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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006  

The Search text is everything

This morning, a user complained that he could not find the apocrypha in the NRSV. I thought others of you might find the answer helpful.

You'll remember that the verses displayed in the bottom part of the search window are determined by the search criteria entered in the top part of the window. For example, if you do a word search for "Adam," only those verses in the current search text which contain the word "Adam" will be displayed in the window.

Now, let's say I have my search text set to a Bible which does not contain the apocrypha (such as the HCSB) and a Bible containing the apocrypha (such as the NRSV) displayed in a parallel pane. I have the search for radio buttons set to Verses and an asterisk entered in the entry box (indicating that I want the entire search text displayed). Here's what I'll see if I scroll down to the end of Malachi:

Where's the apocrypha? I know I shouldn't see it in the pane containing the HCSB, but why am I not seeing it in the pane containing the NRSV? The answer is simple. I didn't search the NRSV. In other words, I told Accordance I wanted to see all the verses in the HCSB. The parallel pane containing the NRSV shows only those verses which happen to be contained in the HCSB. That's why the apocrypha appears to be missing.

If I change my search text to NRSV and scroll down to the end of Malachi, this is what I'll see:

You see, the apocrypha is there after all. Now that I have told Accordance to show all the verses in the NRSV, the apocrypha is displayed in the Search window, and the "missing" verses in the HCSB are marked with dashes.

This can happen not just with the apocrypha, but with any "missing" verses in a search text. For example, many modern Bibles do not contain Matthew 23:14. If you have one such Bible as your search text, with the KJV in parallel, Matthew 23:14 will appear to be "missing" from the KJV. To see that verse, you will need to switch the search text to KJV.

I hope this is helpful to any of you who may have found this behavior confusing. Just remember that the search text always determines which verses are displayed in the text panes.

Friday, December 22, 2006  

New in 7.1: Character and Count in Construct

Sorry for the dearth of blog posts lately. I think all my creativity has been going to the creation of my family's annual Christmas photo and letter, so I've been struggling to come up with a really great topic for the blog. Actually, I've known what to talk about next, I just haven't known how to talk about it. You see, I last discussed the new Search both directions checkbox on the Construct window, intending to move on from there to some of the other new enhancements to the Construct window included in 7.1. Trouble is, I'm still trying to get my mind around how to use some of these new features—hence the need for creativity.

Listing the new enhancements to the Construct window is easy: it is now possible to perform character searches, as well as use the COUNT and HITS commands within a Construct search. What does that mean? Well, let's play around a bit and find out.

The COUNT command lets you find words by the number of times they occur in the text. For example, COUNT 1 will find all hapax legomena in a text. A good example of using the COUNT command in a Construct search might be to look for all prepositional phrases in the Greek New Testament which have a hapax as the object of the preposition. Here's how I would define that using the Construct window

This search turns up 275 hits. From here I might do an Analysis to get a list of which hapax legomena are used as objects of a preposition, look at a Hits Graph to see that these occur most frequently in the latter chapters of Acts, etc.

But I'm not interested in doing meaningful research—I just want to show off as many of these new features as I can! ;-) So let's add a character search.

In the Greek New Testament, the semicolon (;) is equivalent to an English question mark. By dragging the CHAR item into the third column, and specifying the semicolon character, I can look for all the questions in the Greek New Testament which end with a prepositional phrase with a hapax as its object. Here's what my new Construct will look like:

This search finds two questions in the Greek New Testament which end with such prepositional phrases: in Luke 14:28 and in Hebrews 2:4.

While this may not be the kind of thing you'll want to do every day, the COUNT and CHAR elements in the Construct window now enable you to create more sophisticated searches than ever before. Yet all that power comes in the form of two innocuous little boxes on the Construct palette.

A third innocuous little box lets you add the HITS command. I'll blog about that next week. In the meantime, may you all enjoy a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006  

New in 7.1: Construct Window Searches Both Directions

Until Apple released the Mighty Mouse, one of the biggest objections PC users had to using a Mac was that its mouse had only one button. What they didn't realize was that when Apple was developing the Mac, they experimented with two- and three-button mice and rejected them as being too confusing to new computer users. Pointing and tapping with the index finger is something we all do every day—regardless of whether or not we've ever touched a computer—so anyone could learn to point and click a one-button mouse very quickly.

