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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  

Program Update and New Hebrew Modules

The first rule of software development is this: there are always going to be bugs the beta-testers don't catch. (Okay, I don't know if that's the first rule of software development, but it sounds good doesn't it?)

A week ago today, we released version 7 of Accordance. And sure enough, by the end of the day we started getting reports of a handful of bugs—including a couple of serious ones. To be perfectly honest, we've been quite pleased that so few problems have been found, especially given the fact that we completely rearranged the preferences to support multi-user environments in OS X!

Well, the good news is that we've now squashed all reported bugs and released an update (version 7.0.1). You can download it here.

But there's even more good news . . . well, for the Hebrew guys anyway. We've also made several new Hebrew modules available for download.

First, there's Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. We wanted to release this a long time ago, but we found so many errors in the e-text we received that we've spent a great deal of time and money cleaning it up. This should now be the most accurate edition of GKC (short for Gesenius, Kautzsch, and Cowley) available electronically.

Next, there's a grammatically-tagged edition of the Samaritan Pentateuch. We've had an untagged edition of this text for years, but grammatical tagging makes this text exponentially more useful. I'll talk a little more about the Samaritan Pentateuch when we cover the Compare Texts feature in an upcoming post.

Finally, we've updated the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by Koehler-Baumgartner with widespread corrections. Also, we've changed the name of the module from KB to HALOT, since the abbreviation of the title has come to replace the authors' names as the standard way to refer to this lexicon.

You can find more information about the program update and the new Hebrew modules on our news page.

By the way, our sales staff is still swamped with all the upgrade orders, so please continue to be patient with us. :-)

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?

Friday, May 26, 2006  

New in 7: Arrange Modules & Favorites

Wow! Since we released Accordance 7 on Wednesday, the response has been absolutely overwhelming. Our sales staff has been hard-pressed to keep up with all the orders. I'd just like to thank all of you for your continued support and enthusiasm.

Now, assuming most of you have had a chance to download your copy and play with it a little bit, I'll continue covering some of the new features in detail.

One of the biggest changes to the Accordance interface in version 7 is the new Arrange Modules window, which you can use to group, organize, and arrange your modules however you like. To open this window, simply select Arrange Modules... from the Edit window. Here's what you'll see:

As you can see, each module category is listed with a disclosure triangle. Expand one of these categories, and you'll see every currently installed module of that type. To change the order of a module, simply drag it to a new position in the list. If you want to group modules according to a particular subcategory, simply select a module category, then create a folder by clicking the New Folder button. The new folder will be placed inside the selected category. Then just name the folder, and place whatever modules you like into it. You can select multiple modules by shift-clicking, command-clicking (to select noncontiguous items), or dragging a marquee around them.

The way you arrange your modules is reflected in the way those modules get listed in the corresponding text or tool menus. Any folders you've created will be displayed as submenus, and any dividers you insert will appear in the menu as divider lines.

As you can see from my own arrangement of Bible texts, I have folders for the Greek New Testament, Hebrew Bible, and LXX at the top of the list, followed by my most used English Bibles. I could have put all the English Bibles in a folder, but I prefer to have them at the top level of my text menus:

In addition to being able to organize the modules within each category (Texts, English Tools, Greek Tools, Reference Tools, etc.), you can also place modules from any category into the Favorites. The modules you specify as your favorites will appear in the Favorites pop-up menu in the bottom right corner of the Resource palette. Just as you can do within module categories themselves, you can group your favorites in folders, separate them with divider lines, or alphabetize them.

You can also add modules to Favorites when you're working in those modules themselves. If, for example, you're looking at ISBE and you decide you want to make it one of your favorites, simply select "Add to Favorites" from the Favorites pop-up on the Resource palette. ISBE will appear in your Favorites menu from that point on. Thus, you don't have to have the Arrange Modules window open just to expand your list of Favorites.

The real advantage of the new Favorites pop-up is that it gives you a single, convenient place to go for your most frequently-used modules, no matter what module category they happen to belong to.

By the way, note how the Favorites pop-up on the Resource palette has taken the space formerly occupied by the Context button, which has been moved up next to the Parallels pop-up in the Texts section of the palette. This seemed like a logical arrangement, and it keeps your Favorites easily accessible at the bottom of the palette. We realize those who often used the Context button will have to make an adjustment (that includes me, by the way), but since it's now so easy to add context by control-clicking the More Options region of the Search window, I'd encourage you to take this opportunity to learn a "more excellent way."

Okay, one last thing about the Arrange Modules window. For those of you who would prefer to access your modules through a browser rather than a series of pop-up menus, the Arrange Modules window doubles as a module browser and launcher. Simply double-click any of the module names and Accordance will open a new window (or tab) displaying it. I wouldn't recommend this for the 12-inch PowerBook owner, but those with 17-inch displays could decide to narrow the Arrange Modules window and leave it open all the time. Then they could use the Arrange Modules window for opening modules and the Resource palette for automatically searching them!

If you decide to use the Arrange Modules window that way, here's a little trick that may help you. You can automatically expand every module category (and every folder within those categories) by option-clicking a closed disclosure triangle at the top level of the browser. To collapse every category, simply option-click an open disclosure triangle at the top level of the browser.

With an ever-expanding collection of available modules (and so many new ones on the way I never have to worry about job security!), we knew it was high time to give our users a better way to organize and access their modules. The Arrange modules window, the subfolders in the menus, and the Favorites menu are all aimed at meeting that need.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006  

Happy Birthday to Me! Gifts for You!

Today is my birthday, but it's your day to celebrate! Not because I'm turning thirty-seven, but because today happens to be the official release date of Accordance 7! That's right, you can purchase and download the upgrade to version 7 right now. :-)

We've already covered a few of the new features in detail, and I'll be talking about the rest in the coming weeks. You can also view a Flash demo of many of the new features in 7. But for now, let me just give you the basic laundry list of what's new:

Arrange Modules window: The Arrange Modules window lets you group your modules in subcategories of your own choosing, separate items with divider lines, alphabetize modules in a group, etc. These changes then become reflected in the corresponding menus of Accordance. More than just an organization tool, the Arrange Modules window can be left open and used as an alternative method for locating and opening modules.

Text Sets: Text sets let you group different Biblical and non-Biblical texts for opening and searching simultaneously. This is analogous to the Tool Sets feature of earlier versions.

Favorites: A new Favorites item on the Resource palette gives you a single place to access your most-used modules. If you can't remember whether Wallace's Greek Grammar is a Greek Tool or a General Tool, put it in the Favorites and you'll always know where to find it.

Root Searches: In addition to searching by lexical and inflected forms, you can now search Greek and Hebrew texts by root form using the plus (+) symbol. For example, +agapao will find every Greek word derived from that root, including agape, agapetos, and agapao. You can also specify agreement by root in the Construct window, enabling you to find word plays in the Hebrew Bible and Hebraisms in the Greek New Testament.

Single-Character Searches: Easily search for punctuation, Hebrew vowel points and cantillation, or words containing any other single character by preceding it with the period (.) symbol. For example, .? will locate all the questions in the Bible.

