Keep Track of Your Bible Study Notes with Logos

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You get up early, you carve out time for Bible study, and you have an insight as you read. But reader beware: if you don’t write that insight down, you didn’t really have it. It had you. And it dropped you, perhaps never to pick you up again. Unless you have a steel-trap memory, you need to take notes.

I’ve been taking Bible study notes in various ways for almost 20 years. I also have hundreds of pages of sermon notes from world-class expository sermons. The first several years of those Bible and sermon notes were taken on a trusted, lasting technology called “paper.” But not long after Y2K I got a brand new, shiny Palm Pilot, and my note-taking habits changed forever. Since then, all my notes have been taken electronically, including many of them in Logos Bible Software.

Paper notes have their benefits; so do digital. But guess which notes I access more often? And guess which ones I literally rescued from the trash can during my family’s recent move?

I use electronic notes almost exclusively because they are easily created and easily accessed—easily searchable and usable for sermons, emails, blogs, Facebook posts, and anything else the Internet needs me to write for it. Electronic notes can also be automatically backed up, available from any Internet-connected device and safe from spring-cleaning spouses.

Bible Study Notes

My Bible study notes make two particular demands that other kinds of notes don’t:

  1. They typically need to be connected to specific Bible verses.
  2. They need to be available automatically when I look up those Bible verses.

My long-time pastor used a wide-margin Bible to accomplish these two goals. And I tried that, too, in my own pre-Palm-Pilot days. That wide-margin leather Bible looked and even smelled glorious, but convenience and usability won out: my Bible notes on Genesis 1:1, for example, are in Logos.

With Logos, if I open any of my English Bibles to that passage, I see a bright yellow sticky note next to 1:1, reminding me that I have a note tied to that verse. (if I have more notes, I see more stickies—see verse 5 below). I can see a preview of my notes by simply hovering my cursor over the sticky note, and if I want to see more (or add to the note), I just click it.

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I keep all kinds of electronic notes on the Bible—or at least all the kinds of notes that will help me do what I believe I’m called to do with it: read it, understand it, obey it, and teach it to others. Take a look at some of my notes on this verse, and I’ll show you how and show you how to get more out of your notes in Logos.

Helpful Chart

The first note I see in my files on Genesis 1:1 is a simple chart from Gordon Wenham’s top-rated Genesis commentary in the (now on sale) Word Biblical Commentary series. I just typed it in with tabs:

Day 1 Light Day 4 Luminaries
Day 2 Sky Day 5 Birds and Fish
Day 3 Land (plants) Day 6 Animals and Man (plants for food)
Day 7 Sabbath

Textual Critical Note

My next note comes from Victor Hamilton’s highly rated Genesis commentary in the (also highly rated) NICOT series. It’s a little comment about textual criticism that I wanted to remind myself of for future study:

“The MT and LXX have only minor differences in Genesis.” The most serious differences are in the chronological system in chs. 5, 8, 11. (p.74)

I felt this was worth following up. One day I hope to do so. If I didn’t write it down, I would lose that lead.

Blog Posts

I’ve got friends who don’t blog very often, but whose posts are worth saving when they do. Their posts will often make one careful, distinct, narrow point about a particular passage of Scripture. I find that if I don’t copy and paste it immediately into my Bible software notes, then, as the poet Billy Collins said, most likely that memory will “decide to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain, to a little fishing village where there are no phones.” I’ll forget it.

Learn more about notes from a Logos Pro

I encourage you to give some careful thought to how you’ll take notes on Scripture, and then invest in the system you create. Notes I took five and eight years ago are still valuable to me. Let one of my fellow Logos Pros show you how to get started with notes in Logos:

A Few More Tips

  • Take the extra time to attach valuable notes to all of the passages that seem relevant, not just one. (Remember: use the “edit attachment” feature.)
  • Always include attribution—URL, bibliographic info, etc.—just in case
  • I like to add dates to my notes. It only takes a second, and I find it interesting to see what I was studying and thinking in the past.
  • When you right click a Bible word in Logos, you need to specify what it is you’re right-clicking: are you trying to choose just that word or the whole verse in which it resides? When you right-click, look on the right-hand side of the resulting menu and choose the appropriate option.

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Comments

  1. Mark, how did you enter that chart with tabs? It does not seem to work, this is being discussed on the forums at https://community.logos.com/forums/p/115556/764280.aspx#764280

  2. I certainly agree with "note taking." How to use the books of journals from the past is evasive, but does not discourage present need to improve. I will pursue sharpening this skill in electronic resource utilization. It is a valuable pursuit.

