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

Thursday, March 29, 2007  

Accordance Automator Action

Joe Weaks of the Macintosh Biblioblog has just made available an Automator action that lets you get Scripture from Accordance and use it in an Automator workflow. Now, Joe is a scripting and automating guru. I am not. But I have played with Automator enough to be able to understand how it works, and if I can do it, you can do it!

When you download the Automator action, you need to place it into the Automator folder inside either your System or User Library (there is an rtf file included with the action which explains this). Once you've done that, you can start playing with it by using or tweaking one of Joe's included Workflows.

Joe includes one workflow which asks you for a Scripture reference, grabs the text of that passage from Accordance, and then speaks the text using Apple's text-to-speech technology. That's pretty cool, but why not take that idea a step further and create an audio file you can copy to your iPod to aid in Scripture memorization? To do that, I just replaced the Speak Text action in Joe's Workflow with the System action called Text to Audio File. This action creates a file on my desktop called "Scripture Memory." I then added two actions from iTunes called Import Audio File and Add Songs to Playlist which import this file into an iTunes playlist called "Memory Verses." Now the next time I update my iPod (okay, it's really my wife's iPod, but she's nice enough to let me use it from time to time), I'll have a playlist that will recite all of my memory verses to me in a lovely robotic voice. (I just hope I don't mimic the voice when I recite them!)

Pretty cool, huh? If you play with Automator a bit, you may come up with lots of other nifty applications. For example, you could create your own iPod Bible by grabbing chunks of text and saving them as iPod notes. Or you could copy a series of Scripture passages to Keynote slides for use in a presentation. Or copy the text of a passage to an e-mail message to send to someone. With a little experimentation, you may find that Joe's Accordance automator action can save you a lot of time and effort.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007  

The Search Button

Pop quiz! What is the one section of the Resource palette which you can't hide by clicking a disclosure triangle? Answer: The bottom section labeled Search.

See what I mean? Do you think if we don't let you hide the Search button on the Resource palette, we think it's pretty important? In my opinion, the Search button is one of the most important elements of the Accordance interface, and I suspect that many of you don't use it as much as you should.

Whenever you select a word in a text or tool, then click the Search button, that resource will automatically be searched for the word you selected. For example, if you select a word in the tagged Greek New Testament, then click the Search button, a new window will open displaying every occurrence of that word's lexical form in the GNT-T. If you select a word in Anchor Bible Dictionary, then click the Search button, Anchor will automatically be searched for every occurrence of that word.

Why is this such an important feature? Because it enables you to do rapid research on a word or phrase without having to go up to the argument entry box and type the word you want to find. It also enables you to search the current resource for a word without losing your place in that resource, since the search is performed in a new window or tab.

But wait, there's more! How many of you have ever tried to search for a Hebrew phrase by copying it from the text and then pasting it in the argument entry box above? For example, let's say you select bereshith in Genesis 1:1, copy and paste it into the entry box, and click OK. What happens? You get a word list telling you that there is no lexical form in the Hebrew Bible spelled beth, resh, aleph, shin, yod, tav. Why are you getting an error message when you've copied and pasted that word right from the text? Because it's not really a word. It's a phrase made up of the prefix b and the noun reshith. To let Accordance know that you're looking for a phrase, you need to put a space between the prefix and the noun in the argument entry box. If you want to find a long phrase containing numerous prefixes and suffixes, it can be a hassle to go back in and put all those spaces in yourself. Fortunately, you don't need to bother doing that if you remember to use the Search button.

If you want to search for a Hebrew phrase, don't copy and paste it into the entry box and then edit it until you get it right, just select it and click the Search button. Lo and behold, that phrase will automatically be entered into a new Search window with the correct search syntax and every occurrence will be found!

By the way, if you prefer contextual menus to palette buttons, you can control- or right-click a word or phrase and then choose an option from the Search for submenu of the contextual menu. This has the same effect as clicking the Search button.

