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

Friday, March 21, 2008  

Is the Writing on the Wall?

Recently, a major Windows Bible software developer released a preliminary alpha of their long-awaited Mac version. The reaction so far has been decidedly . . . mixed. On the one hand, recent Mac switchers who have long used this program on the PC are happy to be able to access at least some of the resources they once purchased without having to use Parallels or BootCamp. On the other hand, most people have reported that there is still a long way to go before this program is truly ready for release. In spite of claims that the "wait is finally over," it would appear that, in fact, it is not.

The most curious reaction I've seen is from those who are already predicting the inevitable demise of Accordance. It won't be the first time. In the early nineties there were those who questioned our sanity for developing Bible software for the "shrinking Mac market." In 1997 there were those who told us that Apple would soon go out of business and Accordance would sink with them. Three years ago, when this Windows developer announced it would release a Mac version in six months, some predicted that Accordance would be unable to survive the increased competition. This week, I stumbled across the blog of a book publisher who thinks that Accordance has effectively been "left in the dust" by the release of this alpha.

I'm beginning to feel a bit like Mark Twain when he returned from overseas to discover that most Americans believed him to have died: "Ladies and gentlemen, the rumors of [our] demise have been greatly exaggerated."

Normally, I wouldn't bother addressing these gloomy prophecies of our inevitable demise, but the blogger mentioned above actually gave reasons he thought the writing was on the wall. And since his position may give the impression that he actually knows whereof he speaks, I feel it necessary to point out that most of what he's written is simply inaccurate.

First, he argues that this Windows developer is the largest provider of digital texts. That much is true. But he goes on to say that "All major Christian publishers are using them as their platform of choice." That simply is not true.

By all accounts, I would think Zondervan would qualify as a "major" Christian publisher, yet most of their electronic materials are exclusive to their own Pradis software on the PC, and Accordance on the Mac. That means resources like NIDNTT and NIDOTTE, the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Expositor's Bible Commentary, the NIV Study Bible and Student Bible, Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek grammar, etc. are simply not available for the "largest provider of digital texts." Then there's Hendrickson, which as far as I know, has not licensed materials like Spicq's Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, Jenni-Westermann's Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, or the New International Biblical Commentary to the other guys. And of course, if we're talking about resources which are unique to Accordance, there are also numerous original language resources as well as our unparalleled Bible Atlas, PhotoGuide, and Timeline.

Personally, I would prefer not to list all the resources which are "exclusive" to Accordance, because I've always felt that Bible programs should be judged by their feature sets and interfaces rather than by who offers which resource. It is users who are hurt by being forced to use this program or that program in order to have access to a given book, and it's unfortunate that it has to be that way. This is partly the fault of we software developers, and partly the result of publishers' inability or unwillingness to support every conceivable software format. Thus, while unfortunate, the you-need-this-program-for-this-book syndrome in Bible software is not likely to change any time soon. And when pushed, I guess I'm not above listing the resources you can only get here! :-)

There's another thing which is misleading about this blogger's statement that "All major Christian publishers are using them as their platform of choice." It implies that publishers like IVP, Eerdmann's, Brill, University of Chicago Press, Thomas Nelson, Moody, Biblical Archaeology Society, Jewish Publication Society, Broadman and Holman, and countless others are working exclusively with that other software developer. On the contrary, some of these publishers have licensed their materials to multiple Bible software programs. Many have chosen to work with two, and only two, programs. Happily, Accordance is one of the two.

That means Accordance users don't have to go anywhere else for BDAG, HALOT, the IVP Reference Collection, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Word Biblical Commentary, NIGTC and Pillar, MacArthur's commentary, the JPS Torah Commentary, Context of Scripture, and numerous other major titles. This year we'll offer more journals, massive commentary sets, and lots of other materials I'm not at liberty to talk about yet. Right now, we have all the new material in the pipeline we can handle.

In short, we've worked very hard to put together a library of materials which exceeds that of nearly every other software vendor, including companies which are many times our size. We have a great relationship with a wide range of publishers, including some who have not shown an interest in working with the "largest provider of digital texts." Just as Microsoft's size and the greater number of software titles available for Windows were not enough to bring about the death of Apple, so another Windows Bible program ported to Mac does not make our demise inevitable. Apple didn't stand still in the face of Windows' hegemony, and we certainly aren't standing still either.

