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

Wednesday, May 30, 2007  

We Know When We've Been Bested

Last week I discussed how we've tried to communicate the essence of what Accordance is with the slogan: The power you need. The interface you expect. The choices you want.

While I think that describes Accordance pretty well, today I ran across a description of Accordance which tops anything we've ever come up with. In terms of its brevity, its dramatic force, and its tendency to stick in your memory, this little bit of Accordance evangelism deserves some kind of marketing award.

In response to blogger Adrian Warnock's admission that he is switching to the Mac, several Accordance users (including myself) wrote in to encourage him to give Accordance a try. Every one of us did an admirable job of touting Accordance's advantages, but it was Rick Mansfield who said it best:

a Mac without Accordance... well, that's like a human without a soul

Genius, Rick. Sheer genius. :-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007  

Power. Interface. Choices.

On Friday I mused that Accordance's breadth and depth may make it hard for our users to communicate or even realize it's full scope. For example, our scholarly users may forget that Accordance is suitable for non-scholars, our "lay" users may not even be aware of how powerful Accordance is, etc. At the end of that post, I asked how you talk about Accordance to your friends and colleagues. I received some very interesting answers to that question in the comments on that post, and was encouraged to hear how effectively some of you are "evangelizing" others about the advantages of Accordance.

In this post, I want to talk about the way we've tried to communicate the full depth and breadth of what Accordance is.

At the top of each page of the Accordance web-site, you'll see the following tag-line: The power you need. The interface you expect. The choices you want. Here's what we mean by that three-fold description:

By the power you need, we're referring to all of Accordance's powerful features: original language searching, graphical constructs, sophisticated statistical analysis, the interactive atlas, and on and on. Basically, we mean to communicate that you're not going to find more powerful Bible software anywhere, and you'll likely never outgrow Accordance's feature-set (particularly given the rate at which we're continually expanding it!)

By the interface you expect, we mean to imply that Accordance offers the ease-of-use and elegance which Mac users especially have come to expect from the software they use. If I could only mention one thing about Accordance which sets it apart, it would be this. Other programs offer powerful features, and lots of programs offer large collections of material, but only Accordance offers all of that through a streamlined and accessible Macintosh interface.

By the choices you want, we mean to indicate that Accordance has a vast library of available resources, including Bible texts, original language texts, lexicons, dictionaries, commentaries, etc. Our goal is not merely to produce "e-books" or to offer an electronic alternative to everything available in print. Rather, we want to offer those resources which are most useful for Bible study and in depth research. In other words, we're not trying to offer every conceivable choice, but to offer those choices which you our users most want—including many which other software developers cannot offer their users.

The power you need. The interface you expect. The choices you want. That's the most concise way we've come up with to communicate what sets Accordance apart.

Friday, May 18, 2007  

Is Accordance Too All-Purpose?

Sometimes I wonder about how Accordance is really perceived by people. For example, I occasionally read reviews by PC-oriented writers who seem to communicate that Windows brand X is best if you want a large library of stuff, Windows brand Y is best for original language work, and, oh yeah, Accordance is the software to get if you're on a Mac. While I appreciate the fact that they're recommending Accordance to Mac users, such reviews fail to communicate that Accordance offers an enormous library of material, including a fair amount not available for Windows brand X, or that Accordance is arguably better for original language work than Windows brand Y. Is it easier for such reviewers to categorize Accordance as the software to get if you have a Mac than it is for them to conceive that Accordance might just rival or even surpass the best-in-category programs available for Windows?

Likewise, I wonder if our own users have a complete grasp of what Accordance can do or whom it can benefit. Do our scholarly users sometimes fail to recommend Accordance to "laypeople" because they think of Accordance as a specialized tool for the study of Greek and Hebrew, rather than as an all-purpose Bible study program? Do our "lay" users have any idea how powerful Accordance is and how much it can benefit the pastors and scholars they know?

