Software Review: Glo Bible Software from Zondervan

I received Glo thanks to the Amazon Vine program – they get free products from publishers and distribute them to interested reviewers. The only thing I get out of it is a free product and a few $ if you buy it using the affiliate link (click the picture).

The first thing you will notice about Glo is that it’s a huge program — the install is 18 GB. No, that’s not a typo; that was, in fact, a G. As in giga. This is a huge program. Glo installs all video, all pictures, all maps, all everything. That’s nice, because you don’t need to carry the DVDs with you when you’re traveling, but an option to run videos from the DVD would have been nice. The size makes this a long install – on my brand-new laptop, it took a bit under an hour and a half; the instructions tell you to expect between one and three hours for the install, so I got off easy. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

Once you get it installed, you will notice that Glo is completely different from any other Bible software you’ve ever used. Traditional Bible software has a standard appearance and interface — you have the Bible pane, the Reference pane (sometimes called the Commentary pane), the Dictionary pane, and occasionally some other resources. They pretty much all look like this screenshot from e-Sword (my own Bible software of choice):

Glo doesn’t look anything like that.

Glo starts off with five icons: Bible, Timeline, Atlas, Topical, Media, and MyGlo, and sorts the wealth of information it has differently for each. If you select Bible, you get an overview of Old and New Testament books, in either the KJV or NIV translations. Zoom in, using the scroll wheel on your mouse, and you get more detail – divisions in each testament, divisions in each book, etc. Click on a passage, and you get the text, study notes, and pictures, maps, and interactive tours. This last one is the most fascinating – click on John 2:14, and you’re offered a virtual tour of Jerusalem (ancient or modern), the Royal Stoa, or the Temple Courts. Taking the virtual tour gives you an annotated, 360 degree view of the area you’re touring. You can easily get lost spending time in these tours — I just spent 20 minutes touring the Temple Courts as I was preparing to write this review. Atlas is pretty self-explanatory, as are Timeline and Media. Topics breaks down the information into three categories: Biblical World, Christian Faith, and Life. Zoom in on one of those, and it’s broken down further, until you get to just the topic you want to study.

The interface is very intuitive, and I know my descriptions here aren’t doing it justice. If you’re looking for specific information, there is a good search function available that will get you to what you’re looking for quickly. It’s the browsing around, the random discovery, that are Glo’s strong points.

I’m a person who can spend hours surfing Wikipedia, going from article to article, reading and learning more and more about things until I’ve gone totally off track from my original search. Glo is the same way. Start off with a passage about Jesus cleansing the temple, then suddenly tour the temple. Then you’re off to passages talking about the different partitions, or the sacrifices, or an article about the temple tax, or …. You get the idea.

MyGlo shows you what is coming soon. Updates are promised that include a Bible reading plan (or plans) that track your progress within the program, audio commentary on some pasages, an audio Bible, and animated maps. The maps and reading plan are listed as coming in “November 2009,” so I’m hoping for an update in the next few days 😉 The others are listed as “Q1, 2010.”

Glo isn’t without it’s shortcomings – I love the software, but there are things I wish they’d have added. I mentioned the smaller install option above; one of the biggest objections I’ve heard in talking to people about Glo is that it takes up so much room, and takes so much time to install. Putting all the media on one disc would enable the user to choose whether to install all the media to their computer, or just some. I understand that the desire was to create something that you could take with you without having to worry about carrying discs along, but making the option available would have been a good idea. I’d also would have liked having a wider choice of Bible translations available. Zondervan is, of course, going to include the NIV on it’s software, and the KJV is a given since it doesn’t cost anything to add in. I’m hoping that other translations will be made available later on (from what I’ve read, there will be more content made available in the future; expanded Bible versions, including the NASB and ESV would be a great addition, even if they required some sort of payment to unlock). The FAQ does say that more translations are coming soon, so I’m hopeful.

If you’re used to typical Bible study software, it may take some time to get used to Glo’s interface. I’m writing this review right after taking my first test-drive, while I play with the software some more this evening. I’ll put anything I want to add to these initial impressions below.