Well, I've spent more time than I had intended answering the first of this particular blogger's points. Ultimately, it all boils down to this: Yes, the other guys have more stuff, but most of the really good stuff we already have. Some of the really good stuff we have and they don't, so the available resources argument cuts both ways. Unfortunately, some really good stuff they currently have exclusive access to; and we may or may not ever be able to license it. For those who need that material, this company's new Mac alpha will be a welcome complement to Accordance. If Mac users showed a penchant for choosing quantity over quality, the fact that the other guys offer "more stuff" might be a serious cause for concern. Since Mac users do value quality, we're not likely to be run out of business any time soon!

Well, that's one leg of the argument this blogger put forward which is decidedly weak. As I wrote above, I hesitate to interact with such comments because I know most of you already see through them. But even the best of us can be misled by a little disinformation, so I felt it necessary to clear up the misconceptions being propagated. I'll deal with the rest of those misconceptions in a follow-up post.





Comments:
Please. Please. Please go universal. Pretty please? That is a big thing that has me looking at the unnamed alpha as performance of my machine overall just isn't great with Accordance running through rosetta....
 

Brandon,

The next version of Accordance will be universal, and it's coming soon. See this thread of our user forums for a preliminary speed report on our internal alpha.
 

Well said and thank you. Now if we can only get Accordance to carry more Lutheran resources, we will really be clicking...
 

I'll venture an opinion that Accordance will have a full-featured Universal version long before that other company will. I don't count a buggy, broken, crippled Alpha a real version. I think it's more like, "Here's a bone so more of you don't switch to Accordance while we try to figure out how to program for the Mac." But that's just my opinion. :)

What a lot of people might not understand is that this other company also out-sourced their Mac version. How that works for updates and such is yet to be seen, but I'm going to guess and say that the Mac version will always lag behind the Windows version. Are they going to keep this company they out-sourced to on their payroll? I doubt it. So I guess that makes users of that version even further behind Accordance than they would be using the Windows version!
 

Thanks for this post, though I don't fear the demise of Accordance at all.

I've used the coming unnamed alternative on the Windows side, and frankly abandoned it for Bibleworks (can I say that here?) while I was fettered to that platform. Actually, I used both: Bibleworks was far superior for actual Bible study, but the other was a good "library" software for handling a lot of the texts that weren't as easily available for Bibleworks (or not at all).

I look forward to its eventual release for the Mac, because I'll get access to a few tools I don't currently have through Accordance (unabridged BDB and the full Kittel's, for example). I'll be glad to have those again-- I've kept the CDs for all these years for that possibility. But having used both Accordance and the other for in-depth Bible study, I'll stick with Accordance.

I'll tell you where this development will serve the WHOLE Mac community: for switchers. I have a few friends (including a former professor) who have boldly proclaimed, "I'll never switch to Mac, because I have $xxx (usually some figure in the multiple thousands) worth of modules and library titles for this program (insert unnamed application here)." This will finally remove their obstacle.

It's not unlike having MS Word (and the rest of Office) for the Mac: it's not the best tool for most users, and after a while most Mac users eventually find the better alternatives (Nisus Writer, Mellel, even Pages). But having it there will free them to choose the PLATFORM that will serve them best (which we all know is the Mac!) and to begin exploring what that platform has to offer.

Like the Nisus and Mellel folks, I'm sure Accordance will eventually see net boosts from this, not losses.
 

Thanks for the post, David. I have mixed feelings about it, because I'm not sure if Accordance needs to respond to every blogger's opinion out there. I happily use both Accordance and Libronix (now for the Mac, even if Alpha) and both could do with some additional development. Both have titles and strengths that the other does not. I use them for different tasks. I'll look forward to the universal version of Accordance.
 

In the interest of fairness, here is the blog post that this blog post is responding to.

I have no vested interest in either company, I don't work for either, and I'm a happy Accordance user.

But I believe that if you are going to address someone else's opinion its important to give people the opportunity to review both opinions. Hopefully this comment will save others an internet search tracking down what, in my opinion, should have been in the original post.
 