Each year I demonstrate Accordance at the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society and Society of Biblical Literature, as well as at MacWorld San Francisco. The audiences could not be more different. The scholars at ETS/SBL want cutting-edge tools for serious research, while most of those at MacWorld just want some basic Bible study tools with a true Mac interface. At ETS/SBL I spend my time demonstrating complex Greek and Hebrew searches, while at MacWorld I'm showing off English Bible texts with Key numbers and graphical tools like the Atlas and Timeline. Yet at both conferences I'm seeing jaws drop open in amazement and eyes light up with excitement.

In short, it's easy to show users of every stripe how Accordance can meet their needs and make their study of the Bible easier. But I wonder if some users get so focused on what Accordance does for them that they fail to see what it can do for others.

When you recommend Accordance to others, how do you communicate what Accordance is? Do you say it's the "Best Bible Software for Mac"? The "Best Bible Software for any platform"? The "Best Bible Software for in depth study"? The "Best Bible Software for this or that specific purpose"? It's hard enough for us to communicate everything Accordance is and does. How do you do it?

Thursday, May 17, 2007  

Accordance or a-c-Cordance? A Bit of History

Today someone on our forums asked:

why do I sometimes see Accordance spelled acCordance (like in Wallace's Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics)?

To answer that question, we have to go way back to Accordance 1.0—or rather, acCordance 1.0.

When Accordance was first developed, it was designed to apply the Mac's ease of use to an inherently difficult task: the searching of grammatically tagged Greek and Hebrew texts. The original pioneer in the development of such texts was The GRAMCORD Institute (TGI), which had developed a grammatically tagged Greek New Testament for mainframe computers back in the 1970s. The name GRAMCORD was short for GRAMmatical ConCORDance, which was essentially what they had produced.

By the early nineties, TGI offered a program for DOS PCs to search these texts, but nothing which could work with a Macintosh. So OakTree developed a Macintosh program which could search these texts, and named it Accordance.

The name "Accordance" was chosen for a number of reasons. First, we refused to name the software "Bible-something" or "something-Bible", because nearly every other Bible program around already had such a name. (These days, it seems like every Bible program has the word "Sword" in the name.) Second, we wanted a name that would emphasize that Accordance presented the results of a search in a concordance style view. Third, we chose a name that began with "A" so that our software would always be listed first in alphabetical lists of Bible study software. (Clever, huh?) The name "Accordance" fit all those criteria extremely well, and even had the added benefit of being similar to OakTree's other product, a now-discontinued program for museum collections management called "Accession."

The original logo for Accordance used a funky font which basically had very rounded lowercase-style letters, and the "Cord" was capitalized to emphasize the concording nature of the program. Unfortunately, we discovered after a year or two that some people were referring to our software as "a-c-cordance." That is, they were pronouncing the "a" and the "c" as if they were initials, rather than reading it as the English word "Accordance." So when we released version 2.0, we decided to write the word "Accordance" normally to avoid any confusion, and changed our logo and font accordingly (no pun intended!).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007  

More on the Accordance Exchange

As Helen posted yesterday, the Accordance Exchange is now located here and has been updated to accommodate the posting of User Bibles.

The Accordance Exchange was something I originally did on my own so that Accordance users could share User Tools and other files they had created. Unfortunately, the personal web-space I was hosting it on quickly got too cramped to handle all the files people wanted to share, and I eventually got too busy to maintain it. I'm afraid I've been letting it languish for a long time.

Since we released Accordance 7.2, we've had numerous requests for a place where people could upload the User Bibles they had created so that other users could download them and benefit from them. So we decided to host the Accordance Exchange where it would have room to grow and we're working on making it easy for people to upload files to it.

The danger of offering this service to our users is that we may unwittingly become a party to a copyright violation. Naturally, we're determined to do everything we can to avoid that, and if we're in doubt about the provenance of an uploaded resource, we simply will not post it to the exchange.

So if you create a great User Bible or User Tool that you want to share with others, you can make sure it gets posted to the Exchange by doing everything you can to verify that it is free of any copyright restrictions.

In general, resources you find on the internet which are clearly in the public domain and which indicate that they are freely distributable for any purposes are okay to post.

