Long gone are my days of reconciling expenses in the check register to a print bank statement at the end of the month. Instead, I’ve been tracking daily expenses in real time since May 2015 with the app You Need a Budget (YNAB).
YNAB is a philosophy (with newly released accompanying book) as much as it is an app. Here are the four tenets of YNAB, in their words:
Give every dollar a job.
Embrace your true expenses.
Roll with the punches.
Age your money.
Their Website is as clean and clear and informative as any I’ve seen. You could easily (and productively!) get lost in their articles, tips, and sources of support for hours.
YNAB 4—which I received a few years ago for review and which has now been replaced by a yearly subscription model—consisted of a desktop app and mobile app that stayed in sync with each other via Dropbox. YNAB 4 is still fully functional, so you don’t have to upgrade to the subscription-as-service model if you don’t want to; you just can’t buy the stand-alone apps as a one-time purchase anymore. But what I’ve seen of the new Web app is an impressive step forward for an already great app.
The best thing about using YNAB is that even the act of tracking transactions has made me a more prudent spender. I’ve had months where I was still using an outdated budget, but tracking my spending was sufficient for not overdoing it. That’s perhaps the best contribution YNAB makes to one’s financial practice.
The four tenets are great, too. “Give every dollar a job” helps you avoid, as YNAB says, the scenario where you are feeling flush with cash after receiving a paycheck, so go out and buy all your friends drinks, only to realize 10 days later you needed that money for car repair. Their idea is that you decide what to do with your money before you spend it. It may not be novel, but it is also frequently ignored.
YNAB is a massive movement with a huge following. Using the app (and accompanying YNAB resources) these last 3.5 years has been immensely helpful.
Here are some pros and cons of the app (YNAB 4) itself:
Cross-platform integration means I can track an expense with the receipt still in my hand and everything stays current
You can carry the same budget over month to month with the click of a button, or easily modify as necessary
The support articles, forums, and Webinar options are some of the best of any app I’ve ever seen. In fact, in the middle of writing this blog post, I went to see what Webinars there were, found a 20-minute “Learn the Four Rules” session starting in a matter of minutes, signed up, and sat in on the 20-minute session
The app moves users away from the need to rely on complicated Excel spreadsheets (although I still use one for student loan tracking!)
Recurring expenses are super easy to set up; then you watch them populate into your register each month, with no need to manually repeat them
YNAB remembers your payees, so that I only have to start typing “Mar…” now to get “Market Basket” to pull up as an auto-complete option. It also learns what categories certain vendors fall into
I typically include lots of screenshots in app reviews, but I’m not altogether sure how to do that in this case without disclosing sensitive info! There are a bunch of screenshots of YNAB 4 here, and of the newer subscription-based YNAB here.
All in all, working with YNAB principles has been a life-changing approach, at least in the area of finances. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.
This week Accordance Bible Software has released a massive 68-volume bundle from Westminster John Knox Press: the Old Testament Library and New Testament Library.
The whole bundle, which is also available in component parts, includes a full set of 31 Old Testament commentaries, a series of 15 New Testament commentaries, and topical monographs for both Testaments. Here’s an article from Accordance on the release. In this post I interact with the bundle, as well as provide a short video demonstration of how to smartly search the modules via different search fields.
Sample Passage: Mark 12:13-17 (Among Others)
Nothing against commentaries that draw on an established translation, but I appreciate commentaries (like this one) where the author offers an original translation with explanatory footnotes.
Here’s Mark 12:13-17 in Eugene M. Boring’s original translation:
12:13 And they are sending some of the Pharisees and Herodians to him, to set a verbal trap for him. 14 And they come and say to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and answer without regard to what people may think, for you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it right to pay the poll tax to the emperor, or not? Should we pay it, or should we not?” 15 But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and show it to me.” 16 And they brought one. And he says to them, “Whose image is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give back to the emperor the things that belong to the emperor, and to God the things that belong to God.” And they were utterly astounded at him.