Windows PCs showed that regular people could be trained to use a two-button mouse, especially when the second button always had a consistent behavior: namely, calling up a contextual menu. Ironically, Windows' generally poorly designed interface contributed to users learning to use a right mouse button, since the contextual menus became one of the few consistent ways to discover and access new features.

I bring this up to demonstrate that sometimes limiting an interface helps to make it more intuitive, because it avoids confusion and operator error. I've talked before about the difference between Accordance's Construct window, which is a fairly linear graphical framework for constructing searches, and the much more free-form graphical search engines of some Windows Bible programs. In that blog entry, I argued that the more free-form approach was much harder to follow and made it much easier for the user to create logically-impossible searches.

While the Construct window's simplicity makes it easier to use than other alternatives, there are times when its limitations can be, well ... limiting. The most common example is when you want to find a construction where word order is unimportant. In other words, if you wanted to find two items (A and B) with a certain relationship to each other, but you aren't concerned about whether the word order is AB or BA, you would have to create TWO Construct windows and join them with an OR command. It wasn't difficult to do, but it did involve a number of additional steps.

For example, I once constructed a search where word order was not a concern, and it took me 26 steps to complete. No less than eight of those steps involved creating a second construct window to avoid the word order issue. When we looked at this usability issue in such clearly quantifiable terms, we decided we needed to find an easier way.

But how to do it without losing more than we gained? If we completely removed the word order specificity of the Construct window we would end up with a free-form system which would have all the problems the other programs have, and we would force the user to go through additional steps to have word order considered. This is not a big deal when you're searching for two items, but what about when you define a construct with 3 or more words? Do you allow the possibility of finding ABC, ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, and CBA? At what point does this kind of system get too confusing to understand and so broad as to become meaningless?

Our solution was to add a simple way to have Accordance search for the elements of a construct in both directions, but with the order of the columns still being considered. Thus, if you define a construct with three items (A, B, and C), then click the new Search both directions checkbox, Accordance will find either ABC or CBA, but not all of the other possible combinations.

The Construct pictured above will search the Greek New Testament for any proper name, the verb agapao, and a Pronoun which is not in the same case as the Proper name. Since Search both directions is checked, it will also find constructions where the Pronoun comes before the Proper Name. In every case, however, agapao will appear between the Name and the Pronoun.

In this way, we've greatly reduced the number of steps necessary to perform flexible searches like this, while keeping the Construct window simple enough for the user to get his or her mind around. It's a little like creating a mouse which can function as a one-button mouse for the computer novice, or a multi-button mouse for those who want the added flexibility.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006  

Accordance Helps Make Mother-in-Law Happy

Accordance users value their favorite Bible study software for a variety of reasons: it saves them time preparing sermons or papers, it enables them to do research which would otherwise be difficult, it is useful in teaching, etc. But how often do you hear that it helps you earn points with your in-laws? Accordance did just that for me recently.

My mother-in-law likes to send out a family Christmas letter every year, and she always asks me to edit the letter and polish it up. When I'm finished tweaking her text, I then lay it out in Pages using a nice decorative font and some kind of artwork. Because I've been doing this for many years now, it is the finding of appropriate artwork which is becoming increasingly difficult. I've never been thrilled with the quality of most digital clip-art I've seen. Google image searches can turn up the occasional gem, but in most cases the images you find on the web are too low-res to look good on a printed page. What should be a relatively simple thing can easily turn into a time-consuming search.

This year, however, the search was incredibly brief. I just fired up Accordance, opened the new Bible Art module (included with any level of the Library CD-ROM), and found a really beautiful image which fit perfectly with the theme of the letter. I copied and pasted it into Pages, masked the image with an oval shape, and quickly ended up with a Christmas letter which looks very polished. My mother-in-law is thrilled with her letter, and I'm happy that the process didn't consume too much time. Heck, it even inspired a blog entry! ;-)

Hopefully some of you can put the Bible Art module to similar uses.