Likewise, texts which say that they are "freely distributable for non-commercial purposes" are probably okay to post, but they may not be. You see, even though neither you, nor we, will profit from any of the modules posted to the Exchange, some people may balk at the fact that you are distributing their text for use with a commercial Bible program. It's best in such cases to e-mail the person who developed the e-text and ask their permission to distribute their text in an Accordance-compatible format. When you do, be sure to let them know that you will indicate that their text is distributed with permission and that you will include a link to their web-site.

Other texts are clearly still under copyright, but the copyright holders have given their permission to distribute those works freely. Remember, just because a copyright holder gave one person or web-site permission to distribute their text, that doesn't necessarily mean that they want it made available anywhere else or in any other form. So again, it's best if you contact the copyright holder and get their permission before you upload it to the exchange.

All this is to say that we are happy to make this service available to our users, but we simply don't have time to chase down every e-text you upload to make sure it's okay to make available. If you want other Accordance users to benefit from your development efforts, please help us by giving us as clear an indication as possible that your module is okay to distribute.

I hope this helps those of you who are eager to begin developing Accordance modules. As developers, the onus is on you to make sure you're not violating someone else's copyright.


P.S.: Obviously, I'm not a lawyer, so all of this pseudo-legal advice should be taken with big doses of salt; I may be wrong on certain points; copyright laws are changing all the time; your mileage may vary; yada, yada, yada . . . ;-)

P.P.S.: I told you I'm not a lawyer! As of May 18, this post has been emended to remove some incorrect statements I made about what I saw as "fair use" of copyright texts.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007  

Accordance Exchange Revived

We have moved the Accordance Exchange to a new, roomier location. It is still under development, but we can accept your files for posting there.

It is intended as a place where users can share Accordance resources that they have prepared, whether user Bibles, Tools, or Notes, saved windows or highlights, or Applescripts or Automator actions that help Accordance do what you want it to.

We do need to review the files first, and make sure that the content is acceptable, and not restricted under copyright.

At the moment there are only the old files. We'll announce new ones on the front page of the Exchange, so there will be no need to look at every section.

Thursday, May 10, 2007  

Importing User Bibles, Part 2

In yesterday's post, I chronicled some of my own experiences of importing User Bibles with version 7.2. Today, I want to continue that by talking about my attempts to import a Polish Bible.

No, I don't read Polish, but I do know a missionary to Poland who has wanted a Polish Bible in Accordance for a long time. So when we were testing this feature, I asked this missionary to send me an e-text of a Polish Bible to see if I could get it to import. I soon learned that Polish would pose its own set of problems.

While the accents used by most Western European languages are represented in standard Mac Roman fonts, Polish uses a number of unusual accents, such as a crossed L or a z with a dot above it. I could strip all these accents out, but as my missionary friend put it, that would make the text "all but useless"--especially if he intended to copy and paste text from Accordance into other documents.

My next thought was that all of these special characters are included in Accordance's own Rosetta transliteration font. It was a simple matter to write a macro which would convert the Unicode accent characters to the corresponding characters in Rosetta. The question I had was whether the text would still import properly. It did, but of course it looked like gobbledegook until I used command-T (the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn) and set the text font to Rosetta.

Now I had a text which looked right, but because Accordance doesn't support transliterated Bible texts, this text didn't search properly. Accordance normally lets you search transliterated text by ignoring the accents. So, for example, the crossed L would be treated like a standard L for purposes of searching. I had managed to trick Accordance into displaying transliterated text, but Accordance did not know to search this Polish Bible as transliterated text, so I quickly discovered that this text was well-nigh unsearchable.

I couldn't give my friend an Accordance Bible which wasn't searchable. After all, what's the advantage of having a Bible in Accordance if you can't utilize Accordance's powerful search capabilities?

The solution I came up with was to create two user Bibles: one with the accents for display purposes, and one without the accents for purposes of searching. By setting the unaccented version as the search text and displaying the accented version in parallel, my friend can now search the one and copy and paste from the other.

Obviously, one text which did it all would be preferable to two, but this is a good example of how with a little ingenuity, you can stretch the user Bible feature to accommodate unusual texts. Someone on our forums has already asked about importing a Lithuanian Bible. I would suggest handling that text in much the same way.

