Bible Software: A Comparison, Part 1

Christmas is not far away, and so I figure it’s time to offer a few recommendations regarding Bible software programs. What would possibly make for a better Christmas present?

I am very fortunate to have a copy of each of the four most prominent Bible software programs. I have Logos, BibleWorks, and Accordance because I’m a world-famous blogger — and so I received these for free in exchange for writing a review or two. I have e-Sword for free because, well, it’s free.

It’s not like blogging pays all that well, but it’s nice to get the occasional bene, even if I have to write a review or two to get them. But this review is strictly of my own initiative. I will get nothing for this.

Now, all of these products have capabilities I don’t use. For example, I don’t use them to annotate a copy of the scriptures — which I can see being helpful to a preacher or teacher. It’s just that my notes are all here in the blog.

And I don’t study the original texts of various manuscripts. I don’t do original textual criticism.

I don’t use these services as book readers. I’m a Kindle fan. There’s a much larger library available to Kindle than to these programs — but Kindle books aren’t searchable within these programs — which forces a choice when I buy a serious theological book.

I find myself buying most books in Kindle — and cutting and pasting from them into the blog using the PC Kindle software, which works just fine. But commentaries, Greek dictionaries, and such need to be bought through a Bible software program.

Price comparison

e-Sword is free, but it’s iPhone app costs $1.99. Still a great deal.

BibleWorks costs $359 for the base package, which is quite a nice package.

Discounts are available to churches, universities, and other groups of 10 or more meeting certain standards.

I run the base package plus the Greek BDAG and Hebrew HALOT dictionaries I added for $150 (now $212). Most readers would find the base package very satisfactory, but the base package contains no commentaries other than the out-of-copyright Matthew Henry commentary included with very nearly every Bible software package.

There are user groups that make various public domain commentaries, such as Calvin’s commentaries, available for BibleWorks.

Accordance for Windows comes in a series of modules, priced from $59.90 to $1,999. I run the Advance Collection, which costs $999. I got this for free, but I’ve since added some commentary sets — and Accordance has a wide range of additional commentaries, dictionaries, grammars, and other resources that can be bought.

Discounts are available to fulltime and retired ministers, students, and others.

A free trial version is available, and it has more features than you might expect. It only runs for 60 minutes and then must be restarted.

Logos, like Accordance, offers a range of collections as base packages. Pricing ranges from $24.95 to $3,969.31. I have the Scholar’s Package, which is no longer offered. It’s evidently a step below the current Gold Package — about $800 below per the upgrade price.

Discounts are available to college faculty, students, and staff.


e-Sword is largely limited to public domain materials. For what I do, it’s not nearly adequate. It’s free, but I’ve never used it. The choices are too few, and if I’m going to pay money to add materials to a program, I’d rather add them to one of the much superior for-pay programs.

e-Sword serves well as a concordance for the KJV and ESV translations and few less popular ones. It links to the Strong’s Greek and Hebrew words behind the text, but does not offer the actual Greek or Hebrew text or tenses, voices, moods, etc. Helpful, but not good enough for my own studies.

BibleWorks comes with several Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and Grammars, the NET Bible translator notes (excellent resource), Matthew Henry commentary, the Apostolic and Ante-Nicene Fathers linked to Bible verses, cross-references taken from several translations, a vast collection of English translations, various alternative Greek and Hebrew texts, the Greek Septuagint, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, and a host of other original language and ancient sources.

It has no modern commentaries, and is missing the very best Greek (BDAG) and Hebrew (HALOT) dictionaries, but these can be added for $212.

In short, unless you are looking for electronic commentaries, BibleWorks is fairly priced, easily mastered, and quick as lightning.

I can tell you that I consider BibleWorks an excellent deal for the price, despite the limitations of the software. I use it literally every day and for very nearly every post I write.

But if the resources in BibleWorks are not enough, you must pick between Logos and Accordance.

Price comparisons are difficult, because so many of the resources provided in a package are public domain and available for free on the Internet. However, the Internet version of the Greek Septuagint is not conveniently cross-linked to the ESV and Greek dictionaries. The price you pay is often for ease of search and research — not the actual copyright.

And I used to do my Septuagint research in Internet resources — and it was slow slogging, tedious, and imprecise. For example, all these packages allow you to search by lemma, that is, by root word. And they also let you search by part of speech, voice, tense, and the like. This is not always so easily done in the free services.

Whether Logos or Accordance is a better deal for a given package depends on which resources you need and will use and which ones you already have. And both have considerable advantages over BibleWorks — especially a much larger store of books that can bought and added to the package. BibleWorks has a very limited selection of books to add.

Of Accordance and Logos, Logos appears to have the larger selection, especially when in comes to contemporary theologians such as N. T. Wright. If you want Wright’s books in electronic, searchable form — to use like commentaries — you have to buy Logos.

Which collection is better really depends on what you like and need. It’s worth the time to browse the two collections before you buy.


BibleWorks has a simple interface, but still seems a bit MS-DOS. To search for “Spirit” and “Holy,” you enter “.spirit holy” — the dot being the code for “word search, and.”

To search for the phrase “Holy Spirit” you search ” ‘holy spirit ” — the lead apostrophe being the code for “exact phrase.”

In the modern Internet world, “and” is usually typed “and” or “&” or “+” and not “.” And the exact phrase is always indicated by open and close quotation marks. Nonetheless, once you learn the idiosyncratic code, you can make your entries very fast and easy — and you have very precise control of your searches.

On the other hand, I’ve been using it daily for about three years, and I still sometimes have to look the codes up — they are so unconventional.