Thanks, Les, for the link, but c'mon. The Accordance interface is "clunky"? The software that shall not be named, on the Windows side, is probably the worst interface I've ever dealt with. I had the IVP dictionaries on that platform and I've got to say, Accordance is light years ahead of that platform.

I'm not worried about Accordance, either. The other platform won't even get a whiff from me and I suspect it won't from many other Mac users, too.
 

Wow, you folks must be pretty insecure if one blog posts elicits such an emotional response. It's amusing that you won't refer to Libronix by name.

My points were simply that with the advent of the Mac native version of Libronix, there is even less of a reason for Mac users to go with Accordance.

Libronix has quickly caught up to Accordance in terms of offering excellent original language tools.

The Mac alpha (and it is an alpha guys, geesh) is nicely done and makes better use of the Mac interface than Accordance, in my opinion.

As a publisher, we have much more confidence in the longevity and versatility of the Libronix platform than Accordance.

Competition is a good thing, so...if Accordance can catch back up and exceed the number of texts available in Libronix, and the interface now offered, more power to you.
 

Garrett, I had mixed feelings about writing this post, because I have no desire to respond to every blogger's criticisms here. On the other hand, I thought some of the assertions made were worth addressing.

Les, I did not reference the blog in question in my original post because I didn't want over-zealous Accordance users harassing him. It was the assertions, not the asserter, I wanted to address.

Rev. McCain, I thought this post was fairly balanced and well-reasoned. I'm sorry if you perceived it to be insecure and emotional. I avoided mentioning Libronix by name because I wanted to avoid any appearance of criticizing them. My intention has not to been to criticize them or to single you out, but to demonstrate that there is plenty of reason for confidence in Accordance's longevity and versatility.
 

David, I thought your post was fine and answered the issues you set out to in a balanced way.

It should be remembered that Quickverse also has software for the Mac. Yes, it's competing for different space than Accordance and Libronix, at least at the high ends of what those packages offer The point is, competition doesn't have to mean death.

What it should mean is innovation. And for that reason I think Libronix users should want Accordance to succeed (and vice versa - although I think Accordance has been doing a pretty good job). Competition will spur both companies on.

I think it's safe to say that Libronix isn't committed to the Mac as a platform - it's only come on board with the rise and rise of Apple and, as has been pointed out, has outsourced development.

That said, I'll check it out when it's finally released. I haven't been impressed with previous versions, but haven't seen their more recent stuff, so maybe it's improved to the point of adding something useful to my workflow. (But then, the blogger you were responding to was assessing Accordance's usability based on older software, so I'm not alone).

What I don't understand, and I realise this is subjective, is the 'more is better' mentality. I look at the zillion volumes some other companies offer and I just don't see what value they would be (at least to me) in a software package. Maybe someone else could enlighten me. Technical and reference works, obviously, but a lot of the stuff I just don't get. Maybe someone can enlighten me?
 

David,

Your comments were well within reason and I agree that Accordance has nothing to worry about. As a Windows to Mac switcher, I am sure that those who have made an investment in Windows software will be happy to now have a way to move their investment over to the Mac. This will simply create more Mac users.

However, if they are like me they are also used to having a half dozen or so Bible programs that they used on the Windows platform. Once they have moved to the Mac many of these will ultimately investigate the other Mac Bible software offerings like Accordance. And like me I am sure that once they do, they will once again enter the arena of having multiple Bible programs.

I would have little worry that Accordance users will switch to Libronix once it gets released. I have found Accordance, like OS X, to be quite intuitive and Mac'ish. I am currently running the alpha of Libronix and they certainly have a lot more work to do to make this a Mac'ish program. As others have already mentioned Libronix's long term commitment to the Mac platform is questionable and yet to be seen.

Lastly, the other thing that I have appreciated about Accordance is that it's developers are very user responsive as I have also found their entire company to be. As far as I am concerned this is capital that has been well invested by the Accordance team. As Accordance has already demonstrated it's commitment to Mac users and to consistently bring us new and better features, I have confidence that this will continue. As we look forward to the Universal version, which I am certain will be out long before the release candidate of the other,

For those concerned about the reluctancy to mention Libronix on the Accordance blogs or forums, it may only be because we have witnessed the Libronix newserver crashing just about every time Accordance has been mentioned over there, whereby we lost all previous discussions.