Compare Texts: Want to compare two English Bibles to see how they differ? Want to examine textual differences between the critical Greek New Testament and the textus receptus? Just click the Compare Texts checkbox and every insertion, omission, and difference will be highlighted. You can also choose List Text Differences from the Display menu to get a listing of all the differences.

New Graphs and Charts:

The new Analysis Graph breaks down the results of your search by various subclasses of information. For example, you could search for any Verb in the Greek New Testament and instantly see graphs of the various tenses, moods, lexical forms, etc. You can do the same for any other part of speech, specific lexical forms, you name it!

Where the Analysis Graph plots the frequency of different categories of information across the search range, the Analysis Bar Chart and Analysis Pie Chart let you plot the total occurrences of a particular class of information. For example, if you search for every Verb in the Greek New Testament, the Analysis Pie Chart will show you that they appear in the Present tense 41.1% of the time.

Finally, the Table Bar Chart enables you to compare average hits, total hits, total words, and total verses by book or by chapter.

All of the new Graphs and Charts feature a wide array of new display options. The Hits and Analysis Graph can be viewed as bar, line, or area graphs, you can choose to display a grid, use a black background, select custom colors, etc.

Slide Show: The new Slide Show mode lets you create a slide show from any tabbed Workspace window. Each tab becomes a separate slide that is expanded to hide most of the Accordance window controls and palettes. A new Slide Show controller enables you to navigate between slides. You can also navigate using mouse clicks and the arrow keys on your keyboard. (See yesterday's post for more)

New Highlight Capabilities: Highlighting in non-Biblical texts (Josephus, Qumran, etc.) is now supported, as is highlighting in Tools. Users can create and share multiple highlight sets and easily switch between them. Shift-clicking a highlight style will now highlight every hit word found by a search, enabling you to quickly highlight whole classes of words and expressions. (See Monday's post for more)

Contextual Menus: Contextual menus have been implemented throughout the application. (See last Friday's post for more)

Support for OS X Services: Accordance now supports the sending of selected text to OS X Services, enabling you to send text to Mail, Stickies, certain word processors, Apple's Summarize service, etc.

Support for Multi-User Environments: Accordance settings files have been reorganized and are stored separately for each user in OS X. Among many benefits this allows for multiple users, and unlimited User Notes files. User files such as Tools, Notes, and Highlights are now stored in each user's Documents folder.

Auto-fade option for Instant Details Box: Causes the Instant Details Box to fade out of view when no information is being displayed. (See last Thursday's post for more)

Auto-scroll option: You can now set a preference to auto-scroll text in a text window pane, enabling hands-free reading and teleprompting.

Set-Up Assistant for First Time Users: A new Set-up assistant enables first time users to choose some basic set-up options (tabbed workspaces, default startup, default Bible, default text display, etc.) before they begin using the program.

Default Search Ranges: Several basic search ranges are now provided for users who have not yet defined their own ranges.

Visual Enhancements: Visual enhancements include:

  • New application and document icons. (See last Tuesday's post for more)
  • The use of drop-down menus in place of all module pop-up menus for a cleaner look and support for submenus. (See last Wednesday's post for more)
  • More white space around text window panes for a cleaner look and greater readability
  • The subtle addition of color to the Construct window
  • Additional colors for use with text, graphs, diagrams, maps, etc.
  • Additional font sizes (11, 16, 21, 30, 42, 60, 84, and 96 points)
  • Poetic formatting in Bible verses is now suppressed in the Instant Details Box, making it easier to see the whole verse at a glance.
  • Other Enhancements: Other enhancements include:

  • An Alternate Text option in the Set Tool Display dialog lets you select an alternate Bible text for Scripture hypertext links. For example, you can set NIV for your primary Bible text, but have NRSV displayed for hypertext links to verses in the Apocrypha.
  • You can now click on the Recycle icon (or the space where it appears if hidden) to toggle window recycling on and off.
  • If you hold down the command key when clicking a picture thumbnail in a tool, a picture window will open with recycling turned off. This makes it much easier to open a series of tabs containing pictures (which in turn can become separate slides in Slide Show mode).
  • When in a User Notes Edit window, you can now hold down the option key when clicking the up or down arrow to create a new note for the next or previous verse.
  • Online Help: Accordance Help has been completely overhauled, making it much easier to find the information you need. If you want to get the most out of Accordance, take advantage of Accordance Help!

    Phew! Believe it or not, there are more little enhancements here and there which I haven't even listed; but frankly, I'm worn out just listing all these. Besides, I've got my own presents to open! So go to the Accordance web-site, purchase and download the upgrade, and have fun playing with all the new goodies. I guarantee you'll feel like it's your birthday too! :-)

    Tuesday, May 23, 2006  

    New in 7: Slide Show & Auto-Scroll

    Last week, I dropped a couple of hints about a new feature called "Slide Show." If you've ever used (or wanted to use) Accordance in teaching, you're absolutely going to love this.

    Accordance Slide Shows are based on tabbed Workspace windows. When you're doing your research and preparing your lesson, simply set up a workspace with tabs containing each bit of information you want to show. For example, you could have a Search window in one tab with the main passage you want to read, along with tabs containing maps, timelines, photos from the PhotoGuide or the Biblical Archaeology Review archives, lexicon articles on important words in the passage, commentaries with key quotes highlighted, etc. You might also have a Details Workspace window showing several of the new graphs available in version 7 (don't worry, I'll get to those soon!), along with an Analysis, Table, or Concordance. The possibilities are virtually endless.

    In the screenshot below, I have set up a workspace with the text of 1 Samuel 17, a Map showing the valley of Elah, along with several photos of that valley from the PhotoGuide:

    Once you've got your workspace(s) set up the way you want them, you simply choose "Slide Show" from the Window menu, or use the Keyboard shortcut Command-Option-S.

    In Slide Show, your workspace is expanded to fill the entire screen, and only the display pane of each window is shown. Thus, in Slide Show, you can scroll and make modest changes to the display of a slide (such as switching translations or changing the text size), but you can't do new searches, since the part of the window where you would enter a search is hidden.

    Now, if you look carefully at the bottom of the above screenshot, you'll notice a little floating palette with a pop-up menu and some forward and back arrow buttons. This is the Slide Show controller. The pop-up menu displays the name of each tab in each workspace, enabling you to quickly select the exact slide you want to view. The arrows let you go forward and back one slide at a time, or to jump to the first or last slides. The stop button takes you out of slide show mode (as does the escape key, command-period, or command-option-S). You can also advance each slide simply by clicking the mouse or using the arrow keys on the keyboard, so if you don't want to use the Slide Show controller, you can close it and still get around.

    Now, I've already mentioned how the auto-fade option of the Instant Details Box is great in slideshow mode, because it enables you to get instant information just by dragging over a word or link, while keeping the Instant Details Box out of your way most of the time. Here's another new feature that works great with the Slide Show: auto-scrolling.