This section reads well enough. Note that Boring translates the beginning of the verse
And they are sending some of the Pharisees and Herodians to him….
The “and” is translated (better, I think) in other versions as “then” (NRSV) and “later” (NIV). And I don’t find compelling reason in an English translation to preserve Greek’s “historical present” (ἀποστέλλουσιν) as “they are sending,” when the passage is describing a past narrative event. Formal English narrative prose wouldn’t be expected to use historical present. So, too, with verse 14’s, “And they come and say to him….” But that doesn’t overshadow Boring’s exegetical prowess!
For the second part of verse 13, ἵνα αὐτὸν ἀγρεύσωσιν λόγῳ, Boring provides a nice explanatory footnote:
The dative / instrumental logō, without preposition or pronoun, can refer either to what the inquirers say, “with a question,” or what they try to get Jesus to say, “in what he said.”
The translations throughout the OT and NT Library are strong in this regard—the authors highlight other options and why they chose what they did, focusing on lexical and grammatical challenges as they arise.
OTL and NTL are full of historical background:
While in the Markan story line the whole scene is part of the effort to find grounds on which Jesus may be arrested, the question itself, and Jesus’ response to it, is also inherently important for Mark. It was a live issue in his own time, in which the relation of Christians to the demands of the Roman government was not an abstract problem.
The denarius was a Roman coin, bearing the image of the emperor and an inscription declaring him to be divine and pontifex maximus (high priest). Not only the image, but the inscription, would be offensive to Jewish sensibilities.
In addition to focus on grammatical-historical detail, the series is refreshingly theological in a way that keeps the wider biblical witness in view for a given passage. Here’s more of Boring on this passage in Mark:
There is no paralleling of Caesar and God. God is God and Caesar is not God, in direct opposition to the image and title on the coin. The world is not divided into two parallel kingdoms. There is no encouragement in this text for dividing the world into “secular” and “sacred,” with Caesar ruling the one and God the other, nor is there any “balancing” of civic obligation to the state and religious obligation to God. Obligation to God overbalances all else (cf. 12:44, which concludes this section). Caesar is relative and God is absolute, so the two statements are not on the same plane; the second relativizes the first. Even the conjunction kai that joins them is not coordinating but adversative (as, e.g., Rom 1:13). Caesar does have a kingdom, and Jesus’ followers live in it, but God is the creator of all, and God’s kingdom embraces all, including that of Caesar. Thus while the saying itself calls on Jesus’ hearers to give both Caesar and God their due, it is not directed to those situations in which one must choose between God and Caesar as Lord. When those situations arise, devotion to God must clearly take precedence over Caesar; God demands all (12:29–30; cf. Acts 5:29). But the saying does not tell the hearer in advance how to discern what those situations are.
(His honesty and humility are refreshing!)
Again, the attention given to the passage in its wider literary-biblical context is a hallmark of the series. Here is Stephen E. Fowl on Ephesians 4:1 (“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received”):
Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians is that they walk in a manner worthy of their calling. The use of the term “to walk” to characterize a way of life already appeared in 2:2, to refer to the Ephesians’ moribund way of life outside of Christ. In 2:10 it is used to speak of the manner of life that God has prepared for believers, further connecting chapters 1–3 and 4–6. Here in chapter 4 the initial admonition to the Ephesians is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” The standard to which the Ephesians’ common life should conform is the “calling with which they have been called.” This calling is first mentioned in 1:18, but it is really in 2:1–10 and 11–22 where the shape of this calling is developed. Recall that in chapter 2 the Ephesians learn of their deathly state in God’s purview and outside of Christ, yet also of how God has graciously delivered them from death into life in Christ so that they may walk in the good works that God has prepared for them. Hence, Paul is not setting some new standard for them. Rather, he is reminding them of what God has already done on their behalf.