Keep up the good work Accordance!

Pastor Edward Cross
 

David,
I thought your post was excellent, fair and not at all insecure.

I've used Libronix longer than I've used Accordance and "as for me and my house"... well, we'll stick with Accordance. In some ways it [Libronix] will, as you have mentioned complement, Accordance. Ultimately that is really probably only going to be true in the area of resource accessibility. What I have grown to like about Accordance is what I can do with the texts or the reference works as well as user tools and notes.

I'm kicking the tires on their alpha, and it's not bad... but it's no Accordance.

Now, if I can just find a good venue for an Accordance seminar here in Chicago, I'll be very happy. I'm looking forward to some of those new offerings and the Universal Binary.
 

When McCain's statement first appeared in the comments of one of his posts on his blog, I tried to respond to him. But he edited about 3/4 of what I said out of it when he finally allowed my comments. There are "control issues" all around here.

I still believe his comments to be below the dignity of what I would expect from a CEO of a Christian publisher like Concordia. He's obviously a fan of Libronix, and that's fine, but his approach to the subject is reminiscent of a teenager engaging in an internet flame war.

And even in your response here, David, there's no winning because to offer ANY response at all causes McCain to retort with accusations that Oak Tree is "insecure" and "emotional." Again, very juvenile and not what I'd expect from someone in his position.

If McCain likes Libronix to the exclusion of all other software offerings, fine. That's his right. But I always find it humorous when someone can't build something up without tearing down a competing idea or product. He couldn't simply laud the advent of the Libronix beta. In order to strengthen his case he found it necessary to take potshots at the competition. Why not simply talk about how good Libronix supposedly is on its own merits without having to resort to rhetoric against Accordance. I mean, do we REALLY want to ask who's actually insecure here?

Further, the issue you didn't address, David--and maybe because it's not worth addressing--is his charge that the Accordance interface is clunky and has not kept up with Mac standards. Of course, he neither defines clunky, nor does he explicitly state what standards he is talking about.

I've used Accordance now for a decade and I, like other who have used it for any decent period of time, know that it HAS kept up with Mac standards including a tabbed interface (as opposed to multiple open windows) quite well. Such assertions by McCain to the contrary without any examples to back up his claims simply makes me believe that he does not really know what he is talking about.

The concern that many have about Libronix for the Mac is twofold: (1) it will simply be a straight port of a Windows program as opposed to a Mac program in its own right and (2) its development will always lag behind its Windows counterpart. Nothing I've seen from the alpha release or promises from Logos suggests otherwise, so I don't know how McCain feels justified speaking of Mac interface standards based on what's been demonstrated so far with Libronix for the Mac.

McCain is also hung up on "more is better" mentality. He believes that since there are more texts available for Libronix it must therefore be a better choice. This is like saying there are more software programs available for Windows, so Windows must be better than the Mac platform. But what Mac user believes that? When I look at the Libronix catalog, yes they do have lots of offerings and lots of GOOD offerings. But there's also a lot of junk there that I wouldn't use, let alone pay for in a million years. Are there Accordance modules available that I don't want? Sure there are, but again, none of this is the point. It's the interface and key modules that make the difference. If someone wants to build a massive library of electronic texts, Libronix will be a good choice. If a user wants a number of key electronic texts, especially for the purpose of biblical research, Accordance may very well be the better choice.

As gatekeeper of Concordia's assets (which include Luther's works), McCain does current and potential customers a disservice by restricting access to Luther's works simply to Libronix. I imagine that there are many customers such as myself who would consider purchasing Luther's works if I could add it into Accordance; but because it's not a "must have" buy, I'm not going to EVER buy it for Libronix simply because it's only available for that platform.

Because the bulk of the work of preparing a module such as Luther's works for Accordance would fall upon the Oak Tree staff, and not Concordia, it's a poor business decision not to allow this work to be done. There would be no real financial risk on their part to simply license the texts. [In my original comment to McCain on his blog I said this was "simple economics." He cut that part of my comment, but still referred to it, twisting my words out of their original context.]