    To use auto-scrolling, you have to turn it on in the Preferences. Just select Preferences... from the Accordance menu, and then select the Appearance panel. There you'll see the following pop-up menu:

    Just select the scrolling speed you want (I have mine set to medium) and click OK. From that point on, you just need to hold the command-key down while clicking on the up or down scroll arrow. Voila! The text will begin scrolling automatically—just like a teleprompter—making it easy to read the text without repeatedly scrolling up and down. Just click again to stop the auto-scrolling.

    Auto-scrolling only works in windows displaying text (Search windows, Tool windows, User Notes windows, etc.). It doesn't work with the Atlas, Timeline, or picture windows. Auto-scrolling also only works in windows with a single text pane. If you try to auto-scroll a window with parallel text panes, you'll get an error message and need to close the additional panes. But auto-scrolling works both in and out of Slide Show mode, and in Slide Show mode, it becomes especially useful.

    For example, it's great for pastors who want their congregations to follow along as they read the text. The same goes for professors and their students. If you're running a radio show or creating a podcast, you can use it as a teleprompter. Auto-scrolling is a little enhancement with a wide variety of uses.

    By the way, Slide Show mode and the auto-scroll feature are not just for those select few who own video projectors and speak to large audiences. When I first tested the Slide Show feature, I hooked my iBook up to my TV and led family devotions with the text of the Bible auto-scrolling as I read. My kids thought I was the coolest! (Of course, one hopes that's not all they got out of family devotions that night!)

    Slide Show can even come in handy when you're not presenting information to anyone. If you just want to read the text or look at a photo without all the Accordance window controls taking up space, you can just pop into Slide Show mode. That should be of great help to those proverbial 12-inch PowerBook users I've been talking about!

    Obviously, the Slide Show in Accordance isn't intended to replace Keynote or PowerPoint. The advantage of full-blown presentation programs is that they feature cool transitions, text animations, and all that funky stuff Steve Jobs loves to do in his own keynotes. But the advantage of the Accordance Slide Show is that it's dynamic. You can view animated routes on the map, modify the information displayed in various graphs, scroll to different parts of the Bible, and more—all things which would either be impossible or require extra effort to do in most presentation programs.

    Best of all, unlike Apple with iWork, we don't charge full price for the upgrade! ;-)

    Monday, May 22, 2006  

    New in 7: Highlighting Enhancements

    The Highlighting capabilities of Accordance have been greatly enhanced in version 7. Until now, highlighting has only been possible with Bible texts. Non-biblical texts such as Josephus or Qumran were not supported. Neither were tools, so if you wanted to highlight important passages in a commentary or dictionary article, you were out of luck. The good news is that version 7 removes these limitations, so that it is now possible to highlight non-Biblical texts and tools.

    But wait, there's more!

    Previously, you were limited to one set of highlights, but version 7 now lets you create multiple highlight files. These files are stored in a Highlights folder within a new Accordance Files folder located inside each user's Documents folder. Whatever files you have in that folder become available through a new pop-up menu on the Highlight palette:

    In addition to letting you set up different sets of highlights for different purposes, this change also makes it much easier for users to share their highlight files. Let's say a professor has gone through and highlighted every parallel word in every parallel passage of the Gospels. He can now share his Highlight file with his students, who can then view those highlights in their own copies of Accordance.

    But that's not all!

    By far the coolest new feature of the highlighting is the ability to highlight the results of a search.

    Let's say I want to do an inductive Bible study, and I have a set of highlights set up for that purpose:

    Inductive studies often begin by highlighting the characters in a narrative, the places mentioned in the narrative, etc. But I'm lazy, so I want to automate this process as much as possible. And since the grammatically tagged Greek and Hebrew texts offer me the greatest variety of information to search, I'm going to use the tagged Greek New Testament rather than an English Bible. (Besides, doesn't it just sound cool to say you're doing an inductive study in Greek?) ;-)

    I'll begin by looking for all Proper Nouns in the book of Acts. To do this, I'll control click on the More Options section of the Search window and choose Acts from the "Set Range To" submenu of the new contextual menu. Then I'll control-click on the argument entry box and choose "Noun" from the "Enter Tag" submenu of the contextual menu. In the dialog box, I'll choose "properName" from the Class pop-up menu and click OK to close the dialog box. When I click OK to perform the search, I'll find every proper name in the book of Acts.

    Now, if I want to highlight all those words with a particular highlight style, all I need to do is shift-click the style I want on the Highlight palette. When I shift-click on the People style, this is what I get:

    Now, since the tagged Greek New Testament does not distinguish people from places, I've highlighted some Places as People. But I can isolate many of the places found by searching for Proper Names following certain prepositions.

    Now, I can clear the People style from all of these hits by holding down the shift key and clicking Clear. I can then shift-click the Places style to highlight all of these Proper Names as places.

    Of course, because I included prepositions in this search, the prepositions also get highlighted with the Places style. But this is easily fixed. I'll just search for those prepositions by themselves, and shift-click the Clear button to remove the Places style.

    Now, if I look at Acts 1, I've got People and Places clearly distinguished, and I've done it much more quickly than if I'd gone through and selected each word to highlight it. How cool is that?

    Friday, May 19, 2006  

    New in 7: Contextual Menus

    Yesterday, I talked about how the new option to have the Instant Details Box fade in and out of view will be a boon to users who struggle with limited vertical screen space. Another feature of 7 which will help alleviate this problem is the implementation of contextual menus.

    If you control- or right-click on the More Options section of the Search window—even if it's closed—you'll see the following contextual menu:

    This will enable you to select a new search range or field, add context, or activate the new text comparison feature without first having to open the More Options section.

    Here's what you get when you control-click in the argument entry box of the Search window:

    As you can see, this contextual menu gives you all the options you need for building a search argument, such as the submenus for entering search commands or symbols. (If you haven't discovered them yet, these options are currently found in the Search menu at the top of the screen.)

    Contextual menus have now been implemented throughout the program, giving you ready access to features which were previously only available through the menu bar or the various palettes.

    Now, the obvious question is, if contextual menus are so great, why did we take so long to implement them? We've certainly had repeated requests for them, and some users have even criticized our lack of contextual menus as un-Mac-like or contrary to standard OS X interface conventions.

    When we overhauled the Accordance interface in version 6, contextual menus were actually on our list of things to do; but they were, by necessity, at the bottom of our list. Eventually, they ended up getting put off until version 7. The reason contextual menus were so low on our list of interface improvements is that from an interface standpoint, contextual menus are something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they're great for those who are used to using them. On the other hand, they're a completely hidden interface element. Unless the user knows to control-click or right-click on stuff to see what options appear, he'll never discover those options. So when we were working on version 6, we concentrated first on the visible interface elements—such as the window controls, the menu bar, and the floating palettes—which would help the new user to discover features he might not already be familiar with.