My missionary friend was very happy to have access to his Polish Bible in Accordance, and in the course of our e-mail exchanges, he even taught me a bit about the language. It seems Polish is a heavily inflected language with no less than 7 different cases. In the example above, you can see how I've used a wildcard symbol to find multiple inflections of the same word (or is it more than one related word?). He said that the wildcard feature would certainly come in handy, but he jokingly told me a grammatically tagged Polish Bible would be better!

At least, I think he was joking. . .

Wednesday, May 09, 2007  

Importing User Bibles

Have any of you tried importing a Bible yet? This is by far the biggest new feature in Accordance 7.2. Some of you have already successfully imported a new Bible or two. Others may have tried and run into errors which stopped the import. In this post, I'll talk a little about some of the issues I ran into when importing Bibles into Accordance.

The first thing I tried was exporting a Bible text from an older Mac Bible program and then importing it into Accordance. We have a lot of users who have said they still use some legacy program because it has a certain Bible text they like to consult, so I wanted to make sure the import Bible feature would meet their needs. In general, texts exported from other programs went very smoothly. First, I could export them as a single text file. Second, most programs handle the challenges of versification differences among versions by forcing everything to conform to the common English system, so versification wasn't an issue with these Bibles. Bibles exported from other programs were typically easy to import.

Bible texts downloaded from the web can be another matter altogether. The next thing I tried was to find Tyndale's New Testament and Wycliffe's translation online. I managed to find some e-texts here which I could download directly to my computer. Clicking these links downloaded a folder containing one text file for each book, so the first thing I had to do was to put all these files together into a single text file. That was a little bit of work, but not that big a deal.

Once I had that done, I had to use find-and-replace to format the files properly, with each verse on a single line, with proper chapter and book references, etc. It's here that a good text editor with some kind of pattern matching capability comes in handy. You can try BBEdit, TextWrangler (free), and possibly Nisus Writer Express. Personally, I still favor an ancient text editor for Classic, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone else (if you can even find it anymore).

Since I do this kind of stuff all the time, it didn't take me long to get my Tyndale and Wycliffe texts ready for import. When I tried to import the two Bibles, Tyndale imported just fine. I may have had a few errors I had to go back and fix for the import to work successfully, but it basically imported without any problems. Wycliffe, however, was another matter. I discovered to my chagrin that Wycliffe follows the versification of the Latin Vulgate (and in some cases its own unique numbering), which meant repeated error messages telling me I had to go back and make Wycliffe's versification conform to the common English references.

Now, here's a tip if you run into this. When I went back to my Wycliffe text file, I would change the "erroneous" verse numbers at the beginning of the line, but then I would put the original Wycliffe reference in brackets after the text. That way, I still preserve the original referencing system Wycliffe used. Here's an example of what I mean:

21 And now, for Y woot, that thou schalt regne moost certeynli, and schalt haue in thin hond the rewme of Israel, swere thou to me in the Lord, [24:22] that thou do not a wei my seed aftir me, nether take a wey my name fro the hows of my fadir.
22 [24:23] And Dauid swoor to Saul. Therfor Saul yede in to his hows, and Dauid and hise men stieden to sikire placis.

Here you can see that Wycliffe has an "extra" verse when compared with the common English numbering system. The latter part of verse 21 is numbered as verse 22, and verse 22 is therefore numbered as verse 23. I "fixed" this by removing the return before Wycliffe's verse 22, making it a part of verse 21, but I also preserved Wycliffe's reference by placing it brackets. Then I changed Wycliffe's verse 23 to the 22 which Accordance's import feature expects, yet again I preserved Wycliffe's numbering by placing it in brackets.

This is how it looks in Accordance when placed in parallel with the KJV:

Wycliffe has proven to have so many versification issues like this that I have yet to finish it. Fortunately, Accordance allows you to import partial Bible texts.

As you can see from these examples, importing Bibles can be a challenge depending on where you get the e-text from, how it happens to be formatted, and how it handles versification. But with a little effort, most of these issues are easily overcome.

