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Thursday, August 31, 2006  

Details of the Library 7 Standard Level

Yesterday I detailed the new modules in the new Library 7 Introductory Level. Today, I want to look at the new modules in the Standard Level. As we do, keep in mind that these new modules are in addition to the new modules included in the Introductory level which I talked about yesterday.

Once again, we'll start with the Bibles. The Greek New Testament Textus Receptus with Strong's Numbers (GNT-TRS) has been moved from the Premier Level to the Standard. Though not as powerful as a grammatically tagged Greek New Testament, you can search by Key number to find every occurrence of a particular Greek word, and can triple-click a word to look it up in a Strong's dictionary.

We've also moved the Spanish Bible La Biblia de Las Americas (LBLA) from the Premier to the Standard level.

Other new modules include:

Manners & Customs: Manners and Customs in the Bible by Victor H. Matthews is a modern work which gives valuable information about the social practices and customs mentioned in various Biblical episodes. It covers marriage customs, legal practices, methods of warfare, family life, and more.

Strong-Theology: Baptist theologian A. H. Strong's Systematic Theology.

Gill-Divinity: Baptist theologian John Gill's Body of Doctrinal Divinity deals with such systematic theological topics as the nature of God, His acts and Works, and the Doctrines of Grace. His Body of Practical Divinity explores the nature of private and public worship, church government, even the Christian's domestic and civic responsibilities.

Clarke-Theology: When we released the Library 6, we included a small tract by Wesleyan theologian Adam Clarke on Entire Sanctification. We included it mainly for the sake of theological balance, since we had added several theological works from a Reformed/Calvinistic perspective. However, one of our reviewers, who generally was very positive about the Library, rightly criticized the inclusion of this module as being too small to be of significant value. He recommended that we add Clarke's Clavis Biblica, which introduces the books of the Bible and the basic principles of Christianity, to make this module more worthwhile. So that's what we did. We have removed the module Clarke-Sanctification and have replaced it with Clarke-Theology, which includes both Clavis Biblica and Entire Sanctification.

Ephesians (Hodge): Princeton Professor Charles Hodge's in depth commentary on the book of Ephesians.

Evidences: Evidences of Christianity is an important apologetic work by the famous nineteenth-century apologist William Paley.

James (Manton): Puritan divine Thomas Manton's Exposition of the Epistle of James.

Maclaren's Expositions: Alexander Maclaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture, covering Genesis through 2 Corinthians.

Tischendorf-Gospels: Includes two tracts by groundbreaking textual critic Constantin von Tischendorf on the date and origins of the Gospels.

Well, that's the new Standard Level. Tomorrow, we'll look at the new Premier level.





Wednesday, August 30, 2006  

Details of the Library 7 Introductory Level

On Monday, I listed the new modules in the three levels of the new Library 7 CD-ROM. Over the next few posts, I want to explore each level in greater detail. Today, we'll look at the new stuff in the Introductory Level.

The new Introductory Level includes no less than 55 modules, 13 of which are new. Others, such as the KJVS and Creeds modules, have been updated significantly.

Let's start with the Bibles. The King James Version with Strong's Numbers (KJVS) has been enhanced with paragraph markers and red letter. (Don't worry, those of you who object to having the words of Christ in red can always turn it off using the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn, command-T). The new KJVS also features improvements to the Key number tagging, so that, for example, in phrases like "lovest thou", the Key number for agapao is tagged to the word "lovest" rather than "thou." This should improve the Analysis of Key number searches.

God's Word, a modern English translation included in the Library 6 Intro, has been replaced with the NET Bible. The NET Bible is an excellent modern translation, but the thing that really makes it unique are its copious notes. Most Bibles include translator's notes which mention alternate readings or translations, but the NET Bible notes often give detailed explanations of why a particular rendering was chosen. The result is a reference tool which combines elements of a study Bible, commentary, and textual apparatus all rolled into one. Another nice feature of the NET Bible Notes is the inclusion of maps, including excellent satellite map images. These are, of course, static images, and can't begin to match the interactive capabilities of the Accordance Bible Atlas or Atlas Sampler, but they're nevertheless a nice resource to have.