Well, that should get you started with the Search button, but there's a whole lot more to it which I'll talk about in a future post.

Friday, March 23, 2007  

Recycling . . . Free of Charge!

While in Los Angeles for the last round of training seminars, we went into a grocery store to buy some bottled water. We found a package on sale for $3.99, and took it up to the cashier, where we were told to pay something like $4.50. When we said, "I thought this was on sale for $3.99?" The cashier looked at us like we were from outer space and said, "Yes. $3.99 plus the CRV." When we continued to give her a blank stare, she said, "The CRV is a deposit on the plastic bottles. We recycle here."

At that point, one of us quipped, "We recycle in Florida too, but it's free!"

Fortunately, where Accordance is concerned, recycling takes place free of charge. In fact, you've probably already experienced recycling if you've used Accordance for any length of time, and may not even have noticed it.

Let's say you're looking at the tagged Greek New Testament, and you triple-click the word agapao to look it up in your default Greek lexicon. A new window or tab will open displaying that lexicon's entry on agapao. When you're done looking at the lexicon, you click back on the window or tab containing the Greek New Testament and continue reading. When you run across the word phileo, you triple-click again to look that word up. Lo and behold, the window or tab containing your Greek lexicon comes to the front again, this time displaying the entry for phileo. Notice that Accordance did not open a new window for each word looked up. Rather, it re-used, or recycled, the window containing the resource being consulted. If you check the history pop-up for the Tool window containing your lexicon, you'll see all the words you've looked up listed there.

If you look more closely at the Tool window containing your lexicon, you'll notice a green recycling symbol above the History pop-up. This indicates that recycling is turned on for this window. You can turn recycling off by clicking on the symbol, and can turn it on again by clicking in the same place (you can also toggle recycling on and off by going to the Window Menu-->Set-->Recycle Contents). If you turn recycling off for this window, the next time you triple-click a Greek word, the current window will be left alone, and a new window or tab will open displaying the lexicon entry for that word.

A window can only be recycled as long as you do not change any of its search criteria. For example, if you switch the search field of your Greek lexicon window to the Scripture field, and later triple-click another Greek word, Accordance will open a new lexicon window, since the search field of the current window is inappropriate for looking up a Greek word.

Because windows are recycled in this way, you can create custom window set-ups designed for quick lookups. For example, you could display a Greek lexicon window next to your Bible text (if you're using the Workspace window, be sure to Detach the tab containing your lexicon and then Tile the windows so that they appear side-by-side). With this custom arrangement, you can triple-click one Greek word after another to immediately see its entry in your favorite Greek lexicon.

Understanding recycling enables you to make the best use of your screen real estate and the windows you open. By turning it off, you make sure that the contents of a window will never be changed or overwritten. By leaving it on, you avoid having to manage an inordinate number of windows or tabs. Either way, you have complete control over whether or not your windows get recycled, and best of all, it's free! ;-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007  

Viewing Different Passages Side-by-Side

I am occasionally asked questions about viewing different passages in the same Bible text or translation side by side. For example, someone recently asked me about comparing the vocabulary of Genesis 1 and Genesis 6, and he wanted to view the two passages in Hebrew in parallel panes.

My first recommendation would, of course, be to open up an appropriate parallel database (such as the Old Testament parallel) and see if these two passages are parallel by content in some way. In this case, the Old Testament parallel database does not show any parallel between Genesis 1 and Genesis 6.

Another option would be to do a verse search for Genesis 1; 6 in a search window, then open two panes containing the same text. In this case, we would open up two panes containing the BHS-W4. As you all know, parallel panes in a Search window automatically scroll in sync with each other, but we can temporarily break this synchronization by holding down the control key while clicking the scroll arrows, clicking in the scroll bar to "page" up or down, or dragging the scroll thumb to a particular verse. You can also right mouse click or drag to accomplish this unsynchronized scrolling. In this case, I would simply scroll one pane down to Genesis 6 to be able to view the two passages side by side.

