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

Monday, March 24, 2008  

Is the Writing on the Wall? Part 2

On Friday, I began to engage the comments of a blogger who wrote that Accordance has been "left in the dust" by the alpha release of a Mac port of a major Windows Bible program. I don't generally respond to negative reviews here, but I felt it necessary in this case because of this blogger's position as an executive at a Christian publishing house and the misleading nature of his assertions.

In my previous post, I dealt at length with the first of his four reasons that Mac users should opt for the Windows program over Accordance: namely, that it is the "largest provider of digital texts" (true) and "All major Christian publishers are using them as their platform of choice" (simply not true). Today, I want briefly to address the blogger's last three assertions.

His second assertion is that Accordance's historical advantages in terms of original language study have been practically eliminated by this other program's more recent efforts and offerings. That is something users must decide for themselves, and I'll leave it to those who have tried both programs' original language capabilities to make those comparisons. I will simply point out that there are plenty of people who specialize in original language study who would strongly disagree with this blogger's assessment. I would also point out that Accordance is not standing still. Some groundbreaking original language features are slated for the next version of Accordance.

The blogger's third reason for recommending that Mac users eschew Accordance is Accordance's "clunky" interface and failure to keep up with the "evolving Mac interface." I'm really not sure what that means, since Accordance was the first Bible program for OS X, and since we have systematically added support for Aqua interface standards and such OS X technologies as Quartz rendering, OpenGL, Services, Widgets, multiple users, Universal Binary (coming very soon), etc.

I have looked at the Mac alpha to which this gentleman has compared Accordance, and saw nothing particularly Mac-like about the interface. Most of the interface conventions follow a web-browser model rather than anything specific to the Mac, and at least some of the interface widgets are carried over directly from the Windows product rather than replaced with Aqua controls. To be fair, it is an alpha release, and the interface may well change dramatically. My point is simply that this blogger's statements about interface make little sense to me.

Now, as a long-time user of this other Bible program, I can certainly understand this gentleman finding Accordance's radically different interface approach to be disconcerting. Any time you have to adjust to a new way of doing things, the new way can feel awkward and clumsy, even if it is actually more streamlined and efficient.

I worked in an office way back in the days of Windows 3.1, and I was surprised to find our secretary complaining about how "clunky" Word for Windows was in comparison to WordPerfect for DOS! This woman had been using WordPerfect for years and knew every arcane alt-ctrl-function key combination by heart. Now all of a sudden she was digging through menus trying to find out how to italicize text. Although most would agree that the menu-driven interface was easier (heck, even the keyboard shortcuts were simpler!), it was clunky to her. The same thing is true for most Windows users who switch to the Mac. They struggle with the differences and find themselves thinking of the Mac as "clunky."

That's not to say that the Accordance interface can't be improved. It certainly can. But if the Accordance interface is judged by how much it is or is not like another program with which a user is more familiar, Accordance will always suffer in the comparison.

This blogger's final reason for recommending his readers choose this other program over Accordance is that it is the only program which offers certain Lutheran resources, such as those published by his employer. This point is hard to argue with, but the reasoning behind it is strikingly circular. If the publishing house has chosen to work exclusively with one Bible software program, then of course that program will offer more of those materials! Conversely, this one real advantage could easily be removed if that company would also choose to license its materials for use with Accordance. As this blogger has himself written, "competition is a good thing." Publishers can choose to squelch competition by deciding which Bible software program their customers must use, or they can encourage competition by licensing to multiple software developers and letting the users decide which is best.

As it was originally stated, this blogger's case against Accordance sounded particularly damning. Fortunately, most of his assertions were based on erroneous assumptions and hasty conclusions. Ultimately, I know that Accordance is not for everyone, and that some people do prefer other approaches to Bible study. There is certainly room in the Macintosh world for competing and complementary Bible software programs. The appearance of one need not spell the death of another. And where Accordance is concerned, you can rest assured it will not.





Comments:
I used to think that Word for Windows was terrible compared with WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS back in high school! Ah, those were the days, blue screen and white text with crazy key combinations. Now if I look at blue backgrounds with white text for a minute or two, my eyes start to hurt.

I agree with what you said about Libronix and its UI being a Windows port. I briefly downloaded the Alpha and it was about the same UI as the Windows version, only in Mac OS X skins. That UI is the reason I AVOIDED Bible software until I found Accordance. As you said, it is an Alpha, but unless they are going to radically break from their normal conventions, I don't see the interface changing much in any significant ways.

Also, am I the only one who finds it incredibly distasteful and obnoxious to open Bible software, and the first thing you see is ads trying to get you to buy a product? Please, Accordance, never subject us to cheap commercialism like that. I like opening my Bible software and seeing the Bible.
 