    Another reason we put off contextual menus is that they are supposed to be contextual. (How's that for obvious?) In other words, a contextual menu should only present you with those options which are appropriate to the item you control- or right-clicked. Yet in Accordance, you can select any kind of text and go to any kind of resource. If you select a Greek word, you can obviously go to a Greek lexicon to look it up. But you can also go to an English Bible dictionary, a commentary, a theological work, etc. If the resource you choose contains any Greek at all, it will be searched for the word you selected. Likewise, if you select a verse reference, you can look it up in a commentary, or you can choose to search for it in any Hebrew lexicon, Study Bible, Topical resource, etc. So if you can select a word and go to anything, how do you put all those options in a contextual menu without clogging it up with too many choices?

    By the way, have you ever looked at the contextual menus in most Windows programs? They're ridiculously long and complex, largely because the rest of the interface is so unwieldy that users are forced to right-click just to be able to find the features they're looking for. Worse still, some options are only available through contextual menus. Yet if a contextual menu gets too long, it becomes proportionally less contextual and less convenient. This was an interface gaffe we really wanted to avoid.

    Our solution was to give the user a few basic options via the contextual menu, rather than every possible one. For example, when you control-click a selection of text, you get a lot of options to choose from. Yet if you go to the Lookup option, you'll see that you can choose from "Dictionary," "Commentary," etc.

    Selecting Dictionary will take you to the default tool for the language of text you have selected. If you select Hebrew text, you'll look up the selected words in a Hebrew lexicon such as Koehler-Baumgartner. From Greek text, selecting Dictionary might take you to BDAG. From English text, Dictionary might take you to Anchor Bible Dictionary. It's simple, it's quick, and it's contextual. We could have placed every Accordance module in various submenus of the contextual menu, but that would have rendered the contextual menus unwieldy.

    I've now told you more about contextual menus than you ever wanted to know; but I think it's important that you understand the thinking behind the implementation. For experienced users, contextual menus will mean greater convenience than ever before. Yet with new users in mind, we've been careful not to use contextual menus as a cover-up for otherwise sloppy interface design.

    So far I've really only previewed some of the minor enhancements you can expect in version 7, while dropping hints about some of the major ones. Did anyone catch my repeated references to "slideshow mode" this week? What about the Compare Texts feature mentioned above? There's a lot of exciting stuff I haven't even begun to cover, so next week's blogging should be even more fun!

    Thursday, May 18, 2006  

    Official News

    David is such a prolific writer that it has been hard to get a word in edgewise. I just want to point out that there have been several announcements that have not appeared on the Blog, so for those who rely on this trendy medium to stay up to date, here are some links:
    This just goes to prove that we have been working on more than version 7, there is more in the pipeline, too, so watch this space!


    New in 7: Hide-and-Go-Details

    When we redesigned the Accordance interface for version 6, we wanted to give it a more Aqua feel and make it more intuitive for new users. Rather than having three unlabeled pop-up menus across the top of the Search window, we hid the field and range pop-up menus in a new collapsible section of the window labeled More Options.

    We thought long and hard about the More Options section, because we knew it would take away screen real-estate from the text window pane below it. We considered squashing things together a bit more, but we had taken a good hard look at Mac OS X interface conventions and realized that preserving screen real-estate was no longer the virtue it had been in the classic Mac OS. OS X uses bigger icons, thicker buttons, larger text, and wider spacing between icons and other interface elements. This luxurious use of space is deliberate, because it reduces visual clutter and enables the user to focus on the interface elements which are really important. So we followed the Aqua approach and kept the More Options section spacious and clean.

    While most people were thrilled with the new look, we did get some complaints that there was now too little vertical space for the actual text of the Bible. Some users even sent mockups of how we could squash interface elements together to save space. Ironically, many of their suggestions approximated the window layout Accordance had used from versions 1 through 5!

    Though we were unwilling to take a step backward, we soon realized that there were some people for whom our new layout posed a serious problem. While the More Options section doesn't take up much room when closed, there are some users who prefer to leave it open all the time. If those users also use the tabbed Workspace window and keep the OS X dock at the bottom of the screen along with the Instant Details Box, they don't have a whole lot of vertical space left for the text of the Bible. For users of laptops with 12-inch screens, the problem can be compounded even further.

    A while back, someone on our user forums suggested that we save on vertical real estate by getting rid of the Instant Details Box. He suggested we use a free-floating tool-tip window which would appear right beside the cursor whenever you dragged over a Greek or Hebrew word, a word in a Strong's text, an abbreviation, etc. This is, after all, what some Windows programs do.

    The problem with that approach is that those pop-up windows which follow the cursor get in the way of the text behind them. When you drag over a word in a text with Strong's numbers for example, do you really want a little window to pop-up and obscure other words in the verse you're reading? You would then have to drag the mouse off the window entirely just to be able to eliminate any chance of this window getting in the way! Another problem is that this constant flashing on and off of instant pop-ups is visually distracting and tiresome. The Instant Details Box avoids these problems by staying out of the way at the bottom of the screen.

    When I explained our reasons for sticking with the Instant Details Box, another user came up with a brilliant idea: what if the Instant Details Box itself only appeared when it was needed, fading out of view when there was no information to display? This would free up some vertical real-estate for the user, who could extend his Search window all the way to the bottom of the screen without leaving room for the Instant Details Box. The Instant Details Box might obscure the bottom part of the window when it appeared, but it would quickly fade out of view again. And by subtly fading in and out, it wouldn't accost the user with the constant flashing which is so prevalent in other programs.

    It was a great idea, so we decided to implement it . . . though of course we made it a user option. In the Preferences, there is now the option in the Instant Details Box settings to have it automatically fade in and out.

    I'm afraid I had no luck trying to get a screenshot of the Instant Details Box in mid-fade, so you'll just have to take my word for it: it's really cool.

    As for me, since I keep my dock on the right of the screen and prefer to keep the More Options section closed until I need it, I didn't personally feel much of a need for this feature. Though I've had it available to me for months, I left it turned off after I first tried it out. Lately, however, I've turned it back on, and I find that I really like the effect. What prompted me to try it out again? I found that the auto-fading was a really nice feature to use in conjunction with slideshow mode. . . :-)

    By the way, the fading of the Instant Details Box isn't the only feature of 7 that will help with vertical screen space. Tomorrow I'll talk about a sweeping new feature which, among other things, lets you select the options in the More Options section without actually having to open it up.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006  

    New Look of 7: Drop-Downs and White Space

    Yesterday I gave you a glimpse of the new program and file icons of Accordance 7. Today, we'll continue to look at some other subtle changes to the look of Accordance. Here's a screenshot of a Search window:

    Notice anything different? There are actually a couple of subtle changes here.

    First, the pop-ups for the search text and for the display text of each pane have been changed from standard Aqua pop-up menus to simple drop-down menus. This change actually has a number of benefits:

    1. By placing the text label on the window itself, rather than inside a pop-up menu, we were able to enlarge the text of the label and make it bold. The result is that the text you're searching or viewing actually becomes more prominent.
    2. Even though the label has become more prominent, the removal of the pop-up menu actually gives the Search window a cleaner, more open look.
    3. While it's not hard to hit a pop-up menu with your mouse, the target area of these drop-down menus is even larger, making them even easier to access.
    4. Finally, drop-down menus support submenus, while pop-up menus do not.