Keep in mind that when you scroll panes separately like this, they will re-sync as soon as you scroll in the normal way.

Finally, you can always just open up separate windows displaying each text and view them side by side on the screen. As more and more people get used to using the tabbed Workspace window, it may be less obvious to you that you can do this. So, assuming you are already using a Workspace window, here's what you do:

  1. Open a Search window with BHS-W4 as your search text.
  2. Use command-D to duplicate this tab.
  3. Detach the tab by going to the Window menu-->Detach Tab (or use the keyboard shortcut command-option-T).
  4. Tile the Workspace window and the detached Search window by going to the Window menu-->Arrange-->Tile Windows (or use the keyboard shortcut command-I).
  5. Scroll the text of one window to Genesis 1 (if it's not already there) and the other to Genesis 6.

As you can see, you're never bound by the synchronized scrolling of parallel panes. If you want to look at different passages in the same text side by side, either temporarily break the synchronized scrolling of parallel panes within the same window, or create a custom arrangement of multiple windows.

Thursday, March 15, 2007  

Dealing with Difficult Passages

As I've mentioned before, my family is trying to read through the Bible in a year together. I've mentioned how dangerous this is, since there are no shortage of "grown up" topics you have to deal with when reading through the Bible chronologically. Another challenge is that many passages are difficult for me to understand, much less explain to my children.

The other night I ran into one that was particularly perplexing: the passage in Numbers 22 where the emissaries of Balak entice Balaam to go with them to curse the nation of Israel. First, God clearly says to Balaam that he is not to go, but when Balak's emissaries return with what amounts to a "blank check" (or "cheque" to some of you), God gives Balaam permission to go—but only if he speaks exactly what God tells him. Balaam therefore goes with the emissaries, but the next thing we read is that God is angry with Balaam for going! So much so that he sends an angel to kill Balaam.

My children may be used to their father suddenly and arbitrarily contradicting something he has said previously, but it's a little more of a crisis when God seems to do it. I therefore needed a quick source of help for dealing with this difficult passage. Fortunately, I had a couple readily available.

Hard Sayings of the Bible is a massive book which addresses just these kinds of difficult passages. Published by InterVarsity Press, it is included in the Essential IVP Reference Library. This book argues that God tells Balaam that he may go with the emissaries if they ask him one more time to go with them. When Balaam doesn't wait for this condition to be met and voluntarily goes with the emissaries, it is clear that Balaam is less interested in proclaiming God's words as he is in receiving Balak's riches.

The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties is a more concise work which also addresses difficult passages. It is included in the Zondervan Personal Growth Bible Study Suite and in the older Zondervan collections. This book argues simply that God sent the angel to give a stern warning to Balaam, since God knew the evil intentions of Balaam's heart.

If you don't have either of these resources, you can always turn to your favorite commentary. Most of the ones I consulted did an excellent job of dealing with the seeming contradiction in this narrative, and each brought out a different element of the story which I hadn't immediately seen.

Ultimately, whichever resource I had decided to consult, it was incredibly easy to open a reference tool pane in parallel to the text and use it to help explain a difficult passage. It enabled us to keep reading the story without getting hung up on the difficulty.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007  

Accordance Blog Now Searchable (Sort of)

I know Accordance pretty well, but I'm admittedly slow when it comes to all this blogging stuff. Although the Accordance blog has been a good source of help from post to post, there has never been an easy way to find previous posts on a given subject.

With a little help from someone much smarter than myself, I've now changed some of the settings to support searching of the blog. You should now see a black search bar along the top of this page which lets you enter keywords to find within previous Accordance blog posts. It doesn't seem to have indexed every post yet, but I think it's getting there. So give searching the Accordance blog a try. Hopefully this little change will make the blog a lot more helpful to you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007  

On the Road Again

Fortunately, I've got a few weeks to recuperate from our Los Angeles trip, but in April, I'll be headed north to Atlanta to do two more training seminars. Since Atlanta has about a gazillion Interstates criss-crossing it, these seminars should be accessible to people from Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas as well as to the locals, so I'd strongly encourage you to make it if you can.