The next resource I want to highlight about the new Introductory Level is Greek Parsing. Originally conceived as a New Testament counterpart to the Wigram's Hebrew Verb Parsings which has long been included, Greek Parsing has grown into much, much more. This reference tool lists every word of the King James Bible, along with its Strong's number and the Greek word which it translates, the dictionary form of that Greek word, and its parsing information. Grammatical terms are hypertexted so that you can simply drag your cursor over them to see what they mean.

This tool is great for pastors or those doing word studies who want to know more about the form of the Greek words behind the English. You can display it in a pane alongside the Bible text for a running parsing guide, and you can even do some pretty sophisticated searches. For example, you can search for every place where some form of "love" is used to translate the Greek verb agapao in the aorist tense. That's a tremendous amount of power for an Introductory package!

The Introductory Level resource I am most excited about is Bible Art, a collection of high-resolution images of great artwork depicting scenes from the Bible. Artists include such masters as Gustave Doré, Rembrandt, Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and others! There are also photographs of Byzantine and Renaissance mosaics, and even a couple of my own feeble sketches! (There's nothing more humbling than seeing your own work next to a Rubens painting or Doré engraving, but hey, where else am I going to get published!) ;-)

What good is there in a collection of Bible Art? Much in every way! You can use these images in multimedia presentations, documents, KeyNote slideshows, class handouts . . . you name it! At an average resolution of 1400 by 1100 pixels, you can even zoom in on minute details, drag a marquee around them, and then use Copy selection to get a detailed, cropped image.

Finally, the scope of these illustrations is tremendous. In addition to the Bible stories you would typically see illustrated, there are also illustrations of lesser known narratives such as Jeroboam setting up the idol at Bethel or the destruction of Sennacherib's army. Furthermore, since this module is arranged as a reference tool, you can view it in a pane alongside the Bible text and see the text illustrated! As you can probably see, I think this module is particularly cool!

Okay, on to the other new modules:

Bunyan: includes John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Holy War, and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.

Christian Biography: a dictionary by Henry Wace of major figures and sects in the history of the church through the 6th century A.D.

Church History: J. C. Roberton's Sketches of Church History gives an overview of church history from the apostolic era to the eve of the Protestant Reformation.

Bird's Eye View: Bird's Eye View of the Bible is a survey course of the books of the Bible, designed to be used in Sunday Schools and adult education. It includes a User Tool Workbook for recording answers to study questions.

Faith's Checkbook: A daily devotional by Charles Spurgeon. Written after his classic Morning and Evening, the devotions in this volume are briefer and cover a wider variety of subjects.

Scougal: Puritan writer Henry Scougal's classic devotional work The Life of God in the Soul of Man is a deeply practical guidAn Introductory Bible study of the first chapter of Mark, designed to expose the user to a wide range of Accordance features.

KJV Preface: This module has been available as a free download for some time now, but we wanted to make sure it got included with our Library CD-ROM. It contains the original translators' preface to the KJV, in which they defend their reasons for producing a new translation, their principles of translation, etc. It's a fascinating read, and surprisingly applicable to today.

Study of KJV: This module, likewise, has been available as a free download for some time and has now been incorporated into the Library. Its full title is The Greatest English Classic: A Study of the King James Version of the Bible and Its Influence on Life and Literature. As its title suggests, it explores the historical, literary, and cultural impact the KJV has had.

With the addition of these new modules, the Library 7 Introductory level is, in my opinion, the best value in Mac Bible software in the sub-$100 price range. Next post, we'll look at the new modules in the Standard Level.





Tuesday, August 29, 2006  

A Quick Thank-You to the Accordance Evangelists

I've recently started following a few Bible software-related internet forums, and I've been very pleased and grateful to see a number of you piping up to extol the virtues of Accordance, dispel misconceptions about it, and offer purchasing advice to interested users. I've been impressed with your knowledge and enthusiasm, and am starting to think you should be writing our marketing literature!

As a small company with a very limited marketing budget (we sink most of our resources into development), we are extremely dependent on you, our users, to spread the word about Accordance. It's been encouraging to see that you're doing just that. Thank you!





Monday, August 28, 2006  

New CD-ROMs! New Modules! Whoopee!