When it comes to critical issues like authorship, the volumes I’ve interacted with take a balanced approach. Here’s Fowl, again, on Ephesians:
The overwhelming majority of people read Ephesians for broadly theological reasons. That is, they read Ephesians because it is indisputably a part of Christian Scripture, and Christians by virtue of their identity are called to a lifelong engagement with Scripture as part of their ongoing struggle to live and worship faithfully before the triune God. Christians read Scripture in a variety of ways and in a variety of contexts to deepen their love of God and love of neighbor. Given the ends for which Christians engage Scripture theologically, the issue of authorship is not particularly relevant. Ephesians plays the role it does in the life and worship of Christians because it is part of the canon, not because it is written by Paul or not written by Paul. The text is canonical, Paul is not.
There are some real standouts in the series: Gerhard von Rad on Genesis, Brevard S. Childs on Exodus and Isaiah, Leslie C. Allen on Jeremiah, Adele Berlin on Lamentations, Luke Timothy Johnson on Hebrews, and more. I wish I’d had this Berlin volume as I preached through Lamentations last Lent! (I did access some pages via Google Books preview.)
VIDEO: Using Search Fields in Accordance
How about the OT/NT Library in Accordance specifically? In April I made a 12-minute screencast (just for fun… and for free!) that explains how to read a book in Accordance. I highlight four features that you won’t find on Kindle or that aren’t possible in print. (Here’s the link.) All that I highlight in that video is true of just about any tool in Accordance.
In the below video, I take a shorter time (if you don’t have 12 minutes) to highlight just one feature that sets Accordance apart from other software: search fields.
Where to Get It
For a few more days, the OT/NT Library is on sale through Accordance.
The OT/NT Library is also available as individual commentaries, if you want to pick up just the volume covering whatever book you’re studying or preaching on now.
You can read more about the new release here, which includes hyperlinks to the full bundle, the smaller bundles, and individual volumes. And be sure to check out Wes Allen’s review here!
Thanks to the PTB at Accordance for providing me with free access to the OT/NT Library in exchange for a review. This provision did not influence my assessment of the series! See my other Accordance posts (there are many) gathered here. I recorded the video using the app Capto.
Tempo is an iOS training log for runners. It’s simpler than apps like Runtastic and Runkeeper, but it more than makes up for its fewer features with an excellent visual layout—the best of any running app I’ve seen.
Tempo doesn’t track runs in real time, but it pulls data from the iOS Health app. It’s explicitly designed to be a companion to the Apple Watch Workout app, but I’ve been testing it with my Health app, which receives workout data from both Runkeeper and Garmin Connect. In other words, Apple Watch or not, your running app or fitness watch can help you access at least 90% of Tempo’s features.
Here’s what the Dashboard looks like:
This is all the data I want in a running log, all in one place. You get year-to-date mileage, monthly mileage, and weekly mileage. You also can see “Last 365” (days), “Last 30,” and “Last 7.”
Underneath those top two rows is your “Intensity Trend,” which is the best way I’ve seen in any app to quickly scan through training patterns.
If you upgrade to Premium (easily the cheapest annual subscription I’ve seen in the App Store—$6.99/year), you get an Intensity Log that shows you data well before the most recent month:
A “Cumulative Graph” gives you another way to compare mileage (and pace!), week over week or month over month:
(My pace was thrown off by tracking some walks I didn’t intend to track. Oops!)
Here’s a sequence of weeks with pace above it—a great combination:
Also unique to the Premium version is “Trending Averages,” which look like this:
You can see all your runs as a list (“Runlog”—available to free users, too):
That button in the top right allows you to filter your runs. You can add notes to each activity, as well as tag it with your own tags (a Premium feature), even multiple ones (“Trail,” “Long run,” etc.).
Each individual run displays more activity if you click it:
If you have an Apple Watch (again—the assumption behind this app) you’ll get splits. If you’re connected to a device with a heart rate monitor, you’ll see that info, too. You can add any of your own notes, as well.
The Today widget is also really great, although seeing it next to Strava’s reinforces that the font is smaller than ideal. All the same, the widget gives you your last run, your weekly milage, and your monthly mileage—more data than other apps’ widgets provide.