    This last benefit is the real reason we made this change, and we were pleasantly surprised that the new look turned out to be so aesthetically appealing. (It's nice when things work out that way!)

    Why did we want to be able to use submenus with these text menus? Here's why:

    The screenshot shows my search text drop-down menu with submenus containing subcategories of texts. I've always preferred to have my Greek NT, Hebrew Bible, and Greek Septuagint texts at the top of my text menu, but as we've added more and more of these original language texts, this system got rather unwieldy. It meant that every time I wanted to choose a different English Bible, I would have to scroll past a dozen or so Greek and Hebrew texts—texts which I don't use nearly as often as the English Bibles. In version 7, we've added the ability to group your modules according to your own subclassifications, and these all become accessible through submenus. Now when I want to select an English Bible, I can quickly scroll past my various original language texts to get to the Bible I need. If, like me, you have a lot of texts and tools, this feature alone will be worth the upgrade to 7.

    I'll show you how to arrange your modules into subcategories in an upcoming post, but for now, let's stick with the changes to the way Accordance looks. In addition to the change from pop-up menus to drop-down menus, there's another subtle change in these screenshots. Did you notice it?

    There is now a much larger margin around the Bible text in each pane, making the text more readable and less cramped in appearance. Again, it may not seem like a big change, but when you're staring at the screen for hours on end, the extra white space will become a welcome improvement. And, of course, this expanded margin becomes much more important when you go into slideshow mode. . . but that's a subject for a future post. ;-)

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006  

    The New Look of 7: Icons

    Yesterday I promised to start previewing the features of version 7. I'll start with the changes in the way Accordance looks, and the first change you'll notice are the stunning new program icons designed by the folks at the iconfactory. We've used the oil lamp logo from the beginning, and when OS X gave us greater flexibility in icon design, we created a hi-res version of our icon with a larger palette of colors. Still, the OS X icon retained the two-dimensional appearance of our classic Mac icon. So we decided it was time for a more three-dimensional look. We hope you like it:

    In addition to the new program icon, we had new Finder icons developed for all the different kinds of Accordance files. Here are just a few of them:

    Accordance Module

    Atlas Background

    User Notes file

    User Tool Module

    In the grand scheme of things, new icons are admittedly a very minor enhancement, but this is just one of the ways that we're improving the look of Accordance in version 7.

    Monday, May 15, 2006  

    A Glimpse Behind the Scenes

    For some time now, we've been hard at work on the next major upgrade to Accordance, version 7.0. We're now just a few weeks away from release, and I've finally gotten permission to start showing you some of the new features you can look forward to. But before I start previewing all the new goodies, I thought I'd give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process we go through when developing a new upgrade.

    Every upgrade starts with a list of new features which we hope to add. Some of this list is comprised of features which we may have wanted to do for years, but which, for whatever reason, we've had to keep putting off. Most of the list comes from the suggestions which you, our users, have made. This list always contains much more than we could ever hope to do in a single version upgrade, and so each new development cycle begins with a meeting to set priorities.

    This is without a doubt one of my favorite parts of my job. It's where I get to lobby for those features which I really think will be cool and useful. A few of us go through the list and give our opinions about whether a particular feature has to be done, would be nice to add if we can get to it, or is not worth doing at all. (By the way, it's rare that we ever scratch a feature off the list completely.) After this meeting (or series of meetings), our list of features gets divided into three categories: Must-have features, major features, and minor features. Major features are those which require the most work, involve changes to the interface, have the greatest potential to affect other parts of the program, etc. Minor features are usually incremental improvements to existing features, little tweaks that make life easier and more convenient, etc. Must-have features may be major or minor, but whether big or small, they're the features that we believe absolutely have to make it into the next revision of the program.

    Once we've got our list prioritized, we start working through the must-have features. Typically, we'll start with the major must-have features because they take the most time to develop, require the most thorough beta-testing, and represent the bulk of what our users look for in an upgrade.

    As our programmer moves through each major new feature, I have the privilege of being involved in the discussions of how the interface for those features should look and work. This, as you may imagine, is another highlight of my work for OakTree. Let's face it, every Mac user fancies himself an amateur interface expert, and I actually get to be involved in shaping the interface of my favorite Mac program. How cool is that?

    A new interface element may begin with a mockup developed in a painting program or simply sketched out on paper. Then our programmer will implement what we think it should be like. When we get to try it out, we may find that the way we initially imagined it working feels wrong somehow, and we'll tweak it and refine it until we think we've gotten it right. It's great fun to be part of this give-and-take process.

    Of course, this process takes time, and many features take more time to develop than anticipated (often because they've grown into something more than we had originally conceived). So throughout the development cycle, we meet from time to time to review our list of priorities. Does this feature have to make it into the initial release, or could it wait for 7.1 or 7.2? Some features will get pushed back to a planned free update, and we may even decide that a few will just have to wait for version 8.

    Eventually, we'll get through the major features which have remained on the must-have list, and then we'll crank through as many minor features as we can before our planned release date. When we finally stop adding new features and move on to beta-testing and fixing any bugs that are found, we inevitably feel like there was so much more we wanted to do. There's always some cherished little feature that one of us wanted that just had to get put off. Yet when we actually sit down and list all of the new features which have been added, we're amazed at how far we've come.

    I did just that recently. Sitting in my car, waiting for my boys to get done with an activity, I listed all the new features I could think of. I managed to forget a few, and a few more have been added since I made my list, but when I looked at everything I had written, I got really excited. Version 7 will have something for everyone, from scholars to pastors to laypeople, and from new users to power users. In the coming weeks, I'll start pulling back the curtain on some of these new features. Hopefully, they'll excite you as much as they do me.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006  

    Off and Running

    Two weeks ago, we explored the use of the Construct window in building graphical search arguments. At the time, I showed how you can look at an existing construct—even one as complex as a search for the Granville Sharp rule in Greek—and easily understand what it is you're looking for. I also argued that other "graphical search engines" were much less transparent and easy to use.

    Yesterday, Rubén Gómez of Bible Software Review put three "graphical search engines" to the test using a search mentioned in an Anchor Bible Dictionary article. You can check it out here.

    For those of you who want to construct this search yourself, you just need to:

    1. Open a Search window with the tagged Greek New Testament (GNT-T) as your search text.
    2. Choose Greek from the New Construct submenu of the File menu (or use the keyboard shortcut command-2)
    3. Drag a Verb element into the first (leftmost) column. Click OK to dismiss the Set Tag Details dialog without constraining the VERB element further.
    4. Drag a LEX element into the second column. In the dialog box, type "en" and click OK.
    5. Drag another LEX element into the third column. In the dialog box, type "cri" to scroll the list to where you can see Christos, then just double-click the word Christos to select it and close the dialog box.
    6. Drag a WITHIN element above the first two columns. Enter "4" into the first field of the dialog box and click OK.
    7. Drag an INTER element above the first two columns.
    8. Drag a VERB element into the INTER and click OK to dismiss the dialog box.
    9. Drag a NOT element over the label of the INTER.

