality would be familiar to users of Logos. However, WORDsearch also introduced an optional driver/slave mode, similar to how Pradis managed its sync groups – but WS9 allows the user to manage the driver status directly from each window, instead of launching a dialog box. With a driver window defined in a sync group, only the driver window will cause the other windows synced to it to change context – the slave windows can be moved around in without affecting any other windows, and will then re-sync to the driver window when the driver window changes context.

Also new is the ability to designate a Bible window as an xref target window (again, familiar to Logos users). This is a major improvement over the unpredictability of WS8 when clicking links, and is made even more useful when the target window is joined to a sync group.

Another long-overdue improvement in WORDsearch is support for a NOT operator in search strings, which is entered as ANDNOT.

sdiag01 Searching, in general, has become a bit friendlier, because of several subtle changes to the Search dialog interface that make it easier to find and select books to search. The Search box finally supports the ability to type <> delimiters, which allows the user to use one or more Strong’s numbers in the main search string (as opposed to using the special "Strong’s #" search dialog, which will only accept a single number).

Also new are options to automatically include plurals of English nouns, and various forms of English verbs. A new Spelling Helper applet on the search dialog box can help eliminate bogus searches due to spelling errors, as well as generating lists of available words in the selected resources. These extra helps are not quite as robust as the similar features in QuickVerse, but they should prove to be useful.

WS9 introduces the concept of the Carousel, which allows the user to define a set of frequently-used books of particular types (Bibles, commentaries, and dictionaries, roughly speaking), which will always be available to "flip" to from a similar window type, with a single mouse-click or keystroke. As you flip from favorite to favorite using the Carousel, the contents of the books will attempt to sync to the preceding favorite, though it’s hard to do that consistently with dictionary-type books.

In prior versions of the WS Verse List, the entire text area was "hot" for triggering sync events, and any time you clicked on a verse or passage in a Verse List, every window with syncing turned on would move to the verse you’d selected in the VL. In WS9, only the reference itself is "hot" for syncing; you can select the text of a verse without triggering a window sync. Furthermore, VLs now have Sync buttons, meaning syncing can be turned off altogether, or a specific sync group can be chosen. Clicking a "hot" area (ref) in a VL that is un-synced will drive a "target Bible" window to display the verse in the context of the translation defined by the VL ref link, making it easy to find the range of the passage you may want to expand your verse result into.

The Cross Reference Explorer (XRE) has been markedly improved from it’s initial iteration in WS8. There is now a Cancel button to kill unintended searches. Multiple hits for a reference within a single page/section are now collapsed into a single entry in the search results, with a (#) indicating how many hits are available on the page. The tree control for results has also been improved to require less mouse-clicking to get to your results.

XRE search hits in books (not user docs, unfortunately) are now highlighted in the content pane WS9 Cross Reference Explorer(making the tool MUCH more useful), and the content pane now automatically scrolls so that the first hit is visible – usually.

Bible Notes are also now searchable by the XRE – functionality that was always selectable in WS8, but never worked. This is a great way to create your own inverse cross-reference resource.

One of the key capabilities lost in the transition from WS7 to WS8 two years ago was the ability to create links in documents to sections of books. This capability has returned in WS9, and it is extremely simple to do – unlike the multi-step process involving bookmarks in WS7. WS9 also provides a simple interface for creating links to Biblical passages within documents and Bible Notes using plain text for the link (as opposed to Biblical references, which continue to automatically generate links to Biblical passages).

Fans of Inductive Bible Study – among others – will appreciate the new ability to assign labels to any or all of the dozen highlighting colors available, though I believe highlighting would be far more useful for Bible study if it were supported within Verse Lists. Another nice touch in WS9 is that highlighting can be applied now as either traditional highlighting, or as colored underlining.

The Instant Verse Study tool can now be populated using a Collection, and the Copy button now makes it very clear that content is only being copied to the clipboard, requiring the user to paste it wherever he wants to use it. Collections are much easier to use in this version, and a Manage Collections window has been provided. A Library Manager tool allows the user to hide unwanted books, and the SmartLink scripture popups will no longer position themselves so low on screen they cut off text.

On the downside – and avoiding complaining about what the program doesn’t do – several significant problems either persist, or were introduced with this release.

[Update: the problem described in this paragraph has been fixed in a maintenance release.] Searching MyDocuments for text – one of the potential deal-makers that could set this program in a class by itself among its competitors in this respect – has gone from blowing up whenever it encounters a malformed HTML file, to blowing up whenever it encounters a PDF file that is not an HTML file. Needless to say, no PDF file is an HTML file, and if you’re like most people these days, and you have PDF files (which WS has supported since WS8 as library resources), then document searching is utterly broken for you. The original problem goes back at least to WS7 – probably to the earliest versions of Bible Explorer – and the function is rendered worse than useless at this point. Search will not even return results from CROSS books if there is a PDF file in the search path.