I'm pleased to announce that we have (finally!) released new versions of our primary collection CD-ROMs with lots of brand new material. Here's a quick rundown of the new CD-ROMs available:

  • Library 7: With more than 30 new modules, this is our biggest upgrade to the Library ever! I'll talk more about this CD-ROM in a bit.
     
  • Scholar's 7: The new Scholar's CD-ROM includes a few new modules, but the really exciting change is that the Core Bundle has been greatly expanded. It now includes the GNT-T (tagged NA27), GNT-TR (tagged Textus Receptus), GNT-WH (tagged Westcott-Hort), and GNT-TIS (tagged Tischendorf); the BHS-W4 (tagged Hebrew Bible); the KJV, ASV, and NET Bibles, along with your choice of one other modern English Bible; the NET Bible's extensive collection of notes (which include maps and some basic text-critical information), Louw & Nida, Thayer's and UBS Greek Lexicons; and BDB and TWOT Hebrew lexicons.
     
  • Bible Unlock CD-ROM: The Bible unlock CD-ROM is included with the Library and Scholar's CD-ROMs, and is the CD-ROM you use to install any modern Bibles you unlock. It has now been updated to include Bibles which have previously only been available for download, such as the TNIV, NLT-SE, etc. It also now includes the popular Spanish Bible Nueva Version Internacional.
     
  • Bible Reference CD-ROM: The Bible Reference CD-ROM is also included with the Library and Scholar's CD-ROMs. It's basically an à la carte CD-ROM which you can use to unlock popular commentaries and reference works which we either do not include in our main packages, or which we want to make available to those who don't wish to buy one of our larger packages. The New Bible Reference CD-ROM includes a package of books by Alfred Edersheim (also included in the Library 7 Premier Level) and the new Atlas Sampler that I recently blogged about.

    Okay, that's a brief rundown of the four new CD-ROMs. Now I want to give you some more details of the new Library CD-ROM, which I have personally been slaving over for weeks! Today, I'll just repeat the summary statements on our news page. Later this week, I'll look at each level of the Library in turn, and give you an insider's look at the new modules included.

    The new Introductory Level adds 13 new modules.

    1. The NET Bible is an excellent modern translation.
    2. The NET Notes are like a study Bible, commentary, and introductory critical apparatus all rolled into one.
    3. Greek Parsing gives you extensive information about the Greek behind the King James Bible, and makes possible extremely powerful searches.
    4. Bible Art is a collection of art by the great masters depicting scenes from the Bible.
    5. Select Works of John Bunyan
    6. Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography
    7. Sketches of Church History
    8. Scougal's The Life of God in the Soul of Man
    9. Spurgeon's Faith's Checkbook
    10. Birds' Eye View of the Bible
    11. The Greatest English Classic: A Study of KJV
    12. The original translators' preface to the KJV.
    13. Beginning in Mark, an introductory guide to doing Bible study with Accordance.

    In addition, the KJVS has been updated with red letter and paragraph markers, and the Creeds module now includes the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.

    The new Standard Level adds 24 new modules. In addition to the 13 new modules included in the Introductory Level, the Standard Level also includes:

    1. The Greek New Testament Textus Receptus tagged with Strong's numbers
    2. The Spanish Bible La Biblia de las Americas
    3. Manners and Customs in the Bible, a modern work which explores the historical background to many biblical narratives.
    4. Maclaren's Expositions of the Bible (Genesis-2 Corinthians)
    5. Charles Hodge's Commentary on Ephesians
    6. Thomas Manton's Commentary on James.
    7. A. H. Strong's Systematic Theology
    8. John Gill's Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity
    9. Select theological writings of Wesleyan theologian Adam Clarke
    10. Apologist William Paley's Evidences of Christianity
    11. Two tracts by famed textual critic Constantin von Tischendorf on the date and origins of the Gospels.

    The new Premier Level adds 37 new modules. In addition to the 24 new modules included in the Introductory and Standard Levels, the Premier Level adds:

    1. The grammatically tagged Greek New Testament Textus Receptus!
    2. The International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia (ISBE)
    3. Philip Schaff's Creeds of Christendom.
    4. The Works of Jonathan Edwards
    5. Select Works of Richard Baxter
    6. Alfred Edersheim's Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
    7. Alfred Edersheim's Bible History Old Testament
    8. Charles Finney's Lectures on Systematic Theology
    9. Heinrich Schmid's Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
    10. Ramsay's St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen
    11. Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars.
    12. Catena Aurea, a patristic commentary on Matthew and Mark
    13. Charles Spurgeon's Sermons on Proverbs.

