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A Brief Comparison Between Paid & Free Bible Software
Steven Long 7/13/13


This is part 4 in a TBD series on Bible software. The other parts can be found here:part 1,  part 2part 3]  

As noted in the previous post it can be a bit murky trying to determine if you need to dump money in to purchasing Bible software or if you can get away with a free version. The guidelines given before were simply to help you determine which need best fits you. But to go a little further and to make things a bit murkier I decided to that a brief comparison between a popular paid and free software might be useful–or even a bit more confusing.

Below is a screen shot of Logos software at the top (the paid version) and the Word software on the bottom (the free version). Just a quick glance will tell you that the layout of the two are quite comparable. As you can see, I have multiple panes open on both programs. This is a common feature with both paid and free programs. This can be quite useful when you are trying to compare texts or view the underlying nuances of a particular word in multiple lexicons. For example, the bottom screen shot, the Word free software, you will notice that I have 2 lexicons open side by side. As we are preaching through the book of Judges I wanted to see how a particular Hebrew word was translated in the LXX. I then wanted to compare that Greek word with different lexicons. This is where the feature of being able to open multiple lexicons at the same time really came in handy. I was able to see the Greek and Hebrew translations in parallel, which assisted greatly while preparing my sermon.


But let's get down to the nitty-gritty of things: what's the real difference between a paid and free version software? I'll have to admit, a paid version just has advantages that you just won't get with a free version. But on the other hand, the free version can do quite a bit of stuff that the paid version can. So let's do a brief comparison: a bold 'P' represents the pro while a bold 'C' represents the con. 'P' and 'C' together can represent both a pro and a con.

Just a quick note: while I'm only comparing two different programs, most of the features presented are quite common in all programs. 

Pros & Cons:
Paid Version

  1. PThe paid version has a tightly integrated system that pulls all relevant information to one place about any given topic. With the free version you would have to do multiple searches
  2. PThe paid version has a broader range of search capabilities. This is very useful when you want to search for a particular lemma or inflected form of a word. 
  3. CThe paid version makes you pay for books you could otherwise get free in the public domain. When I questioned Logos about this the response was that I wasn't paying so much for the book as for the advantage of having convenience of it working well with the program itself. 
  4. PThe paid version has far more access to "specialized" books; by specialized I mean those hard-to-find, rare, lexicons and other works that are priceless for those of us who teach and preach on a regular basis. 
  5. PThe paid version excels at the original languages. To go along with number 4, the paid versions shine when it comes to working with the original languages. You can get much more information about a word in this type of a program than you can with a free version. 
  6. PCThe paid version is not very customizable. You're pretty much stuck with the books in whatever package you buy. This might not be a bad thing but it might give you a lot of materials you may never use or even know you have. Refer to part 3 of this series for more info in this area. 
  7. PThe paid version offers stunning maps and photographs. This is very useful if you happen to be a visual learner like myself. I love being able to view a place on a map just to get a better context of what I'm reading in the Scriptures at the moment. 
  8. PC Most paid version now offer a flexible payment plan. Hard economic times means less spending. With payment plan options you can own a paid version software at a relatively low monthly cost. Most of them do not charge interest but do tack on a nominal service fee for each month the payment plan is in effect. 
Pros & Cons:
Free Version
  1. PThe free version offers a variety of Bibles, texts, lexicons, and other helps. With the paid version you have to buy many of the books that you can download for free in the public domain. 
  2. PThe free version allows you to sync your Bibles and commentary texts to scroll together. This is a feature that paid version often boast about, but truthfully it is always been a feature of free versions ever since I've been using them. 
  3. PThe free version offers good note-taking capabilities. While the paid version usually has much better highlighting capabilities I often find their note-taking quite lacking. In my experience, the free version usually outshines the paid version in this area and seems to be a cleaner format when typing and formatting text. 
  4. CThe free version lacks sorely when it comes to the original languages. Sometimes you just wanna go a bit deeper into a word or the syntax of a particular structure. Unfortunately, you just can't always do that with the free version. The books are mostly limited to what's in the public domain. 
  5. PCThe free version usually offers paid add-on modules. There are some books you can have in a free version that you normally only get with a paid version. For example, BDAG, TDNT (abridged), and IVP background commentaries. These are premium books that you pay for and unlock a code to download them. Doing this can greatly enhance your free library without spending the kind of money you would spend buying them in a package with the paid version. 
  6. PCThe free version is much more customizable. In other words, you just download the books you want without getting the stuff you don't! The downside to this is that you must download them all individually, which can eat up a lot of time. You just have to take the time to peruse the library and note the stuff that you want. 
  7. PNew modules and books are regularly being added. Check back regularly at the free version websites as new content is always being uploaded. With the paid version you have to pay for any new items they publish. 
  8. CThe free version is not as regularly updated. This is probably one of the biggest drawbacks to a free version. Because it's free and the programmers have regular jobs they can't dedicate themselves to fully keeping the software up to date. This also means a lack of technical support. Most times, you have to find help in an online forum regarding the issue you are having. 
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. There are other things to consider, like automatic citations, user friendliness, speed of the program, etc. But hopefully this will be enough to inform you which way direction to pursue. 

Hope this post has been helpful and please feel free to contact us at longfortrugh@gmail.com for any questions or concerns you may have. Thanks. 

Steven



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