In my next post, I'll talk about my experiments with importing a Polish Bible which uses accent characters which are not in the standard English fonts.

Sunday, May 06, 2007  

So Much Free Stuff, We Must Be Crazy!

Every time we release a free update to Accordance, I feel like one of those used car salesmen with the commercials that go something like this:

Here at Crazy Dave's Used Cars, our prices are so low, we're practically giving them away. When you buy from us, you get so many free extras, people say we must be crazy!

Why do I feel like the crazy car salesman who yells at you from the television set? Because every time we release a free update, we don't just fix any bugs found since the last release (which is what most developers offer in a point-one update). On the contrary, we include so many new features and enhancements that we could probably get away with calling it a major upgrade and charging for it! Accordance 7.2, which is now available for free download, is just such an "update." Here's a list of some of the new features you'll get for free:

Major New Features

  1. Build Your Own Bible Modules: We have lots of users who want to be able to add their own Bible texts to Accordance: foreign missionaries who are producing their own translations or who need a particular translation we have not yet produced, people who want to import Bible texts which are freely available on the internet, etc. With version 7.2, you can do just that. Simply create a text file according to certain specifications (which I'll cover in an upcoming post), then have Accordance import it as a full-blown Accordance text module!
    (This, by the way, is the "MAJOR" new feature I alluded to last Friday. I even gave you a hint at the end of Tuesday's post, but no one seems to have caught it!)
  2. Prior Button on the Search Window: In the Search window, when you navigate to a different verse by clicking the Up or Down Mark buttons, entering a reference in the Go To Box, or following a link in a reference tool pane, a Prior button will appear to make it easy for you to go back to the verse you just left. If you click the Prior button, a next button will appear so that you can go forward again.
  3. Highlight Printing: You can now print the text of the Bible with either word highlighting or text compare highlighting.
  4. Horizontal Resource Palette: In the Appearance Preferences, there is now an option to orient the Resource palette horizontally. So if you want to save on horizontal screen real-estate (so you can have more room for parallel panes, for example), you can make your Resource palette look like this:
  5. Change the tag order: Don't like the fact that Accordance parses Greek nouns as "NOUN masculine singular nominative"? Would you rather it appear as "NOUN nominative masculine singular"? There is now an option in the Preferences to customize the order in which tags are listed in the Instant Details Box and Parsing window.
  6. Modern Greek Keyboard Layout: People who are used to entering Greek using modern Greek keyboard layouts now have the option to enter Greek characters in Accordance by that input method.

Minor New Features

  1. Larger Text Access Buttons: We've had complaints over the years that the verse, chapter, and book text access buttons were too small and difficult to hit with the mouse. So we rearranged the buttons, enlarged them, and gave them a nice Aqua appearance. Most importantly, we increased the target area, so that even if you don't hit the triangles exactly, the buttons will still be activated.
  2. Command-click a Scripture link: One of the little niceties which many Accordance users are unaware of is that when you select multiple Scripture hypertext links in Accordance, the Text window will display all of the selected verses. That way, you don't have to keep clicking individual hypertext links.
    As cool as that feature is, 7.2 has added an even easier way to view multiple Scripture links at one time. If you hold down the command key while clicking a Scripture link, Accordance will display every link in the entire paragraph. So, for example, if you command-click a verse in the Cross-References tool, the Text window will display all the cross-references for the passage you're studying.
  3. Export Greek to Graeca II: You now have the option to export Greek from Accordance to Linguist's Software's Graeca II font.
  4. More Options Contextual Menu for Tools: One of my favorite contextual menus is the one which appears when you control- or right-click the More Options section of the Search window. This contextual menu lets me set my range or turn on the text comparison without actually having to open the More Options section (which I prefer to keep closed). Now we've added a similar contextual menu for the More Options section of the Tool window.

. . . And Much, Much More! Yes, I know that's what all those "crazy" used car salesmen always say, but in this case, it couldn't be more true. There are about thirty more minor enhancements and cosmetic improvements, which I just don't have the time or the energy to list. These include changes to the Timeline, the Compare Text feature, the Construct window, the Tool window, the Parsing window, and the list goes on and on. When I read through the version history for this release, I'm amazed at all the new features, enhancements, and tweaks which it includes.