{edit}Addition 1 — There is no attribution in the articles. There is a brief bibliography in most of them, and there’s a note that tells you where the article came from, but no identification of the author. I would like to know that as I’m studying. Most articles seem to come from the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, which is old (1976!). Hopefully, once the software is updated a few times, there will be more references available.

I’ve also read some reviews of an earlier version that told of problems with the installation. I had no problems with the install at all (this might be because I wasn’t going from a demo version to the full version, or it could be that the problems were fixed – probably a little of both). I have noticed that as I run more software (Firefox, e-Sword, iTunes) that Glo does slow down a little bit, but not enough to annoy me. The software does use a lot of memory, so if you experience some sluggishness, you may want to exit some programs that you may have running in the background.

Addition 2: I’ve noticed in some of the virtual tours that the subtitles of the pictures end with ellipses, but I haven’t found anywhere where they continue the text. Clicking on the box does no good. And there is no manual, and a very sparse FAQ.

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12 responses to “Software Review: Glo Bible Software from Zondervan

  1. I just received Glo in my Willow Creek package this past week, and I’m blown away by the concept. For an intuitive person like me, this kind of Bible experience is something I could get lost in for hours! I loved it.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the documentation and some of the blips on the the virtual tours–hopefully they’ll get ironed out soon. I also hope, like you, that they add more resources for reference soon and better citations.

    The other thing that I would love to see is the ability to show these things to my congregation easily. Not sure how it would be best to do that.

    Anyway, thanks for the review.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Daniel. I’ve been thinking about using Glo for a Bible study I’m working on — I was just planning on hooking my laptop up to a projector and running the software straight to the screen — that should work with most congregations, I would think. Not as seamless as it could be — I’m thinking you could use something like Camtasia to record a Glo session and just show it that way as well.

  3. I’m still installing Glo on my laptop. during the installation process (painfully long!!!) I notice that when the software downloads updates from the disk, it says downloading 0 of 11, but the number never increases to go to 1 of 11 or 2 of 11…

    may the creators correct this error..

  4. Gan,
    I had that problem on the first update that I made, but it corrected itself (or seemed to) when I rebooted. During installation, I didn’t have that problem — sounds like it may be related to the update they’re trying to send out.

  5. Looks:8/10
    NT Content: 7/10
    OT Content: 4/10
    Study: 6/10

    I just got glo up and running. It looks really nice.

    I was just wondering why there is so little Old Testamanet Content? Except from the occasional pic of some artist impression and map (there are a lot of those), there’s little “real” content. Nice for a user that has little knowledge of the Bible, but it lacks a bit on “hardcore” content that you need when doing a study on scripture for preaching.

    I would rate the content useful for first year BTh studies only.

    Hopefully the content will get up to scratch with the great interface.

    I also noticed that if you open up an image in a search, there is no easy way to go to the next image in the search. You have to close the image and go back to the search and open the next image? A bit of a hassle if you’re used to Windows preview 😉

    Another problem is with the auto update feature? What happens if you need to do a presentation and you first have to do an update of a few 100 Mb? I have yet to get an update I think, so just a question

    I haven’t had a look at the journal feature so I could’ve missed this. I would really like to have a way of creating study notes where you can paste together material on a topic in one central place. No use looking at content but you can’t build up notes on it. (I did see there are bible notes – just insufficient). This would also be great if you wanted to use the software for presentation.

    It also seems like there is no way of exporting the images? Anybody know how?

    If you’re a serious student I would wait a while for the content to get up to standard. You would be better off spending the money on some other program, unless you need it for NT studies.

    Illumina may not have such a great interface, but the content is still unmatched at this time. I was expecting a bit more from Zondervan (guess I will have to spend a few more $$ to get “real” content for this program”)

  6. Here’s how the install went for one of my readers:
    Geoff Wallace: Glo has arrived…

    That’s the only negative feedback I’ve heard, though. Sold steadily through my shop at London School of Theology when it first came out, 1 brought back by customer because the disks were faulty, accepted replacement, but sales have tailed off now.