    Finally, the St. Patrick module has been updated with a biography excerpted from J. A. Wylie's History of the Scottish nation.

    Whew! I think you'll agree that there's a lot of new material available. We'll explore them further later this week.





  • Friday, August 25, 2006  

    "Are You Ready for Some Football?!"

    Yesterday, I was answering complaints about the User Notes and I punted the most complicated issues to today. It's time to get the ball back and punch it into the End Zone. (Can you tell I'm ready for college football season to start? Go Noles!)

    The issue I put off dealing with was the way Scripture links within user notes work. A number of issues were raised in connection with this:

    1. Why can't you command-click a link to force the Text window to open as a separate window rather than as a tab in the Workspace?
    2. Why don't the links always open in the same text window?
    3. Why isn't the Text window a standard Search window?
    4. Why is my link to Psalms going to Philippians?

    These are all excellent questions, and I think my answers to those questions will help you to better understand the way Accordance works.

    First, why can't you command-click a Scripture link to open the Text window as a separate window rather than a Workspace tab?

    My first reaction to this question was that it sounds like this user is wanting Accordance to act like Safari. In a follow-up e-mail, he replied that he just wanted it to work like Accordance works in other situations, and he's right. If you hold down the command key while selecting a resource from the Resource palette, that resource will automatically open as a separate window rather than as a workspace tab. The problem is that we never extended this capability to Scripture hyperlinks in a Tool or User Notes window, and we probably should.

    Second, why don't the verses in a Scripture hyperlink always open in the same window?

    This could be due to a number of factors. First, the user may have turned window recycling off in the Text window. Window recycling is a feature that re-uses certain windows so that you don't get a hundred windows (or tabs) of the same type. If you see an icon with two green revolving arrows in the upper right of the window, that window will be recycled. If you click that icon (or use the keyboard shortcut command-K), you'll turn recycling off, so that the next time you follow a link or click the context button, a new window will be opened.

    Another thing to realize about recycling is that it only works if you don't change some important aspect of the recycled window. For example, let's say you triple-click a Greek word to look it up in a Greek lexicon. The tool window displaying that lexicon will be recycled, so that it will be re-used when you triple-click other Greek words. If, however, you change the search field of that window so that it is no longer "Greek Entry," that window is no longer set up to look up a Greek word. Consequently, the next time you triple-click, a new Tool window will open.

    In the case of User Notes, lets say you click a New Testament reference, and then decide you want to see the text in Greek. If you change the Text Order pop-up at the top of the Text window to GNT-T, then return to your notes and click an Old Testament reference, the window displaying GNT-T is inappropriate, so a new Text window will open to display the OT reference.

    Understanding the way recycling works and learning when to turn it on or off is one of those little things that will go a long way to helping you become an Accordance power user.

    Okay, the third question had to do with why Scripture hyperlinks open in a Text window rather than in a full-blown Search window.

    All I can say in answer to that is that the Text window is designed for displaying the text of the Bible, rather than searching it. The idea behind it is that it would be easily distinguishable from the Search window, and always there for times when you want to see a verse's context or follow a hypertext link. Using a Search window to do this would create a number of problems. It would be too easy to confuse with your main Search window. It would be too easy to change some search criteria and nullify recycling, which would result in a proliferation of Search windows. The text window also has the advantage of listing the verses displayed in the title bar (or tab), making it easy to know which window contains that passage.

    If you're looking at a text window and decide to search for something, don't forget to amplify. That is, select the word you want to find and then click the Search button at the bottom of the Resource palette. That will open a Search window and find the word you selected.

    Phew! I'm only three points into this and I'm ready to punt again! But it's fourth and inches, so I'd better dig deep and see what I'm made of. It's times like these that separate the winners from the losers, the men from the boys, the champs from the chumps . . . Oh, sorry, thinking about football again! ;-) On to the fourth question:

    The user who raised these issues ran into a situation where he created a link to Psalms in his user notes, and it showed up as Philippians! What's up with that?