Logos has a much more sophisticated interface, with an opening page designed to sell products as well as to introduce you to features of the software. The next page gives you the option to search within the Passage Guide, Exegetical Guide, or Bible Word Study tool.

Enter a passage in the Exegetical Guide, and you get the apparatus (critical text), a word-by-word analysis of the text in Greek or Hebrew and links to original language grammars (if you’ve bought any). (My BibleWorks collection of grammars and dictionaries are so superior to my Logos collection, I never use this feature. What I use is the collection of commentaries.)

Enter a passage citation in the Passage Guide and you get the Bible verses you hit, a list of commentaries, links to related Old Testament passages, a comparison of English translations of the same text, and a host of other resources — most of which I’ve turned off in an effort to speed the software.

A list of commentaries will appear, and clicking on each will pop up the relevant text in another window. You can easily read through several, and then cut and paste text into a blog post or sermon as you need. The citation follows the pasted text when you copy a long enough selection (40 characters or more, as I recall).

You can also link to archaeology materials, sermon materials, graphics, maps, sermon outlines, book outlines, handouts, sermons citing the same text, and a staggering array of additional resources. I can easily see a preacher finding these resources invaluable.

Logos, at least my version, while weak in original language resources compared to BibleWorks, is vastly superior when it comes to commentaries. I’ve bought several more as they’ve come on sale. And Logos frequently puts their popular commentaries and other resources on sale.

A different base package or the purchase of additional original language resources would make Logos competitive with BibleWorks in that area, but BibleWorks original language materials are available for lower cost.

Logos has the superior ability to search its entire database, which is good but can be a bit overwhelming. Every once in a while, I need to search not only the commentaries, but the dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other texts for a concept, and Logos is the best place for that — although it may produce more hits than you really care to sort through.

Accordance has a very different interface from Logos. The main window most naturally contains the Bible passage at issue. You can open several translations at once, and they’ll automatically appear in parallel.

You may then select any commentary you wish, and it will appear in a lower window. Open five at once, and all appear next to each other underneath the scriptural text, synced to the scripture. It’s extraordinarily simple, efficient, and wonderfully automatic.

You can also open Bible dictionaries, grammars, and such. I find myself leaving two versions of Accordance open at once: A New Testament version with four or five favorite commentaries open below, and in a separate window, an Old Testament version with Old Testament commentaries opened. And this arrangement works for me for weeks at a time.

[to be continued]

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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7 Responses to Bible Software: A Comparison, Part 1

  1. John Fewkes says:

    I have Logos and use it; but I also have PC Study Bible which has lemma searching (in its more advanced offering)and many good resources – TDOT, TDNT, BADG, Thayers, etc and a wealth of commentary sources, priced below logos in most cases. I guess I also like it since they donated 20 copies I placed on computers to go to Zimbabwe preachers. It could use a bit better interface, but it also has an authoring system available, which I’ve not used, but looks interesting.

  2. Alan says:

    For the record, e-Sword has far more options than you’ve indicated. In my copy, I have installed the following commentaries:

    Ante-Nicene Fathers
    Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
    Believers’ Bible Commentary
    Calvin’s Complete Commentary
    The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
    Adam Clarke’s Commentary
    William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible
    Expositor’s Bible Commentary
    The Fourfold Gospel (McGarvey)
    John Gill’s Exposition of the entire Bible
    Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible
    Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary
    Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
    The Popular Commentary (Kretzmann)
    Expositions of Holy Scripture (Maclaren)
    McGarvey and Pendleton Commentaries
    NET Bible notes
    The People’s New Testament (1891) by B. W. Johnson
    Treasury of David (Spurgeon)
    The Pulpit Commentary
    Robertson’s Word Pictures
    Spurgeon’s Expositions
    Treasury of Scripture Knowlege (including reciprocal references)

    There are many more commentaries available, both free and purchased options. Besides those available directly from the download menu, there is an extensive library of free options available at

    I won’t list all the twenty or so translations I have installed. But that is only a small fraction of what is available, with both free and purchased options. I’ll just mention that many ancient language modules are available (various texts), including the Greek with tense, voice, and mood.

    Additionally, there are many reference books (both ancient and modern) that can be installed which integrate with the scriptures and commentaries. And dictionaries, devotions, reading plans…

    I completely understand that someone would prefer the expensive commercial products over e-Sword. But for those who can’t to spend many hundreds of dollars on a package, e-Sword is an excellent option.

  3. Jay Guin says:


    I used to use QuickVerse for Windows 95 exclusively. But that was long ago.

    They’re now under new ownership and evidently much improved. I was not happy with prior management but likely should give them a try.

  4. Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    I’m not familiar with PC Study Bible but it sounds solid. And I have to respect their support of missions.

  5. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for that information. I’ve looked over the offerings. The out-of-copyright materials are quite extensive and typically free, whereas the retail Bible software charges for many of the same materials.

    E-Sword also has more contemporary offerings at good prices, but the offerings are very limited. E-Sword offers Vine’s Expository Dictionary (a great resource) for 14.99 vs. 16.99 at Logos. I can’t find it at all in the Accordance store, although it likely offers close to 100 other Bible dictionaries. BibleWorks also does not carry Vines, but carries several other Bible dictionaries.

    I went looking for the Barclay Daily Study Bible, as that is a long-time favorite, but I can’t find it in the e-Sword store. I wonder if they lost their right to sell?

    Like e-Sword, BibleWorks also has an extensive offering of free materials assembled by volunteers: It offers some truly impressive materials.

    Logos is presently offering 8000 free books scanned from theological libraries.

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