    A good number of people asking where the Mac version is…

  7. kimberly thomason

    I am thinking of spending the bill for this product but am doing my research first. So for now I am just looking into the pros and cons of Glo. Thanks guys and God Bless.

  8. Glo Bible is by design oriented around folks who prefer viewing images and media rather than actually reading. When trying to do traditional search and query in this tool, Glo has made that aspect much more difficult than existing solutions available. Glo assumes you want to answer questions about life and find what the Bible says on the subject (which is OK) but you are subjected to the designer being in between you and the raw data of Bible information on a topic.

    Users of Glo must re-orient themselves as to what Glo is designed to provide. Advertising and marketing give the impression it is a “find anything you want” kind of tool, when in reality it is a “find what we think you will want to see” kind of tool. And in many cases, the decisions about what is shown seem to be the personal preferences of the designers rather than an appeal to biblical scholarship and the historic church.

    This is most apparent in the Topical pathway (lens). Scripture in addition to other media are only available in Topical under pre-defined application contexts. If you want to see verses about marriage in other contexts not provided you will have to use another product altogether.

    Not knowing how to use the tool and having no or little internal help makes learning rather frustrating. Glo seems to have counted on the intuitive design making up for skipping a user guide, but it actually doesn’t make up for not having one.

    When using Topical, you have to be very careful when highlighting items found and shown. If an item is grey or but shown you may think it belongs to the context you are viewing, but you are actually getting a hidden context that requires you to dial into the current topic deeper.

    Example:
    If you navigate into Life With Others, you see the word Love as a greyed-out color. If you highlight it and send it to the Bible lens you get one verse in one chapter in one book for the entire Bible – Galatians 5:22 – where love is mentioned as one of the fruits of the spirit. You completely miss the verses all through I John, and the 13th chapter of I Corinthians, because the system understands the Love item you chose as belonging to the context “Fruit of the Spirit” which you can’t see at present.

    Even still, this approach by topic will not eventually get you to all the verses where love is mentioned in Scripture. It will yield pre-defined sub-topics related to love, several of which may not use the word love at all.

    So the idea that the topics are systematically derived from some sort of unbiased, exhaustive indexing of all Scripture is a misnomer.

    Of course, you can always use the Bible pathway in a global search. But there, the results are not terribly useful, since they are presented in a completely random, unorganized manner (you won’t see love references in I John grouped together).

    When you choose to view an item shown in Scripture results, you won’t see the word love highlighted throughout the text, but instead a chosen verse that the designer believes explains love for that reference.

    Also, many perfectly reasonable topics have not been mapped in Glo. For example, wisdom, is not a mapped topic in Glo. So you must find the Scripture references to wisdom by using the global search feature. You can’t further qualify these according a book of the Bible. If there are 132 references, you can’t send all of them to the Bible lens where they can be organized by book. Instead, you are stuck browsing the Scripture results by trying to find references to books 132 unorganized hits.

    Worse still, you can’t use a feature like Find Next to sequentially locate a keyword in currently displayed text, as you can on a web page or in MS Word.

    So in general, students need to accept the fact that Glo can’t be used as a concordance-style search tool in any efficiently useful meaning of the term.

  9. Pingback: WOO HOO!! Improved Glo!! « The Pew Reviews

  10. I got glo bible and it’s nice but 2 things that does not impress me is
    1: I don’t have the choice to save my notes to a different location in case my computer crashes,

    2: I have a family that use this family computer that like to be able to create a personal glo account for bible study but glo is only a single user I will never install 3 or 4 glo software if they can not add that feature I will discontenue using glo

    besides that for a single user it’s a great software

    • I would hesitate to recommend Glo for church use for just this reason. I think it would be great to use in a church library or something like that, but I’d want each user to be able to log in and have their sessions available to them. Hopefully they’ll add this functionality soon — most of my concerns have been addressed in updates since I wrote the review.

  11. Glo is awesome! When it works that is.. Usually in the middle of something it will just crash and need to be re opened. And to add to the frustration the installation barely worked. We tried about 50 different times..

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