    When you have a Search window open and notes displayed in a parallel pane, the notes follow the verse order of the Search text. For example, if you have the Hebrew Bible as your search text, your notes on Malachi will appear well before your notes on 2 Chronicles. When you hover over a Scripture link in your notes, Accordance assumes you want to see that verse in the current search text. So again, if your search text is the Hebrew Bible, the verses will be shown in the Instant Details box as Hebrew. If you hover over a verse that does not appear in the Hebrew Bible (such as a NT reference), nothing will be displayed!

    In the case of the Psalms-Philippians mixup, the user obviously entered his reference using the abbreviation "Ps." If his search text is set to the Greek New Testament and he hovers over or clicks on that link to Psalms, Accordance tries to find a book in the GNT which could be abbreviated Ps. Lo and behold, Philippians fits the bill, so it displays the text of Philippians. Had the user used an abbreviation such as "Psa" or "Pss," or had his search text set to an English translation or Hebrew Bible, Accordance would have displayed the right verse of Psalms.

    You see, this is really a case of Accordance being too smart rather than "substandard." Accordance doesn't require you to learn and use some limited set of abbreviations. Rather, it tries to parse every abbreviation to determine the intended book. In this case, it just made a mistake.

    It's sort of like when opposing teams utilize misdirection plays to neutralize Florida State's team speed. You see, the defenders start going in one direction so fast that they can't change direction as easily as the slower team. Thankfully, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews always makes adjustments, and the strategy never works for long . . . Oops! There I go again! :-)





    Thursday, August 24, 2006  

    More Issues with User Notes

    Boy, this "anonymous" guy sure is keeping me busy! Another user left an anonymous comment pointing out some issues with the User Notes feature of Accordance. (Where were you all when we were working on version 7?)

    Before I respond, can I respectfully ask that if you have suggestions for how to improve Accordance, you not just post them as an anonymous comment? I don't mind you airing those issues in the comments section of the blog, but if that's all you do it's a bit like leaving a voicemail message without giving your phone number. I'd like to call back, but I have no way to do it. By all means, leave your comments, but please also e-mail your suggestions to me directly (my first initial [d], my last name [lang], at [@], accordancebible.com). That way, if I don't understand something, or need to interact with you further, I have some way of contacting you.

    Okay, that said, here are the points this user raised:

    As a newcomer to the "Notes" feature, I too found it hard to use, for a number of reasons:
  • Cmd-T doesn't bring up standard font dialog; have to choose fonts from incredibly long list
  • This is a good point, though it shows one of the perils of being a long-time Mac developer. The OS X Text palette may be the "standard" now, but it's really a relatively new interface change that Apple has sprung on its developers. When I first encountered it, I saw it as a step backward rather than forward, though now I am finally getting used to it. My point is simply that what the OS X user sees as standard is often new for us, and involves an adjustment on our part. The challenge is to adjust to all of Apple's changes while still moving forward with the cool new features we want to add, and occasionally, we miss things. For technical reasons, I'm not sure we'll implement the OS X Text palette, but this suggestion does give us ideas for enhancing our existing Text Palette (which can be turned on in the Window menu).

  • No unicode, therefore hard to enter Greek/Hebrew directly
  • It's not hard to enter Greek and Hebrew directly into notes. You just select Helena (our Greek font) or Yehudit (our Hebrew font) and type away. To learn the keyboard layout, consult the Accordance Fonts PDF in your Manuals & Documents folder.

    That said, this is another area where we also need to adjust to new ways of doing things. One request we've had is to create alternate keyboard layouts for our fonts that match the layout of Unicode fonts, so users who are used to that layout won't have to learn another one. These kinds of enhancements are on our list, but they all take time, and we appreciate your patience if this is important to you.

  • Hyperlinks don't work in edit mode
  • No they don't. If they were live links, how would you edit them? Every time you tried to click in a link to change it, you would be taken to another window displaying that Scripture reference! How frustrating would that be?