    That's it. Click OK to see your search results.

    Okay, now let's have a little fun. Try clicking the Details button. The first thing you'll see is a graph of where this construction was found.:

    From this it is striking how the hits seem to be concentrated in the Pauline epistles. Let's click the Table button to verify this.

    Sure enough, the only non-Pauline use of this construction is one occurrence in 1 Peter (assuming, of course, that the Pastorals are Pauline).

    Okay, that was interesting. Now, let's click the Analysis tab to see which verbs are used in this construction. We can even use the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn (that's right, command-T) to open the Set Analysis Display dialog and change the Sort from Alphabetical to Count Down. When we click OK, here's what we get:

    Now we can see that eimi, "to be," is the verb most often associated with the phrase "in Christ"; followed by "to have," "to greet," "to become," to "give," and "to live."

    There are, of course, lots of places we could go from here. We could, for example, switch to a different Greek text, like the textus receptus, and try this search there. Since this search turns up 35 occurrences rather than the 34 found in the GNT-T, it would appear there are some text-critical issues associated with the phrase "in Christ." Heck, we could even try this search in the Greek Apostolic Fathers (where it appears 11 times), or in the Apocryphal Gospels (where it does not appear at all, though this may be a function of genre, since it does not appear in the canonical Gospels either).

    Another place we could go from here is to expand the search to include cases where the verb follows the phrase "in Christ." To do this:

    1. Go back to your Greek Construct window and choose Duplicate tab from the File menu (or use the keyboard shortcut command-D).
    2. Drag the VERB element in the first column into the fourth column.
    3. Drag a marquee around the elements in the 2nd through 4th columns to select them, then drag them to the 1st through 3rd columns.
    4. Drag a marquee to select the WITHIN and INTER above the 1st and 2nd columns, then drag them above the 2nd and 3rd columns.
    5. Now go to the Search window to which your first construct is linked. Make sure the text insertion point is to the right of the [LINK Greek Construct].
    6. Select the OR command from the Enter command submenu of the Search menu (or use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-O). Then select the LINK command from the same submenu (or use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-L). In the dialog box that opens, double-click Greek Construct 2.

    That's it. Click OK to perform this expanded search.

    In the comments on Rubén's blog, someone glossed over the interface differences among these programs with the tired argument that "whatever program one uses the most will be the most 'intuitive.'" What this person fails to understand is that in the time others spend navigating complex dialogs, clicking checkbox after checkbox, consulting the help, and even contacting tech support; Accordance users are off and running, exploring the results of their searches from a variety of angles and trying new variations to see what turns up.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006  

    Learning New Ways to Count

    In the comments on Monday's post, one user asked about a little known feature of Accordance: the various Count options in the Set Analysis Display dialog box. This is a feature which has been there since version 3.6 (released way back in January 1999) which enables you to analyze vocabulary usage across a particular search range from a variety of statistical angles.

    It's easier to show you how this works than it is to explain it, so here's a little case study. Let's say that we want to examine the vocabulary used in the Gospel of John. Here's how to do it:

    1. Open a search window and choose the tagged Greek New Testament (GNT-T) as your search text. If you don't have the Greek, an English translation will work as well.
    2. In the argument entry box, type an asterisk, then choose the AND command from the Enter Command submenu of the Search menu (or use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-A). Now choose the Range command from the same submenu (or use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-R).
    3. Type "john" to replace the selected question mark inside the Range command, then click OK.

    You've just searched for every word in the book of John. Note also that we used the Range command as a quick way to specify a range that we may not have previously defined in the Range pop-up menu of the More Options section of the Search window.

    Now, what good is there in searching for every word in a book? "Much in every way!" That is, provided you click the Details button:

    1. Click the Details button to open the Details Workspace, then click the Analysis tab to bring it to the front.
      By default, the Analysis gives an alphabetical listing of every word which was found in John. But we can tweak this information using the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn: Command-T.
    2. Use Command-T to open the Set Analysis Display dialog box.
    3. In the dialog box, select Count Down from the Sort pop-up menu, then click OK.

    The Analysis window will now list the words which were found in descending order of occurrence. Thus, the words which appear the most number of times appear at the top of the list, while the words which appear only once will be at the bottom of the list.

    Now, viewing the word list by the number of times each word appears is a helpful way to analyze vocabulary usage, but it tends to place all the common words at the top of the list: words like the definite article, the conjunction "and," personal pronouns like "him," "I," and "you," etc. You have to scroll past these common words before you get to the words which may represent a particular focus or interest of the author.

    This observation led our programmer to consider other ways to count word usage. In addition to "Number," he came up with "Frequency," "Uniqueness," and "Importance," and he placed these options in the Count pop-up menu of the Set Analysis Display dialog box. Follow these steps to compare the various options:

    1. While looking at the Analysis tab of the Details workspace, choose Duplicate Tab from the File menu (or use the keyboard shortcut Command-D).
    2. Use Command-T to open the Set Analysis Display dialog box.
    3. Choose Uniqueness from the Count pop-up menu and click OK.

    When you compare this list to the one before it, you'll see a much different group of words appearing at the top of the list. Rather than the common words, you get the words which are most "unique" to the current search range. The number beside each word is the ratio of hit words in the current range to hit verses in the entire text. If you select the first word in the list (helos, nail) and then choose GNT-T from the Resource palette, you'll see that this word appears two times in the GNT-T in a single verse, John 20:25. Thus, the ratio 2.0 next to this word is arrived at by dividing 2 hits by 1 verse. (Hey, that's a level of math which even I can understand!)

    Now look at the words in the list with a ratio of 1.0. Some of these words are marked with an asterisk, while others are not. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Analysis window, you'll see a note explaining that the asterisk marks "words appearing only once in the entire text." In other words, the asterisk marks all the hapax legomena. Ainon is one such word. It appears only once in the entire Greek New Testament. Contrast that with antleo, "to draw." This word appears four times in four verses, all of which are in John's Gospel. It therefore has a ratio of 1.0, even though it is not a hapax.

    Okay, I've analyzed the way Accordance calculates "Uniqueness" to the point that your eyes are now glazing over. The point is simply this. Counting by Uniqueness gives the greatest weight to those words which only appear within your current search range. Common words such as the definite article get pushed much further down the list.

    While it's interesting to see words which are more or less unique to your search range, uniqueness does not necessarily equal importance. For example, is Aenon an important concept in John's Gospel? Hardly! It's a place mentioned one time, in connection with the ministry of John the Baptist. To find the important words, we need to:

    1. Choose Duplicate Tab from the File menu (or use the keyboard shortcut Command-D) to create another Analysis tab.
    2. Use Command-T to open the Set Analysis Display dialog box.
    3. Choose Importance from the Count pop-up menu and click OK.