[Update: the problem described in this paragraph has been fixed in a maintenance release.] Similarly to the initial release of WS8, support for Personal Notes for non-Bible books has vanished from this release. When WS8 was released, even the icon for Notes was gone from the windows, but it is still there in WS9 – it just doesn’t do anything. It remains to be seen whether they will make a comeback in WS9, like they did in WS8, but there was a hue and cry two years ago when they disappeared, and I can’t imagine the user response will be any different this time around.

I’m finding changes to the Search Results display a bit hard to adapt to (I’ve been using WS9 in beta sr901 for several months). There’s more of a tree structure now, and there is a pronounced focus on how results are distributed among the books of the Bible. That’s all terrific in theory, but there is no way to segregate results from multiple translations – they are treated independently within the results for each book of the Bible, but I sorely miss being able to scroll through the full results of each queried translation independently. I also miss the hit numbering, which has disappeared from the left-hand column. I understand what they were trying to do, and I’d like to see them refine it, but this screen looks more like a rough draft than a finished piece of work.

Pradis Bites the Dust

Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 (10:31 pm), by John W Gillis


Pradis in action

Not exactly a big surprise coming out of Zondervan today, as they have announced plans to drop their Pradis Bible Study software. Not a big loss to the industry either, I dare say, as Pradis was pretty narrowly focused on Zondervan resources (most of which were exclusively available in Pradis format), and always struck me as more geared toward promoting the interests of Zondervan than that of the Christian community. That’s OK – no law against that – but don’t look for any tears to be shed in this poor corner of the world. Frankly, Pradis wasn’t a very good program, either, though it did have its virtues.

Zondervan has some decent titles that might now be made available to people on different platforms, though it will be interesting to see whether they choose instead to market through another exclusive channel.  Based on this press release, that company will apparently be Logos if they do indeed go that way – and a corresponding release from Logos makes clear that Zondervan will be the party pulling the strings in terms of packaging, pricing, etc.

Of more interest to me is some of the language used in the press release, and how it highlights some of the inherent problems in the eBook industry, and the Bible Study Software market in particular. Zondervan is clearly playing down the fact that its customers are losing the investment they’ve made in Pradis, and in the books they’ve purchased to use with the program.

In the title of the release, Zondervan says it is “Retiring Pradis Software Search Engine.” Search engine? This was a software platform, built around a proprietary book format, that certainly included a search engine as a core component, but can hardly be reduced to it.

The release goes on to say Zondervan is “moving away from the Pradis software it created and will license other search engines.” You could be excused for thinking they are going to let other companies write software that will work with their proprietary book format – potentially giving customers who have purchased licenses for those books a new and improved means to work with them – but it seems certain that what they are actually doing is obsoleting those licensed books, and working out a licensing deal with Logos (and perhaps others) to get them re-published in a new proprietary format.

The next paragraph really gets to the heart of the matter:

“We are going to make sure we, first and foremost, work with the many thousands of Pradis customers for a smooth transition to the new search engines,” said Zondervan’s Paul Engle, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Church, Academic and Reference Resources. ”Many of these people have been customers for a dozen years and we will make sure they are eligible for a discount to these new titles upon release.”

Of course, these are not “new titles” at all that we are primarily talking about (Zondervan will apparently be licensing some new titles to Logos, which clouds the issue). For the most part, these are titles that customers have paid for in good faith, and are now going to have to pay for again in order the use with the “new search engines.” Eligible for a discount, indeed! Especially since the Logos engine is free! Zondervan is apparently planning on re-selling (at a discount!) these books to customers who have already bought them, so that the customers can use them with a free reader!

Other than BibleWorks – who actually warn customers about this exact potentiality and discourage them from buying large electronic libraries, all the Bible Software publishers encourage customers to purchase large libraries of resources, claiming they are more cost-effective to buy that way. That’s a true claim – unless your Bible Software publisher goes out of business, and you’re stuck with an expensive library of books that are doomed to obsoletion as the overall computer industry marches forward in its incessant cycle of progress. When you buy a hardback book, you can put it on your shelf, and it can serve a couple generations, regardless of what happens to the publisher.

There are other benefits to buying works electronically – as I’ve attested to here on this site in the past – and I remain an advocate for Bible Study Software, but the industry needs a standard for book formatting that will allow customers to retain their investment in books as they move among software providers. A standard rich enough to provide publishers plenty of elbow room to differentiate their own eBook products from competitors publishing the same work is certainly possible, and there is more than ample space for software publishers to differentiate their offerings.

And perhaps even more important to the publishers than the legitimate rights of library investors to viable licenses is the 800 pound gorilla standing in the doorway. If this matter can’t be resolved satisfactorily between the Christian software industry and the intellectuals with a stake in the outcome, then it will be settled de facto between Google and Amazon, and the Bible Study Software industry will be worse off for that.

Logos for Mac is Finally Here… For Now

Posted: Saturday, November 8, 2008 (11:58 pm), by John W Gillis


Logos for Mac

After several years, during which time they were roundly criticized for stringing Mac users along with vaporware, Logos is finally accepting Pre-Pub orders for a native Mac version of Logos. But based on what I can gather, it looks like something of a misstep for Logos.