There are two things Tempo lacks compared to other apps like Runkeeper or Strava:
Real-time run tracking
More and more, however, I see these as a strength. The app is focused—it’s a graphical training log, a digital version of what you might otherwise keep in a pocket notebook to track all your runs. Only this looks way better, and automatically imports your runs, as long as you have a watch or phone app that can feed data to Health. If you do run with a watch, you can run phoneless and still have all your data in a great-looking display.
The lack of social interaction on the app (you can’t connect via Tempo to friends) could also be a strong point, especially since Tempo seems intent on guarding user privacy. That’s not always the case with other similar apps.
Here’s some copy from the developer on privacy and lack of ads:
Tempo is built with privacy as a core principle. Your data is yours; we will never claim it, sell it, or share it with anyone. Tempo is for focussing on running and recovery without ad distractions, so it only has a paid model. You can download and try it for free, but your running will significantly benefit from pro features available with Tempo Premium.
It’s worth nothing that Runtastic Premium (advertised as ad-free) now regularly has Adidas clothing ads in my activity feed. I can’t remove them, and support acknowledges that they are there, but won’t admit that the ads are… well… ads. Which show up in ad-free Premium. No such detritus with Tempo.
The developer of Tempo is also a runner, and I think he’s succeeded in his aim to give you “your running visualized to delight you, motivate you, inspire you, and help you achieve your running goals.” Knowing mid-month that I’ve covered 50 miles is nice, but it’s even more motivating to know what I’ve done in the last 30 days, which Tempo shows you.
By the way (if I may sound off for a moment), the Health app on iOS has the worst layout of any Apple app. It’s as bloated and hard to navigate as iTunes is on a laptop. So if you do run with an Apple Watch, Tempo will relieve you from having to review data via the Health app—a continual exercise in frustration.
Tempo is free and available here. The Premium version is cheap and helps support further development. You can even try all the Premium features with a 14-day free trial.
If you want to read more of Tempo’s story, go here.
Thanks to the developer for the upgrade to Premium so I could review the app. I’ll be re-subscribing, for sure.
Tomorrow I am leading a brand new Accordance Bible Software webinar: Studying the Septuagint with Accordance.
The session will cover as many of these topics as we’ll have time for in an hour:
• Septuagint resources in Accordance
• Setting up an LXX and Greek NT Workspace
• The New Testament’s use of the Old Testament
• LXX Reading for vocabulary acquisition
• Reading the Septuagint with Göttingen editions
• Advanced: Hebrew-Greek translation equivalents and the MERGE search (as time permits)
I’m looking forward to this one. Sign up info is here.
Thanks to Accordance for access to the Interpretation modules shown in this screencast review. See my other Accordance posts (there are many) gathered here. I recorded the tutorial using the app Capto.
This post is a giveaway of three months of Todoist Premium. First, some background.
While OmniFocus has been a constant task-tracking companion for the last two years, a couple of unacknowledged and then acknowledged-but-still-unfixed bugs have been just vexing enough to send me back to other productivity apps.
I mass exported all my data from OmniFocus to 2Do (easily the best aesthetic of any task tracking app), which has been my new go-to.
However, the pull of Todoist is strong. (See my review from fall 2015 here.) I can, for example, write:
Take out the trash every Thursday at 4 #church
And it uses natural language input to set up the time (and a recurring task, no less) and project.
No need to manually go through my projects or a date and time picker. It’s fast.
Todoist Premium adds more features: labels (which are tags, essentially), filters (which are saved searches that can help you sort your tasks in really neat ways), and a lot more.
My “Todoist Karma” (I know, cheesy… but I like having a continually rising score to track my productivity) got high enough that Todoist sent me a free code for three months of Premium. They also sent me a code to give away.
Here’s how you can get that second code.