  3. Peter F Whyte says:

    I can’t manage to do this on Android. Is it possible, or is it a feature that will be added soon?

    • Peter, unless I’m missing the import of your demonstrative pronoun, my copy of Logos in Android appears to take notes just fine. What in particular are you not able to do?

      • Peter F Whyte says:

        Mark, Sorry for the imprecision. I can take notes on Android, but I cannot tag them with references. I need to switch to the desktop to do that, which is a bit of a pain.
        Peter

  4. Good call, Don. I replied over on the forums page, but I’ll put the reply here, too, just in case:

    I spent some time trying to decide how much detail to get into with that line—apparently I erred too much on the side of brevity. It is true that you cannot type tabs directly into the notes field at this point. I have a bare-bones text editor mapped to a keyboard shortcut, and I just typed it in there with the tabs and pasted it back into my Logos notes. The tabs do carry over, maintaining the look of my chart. Of course, you can also copy the text directly from the resource into the notes. The tabs carry over nicely with that method, too, but I wanted to have a little more control so I did it myself.

  5. Tommy, I’m agreed. And I think this is a skill that you can work on with a firm neighbor-loving motivation in mind. Saving these notes is a way of serving the people you will teach. If you’re not a Bible teacher, saving those notes is still a way of making your Bible study benefits last longer and take firmer root—and that’s a benefit to others as well.

  6. I was thinking that I might be able to scan the older paper notes into my computer and see if I can attach them to my Logos references. In any case, this is a very helpful habit to develop!

    • Admittedly, this is not quite what the Logos notes were made for. There is a way you could do it: you could upload your scans to a service like Dropbox and then copy links to those scans into relevant note files. That’s a bit circuitous. Or, if you’re truly dedicated to those paper notes and to Logos, you could use OCR software to grab the text and paste it in. I haven’t been dedicated enough to my paper notes to take the time to do that, though I have thought about it! If I ever get a secretary or administrative assistant, maybe that will be a project for them. =)

  7. is it possible to have the notes be shown on all my bibles???

    E.g if i input my note for genesis 1:3 will that only show on the bible i used or on all the bibles I have???

    • Brian, all my notes show up in all my Bibles, and through the visual filter I can make them show up near references in other books, too, like when Genesis 1:1 gets mentioned in a commentary.

  8. Genghis7777 says:

    I use a Windows tablet a lot. I wish that the Logos’ notes text input boxes would accept input from the Windows handwriting input table. See https://community.logos.com/forums/p/76689/711516.aspx#711516

    • Genghis7777, I’m checking with a friend who has a Surface Pro 3 to see what he does. Looks like Brad Grainger already answered with a “we’re working on that.”

      • Genghis7777 says:

        @Mark: Thanks muchly. Yes Bradley has replied but it was a looooooong time ago (Oct 2013). Our church has started providing WiFi access during services so the chance of having an outstanding Logos note taking experience during sermons is going begging.

        • Wow, I failed to notice the timing of Bradley’s post!

          My friend with the Surface Pro said that his notes field *does* accept ink from the input panel, but he noted that while in most programs the words appear in the text field as you write, in Logos the field stays blank until he hits enter.

  9. Genghis7777 says:

    @Mark: You just made my day! I’ve just tried your friend’s suggestion and it works. I’m pretty sure that it didn’t work under Windows 8.1 and tapping the “insert” button. I just recently upgraded to Windows 10 so maybe the upgrade made a difference.

    Under Windows 10, there is a new handwriting input panel. The text is also inserted into Logos notes if the “space” button is tapped. That might be useful to someone who wants to insert the text without introducing a new line.

    —-
    Dictated from Dragon NaturallySpeaking 14

  10. I was wondering if you have a list of themes that you could export and make available to some of us that could copy them into our Logos?

  11. Is there a way to attach the URL to Bible Notes when using an iPad? It seems to me that I need to open the reference and copy this using the Info button for each book. If anyone knows of a quicker way to do this – or perhaps a setting I've missed please could you let me know as this is a great feature? Big Thanks :)

  12. Mark, this seems like a great way to improve your bible study. My mom loves to read her bible but always seems to forget where some passages are. This could be a real help to her. It seems like there's a lot of benefit that comes from reading the good book. http://www.newgethsemanebaptist.com

  13. I am really glad I was able to find this! I have been having a hard time with my Bible study lately, and I have no idea what to do about it. I just want to study the Bible the best way possible. That being said, I really appreciate you giving me some insight about this and letting me know about these awesome note strategies. I'll have to try this out and see how it helps. http://www.cameronavenuechurch.net/ministries/