Friday, December 08, 2006  

New in 7.1: Spell-Checking

One of the requests we've long had is for a spell-checker in User Note and User Tool Edit windows. This feature has now been added in the 7.1 update.

To use this feature, you must first have an Edit window active, then choose Spelling... from the Search menu (or use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-semicolon). The following window will then appear:

The first occurrence of a questionable word will be highlighted and suggested replacements given. You can double-click one of the suggested replacements to insert it into the text in place of the misspelled word, or you can type in a replacement and hit return. If the word is correct, you can click the Find Next button to move to the next misspelling, or Skip to ignore any future occurrences of that word. If you want to Correct All instances of a misspelling, use the Correct All button. Finally, the Learn button adds the questionable word to the OS X spelling dictionary so that the word will no longer be flagged in future spell-checks.

Thursday, December 07, 2006  

Representing and Tagging Greek Manuscripts

Dr. Rex Koivisto of Multnomah Bible College is a tagging machine. He has been instrumental in the development of the vast majority of Accordance's grammatically-tagged Greek texts, and I never cease to be amazed at the amount of new material he manages to produce every year. Dr. Koivisto is also a pioneer when it comes to the tagging of actual Biblical manuscripts such as Codex Bezae and Codex Vaticanus (as opposed to edited editions of the Greek New Testament).

At the recent conference of the Society of Biblical Literature, Dr. Koivisto presented a fascinating paper describing the challenges of representing manuscripts in an electronic format, and the solutions he's come up with. If you're interested in knowing more about how to use Bezae and Vaticanus in Accordance, or if you want a behind-the-scenes look at the effort required to produce grammatically-tagged texts, I'd strongly recommend you read Dr. Koivisto's paper.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006  

New in 7.1: Character Palette

Ever wanted to type a Greek accent or Hebrew vowel point and been unsure how to do it? Accordance now includes six fonts: Helena (Greek), Yehudit (Hebrew), Rosetta (Transliteration), MSS (all those weird symbols you see in critical apparatuses), Sylvanus (Uncial Greek), and Peshitta (Syriac). Keyboard layouts and complete instructions for using these fonts can be found in the Accordance Fonts pdf located in the Manuals & Documents folder inside your Accordance folder, but who wants to open a pdf just to be able to enter a Gothic P in a user note? That's where the new Character Palette in version 7.1 comes in handy.

When you select Character Palette from the Window menu, a new floating palette will appear showing every character in the selected Accordance font:

A pop-up menu lets you choose the font you want to work with, and a series of checkboxes along the top let you show or hide certain types of characters. For example, I've been using Accordance long enough to know all the Greek letters and Hebrew consonants, so I don't need help knowing where those characters are on the keyboard. By unchecking those items, I streamline the palette so that it takes up less screen real estate and shows me just the stuff I still need help with (such as accents, vowel points, and cantillation marks.)

Whenever you're in a text entry field or edit window, clicking a character on the palette will insert that character at the insertion point. If you hover over a character on the palette a little tip will appear showing you the name of the character along with the keyboard keys used to enter it. In this way, the palette teaches you how to enter the characters you use most. It also helps the beginning student remember which grouping of dots in Hebrew is a "sere" and which is a "segol"!

The Character Palette is a very flexible new tool which can make working with the original languages, transliteration, and text-critical symbols much easier.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006  

New in 7.1: Adding a vertical Tool or Note Pane

As I said yesterday, the free update to Accordance 7.1 adds a host of new features. Yesterday, I covered one of the biggest: the new Citation preferences. Today, I'll just mention one of the smallest (but most useful): the ability to open a Reference Tool or User Note pane vertically rather than horizontally.

As I'm sure you know, if you select a Reference Tool or User Note file from the Add pane buttons on the right hand side of the Search window, the resource you choose will open in a horizontally-oriented pane along the bottom of the window (beneath the Bible text panes). This horizontal orientation is great for some resources, such as critical apparatuses or study Bible notes, but for in depth commentaries, a vertical orientation beside the Bible panes tends to work better. That's why Reference Tool and User Notes panes have always had a button that lets you toggle from a horizontal to a vertical orientation.