  • Hyperlinks don't act normally in window (e.g., Cmd-Click won't open stand-alone window; links don't always open in previous window; the window opened is not a standard search window)
  • Again, what's normal? You seem to be expecting Accordance to act like Safari, but you may be surprised to realize that Accordance has been around longer than any web browser in common use today. That doesn't mean we shouldn't adopt new standards, but it does mean that we may not think to do it until you our users suggest it. :-)

    I'll talk more about how Scripture links in User Notes work a little later, but first let's get through the rest of this user's issues.

  • No apparent way to tell which verses have notes attached, apart from opening notes
  • As I pointed out in my post last Friday, "A red dot will ... appear next to the verse you selected in the Bible text pane, indicating that there is a note on that verse." When Robb Brunansky pointed this out in the comments on yesterday's post, "anonymous" complained, "I missed the red dots, which are pretty small, pretty faint, and I for one was looking for something on the other side of the window." While I can certainly see how you could overlook the dots, I'm not sure we want to make them any bigger or brighter. The point is to give a visual cue without distracting from the text. The important thing to realize is that the dots will always appear to the right of whichever Bible text pane is selected. If you select a notes pane, the dots are not displayed.

  • Notes are limited in that they can only be attached to verses
  • Robb Brunansky answered this point as well as I could in the comments. User notes are intended to be attached to verses, just as reference tools (commentaries, cross-references, etc.) follow Bible book order. If you want to create a more freeform document in Accordance, User Tools are the way to go. You can still create hypertextable Scripture links, along with hierarchical browsers, a few basic search fields, etc. Yes, it's a different kind of Accordance resource, but it serves a different purpose. A hammer is great for driving nails, but if you want to turn a screw, you need a screwdriver rather than a hammer. (I have tried driving a screw with a hammer—trust me, it never works out that well!)

    Now, I promised to deal with the question of how hypertext links work in user notes, but I think that's probably best left for another post.

    In the meantime, I appreciate the dialog. I'm human, and I naturally wish every Accordance user thought everything we did was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I may not like it when our warts are pointed out in public, and I may argue that some of them aren't warts at all, just beauty marks. But I would much rather you give us feedback on what frustrates you than just go away frustrated. So thanks for the feedback. :-)





    Wednesday, August 23, 2006  

    Ease of Use a Little Issue?

    Perhaps I should chalk this up to providence. Just as I'm trying to formulate my thoughts for a new blog entry, a user leaves a rather vehement comment on my last post about note-taking. I'll interact with that user's comments below:

    Ease of use is NOT a little issue.

    I'm quite sure that I never said (or implied) that "Ease of use" is a little issue. We take ease of use very seriously. But as the old Macintosh Bible (the book by PeachPit Press) once explained, "Easy is Hard." Developing something that is easy to use means considering all the factors involved, trying to anticipate user actions and prevent pilot error. We may not always get things completely right, but please don't imply that we therefore don't consider ease of use important.

    For me, to open a separate window to jot down a quick note is exactly what keeps me from putting down quick ideas. It's cumbersome and gets in the way of what you're thinking about. It's not intuitive.

    I'm not sure I know of any program that does not require you to do something to begin entering a user note. In Accordance, you need to click in the verse you want, use the keyboard shortcut command-U, and then start typing. If we allowed you to enter notes directly in the notes pane of a Search window, you would still need to click in the verse you want and start typing. The only step you would save is hitting command-U! If you want to add to or edit the text of an existing note, all you have to do is click in the notes pane and start typing. The Edit window appears instantly and reflects the changes as you type! I'm sorry, but I just don't see how either approach is much of a barrier to jotting down quick thoughts.

    Moving all my windows around every time I want to take notes so I can see what's under the edit window is an unnecessary difficulty.

    Now this is a barrier to jotting down quick thoughts. The Edit window is an extra window to manage, and its default location is unfortunate. However, once it has been moved, Accordance remembers where you put it, so it's exaggerating a bit to say that you have to move all your windows around every time you want to take notes.

    Still, the point is well taken. I believe I said in my last post that we could improve the default location of the Edit window. In fact, we've already discussed having it open in the top right corner of the screen by default, to minimize conflicts with existing windows and workspaces. We've also discussed other ways of improving how Accordance recalls where your Edit window has been placed.

    Modeless operation has been a cornerstone of the Mac since 1984. To not take that into consideration is a mistake in my opinion.