So download version 7.2 today, before we realize that we must be crazy to give all this stuff away!

Thursday, May 03, 2007  

What's With All These Gospel Parallels?

In the Parallels pop-up menu of the Resource palette, you'll find no less than three parallel databases dedicated to the gospels. In a recent comment on the blog, someone asked for an explanation of the differences between them. So here goes:

The Parallel database entitled Gospels is based on Kurt Aland's Synopsis of the Four Gospels, first published in the mid-1960's. Aland's Synopsis is, I believe, the standard reference for Gospel parallels. (At least, it's the one I used in college and seminary—and isn't that how all of us really decide what the "standard" reference works are?)

The Parallel database entitled Harmony is based on A.T. Robertson's A Harmony of the Gospels, and reflects a general tendency to harmonize the Gospel narratives.

Finally, the Parallel database entitled Synoptics is based on Huck and Lietzmann's Synopsis of the Three Synoptic Gospels. This synopsis was published in the 1930's and was the basis of Aland's Synopsis.

In general, Harmony and Synoptics tend to place larger passages in parallel, while Gospels tends to focus on smaller units. Likewise Harmony is more explicit in its attempts to reconcile Bible difficulties. For example, Robertson lists two occasions when Jesus cleansed the Temple—the first described in John and the second recounted in the Synoptics. Aland, on the other hand, simply places all four Gospels' accounts of temple cleansing together, leaving the reader to sort out how any differences among accounts are to be understood.

I hope that helps you understand the differences among the three Parallel databases which deal with the Gospels. Perhaps someone more familiar with these three synopses can offer more specific details.

By the way, if you want to get publication information about any Accordance module, don't forget to select About The Text from the Accordance menu.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007  

Finding the Right Match

Yesterday my wife and I celebrated our thirteenth wedding anniversary, and we both agree that we are far too young to have been married that long. I guess the fact that the years have flown by so quickly (as opposed to dragging by interminably) is a good indication that we were the right match for one another.

Sometimes the right match can be tough to find, and that's true of Bible software as well as marriage. Many people don't realize that various Bible texts and translations follow different versification schemes. For example, Psalm 13:1 in the New International Version reads as follows:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

Now consider Psalm 13:1 in the Jewish Publication Society's Tanakh:

For the leader. A psalm of David.

Then there's Psalm 13:1 in Brenton's translation of the Septuagint:

The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They have corrupted themselves, and become abominable in their devices; there is none that does goodness, there is not even so much as one.

Do you see the problem? The same verse number represents three different passages in these three different translations. I'm not completely sure of the history behind all these different verse numbering systems, but I do know that they go back to the Hebrew Bible, the Greek Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate, which are all numbered differently in certain places.

The good news is that Accordance automatically keeps all of this straight for you. This is one of those unsung features which few people ever notice, but which make all the difference in the world when you're comparing multiple translations. Consider the following screenshot, for example:

As you can see, here I've got the NIV, JPS, and Brenton in parallel, and although the verse numbers don't agree, the text of each parallel verse obviously corresponds. When we develop an Accordance Bible text, we go through a rather tedious process of making sure that verses line up with other Bible texts according to their content, regardless of how they happen to be numbered.

Whenever you display other Bible texts in parallel with your Search text, the parallel Bibles will all conform to the versification system of the search text. For example, in the screenshot above, I've got the NIV-G/K as my search text, so when I enter Psalm 13 in the Go To Box, I get the NIV-G/K's Psalm 13, and the parallel panes each display the verses which correspond. If I switch my search text to Brenton and go to Psalm 13, I'll get Brenton's Psalm 13, and the other panes will show the verses which correspond to it. Compare the screenshot below:

In this way, Accordance always finds the right match for the verse you're looking at, no matter how it happens to be numbered. I'd be willing to bet that many of you have been enjoying this feature for years without even realizing it, and that's as it should be. Users shouldn't have to worry about those kinds of things. The only time you should have to worry about versification schemes is when you are the actual developer of an electronic Bible text.