I’ll randomly select a recipient from the comments below. For one entry, simply answer the question, “What app or system are you using now to track tasks and projects?” For a second entry, share a link to this post on Facebook or Twitter (or whatever the kids are using these days), and come back here to the comments to tell me you did. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday, March 25.
Pssssttt! I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We’ve been hard at work on Accordance 12, a major upgrade to the Accordance application with a host of new features you’ll soon be wondering how you ever got along without. We’re not ready to tell you about the big stuff just yet, but here’s a sneak peek at one of the many minor enhancements you can look forward to in version 12.
Bible software nerds, rejoice! Today Logos 7 comes into the world.
I’ve been using Logos (alongside Accordance and BibleWorks) since Logos 4. There hasn’t been a major interface overhaul since that version, but Logos has been steadily adding loads of features since then.
From a few weeks of beta testing, I offer here my initial impressions of Logos 7, as well as a look at its features in action.
Here’s the best of what’s new in Logos 7.
1. Interactives (Again)
The Interactives were my favorite feature in Logos 6. The addition of more Interactives makes it the part I most like about Logos 7.
Here is a screenshot of all the Interactives, which you can pull up from your library with the search: “type:interactive”.
Some of those were in Logos 6, like the Bible Outline Browser, which shows you all the Bible text outlines you have in your library for the passage you’re considering.
The Hebrew Cantillations Interactive in Logos 7 has seen improvement since its release in Logos 6 (it wasn’t ready for prime time initially):
Logos 7 adds the Septuagint Manuscript Explorer, which students of the Göttingen editions will especially appreciate:
We’ve cataloged information about Septuagint manuscripts, including contents, date, language, holding institute, and more. With this interactive, discover the earliest Septuagint manuscripts see how many contain the book of Psalms, and even view scanned images of many fragments, like Codex Sinaiticus.
My most used Interactive at the moment is the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. I would have made great use of it when I took a seminary course by that name. There are lots of ways to get access to what OT passages the NT is using (commentaries, Bible text footnotes, words searches), but this Interactive consolidates and sorts the data in a highly convenient way.
You can sort by allusion, quotation, echo, and citation. I always thought allusion and echo were more or less the same—though the use of terminology is itself at issue in the field! At any rate, the authors of the Interactive define their terms:
• Citation: An explicit reference to scripture with a citation formula (e.g. “It is written,” or “the Lord says,” or “the prophet says”).
• Quotation: A direct reference to scripture, largely matching the verbatim wording of the source but without a quotation formula
• Allusion: An indirect but intentional reference to scripture, likely intended to invoke memory of the scripture.
• Echo: A verbal parallel evokes or recalls a scripture (or series of scriptures) to the reader, but likely without authorial intention to reproduce exact words.
This Interactive probably deserves its own post. You can change what versions it displays, and even set it so that the English NT and OT passages are displaying alongside Greek (NT) and Greek and Hebrew (OT). (Getting this part set up was not really intuitive to me.) You can even hover over Greek and it cross-highlights the corresponding English, and vice versa:
If software programs had Pulitzers, the NT Use of the OT should win one for best feature. Here’s what it looks like, including the sidebar, which allows you to focus your study using a ton of criteria. You could easily find, for example, all the times Matthew cites or alludes to an OT passage with Jesus in mind.
2. Sermon Editor
I have worked hard to get a sermon writing workflow I really like. (Detailed article at CTPastors.com forthcoming!) So I doubt I will use the new Sermon Editor much, but it looks pretty awesome, if you want to use Logos for sermon writing. In the image below, the Sermon Starter Guide (introduced in Logos 5) is next to the Sermon Editor.
Not only does the Sermon Editor offer rich text writing and multiple Export options, if you mark your Headers, it automatically generates a Powerpoint slide show for your text. It’s also got a Handout option, which allows you to easily generate a one-pager to accompany your sermon, as well as to automatically set up a handout with blanks to fill in.
AND… if you type in a Scripture reference, the Sermon Editor automatically creates a slide with the text of that Scripture, even fitting text to multiple slides if necessary. Watch:
You can also save a step and have the slides auto-generate with just a keyboard shortcut, after typing in the reference. Amazing.
