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

Thursday, August 28, 2008  

Yearbook Pictures

Have you ever noticed that when you look at your old high-school yearbook pictures, what you thought looked cool back then is now incredibly embarrassing to you? How many of us keep pictures of our teenage selves in our wallets to show people? I certainly don't, and it should come as no surprise that I'm not posting any such pictures here to illustrate the point! ;-)

Recently on the Accordance Forums, someone asked to see a few screenshots of Accordance in its youth. Here they are, pimples and all.

This first screenshot is of Accordance 2-point-something dating from 1997. I think it comes from some old marketing material where we were trying to show the breadth of things Accordance can do, so it's a little jumbled with lots of windows, and the Amplify and Instant Parse palettes are in odd places, but it offers a good sampling of some of the changes which have taken place.

First, notice that the Search window had three unlabeled pop-up menus and a Mode button. The first pop-up let you select the text you wanted to search, the second let you choose your range, and the third let you select the "field" in which multiple items must appear (that is, must "Moses" and "Aaron" appear in the same verse, sentence, paragraph, etc.). The Mode button was used to toggle between searching for words and verses. The number of hits and verses was displayed directly beneath the OK button, again with no label to explain what the number and fraction signified.

Now look at the Amplify palette in the lower left corner of the screenshot. We used text labels for all of the buttons rather than icons, and the Analysis, Plot, and Table buttons performed the functions which are now neatly accessed through a single Details button. It's strange to look back and realize that back then nobody else was offering that kind of statistical analysis (except perhaps in high-end software for mainframes or minicomputers).

The graphical search capabilities of the Construct window were also unique to Accordance, and as far as I'm aware, so were our databases of parallel passages.

Though the number of resources available back then was comparatively small, it was nevertheless very easy to end up with a bunch of open windows, and window management was limited to either Tiling or Stacking windows. The Workspace, which keeps all your Accordance resources neatly displayed as tabs, didn't appear until version 5.

This next screenshot shows Accordance 3 and dates back to around 1998. The interface didn't really change appreciably, except that the text-size buttons were added to the Search window, the Instant Parse palette had been renamed the Instant Details Box (because it now showed more than just parsing), and the Amplify palette now had more buttons. Notice the addition of the Diagram and Syntax buttons, along with the Search All pop-up button. We also tried using colors to help distinguish among the different kinds of modules: tools (blue), parallels (yellow), user notes (green), and texts (red).

Another thing to notice about the pop-up buttons for the various kinds of modules is that they only showed the name of the default module in each category (or the last selected module in that category). So to select a Greek tool, you had to remember that Louw & Nida was a Greek tool and go to that pop-up menu. It was therefore very easy to go to the wrong pop-up.

I have one more old photo to show you, but this post is already too long, and we've only gotten up to 1998! Our goal with each of these interface changes was to accommodate new features and modules without just glomming them on. Each new feature had to be integrated with those features which already existed, and as new options were added the interface had to be tweaked to keep it from becoming unwieldy. Most of the choices we made turned out well, but others proved to be problematic. Tomorrow I'll talk about versions 4 and 5, and the interface overhaul of version 6.

Thursday, August 21, 2008  

Say "Uncial"!

Rubén Gómez of Bible Software Review (which is experiencing a resurgence) has blogged about the availability of grammatically tagged editions of uncial Greek manuscripts in Accordance. As Rubén points out, we now offer digital editions of the following codices: Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Bezae, and Washingtonensis. Be sure to check out Rubén's discussion of these resources.

Creating a digital edition of a Greek manuscript (as opposed to showing scanned images of its pages) presents special challenges which had to be dealt with. For a discussion of the rationale behind Accordance's tagged uncial manuscripts, see this paper by the scholar who developed them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008  

Amplifying to Google and Spotlight

In Accordance, "amplifying" is the term we use for the process of automatically searching for any text you select. For example, if you select the word "earth" in Genesis 1:1 and then choose Holman Dictionary from the English Tools pop-up menu of the Resource palette, the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary will automatically open to the article on "Earth, Land."