    Examine this vocabulary list, and you start to identify words which represent special emphases in the Gospel of John: such as "Jesus," "Father," "believe," "world," "Jew," and "disciple." The Importance ratio is calculated by multiplying the number of hits in the search range by the Uniqueness ratio described above. The result is that words used often in the book of John but which appear much less frequently in the rest of the New Testament get pushed toward the top of the list. Some common words also get pushed back up toward the top, but even some of these show interesting trends. For example, houtos and ekeinos ("this" and "that" respectively) tend to be used more frequently in John than in the rest of the New Testament. The use of oun ("so, then, therefore") is even more clearly concentrated in John than in the rest of the New Testament. Does this mean that John more explicitly makes causal connections between events than other New Testament writers? Perhaps. To find out, I can select oun in the Analysis window, select GNT-T from the Greek Texts pop-up menu of the Resource palette, and then examine each occurrence of that word in context.

    The cool thing about these various ways of "counting" words in a word list is that it helps me to spot trends which I might not otherwise have seen. Obviously, simple algorithms can only do so much to help us gauge the relative importance of a word to a particular author; but they do give us a great place to start.

    Note: The perceptive among you will notice that I didn't bother with counting by Frequency. Frequency is the ratio of hits per 1000 words which is used to generate bars of the Graph. Choosing to count by frequency will show you that ratio rather than the total number of hits, but it doesn't really change the sort order. It's included for the sake of completeness, but "Uniqueness" and "Importance" are the Count options which are really of interest.

    Monday, May 08, 2006  

    After the Love is Gone

    Over the weekend, a user posted a question to our user forums asking if it was possible to perform a particular search:

    I need to find Psalms where a word or expression does NOT occur. I can do a search where one word does occur and exclude other words with NOT, but I wasn't able to do it with only non-occurrences of a word or root. How can I do it? (Can I?)

    Is this search possible with Accordance? Of course it is! And it helps to illustrate a few of Accordance's search features quite nicely.

    Since this user didn't give the search term that he wanted to exclude, I'll choose to look for Psalms that do not contain the word "love." First, I'll tell you how to construct the search, and then we'll examine it in more detail.

    1. Open a Search window, make sure an English Bible is selected in the search text pop-up menu, and click the Search for Words radio button.
    2. Type an asterisk (*), then choose NOT from the Enter Command submenu of the Search menu, then type "lov*" (without the quotes).
    3. Click the More Options disclosure triangle to view the additional options. In the first pop-up labeled "Search within every", choose "Chapter." In the second pop-up preceded by the word "in," choose "Psalms."
      Note: I'm assuming you've already defined a "Psalms" range. If you haven't, choose "Define Range..." from this pop-up menu. In the dialog that opens, click the New button, then give your new range a name ("Psalms") and a definition (ps, psa, psalms, etc.—as long as it's enough to uniquely identify the book of Psalms). Then click Update to add your new range.

    Your search argument should now look like this:

    When you click OK to perform this search, Accordance will find every word in every psalm except for those which contain the word "love." Now, how does this search work?

    First, we entered the asterisk wildcard, which in word search mode, tells Accordance to find any word. We had to enter the asterisk because we had to search for something positive before we could exclude the word we didn't want to find. If you think about this search, it's essentially negative. Instead of looking for a particular word, we're trying to avoid finding a particular word. To a computer, searching for nothing is somewhat akin to dividing by zero. In order to avoid disrupting the entire space-time continuum, we need to search for something, and then exclude what we don't want to find. Using the asterisk to search for any word gives us a comprehensive positive search from which to exclude the words we don't want to find.

    The NOT command followed by "lov*" indicates that we want to find any words which do not appear together with any form of the word "love." Now the question becomes, "How closely together may they not appear?" Are we looking for any word which does not appear within the same verse as "love"? Within the same "sentence"? Within the same "paragraph"? We can choose from any of these options in the "Search within every" pop-up menu. By choosing "Chapter," we are saying that we want to find any word, as long as it does not appear within the same chapter as the word "love."

    Sure enough, when we click OK to perform this search, we'll get every word in every psalm except those psalms which contain the word "love." To prove it, enter Psalm 136 in the Go To box and you'll be taken to Psalm 137. Psalm 136, which contains the refrain "His love endures forever," is not there. That psalm has been excluded by our search.

    Now, for the pièce de résistance! If you want to see at a glance which psalms were excluded, click the Details button. In the Details Workspace, click the Table button. Now use the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn—command-T—to open the Set Table Display dialog box. In the dialog box, check the "Show Chapter Detail" checkbox and click OK. Now, you should see something like this:

    The psalms which contain the word love are the ones with zero in the Total Hits column. Pretty cool, huh?

    While most of you may not ever need to do this particular search, I do hope that this little case study has helped you to understand some of the logic behind the Accordance search engine.

    Friday, May 05, 2006  

    Getting to the Verse You Want

    When you first launch Accordance, the program opens with a Search window displaying your default Bible text. The Search for Verses radio button is selected, and an asterisk is entered in the argument entry box. Now, let's say I want to go to 1 Samuel 17. What do I do?

    What most people do is replace the asterisk in the argument entry box with a reference to 1 Samuel 17 and click OK. Sure enough, Accordance takes me to 1 Samuel 17. I start reading, and am quite happy until I get to the end of the chapter, and find that the text ends at 1 Samuel 17:58. What, I wonder, happened to 1 Samuel 18, or the rest of the Bible for that matter?

    What happened is that when I entered 1 Samuel 17 at the top of the window, I did a search for that passage, and by default, Accordance only shows me the verses which I searched for. In effect, I told Accordance that I only want to see 1 Samuel 17, so Accordance dutifully displayed 1 Samuel 17:1-58 in the text pane of the Search window.

    This ability to display just the verses I want is a great feature of Accordance. It means I can type in something like "Genesis 1:1-2; Psalm 119:11; Proverbs 3:5-6" and see just those verses. Surprisingly, many Bible programs don't make this possible. Rather, they force you to view each of those passages in the context of the whole Bible, so that you would have to jump from Genesis to Psalms and then from Psalms to Proverbs. That can be a pain. So Accordance lets you specify exactly what verses you want to see.

    However, there are times, like in our 1 Samuel 17 example, when you just want to jump to a passage and see that passage in context. If you enter the passage you want in the top of the window, you limit yourself, and then you have to type something else to get to the next chapter or book. Who wants to do that?

    This can be especially frustrating when you're trying to follow along with a Bible study or sermon. If the teacher says, "Turn to Exodus 12:1" and you enter Exodus 12:1 in the argument entry box, you're stuck if he happens to read on to verse 2 or 3.

    At times like these, the better approach is to leave that asterisk in the argument entry box so that every verse of the Bible is displayed. When you want to jump quickly to a particular reference, don't enter it at the top of the window, enter it in the Go To Box in the bottom right corner.

    Try it. Make sure an asterisk is entered at the top of the window, then enter 1 Samuel 17 in the Go To Box and click OK (or hit return). You've just jumped to 1 Samuel 17. Now scroll back to chapter 16. Now click the down chapter arrow twice to go to 1 Samuel 18. Now enter Exodus 12:1 in the Go To Box. You see? The Go To Box lets you jump to any verse displayed in the text window pane, without changing the display or limiting the number of verses. This is how I get around whenever I'm trying to follow a Bible study that's doing a lot of passage-hopping.