3. QuickStart Layouts
This is not a ground-breaking feature, per se, but it is a time-saving addition. Now the Layouts option in the Logos toolbar offers access to “QuickStart” saved layouts that get a user up and running for various tasks.
The Greek Word Study layout, for example, is nicely executed:
4. Systematic Theologies in the Passage Guide
The Passage Guide has been around a while, but Logos keeps adding to it. Logos 7 features a Systematic Theologies guide, an admittedly subjective but still helpful aggregator of theology resources in your library, keyed to the verse you’re studying. You can sort it by theology subject (Christology, pneumatology, etc.) or by denomination.
5. Everything Is (Still) Hyperlinked
The hyperlinking seems to have improved since I was last using Logos regularly when Logos 6 launched. (Only now with a recent laptop upgrade does Logos run well on my Mac.) Of course the Scripture verses are hyperlinked, but commentaries are also hyperlinked to previous sections they mention. As here:
Improvements That Weren’t
Logos 7 is cutting-edge software, impressive in its innovation and a huge time saver from a task standpoint. The designers and developers clearly created it with real users in mind.
However, even on a new and higher-end Mac, Logos 7 is system resource intensive. It’s a CPU hog, a battery drain, and uses significant energy.
I can always tell if I have Logos open on my laptop because the computer is almost always warm when it is—and almost never warm with any other combination of apps open.
This has been my (and others’) enduring criticism of Logos since at least Logos 4, and I continue to fail to understand why program sluggishness is not Code Red at Faithlife HQ. My slightly educated opinion is that Faithlife (makers of Logos) is “going for more” instead of “sticking to the core” (to quote a Harvard Business Review article). Lots of spin-off apps and ideas and focus on marketing and shipping frequent feature updates have hindered development of the core product—at least where speed is concerned. Wanting to get at the info in the Passage Guide, for instance, can be an exercise in patience (and frustration):
Logos 7 is far more responsive and fast in searching on my newer Mac machine than it was on my previous MacBook (a 2008!). Though, for that matter, both Accordance and BibleWorks ran fast on the 2008—one shouldn’t have to buy a new machine to use Logos well, though I don’t think that stops some users from doing it, especially when they feel they’ve invested a lot of money in building their library.
Speed and massive CPU usage and battery drainage are the Achilles’ Heel of Logos Bible software. I hope—for their sake and for the sake of their user base—that they shift their development focus back to whatever they need to do with the code to ensure a speedier user experience. The developers I’ve interacted with on the forums seem great—it appears to be an issue of larger company focus and resources.
It’s often not slow. (Though it’s always a CPU and battery drain.) For the couple of hours that I use Logos for sermon prep, I can search and open and highlight individual resources with ease. The feature set and Interactives are innovative and cut out unneeded research steps for users. The app itself is powerful, and does a good job of getting users into even larger libraries to cull the most relevant information for tasks at hand. Their accompanying iOS app is really good, too. Users should just be ready–even with the new Logos 7–to check email while they wait for a Passage Guide or Sermon Starter Guide to return results.
If you’re a happy Logos 6 or 5 user, should you upgrade? Definitely. The so-called data sets and features in Logos 7 are a significant step up. If you are on Windows or if your Mac is handling Logos fine and you want to keep using it, Logos 7 is a creative step in a good direction.
Never used Logos and trying to decide if you should get it? (Especially with other Bible software options available?) Then ask away in the comments below, and I’ll respond there.
Logos 7 launches with a 15% off discount. If you go to Words on the Word’s landing page, you get the discount, and the blog gets a small commission if it’s a first-time purchase. The landing page also includes links to more information about Logos 7.
Thanks to Logos for the chance to beta test and review. I received early access to Logos 7 as well as a package of library resources to test, for the purposes of this review. That did not, however, influence my objectivity…as I expect is clear. 🙂