In education circles these days, there's saying going around: "Shun the tyranny of 'or' and embrace the genius of 'and.'" McCain doesn't understand something like this. He sees the assets of Concordia in terms of "or": it either can be published by Libronix OR Accordance on the Mac platform. Instead, he should see it in terms of "and": there's no reason why it should not be available to both Libronix AND Accordance customers.

But McCain's thinking is currently too narrow for this. He sees things only in terms of "For Libronix to win, Accordance must lose." It's too bad that publishers like Concordia can't allow both companies to distribute Luther's works and let the customers decide. This is ultimately poor leadership of Concordia on McCain's part and, as I've said, does his company and customers a disservice.

The reality is that many Mac users may choose to use both Accordance and Libroix in the long run. But for a customer like myself who prefers Accordance, if a module is not available in that program, I simply may not ever be interested in running it Libronix.

Let's be serious for a moment. I've been a Mac user since 1998. I used VirtualPC first to run Windows programs when I occasionally needed them and now I use Parallels. Logos/Libronix has ALWAYS been a choice for customers like me. But I've chosen to use Accordance and for good reasons.

Will a Mac native of Libronix make any difference to us now?

I doubt it.
 

I have to agree that Rev. McCain is doing a disservice to Concordia and its clients by blocking the licensing of their excellent materials to Accordance. He is also doing himself a grave disservice by repeatedly misrepresenting Accordance on his blog.

His only specific complaints about Accordance seem to be that it is not Intel native and that it does not do bibliographic citations. As David already pointed out, the Intel version will be released very soon. Accordance already does very flexible citations from any text. We do not yet have bibliographic citations from tools, but this is planned for an upcoming release.

My impression is that Rev. McCain does not need to do searches of the Biblical texts. He uses software to find appropriate citations for his articles (books?) and therefore he rejected Accordance as not meeting his needs. The majority of our users appreciate the ease with which Accordance lets them study the texts, which is our primary goal.

David plans to address the licensing of Lutheran materials and other issues raised in these discussions. May I respectfully request that Rev. McCain stop misrepresenting Accordance on his blog, and continue a free and fair discussion here.
 

Two comments worth making. (I haven't read all the posts here--sounds like some heat is included, so I'm skipping that.)

I've used Accordance from the very early years. Unfortunately, I only get the "other product" on my computer where I teach since it's a "Windows only" environment. :( So I've had to supply and support my own Mac for a dozen years. That has often meant running it on far less than cutting edge hardware. I'm *still* running Accordance on a 400 MHz PowerBook G4. Though I have a Windows box in the classroom, I will periodically carry in my old G4 and plug it in to illustrate some grammatical construction for a class. It's interesting to see the jaws drop open at the simplicity and (esp.) the speed of the search, regardless of the complexity and scope of the search. And when they find out I'm running it on a 400 MHz machine, they're incredulous.

Score one for Mac and Accordance. I'm not worried about a program that runs so much slower on a 3 GHz (!) Windows box in my study.

But to balance the equation, there are some things that Accordance needs to do. I finally broke down and spent the big bucks this past fall for BDAG (my 3d! copy--the other two being paper). I have been very disappointed in the the e-version. The conversion to screen has been only partial and a lot of formatting that is *semantic* has been omitted. The bold and italic type faces in BDAG are *semantic* and not having them in the Accordance version means that I cannot use it to teach the class how to use the paper version (or the e-version) effectively. I'm a bit embarassed to show the Accordance version next to either of hte other two e-versions on the other platform. I *hope* this is fixed soon.

Dr. Rod Decker
 

Rod,

Thank you for your continued support of Accordance even in a PC environment.

The text styling is certainly important in BDAG, and we do have it. I suspect that you have OS X with the font smoothing turned on in Accordance. This requires a font with all the styles, it can no longer interpolate an italic style if the font does not have it (such as Geneva or Lucida Grande). Please try a different font such as Times New Roman or Helvetica. You can prove my point by turning off the font smoothing in Preferences/Appearance: the styles will show but of course the text will be ragged.

To everyone, please do let us know about any problem you have with Accordance or any module. The fix may not always be as quick, but we will try to help.
 

I have removed Ron's last post and transferred it to the Forum here: http://www.accordancebible.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=2123&st.
 

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