Most of you already know how to amplify to your various Accordance modules, but you may not have realized that you can also amplify to Spotlight or to Google. You can do this simply by using OS X's built in Services.

Services are features of an application which you can access from other applications. You can find all of the services which are available from within Accordance by looking at the Services submenu of the Accordance menu. The two services I want to highlight today are Search with Google (keyboard shortcut shift-command-L) and Spotlight (keyboard shortcut shift-command-F).

The Search with Google service does just what you would expect: launches your default web browser and does a Google search for the selected text. To test it, I selected the name and institution of a former professor of mine who wrote an article in Anchor Bible Dictionary. In seconds, I found a multitude of information about him on the web.

The Spotlight service does a Spotlight search for your selected text, finding any files on your computer's hard drive which contain that text. For example, let's say you're researching some theological concept and you remember that you wrote a paper on it. Select the name of that concept in Accordance and hit shift-command-F to find that paper quickly.

Using these two OS X Services, you can effectively "amplify" to Google and Spotlight.

Friday, August 15, 2008  

Spider versus Lizard

Proverbs 30:28 speaks of a creepy-crawly that is easy to catch, but which nevertheless lives in kings' palaces. Yet what kind of creepy-crawly it is appears to be unclear. According to KJV/NKJV, it's a "spider." But according to most other translations, it's a "lizard." So which is it, and how do you explain the difference?

Blogger Rick Mansfield writes about how he used Accordance to tackle that question, and I think you'll find his approach instructive. Be sure to check it out.

By the way, if exploring obscure translation issues is too heady for you on a Friday afternoon, here's a lighter look at a spider versus a lizard. :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008  

Josiah's on First, Manasseh's on Second, Sennacherib's on Third . . .

Recently in our family devotions, we were reading about Josiah, the young king of Judah who turned his country upside down in an attempt to purify its worship. In the course of reading, we ran into a lot of references to other historical events.

Though God told Josiah that he would not see the coming wrath against Judah, he made it clear that Judah would indeed be sent into exile. To understand God's unwillingness to relent, I went back to his miraculous deliverance of Judah from the Assyrian king Sennacherib, then talked about how it was followed immediately by the extreme idolatry of Hezekiah's son, Manasseh.

When Josiah destroyed the high place at Bethel, I had to go back and talk about Jeroboam's rebellion, the start of the divided kingdom, the high places Jeroboam set up at Dan and Bethel, and the prophecy that a king named Josiah would one day destroy the high place at Bethel.

When Josiah destroyed Topheth, the shrine to Molech in the valley of Hinnom, I found myself explaining how Topheth and Gehenna became synonyms for hell. And when Josiah destroyed the pagan shrines Solomon had set up, I had to talk briefly about Solomon as well.

As you can imagine, my children started to feel like they were listening to an old Abbott and Costello sketch. Hezekiah did what? Who was Sennacherib? Where's Bethel? It was clear I was giving too much background information in the most confusing manner possible.

So I switched gears and opened the Accordance Timeline. Rather than showing All Items, I chose just to show the Rulers. I could then show how the kingdom of Israel split after the reign of Solomon, how Assyria conquered the northern kingdom and nearly conquered Judah during the reign of Hezekiah, and how quickly Manasseh had led Judah back into idolatry. I then pointed out the reign of Josiah, and showed how soon after his death Judah was conquered by the Babylonians.

At various points I also turned to the Atlas and showed the divided kingdoms, pointed out the location of Dan and Bethel, showed the location of Assyria and Babylonia, and displayed the animated route of Pharaoh Neco's campaign (in which Josiah was killed).

By using the visual assistance of the Timeline and Atlas, I was able to recap the history of ancient Israel in a way that helped the story of Josiah make more sense to my family. Perhaps if Abbott had drawn a diagram of the players' positions, Costello would have understood Who was on second . . . or was that What? I Don't Know. Oh yeah, he's on third! :-)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008  

Gold-Medal Shortcuts

I'm not generally much of a sports guy. During college football season, I admittedly obsess over how my alma mater is doing, but that's pretty much the only sport I care about. That is, until the Olympic Games roll around every four years. Then, all of a sudden, I get hooked on all kinds of sports I otherwise wouldn't follow.