    Now, it's important to keep in mind that the Go To Box can only take you to verses which are actually displayed in the text window pane. So if you enter 1 Samuel 17 in the top of the window, and then type 1 Samuel 18 in the Go To Box, you'll be taken to the last verse in 1 Samuel 17. Until you change your verse search to something that includes 1 Samuel 18, you can't get to 1 Samuel 18 using the Go To Box.

    In my opinion, the Go To Box may be one of the most underutilized features of Accordance. It's also useful when you've done a word search and want to navigate quickly to one of the "hit" verses which are displayed. If I've done a search for "love," and want to jump to Psalm 136, I can enter that reference in the Go To Box to jump there without scrolling.

    Get used to using it, and the Go To Box will make your life much easier.

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006  

    Featured Module: PhotoGuide

    Go to the Accordance web-site, and in the bottom left corner you'll see an unassuming little button labeled "Featured Module." Periodically, we're going to be using that space to highlight modules and CD-ROMs you may not be aware of. Better still, we'll be offering a sale on those products during the period when they're being featured. So if you watch that space, you'll be able to pick up some great deals on stuff you may not even have been aware that we have.

    The reconstructed ruins of ancient Beer-Sheba.

    This month, we're featuring my baby: The Bible Lands PhotoGuide. I call the PhotoGuide "my baby" because I wrote it and selected the photos to include, and because it involved a great deal of labor to produce. The first edition of the PhotoGuide was released in November of 2000 and included roughly 640 high-resolution photos of various Biblical locations. A second edition was released in December of 2005. In this new edition, we expanded the number of photos to more than 1200, and increased the resolution of most of the earlier photos. The big problem we had in producing the first PhotoGuide was finding pictures of everything we wanted to illustrate. The overwhelming challenge of the second edition was picking the best photos out of the thousands we had available!

    One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, from the "Inscriptions" article.

    Our goal with the PhotoGuide has always been to make it more than a mere collection of attractive photographs. We tried to choose photographs which would illustrate the Bible, and most of those photographs have been annotated with painstaking detail, so that you'll know exactly what you're looking at and why it's important. On my personal blog (which I haven't updated since January!), I wrote about the experience of researching and writing the PhotoGuide. If you're interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how the PhotoGuide was created, please feel free to check it out.

    Model of the Second (Herodian) Temple, from the article on "Jerusalem."

    So what is the PhotoGuide good for? Here are some of my favorite uses:

  • Whenever my wife and I read through the Bible with our kids, I'll use the PhotoGuide to show them the places (or objects in some cases) which are mentioned in the passages we're reading. It really helps make the Bible come alive for them.
  • When teaching a class, I'll hook my iBook to a projector and use the PhotoGuide for illustration.
  • I have my Accordance Atlas set up to go to the PhotoGuide whenever I double-click a place name on the map. (To do this, use command-T from the map window and select the PhotoGuide as the "default tool.") Whenever I want to learn more about a location, I'll just double-click its name to look it up.
  • Of all the resources available in Accordance, The Bible Lands PhotoGuide is, in my opinion, one of the most versatile and useful. It's also one of the most affordable—especially now that it's on sale! ;-) If you haven't taken a look at it yet, I'd encourage you to do so. And if any of you reading this already own the PhotoGuide, how about using the comments section of this blog to voice your own opinion about this month's "Featured Module"? That way, other readers won't just have to take the author's word for it! :-)

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006  

    Emphatic Hebrew

    In Friday's post, we built a Simple Construct to find instances where the same Hebrew or Greek word was translated by two different English words in a text with Key numbers. The most interesting cases we found were phrases like "freely eat," "surely die," "greatly multiply," etc. In each of these phrases, an adverb and a verb were both tagged with the exact same Key number.

    What's going on in these instances? To answer that, we need to look at the Hebrew. If we open a parallel text pane containing the tagged Hebrew text, we can see the Hebrew construction that's being reflected in the English Key Numbers.

    Note: There's going to be a fair amount of Hebrew in the rest of this post. Even if you don't know Hebrew, I'd encourage you not to tune out. I'm going to try to explain things in a way that anyone can understand, and I think you'll find that there are some interesting insights ahead.

    Now, even if my Hebrew is a little rusty (which it is), I need only drag my cursor over the Hebrew words to see an English gloss telling me what each word means. (Yes, I know it's cheating, but I'm weak!) Scanning through Genesis 2:17, I quickly locate the Hebrew phrase moth tamuth, which is translated into English as "surely die." Here's the information I get about each of those words in the Instant Detail Box:

    Notice that both moth and tamuth come from the same lexical form mwt. So this is the same word in two different inflected forms. The first word (moth) is an infinitive absolute, while the second word ( tamuth) is an imperfect. Both words are in the Qal stem. Even if I don't understand all the nuances of what these grammatical terms mean, I can still construct a search to find other examples of this construction.

    1. Make sure you have a Search window open with the search text set to a tagged Hebrew text (BHS-W4, or the older HMT-T or HMT), and the Search for Words radio button selected.
    2. Hit the tab key to select the contents of the argument entry box, then choose Hebrew from the New Construct submenu of the File menu (or use the keyboard shortcut command-3).
    3. In the Construct window, drag a VERB element into the first (rightmost) column.
    4. In the dialog box which opens, select infinitiveAbsolute from the Aspect pop-up menu. Then click OK.
    5. Drag a second VERB element into the second column.
    6. In the dialog box, select imperfect from the Aspect pop-up menu. Then click OK.
    7. Drag a WITHIN item into the area above the two columns.
    8. Type a "5" into the first field of the dialog box that opens and click OK.
    9. Drag an AGREE item above the two columns.
    10. In the dialog box, check Lexical form and Stem, then click OK.

    Your Construct window should now look like this:

    Click OK in either the Construct window or the Search window to which it is linked to perform this search.

    The results are interesting. In addition to instances such as "freely eat" and "surely die," this construction is used in places like Genesis 15:13, where God confirms his covenant with Abraham with the words, "Know for certain." (In fact, it appears to be used at almost every pivotal point in Abraham's life!) It is used no less than five times in Deuteronomy 15:8-14, where the Israelites are commanded to be generous to the poor, "opening wide" their hands. In every case, it is clear just from looking at the English translations that this particular Hebrew construction is used for strong emphasis.

    Now, if you really want to explore the use of this construction, be sure to remember the Details button we talked so much about two weeks ago. If you look at a Graph of this search, you'll see that this construction is used most frequently in the laws catalogued in Exodus 22-23. Do an Analysis and count down the results, and you'll see that "die" and "know" are the verbs most frequently used in this intensive construction, followed by "live" and "return."

    As I hope you can see, even though we're digging into the Hebrew with this search, developing a Hebrew construct isn't any harder than developing the Simple English constructs we did last week. There are certainly more items available to search for, but other than that, it's still a simple matter of drag-and-drop.