    While it's certainly true that the Mac was modeless in the sense that it did not force the user to follow some flowchart of choices, branches, and steps à la DOS, the Mac OS has always featured modality. Modal dialog boxes prevent the user from doing anything until they have made a particular choice, and those are still an important element of the Mac interface today. Drawing tools are another example of modality. In some cases, you want to move them. At other times, you want to reshape them. That requires different modes of interaction, visual cues to reflect each mode, and an interface for switching between them. Or take Mail for example. If you look at a draft e-mail in the main viewer window, and then try to edit it, you'll get beeped at. You must first open that e-mail in order to edit it. That's because the viewer window does not have an interface for editing, sending, attaching files, etc. Switching between modes of operation is not a cardinal sin against the Mac interface guidelines—as long as you do it at the right time and in the right way. :-)

    There, of course, is the rub. The challenge for every Mac software developer is to present the user with the interface elements he needs at the time he needs them, without leading him into some quagmire that is difficult to escape.

    Many of your reasons for having an Edit mode can be easily overcome. For instance, user notes can be locked (un-editable) in while searching them.

    Perhaps this would be another way of avoiding unnecessary changes, but would it really improve ease of use that much? Or would it simply shift the difficulty to another part of the process? For example, how do you "unlock" the user notes so that you can edit them? Presumably the user would have to do something, but then the question becomes, "Is this any easier than hitting command-U"?

    As far as using whether or not the user is searching as the cue for determining whether or not the notes are "locked," that becomes difficult in a program where what you see is always a reflection of some kind of "search." You see, we decided to make the process of searching "modeless," so you wouldn't have to hassle with some dialog box or separate results window every time you do a search. How do you use something which is modeless to determine which mode your user notes are in?

    Your solution to the user's objection only helps me understand the reason why I find myself so often recording my notes in a different Bible program.

    This last statement confuses me a bit, because I know a little about the other Mac programs out there, and I don't see how they're any easier to use with respect to taking notes. I've never been able to figure out MacSword's note-taking features, and QuickVerse Mac doesn't really have any. Neither do iBible or Bible Reader Free, so I have to assume you're alluding to Online Bible. But Online Bible requires you to open your notes before you can jot anything down, and the notes window always takes up the bottom half of the screen (which obscures the bottom half of any Bible windows). You can edit directly in the notes window, yes; but you can only view one note at a time, and cannot view your notes as a running commentary on multiple verses. And, of course, searching the text of your notes is problematic at best.

    My point here is not to criticize another Bible program. In fact, our option-down-arrow trick to create a note on the next verse was made in response to former OLB users who wanted a quick way to create notes on a string of consecutive verses, and it was a vast imporvement. My point here is that OLB lets you edit directly within the notes window, but the resulting notes are much more limited. Any interface can be simple if it doesn't do very much. (Which is simpler, the remote that came with your TV or the Universal Remote that can control your TV, VCR, DVD Player, and Satellite or Cable system?)

    The challenge for us has been to create a simple way to edit user notes which can be viewed and searched in multiple ways. Overall, I think we've been successful. There are still ways we can refine the process and improve ease of use, so keep your suggestions (and even your complaints) coming. But please understand that improving ease of use is not always as simple as just making a notes pane editable or making something modeless instead of modal. Interface design is always a bit of a balancing act, especially with a program as sophisticated as Accordance.

    With respect to user notes, the Accordance interface is designed to let you specify which verse you want to annotate, which set of notes you want to use, which corpus to use (did you know you can annotate extrabiblical works such as the Dead Sea Scrolls or the works of Josephus?), and which versification system the notes should follow. The Edit window gives you a simple interface for formatting the text, creating Scripture links, and saving changes, and the user notes pane and user notes window are both designed to open an Edit window as soon as you type anything. And of course, the keyboard shortcut for creating or editing a new user note is an easy-to-remember command-U. I don't know any other Bible program on Mac or PC which packs that much power into their user notes while offering as simple an interface.





    Monday, August 21, 2006  

    Inexpensive Atlas Sampler

    What do you do when you upgrade a product that still blows away anything else out there? This is the question we've been asking ourselves ever since we upgraded the Accordance Bible Atlas earlier this year.

