Computers: 20th-century mouse seeks biblical good shepherd: Tim Nott separates the Nebuchadnezzars from the Nebuchadrezzars with the help of an electronic Bible

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As befits a work that is long, complex and out of copyright, the Bible lends itself very well to computer versions. Logos, therefore, is by no means the first attempt at breaking down the Word of God into eight-bit letters.

But it is probably the most elegant version yet published for the PC. It runs under Windows, and you will need a minimum of a 286 processor, 2 megabytes of memory and 14 megabytes of hard disk space. What you get to fill this is the New International Bible, the King James and the Nestle-Aland 26th edition in Greek, with further versions, including Hebrew Texts and Nave's Topical Bible available as optional extras.

You can have a multiplicity of windows open on the same or different texts and even synchronise them to compare versions. Thus the scholar can see the Greek and English side by side. A less expert linguist can compare the blandness of the New International, where they 'attack' and indulge in 'sexual immorality' with the richness of the King James, where they make no bones about 'smiting' and 'fornicating'.

The essence of this electronic version is the ease with which it can be navigated and searched. You can page through by chapter or book, or go straight to a particular reference instantly. You can make your own annotations, which can then be saved for future use.

Translators' notes can be revealed or hidden and in the King James version, there is the option to make visible Strong's numbers. This 19th-century work of annotation refers to a lexicon of 13,000 entries and double-clicking with a 20th-century mouse will let you jump to and from them.

The search facilities will bring joy to anyone who ever needs to trawl the Bible for references. At its simplest you can just search for a word or phrase - 'good shepherd' for example - and the software will retrieve every occurrence in the version you specify. You can limit the search to a book or range of books. A concordance search is far cleverer and will pick up all the instances of the two words being near each other as well as consecutive.

You can use what are known as 'wildcards' to expand a search. If you are a trifle uncertain on spelling, searching for 'Neb*', for example, will find all the 'Nebuchadnezzars', 'Nebuchadrezzars' and 'Neburazadans' and you have the option to filter out the unwanted 'Neb*s' before the search texts are retrieved.

You can also use logical operators in these searches - looking, say, for all verses that have 'shepherd' AND 'sheep' but NOT 'good'. Smarter still are 'fuzzy' searches. A phrase search for 'sheep hear my voice' will produce just one result - John 10:27 - but by allowing a variable degree of fuzziness in the search, you can find all other references that have greater or lesser relevance to sheep and voices.

As a further refinement you can combine these searches - for instance, looking for all the fuzzy sheep within four verses of exact good shepherds. A 'button bar' above the main window provides shortcuts to some of the main features, as well as 10 bookmarks for instant return to a previously visited text.

In spite of its complexity, the software is extremely easy to use and as a final touch, those with sound-capable PCs are treated to a quick burst of 'All creatures that on earth do dwell' on starting and an 'Amen' on ending. A search is concluded with a resounding 'Alleluia'.

Logos is published by Hodder and Stoughton (0732-450111) at pounds 85.00.

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