Now, what if you have a resource that you always want to open in a vertical pane? Until now, you were forced to use a two-step process: (1) add a pane containing that resource, then (2) click the toggle button to switch to a vertical orientation. Well, we don't like two-step processes if we can avoid them, so we decided to give you the option of adding a vertically-oriented Reference Tool or User Note pane in a single step. Simply hold down the option key while selecting the Reference Tool or User Note you want to add, and a new vertical pane will be added displaying that resource!

It's certainly not the most earth-shattering new feature we've added in 7.1, but sometimes it's those little enhancements which can make the biggest difference in streamlining your workflow.

Monday, December 04, 2006  

New in 7.1: Citation Preferences

A couple of weeks ago, we released a free downloadable update to version 7.1. Like nearly all our point-one updates, this release included much more than a few bug fixes. There are a host of new features designed to make your life easier. Today I'd like to talk about one of my favorites: the new Copy As Citation preferences.

Never used the Copy As Citation feature? It's been around since version 6, and has worked both from within Accordance itself and also in conjunction with the widget (when you check the Copy As Citation option on the back). You access it through the Copy As submenu of the Edit menu, or using the keyboard shortcut control-command-C. Basically, this feature lets you select text in a Bible pane, and copy it in a nicely formatted paragraph. Thus, when you select this:

Gen. 1:1 ¶ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Gen. 1:2 ¶ Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Gen. 1:3 Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

. . . then choose Copy As Citation, when you paste into a word processing document, you'll get this:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light."
(Gen 1:1-3 HCSB)

Pretty cool, huh? This feature can save you a lot of time reformatting the text of the Bible to look good in a document . . . provided you happen to like the format just displayed above. Until now, that was the only formatting option for the Copy As Citation feature. If you didn't happen to like that format, the Copy As Citation feature wasn't much help to you, because you would still have to spend time tweaking the format of the pasted citation.

Thanks to a couple of gadflies who wouldn't let us off the hook on this limitation, we have now added the ability to set the formatting of text copied using Copy As Citation. In the Preferences, you will now find a new Citation panel which looks like this:

As you can see, this Preference panel has three sections.

The Content section determines the appearance of the actual text of the Bible.

Do you want the copied citation to be enclosed in curly quotes? Parentheses? Brackets? Simply enter the characters you want to appear before and after the citation in the Markers fields. You can enter up to seven characters in each field, so if you want smiley face emoticons to appear before and after the Bible text, knock yourself out!

The Show as pop-up menu lets you choose whether you want each verse in your citation on a separate line, or whether you want the text to appear as continuous paragraphs. You also have the option of displaying the text as a continuous block of text without any verse or paragraph breaks (by checking Copy text as one block).

The other options in this section let you choose whether or not you want poetic formatting or superscript characters in your pasted citations, and whether you want the text scaled to a particular font size. This last option lets you view text on screen within Accordance at large font sizes, but paste the text into a word processing document at standard sizes like 12-point.

The Content References section determines how the reference for each verse in your citation should appear.

The default is to omit the entire reference, but you can choose to include full or partial references before each verse, enclose them in whatever Markers you choose, and abbreviate the book name if you like.

Other formatting characteristics of the content references (such as font style) are determined by the appearance of the text within Accordance. Thus, if the references are underlined in Accordance, they'll be underlined in the citation. You can override this, however, by checking the Ignore reference style checkbox.

The Citation Reference section determines the appearance of the summary reference for the entire citation. You can place this Before the citation followed by a colon, or After the citation preceded by an em-dash, or Above the citation enclosed in brackets, etc. You can also choose whether to have the book name abbreviated and the text abbreviation (KJV, NIV, etc.) included.

These new formatting options give you a tremendous amount of flexibility in how pasted citations appear, and as I mentioned above, these settings also affect the appearance of text inserted by the widget.

Friday, December 01, 2006  

December Sale!

Now through the end of December, we're offering a sale on our most popular Accordance packages and modules. I won't list all the discounts here, but they're some of the best we've ever offered. Best of all, if you qualify for an educational or ministry discount, you get that too!