In honor of the Olympic Games, I am going to award a few medals of my own. Now, while there can be no shortcuts to winning a gold medal (just ask Marion Jones!), Accordance does offer many keyboard shortcuts which are worthy of Olympic gold. In this post, I will award bronze, silver, and gold medals to those keyboard shortcuts which I think are the fastest, most powerful, and most versatile.

The Speedsters: These are keyboard shortcuts which enable you to get your work done faster.

The bronze medal goes to command-semicolon, which is used to toggle between Searching for Words and Verses in the Search window. This lets you keep your hands on the keyboard while entering a verse search or word search.

The silver medal goes to control-command-C, the keyboard shortcut for the Copy As Citation command. This little shortcut lets you copy text out of Accordance and have it formatted according to the custom citation style you set up in the Citation settings of the Preferences. When you paste into a word processor, the citation is already formatted the way you like, saving you lots of time.

The gold medal for speed goes to all the shift-command keyboard combinations, which we've reserved for inserting search commands into a search argument. Use shift-command-A to insert an AND command, shift-command-O for OR, etc. Let these shortcuts become second-nature to you, and you'll begin entering complex Boolean and proximity searches very quickly. Check out the Enter Command submenu of the Search menu for a complete listing of these I-feel-the-need-for-speed key commands.

Honorable mentions for speed go to the tab key for quickly selecting the contents of the argument entry box, the return key for quickly performing a search, and control-tab for quickly cycling through the tabs in a workspace.

The Heavy Lifters: These are keyboard shortcuts which give you access to power . . . Power . . . POWER!!!

The bronze medal goes to command-F, which opens the Search All window so that you can search some or all of your Accordance modules at once. Of course, you can also amplify to the Search All window directly by clicking and holding on the Search button of the Resource palette.

The silver medal goes to command-single quote, which is equivalent to clicking the Details button after doing a search. Using this shortcut gives you instant access to a wealth of statistical information about your search.

The gold medal goes to command-1, command-2, and command-3. These three shortcuts will automatically open a construct window and link to it. Command-1 opens the Simple Construct for searches in English (and other languages). Command-2 opens the Greek Construct for searches in Greek. And Command-3 opens the Hebrew construct for searches in Hebrew. The Construct window is incredibly powerful, enabling you to build very complex searches using a simple drag-and-drop interface. Innocuous as they seem, command-1, command-2, and command-3 give you quick access to some serious muscle.

The All-Around Athletes: These keyboard shortcuts offer the greatest amount of versatility, and so are likely to be the ones you use the most.

The bronze medal goes to command-comma, which opens the Preferences dialog. The Preferences include so many different options for customizing the appearance and performance of Accordance, that you'll find all kinds of opportunities to use this shortcut. By the way, command-comma is the standard Mac OS X shortcut for accessing a program's preferences, so this one will work for all your OS X programs.

The silver medal goes to command-U, which is the keyboard shortcut for editing a User Note, a User Tool, or a User Layer of the Atlas. That's a triathlon of custom resources you can create using a single, easy to remember keyboard-shortcut. By the way, you can also edit user notes and user tools simply by clicking in them and starting to type. Doing so will automatically open the Edit window for that user note or user tool.

The clear gold medal winner in terms of all-around usefulness has to be command-T, the one keyboard shortcut I say you absolutely must learn. Command-T was originally the shortcut for opening the Set Text Pane Display dialog, which lets you customize the display characteristics of your Bible texts (see the last couple of posts for more on that). As we've added new windows to Accordance for Tools, Maps, the Timeline, the various tabs of the Details workspace, and so on, Command-T has been extended to enable you to customize the appearance of a wide variety of resources. Basically, no matter where you are in Accordance, if you want to see what display options are available to customize, just use Command-T. You're almost certain to find a host of options you may never have realized were there.