Dave, we've discussed this before, but Accordance has one major weakness, and that's its lack of Unicode support (internally). It does not have the greatest non-Roman language support outside the classics, which hinders its usefulness for non-English-speaking users. If Logos fixes that, they will have one advantage over Accordance that will very well hurt Accordance in the long run.

Also, both programs, being commercial entities, have little incentive to support minority languages, or unusual publications. This, however, is an area for open source to excel, and the Sword Project has certainly come to the fore in this vital area.

As to the guy you are responding to, if he's an industry insider, you can bet his words do count, and it you are wise to not ignore them, although action is much better than words. I shall be interested in what the next version of Accordance comes up with. I've always enjoyed it in the past.

-Jon
 

David, very well said. Thank you for setting the facts straight and giving perspective to myopic reasoning out there.
 

Jon,

I don't know that the next version of Accordance will make you completely happy, but I think you'll be very pleased. :-)
 

When I switched to Mac and started to use Accordance software about 3.5-4 years ago, my first reaction was - it's nothing like I've seen on the PC. Nothing works the same way, nothing's as it should be. I was utterly frustrated! But because there was no other choice for me (I couldn't run Win Bible study apps on Mac without very slow PC emulation), I had to learn it. I bought a training video DVD and within 3-5 days I was totally amazed how intuitive Accordance is! Turns out my problem was other paradigm which was accepted on the PC Bible study software (Logos, BibleWorks, VerseSearch, etc.) Once I "unlearned" it, it was so easy and intuitive to work in Accoradance that I would never switch back. Even now when I look at the new Libronix screenshots of the Mac alpha version, I still have a mixed bag of feelings — on the one hand it looks like Mac application, on the other hand it also looks like Windows application. Time will tell who's right, but as I see it now Libronix will be good platform for the general theological book reading/studies, and Accordance with its Bible and commentary parallel column text panes — for the serious in-depth Bible text studies.
 

I agree with krakowian that the lack of Unicode support hurts. I cannot add Latvian text module, and two versions (one for search purposes, the other for reading) is not the solution I'm happy to use. Actually I never finished Latvian module for this very reason. So I still hope... maybe, some day... :-)
 

Just in case anyone's interested, this conversation is also playing out on the Discussion Forums as it applies to Concordia Publishing House and Luther's Works here: http://www.accordancebible.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1797
 

Looks like the link got cut.
Go to:

Discussion Forums
Feature or Module Request
Luther's Works
 

I'd like to weigh in on this discussion. I am currently testing the Libronix alpha on my PowerBook G4. While I am delighted to have access to many additional works that are unavailable in Accordance, comparing the Libronix alpha to the current Accordance application is like comparing a go-cart to a Lamborgini. Seriously! The Libronix program only has about 30% of its code base implemented (based on the number of menus and commands that are not yet operational). Currently it barely functions as anything more than a passage display and synchronized e-text reader.

Even when the Libronix application matures to version 1.0, it still will not rival the elegance nor customizability possible in Accordance. From what I can see in the alpha, version one of the program is going to take years before it can grow to a level that will rival the capabilities of the Accordance engine.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to see Libronix succeed. It will only serve to stimulate a more aggressive development of Accordance, and that is good for all of us. But folks, I'm not waiting for Libronix to surpass Accordance anytime in the next decade - hasn't the alpha been in development for three years now? I believe the version 1 release has been delayed for nearly two years.

I have the Libronix Scholar's Silver Library for Windows. I am all the more excited to be able to run the new alpha release on my Mac. I will be delighted when version 1.0 of Libronix for Mac ships. I'll be one of the first in line to get it. It affords me with a vast wealth of resources for study that I can't currently get anywhere else. But when it comes to simplicity, elegance, speed, and power, especially in original language studies, Accordance is my program of choice. Some of my favorite commentaries and reference works are only available for Accordance. Unless the Libronix program develops in a dramatically different direction, I cannot foresee it ever supplanting Accordance -- at least for me.
 

Dave, when will the next version of Accordance come out, and are you allowed to give us any hints on what the new features or language texts will be?
 

About 4 or 5 years ago, Logos had a questionnaire for those signed up for more information on Logos for Mac. One of the questions was whether the user interface should be exactly like the UI of the PC version.

Because it wasn't a possible answer on the questionnaire, I requested that they would NOT make the UI like the PC version but make it typical of a Mac program.

I got the impression that that had not even been a possibility at that time.
 

Pandakruon,

You had tried to post a URL on a discussion about Lutheran materials on the Accordance forum and mentioned that your URL had been cut off.

I would recommend that you use TinyURL to get shorter URL that would work on this blog.
http://tinyurl.com/

By the way, the User Forums have several entries that discuss the dilemma of Lutheran materials.
 

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