The biggest surprise to me is their decision to charge a $60 fee for the base engine. The base engine of the flagship Windows product has always been free, a fact I have little doubt has helped produce the significant market out there of third-party producers publishing books in Libronix format (platform royalties going to Logos), bundled with the free Libronix engine.

That seems to have been a very effective strategy for Logos, leading Libronix to become the dominant platform in electronic publishing in these early years of the industry, yet being able to differentiate themselves from other Libronix publishers in the Bible Study market by selling additional programming functionality in the form of Addins (typically bundled with their library packages).

Not that I think a failure to be aggressive on the Mac platform is itself going to be a serious blow to Logos, but it looks to me like a lost opportunity to bring Mac users into the Libronix world as equal partners with their PC-using cousins, one which may end up reflecting poorly both on Logos and – indirectly – on the third-party Libronix publishers.

Being able to publish a book electronically on a robust e-book platform that is universally accessible to users of multiple operating systems (current and future) would be a huge advantage to publishers who want to maximize their market reach while controlling their (ongoing) distribution costs. Just ask Microsoft how valuable it is to own the platform. However, there’s no advantage to anyone in making some people feel like they’re carrying a burden others don’t share, which this pricing model will undoubtedly do. But the perception of unfairness may eventually fall more heavily on the third parties than on Logos themselves – Logos can sell their packages at identical prices for either platform, but stand-alone products will need to carry a pricing asterisk that says Mac users need to make an additional investment in a Libronix engine – one that is provided free to PC users.

Logos could eventually move to correct this by giving third-party distributors free license to distribute the Mac engine with their books (alongside the Windows engine), but that would sure miff the Mac users who are running Logos for Windows today under emulation, who are stuck buying a $60 “crossgrade” fee to get the native Mac engine.

The problems with this initial Logos for Mac release, however, do not stop with the base engine marketing strategy. Despite identical pricing for the library packages, it is clear from the Logos marketing material – and certainly from the Macintosh newsgroup on news.logos.com – that this Mac release is not comparable to the Windows application in terms of functionality. Much of what is missing appears to be that which sets Logos apart on the Windows side. The Logos marketing verbiage is vague on the issue, except for pointing out that the acclaimed syntactical analysis resources do not work (and otherwise stating merely that: “Logos Bible Software for Mac lacks some of the features of the Windows version. We plan to add many of these features in an upcoming version.“). However, the marketing sheets for the Mac library packages do not list any Addins (unlike their Windows-based counterparts), and a scan of the relevant newsgroup seems to confirm that, beyond the basic Bible Tools, most of the functionality represented by those Addins is nowhere to be found in the Mac version.

So, why would the identical library package (book-wise) be sold for the identical price, when the application package itself is significantly inferior? Worse, why would a current Mac owner, using Logos for Windows under emulation, pay $60 to downgrade his application, just so he could run it natively on his Mac? And if you just want, say, that Anchor Bible Dictionary, or IVP’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, or any of the other many works published in Libronix format, you’ll have to spend an extra $60 to use it on your Mac. This looks to me like a raw deal for Mac users, any way you slice it.

Some of the Macintosh diehards on the newsgroup (including Logos for Mac beta testers) are celebrating news of this release as a kind of “Logos freedom from Microsoft,” but that kind of parochialism is just silly – it’s a textbook example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Others seem to be adopting a fatalistic and perhaps slightly heroic position that imagines they have a duty to subsidize the poorly executed Macintosh effort of the Bible Study software industry’s giant – which I just don’t get: it looks to me like they’re being taken advantage of. I don’t see any winners in this picture – I think the users, the company, and the third-party providers all get a bad return on this strategy.

Clearly, Logos struggled far too long with the contract house that was supposed to deliver this Mac app for them many moons ago, but I cannot understand the logic of waiting this long, and then delivering a crippled product. Logos looks to me to have set themselves up for failure in this venture. If I’m Oak Tree Software (publishers of Accordance, the leading Bible Study software for Macintosh), I’m not losing any sleep over this. I’m predicting this will be a flop.

Logos Makes Sermon File Addin Available for Free

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2008 (8:18 pm), by John W Gillis


Logos is making their Sermon File Addin available for free in October, as they celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month. There are also discounts available for other products by using the discount code PAM2008.

The Sermon File Addin is an interesting tool (usually sells for $60, if I remember right) that basically allows the user to make mini Libronix books out of their sermon files, and then tag them for easy and effective cataloging. This is one of the areas where computer-based study systems really outshine paper-based models, and I’m delighted to see Logos making this tool available for free (even temporarily). If you own a Logos package (or another Libronix-based package, such as Nelson’s eBible), by all means grab this while you can.

This module was highly requested by Logos users, and I know people on other Bible Study platforms request similar functionality often. It really is important for these programs to focus on the fact that people generally use them to produce output continually over time, and that the ability to interact with that body of output from within the program as time goes on makes them far more valuable. I think there are some weaknesses in the Logos implementation of this, but I’m not inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth; this is a great tool to have integrated into a computer-based Bible Study environment.