Well, that's my breakdown of the medal-winners among Accordance keyboard shortcuts, but there are so many I'm sure I missed a number of worthwhile contenders. For a complete listing of keyboard shortcuts, go to Accordance Help and click on the "Reference section."

By the way, if you've got a favorite shortcut which you think got "robbed" by partisan judges, feel free to mention it in the comments on this post. As for me, I'm off to watch a blistering game of Olympic Badminton! ;-)

Friday, August 08, 2008  

More on Changing the Text Display

In my last post, I described the different ways you can change the display settings for Bible texts. These were (1) temporarily changing the appearance of text in a specific window or pane, (2) setting the default display for a single Bible text, and (3) setting the default display for all Bible texts at once. A key point of that post was that when you change the default display of your Bibles, the change only affects new instances of those Bible texts; existing windows and panes containing those Bibles are not changed unless you specifically update them. In a comment on that post, Helen pointed out that this applies to saved windows as well. So that Helen's point does not get lost in a comment, I want to reiterate it here.

Just as we don't want any new display changes to overwrite or mess up some custom display you may have set up on screen, so we don't want to mess up some custom display you might have saved. Imagine that you have some window setup that you use for creating slides for a congregational setting. To make copying and pasting as seamless as possible, you have that window set to some large san-serif font with superscript characters and red letter turned off. You have saved this window to use whenever you're working on the slides, but for your personal study you prefer a smaller serif font with superscript characters and red letter displayed. If, when you made some change to your global display preferences, Accordance automatically updated your slide-making set up to reflect those new settings, you would lose the custom settings you chose for that specific task. So we just don't do that.

Unfortunately, this can be confusing to people who have saved some setup they use all the time and who want any display changes to be reflected in that setup. For example, let's say you have a Greek studies workspace that you have set up. You don't use it all the time, but you do turn to it quite frequently. When version 8 came out with the option to change the background color, you gleefully set the background color for all your Bibles and tools to "Parchment." Unfortunately, whenever you open your Greek studies workspace, the background color is still white! This is because that window is still using the older settings. To remedy this, you need to update the text or tool in each window and pane so that it now appears with your new parchment default. Then you need to save that Greek studies workspace again.

Now, here's the tricky part. Accordance will only save a window or workspace if some change has been made to the search argument in that window or in one of the tabs of the workspace. Merely scrolling the text or changing the display characteristics will not cause Accordance to recognize that a savable change has been made. So to resave your Greek studies workspace, you can either use Save As... to save the workspace with the same name and location as your previous Greek studies workspace (which, of course, will replace the old one), or you can make a simple change to a search argument, like just typing a space after the current search argument, and then choose Save (or use the keyboard shortcut command-S).

The same thing applies if you have saved some window arrangement as your Default Startup. If you've set Accordance to start up with a specific workspace and then you make some change to the default display of your Bibles, that change will not be reflected in the workspace Accordance starts up with. You will need to update the display of that workspace, and then save the updated workspace as your Default Startup (in the General settings of the Preferences).

I hope this helps to clarify the setting of text display defaults even further.

Thursday, August 07, 2008  

Changing the Text Display

Accordance offers an incredible range of options for customizing the appearance of text. You can set the font, style, text color, background color, leading, paragraph formatting, and more. You can also suppress things like superscript footnote markers, red letter, poetic formatting, etc. One need only open the Text Settings dialog box to see the variety of options available.

In addition to all the options, you can apply these options in a variety of ways: you can make temporary changes to the text in a display pane, you can set the default appearance for an individual Bible text or translation, or you can globally set the default appearance of all your Bible texts. While this flexibility is nice when you need it, it can be a little confusing to people. Hopefully this blog post will help clear up any confusion.