Here are the details of the two seminars already scheduled:

  • Emory University
    Thursday April 12, 2007

    9 am to 5 pm
    Church School Building 404
    Candler School of Theology
    1660 N Decatur Rd.
    Atlanta, GA 30322
  • Grace Fellowship Church
    Saturday April 14, 2007

    9 am to 5 pm
    1440 Dogwood Rd., Snellville, GA 30044
    (770) 979 7000

We're always willing to do additional seminars or briefer demos while we're in the area, so let us know if you'd like to host another event at that time. And, of course, if you'd just like to attend one of the seminars, we do ask that you e-mail us and let us know. For more details on these Atlanta seminars, see this announcement on our forums.

Monday, March 12, 2007  

California Dreamin'

We just got back from a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles, where we offered free training seminars at Biola, UCLA, and Fuller. Southern California is beautiful, and we were blessed with several clear, relatively smog-free days to see the mountains and the Pacific Coast. We also saw an unimaginable amount of traffic!

The folks at Biola, UCLA, and Fuller couldn't have been nicer or more appreciative. It's always fun to show our users things they never realized they could do with Accordance, and to see their excitement when they learn something that will be personally helpful to them. The seminars at Biola and UCLA only lasted half a day, so I had to move fast and furious through the meat of the training, and I didn't get to cover things like the Atlas, Timeline, User Notes, User Tools, etc. I think that half-day pace helped the folks at Fuller, though, because we managed to cover a lot of ground during the full eight hours.

All in all, we had a great time in California, but it sure is good to be back home. This week I'll try to get back to giving Accordance tips and documenting the HTML import into User Tools. In the meantime, here are a few snapshots of the California trip.

The seminar at Biola.

Martha Halladay and her husband Loyd helping folks take advantage of the seminar discount.

My lovely wife, Lisa, and I at the Malibu pier.

Friday, March 02, 2007  

March Madness

As readers of this blog are aware, we occasionally offer free training seminars to help our users get the most out of their Accordance software. We started doing these in conjunction with major shows we attended, such as MacWorld expo and various Biblical studies conferences. These were so successful that last year we began traveling to key locations around the country for the sole purpose of offering the training seminars. This year, we're doing it again. In fact, next week we will be offering no less than eight Accordance training seminars in locations around the US and across the world.

Princeton, NJ: On Monday, March 5 and Wednesday, March 7, we'll be offering evening sessions from 7 to 9 pm at the Media Studio of Princeton Theological Seminary. We'll also be offering an all-day training on Friday March 16.

Los Angeles, CA: I'll be flying from sunny Florida to sunny California to teach three training seminars. The first will be Wednesday March 7, from 8 am to 12 pm, at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. The second will be Friday March 9, from 8 am to 12 pm at UCLA. And the third will be Saturday March 10, from 9 am to 5 pm, at Fuller Theological Seminary. The half-day seminars will focus primarily on advanced Greek and Hebrew searching, while the all-day seminar will cover much more of the basics.

Jerusalem, Israel: On Tuesday and Wednesday, March 6-7, we'll be offering a training seminar in Jerusalem. This will be a two-part seminar spread across two evening sessions. The first session will cover the Accordance interface and general features, while the second will focus on advanced searches.

Rome, Italy: On Saturday, March 10, we'll be offering a half-day seminar in Rome (the one in Italy, not the one in Georgia) from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Whew! By the end of next week those of us who are teaching these seminars should be all talked out, and hopefully those who attended will be getting a lot more out of their Bible study. For details on the various seminars, see the "Shows" page of the Accordance web-site.