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News, How-tos, and assorted Views on Accordance Bible Software.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006  

New in 7: Searching for Characters

At my house, you don't have to search for "characters"—they're everywhere! But there may come a time when you need to search for specific characters in the course of your Bible study. So that's why we added single-character searching in Accordance 7.

The need for this feature was first brought to our attention when several users requested the ability to search for every question in the Bible. Such a search is easy enough to conceptualize: simply search for every question mark. But if you enter a question mark in the argument entry box and click OK, you won't find all the question marks, you'll find all the single character words, like "a," "I," and "O." That's because Accordance uses the question mark character as a single-character wildcard.

So in version 7, we've added a new symbol which lets you specify that you want to find the literal character which follows that symbol. That symbol is the period (.).

If you go to the Enter Symbol submenu of the Search menu, you'll see a brief description beside each symbol. The description next to the period (.) is "Find Next Character." Enter any character immediately after a period and Accordance will find every occurrence of that character. Thus, a search for .? will find every question mark. A search for .“ will find every opening quotation mark. A search for .! will find every exclamation point. In the words of Chef Tell: "Very simple! Very easy!"

But the period symbol works for more than just punctuation marks. If you place a letter after the period symbol, Accordance will find every word that contains that letter. Want to find all the words that contain the letter "x"? Simply enter .x. Note that a character search is, by definition, case sensitive. If you enter a lowercase x, you won't find capital X.

Now, character-searches for letters are not particularly useful, but in Greek and Hebrew, the period symbol makes it extremely easy to search for breathing marks, accents, vowel points, and even cantillation marks.

While it has long been possible to search for those marks using wildcard symbols, it has always been a little tricky. Because Accordance usually ignores those marks when doing a search, you had to enter the equals sign (=) to specify that you wanted those marks to be found. And because Accordance defaults to searching for lexical forms, you had to enclose your search in quotation marks (") if you wanted to find those marks in inflected forms. It wasn't really hard to do, but it was too easy to forget something and get an unexpected result.

With single-character searching, it is now just a matter of entering a period followed by the mark you want to find. Thus, .J in Greek will find every word containing a rough breathing mark. .D in Hebrew will find every word containing a qametz. What could be simpler?

For those of us who have not memorized all the keyboard combinations for all the various Hebrew and Greek glyphs like David has, the Accordance fonts PDF is indispensable, especially the font charts.

One good thing is that even though there are multiple positions for many Greek accents and Hebrew dagesh, vowels, and cantillation (depending on the character with which they are combined), Accordance will find all the variants if you type any one of them. To use one of David's examples, there are five different positions (and keystrokes) for qametz, but .D will find every instance. It works just like you'd expect it to!

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