I think the best way to illustrate the different ways to make formatting changes is to have you do an experiment. To set up this experiment, all you need to do is open a search window with your favorite Bible. Then add a parallel pane to that window containing the exact same Bible. In other words, you should have the same Bible appearing in two parallel panes. In the following screenshot, I have two panes displaying the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB):

Now, click in one of the panes, then choose Set Text Display from the Display menu (or use the keyboard shortcut command-T). This will open the Text Settings dialog for that pane. In the dialog, make some change to the display which will be readily apparent. I'm just going to change the background color to "Mint." When you're done making whatever changes you wish to make, click OK.

The display changes you made will immediately be apparent in the selected pane, but will not affect any other panes. In the screenshot below, you can see that while the left pane has the mint green background, the right one does not. I now have two instances of the same Bible with different display settings.

When you make changes to a pane, those changes will remain in effect only as long as you don't change the text displayed in that pane. To see how this works, change the pane you modified to a different Bible, then switch that pane back to the original Bible text. When I switch to a different text and switch back to the HCSB, the HCSB reflects its default display settings, and my mint green background is lost.

Now, let's say I want to make the mint green background appear every time I open the HCSB. To do that, I will use command-T to open the Text settings dialog, and I will once again select Mint from the background color pop-up menu. Only this time, before I click OK, I will click the Use As Default button. An alert will appear asking if I really want to save these settings as the default display for the HCSB. After clicking Save to dismiss this alert box, I can click OK to dismiss the text settings dialog box.

The pane that I am modifying immediately reflects the changes I made, and I once again see the mint green background. However, even though I made this setting the default for the HCSB, the other pane containing the HCSB is not updated to reflect the new setting. The reason for this is that we don't want to override any custom appearance settings which you may have set for open windows or panes, so when you change the default appearance settings for a Bible text, those settings will only apply to any new windows or panes containing that text.

To see that the mint green background is indeed the new default for the HCSB, I can change the other pane to a different text, then change it back to the HCSB. This effectively "new" instance of the HCSB will reflect the new default I just saved.

If I want to set the default display of ALL my Bibles in one fell swoop, I can do that by going to the Preferences dialog and choosing the Text Display settings. Let's say that I want to set all my Bible texts to use the background color named "Book." Once I make that change in the Preferences dialog box and click OK, all new instances of a Bible text will reflect that default setting, but my existing Bible panes remain unchanged until I update them. This is again to avoid overwriting some custom setting or messing up some existing display.

So to summarize, when you modify a pane using the Text Settings dialog and you simply click OK, the changes will apply to that pane only, will appear immediately, and will last only as long as you don't change the text which appears in that pane. Clicking Use As Default in the Text Settings dialog box and then clicking OK will immediately apply your changes to the pane you're modifying, and those changes will be reflected any time you open a new instance of that Bible text, but other open panes containing that Bible will remain unchanged. Finally, when you modify the Text Display settings in the Preferences dialog box, the changes you make will apply to any Bible text you open from that point on, but will not apply to any panes which are already open.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the different ways you can modify the display settings of your Bibles.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008  

Free Seminars with a Caveat

For several years now, we have been offering free training seminars at strategic locations around the country. This Fall, we have a slew of new seminars planned, and more may be in the works.

Although other developers charge substantial fees for training like this, we have always offered these seminars completely free of charge. Unfortunately, when you sign up for a free seminar starting early on a Saturday morning, it's easy to hit the snooze button and decide not to show up. In the US, a growing number of no-shows is starting to make offering seminars cost-prohibitive. We have therefore decided to change our registration policy to make that snooze button a little less appealing.

You can now pre-register for an Accordance training seminar with a $25 non-refundable deposit. As long as you show up for the seminar, or cancel no later than five days in advance, your entire deposit will be credited toward your next Accordance purchase. In this way, the training is still "free," because all your money is actually going toward expanding your Accordance library; but of course, there is now a cost associated with attending the seminars which was not there before.

Those who sign up at the door will pay a $30 deposit and get $20 of that credited toward their next Accordance purchase. Obviously, it pays to pre-register.

Complete details about the new policy can be found here. We're confident that you'll find the training you receive well worth the money you spend . . . especially when you get it back on your next Accordance purchase.