    We first released the Atlas back in 1998, when Accordance was at version 3.5, yet as late as November 2005 at the ETS and SBL conferences, our aging Atlas was still turning heads and causing jaws to drop. That's because in those seven years, no one on any platform had released a Bible Atlas even remotely comparable.

    In spite of this, we released an update to the Accordance Atlas at this year's MacWorld Expo which featured such improvements as high-resolution map backgrounds, new color schemes, modern sites, modern boundaries, and details of the geography of Jerusalem. To date, version 2 of the Atlas has been a huge success.

    Yet while the Atlas has always been one of our best selling add-ons, there are some users who see $89 as a lot to spend "just for some maps." Of course, those of you who own the Atlas know that it is much more than "just some maps," but it can be hard to communicate that to someone who has never really seen it in action.

    So here's what we've decided to do: we're now offering an Atlas Sampler for just $20, which you can download from our web-site or install from the soon-to-be-updated Bible Reference CD-ROM. The Atlas Sampler includes just two backgrounds from the old Atlas CD-ROM (Colors and Beige) and version 1 of the Map Data. It does not include the high-resolution backgrounds of the full Atlas. Neither does it include the Altitude data (so no elevations or 3-D Maps). But it does give Accordance users an inexpensive way to explore the 2-D features of the Atlas and to quickly locate Biblical sites. It lets them overlay different site, region, and route layers as well as view the animated routes. In short, it's a full-featured Atlas that still blows away just about any other Bible Atlas out there—except of course our own high-res Atlas CD-ROM.

    Best of all, you're not penalized should you decide eventually that you want to upgrade to the full version of the Atlas. The twenty dollars you spend on the Atlas Sampler is simply credited toward your purchase of the full Atlas.

    If you haven't purchased the Accordance Bible Atlas because you thought it was too much to spend "just for some maps," be sure to give the Atlas Sampler a try. But be warned, when you see what you've been missing, you're going to be sorely tempted to upgrade to the full Atlas.

    At least, that's our hope. ;-)





    Friday, August 18, 2006  

    A Simple Note-Taking Set-Up

    This week, I've been talking up the advantages of taking notes in Accordance rather than scrawling them in the margins of a print Bible. Today, I want to get into the nuts and bolts of note-taking in Accordance. Specifically, I want to answer some comments which were left complaining about the way Accordance notes must be edited in a separate Edit window, and suggest a simple window arrangement which will make note-taking easy.

    In order to take notes in Accordance, you must first create a user notes file. Each file is capable of having a note for every verse of the Bible, so you don't have to create more than one notes file unless you want multiple note sets for a specific purpose. Once you've created at least one user notes file, you can begin adding notes to it.

    A user note must be appended to a specific verse of the Bible, so before you can create a user note, you need to tell Accordance which verse you want to annotate. The easiest way to do this is to click anywhere within the verse in a Bible text pane. Once you've selected a verse to annotate, simply choose Edit User Note from the Selection menu (or use the keyboard shortcut Command-U).

    An Edit window will open for the verse you selected, and you can begin typing your note. When you're done, click the Update button and the note you entered will be added to your user notes file. A red dot will also appear next to the verse you selected in the Bible text pane, indicating that there is a note on that verse. You can double-click the red dot to open a User Notes window displaying your note. Or you can add a pane to your Search window displaying your user notes in parallel with the text of the Bible.

    Now, in the comments on Tuesday's post, a couple of users complained about having to edit user notes in a separate Edit window, rather than being able to enter them directly in the user notes window, or even in the User Notes pane of the Search window. While I understand the desire for greater simplicity and convenience, I believe we have good reasons for using a separate window for editing user notes.

    First, there are technical reasons for using a separate Edit window. Accordance Search, Tools, User Notes, and other windows are designed for searching and displaying finished modules, not editing and adding to them. We might be able to retool those windows to allow for direct editing, but it would be a major undertaking for a relatively minor benefit. Frankly, we have bigger fish to fry when it comes to our development efforts.

    Beyond the technical barriers, the real reason we use a separate Edit window for editing user notes is a philosophical one: If we make it too easy to make changes, it becomes too easy to make a mistake.

    Imagine for a moment that you have your user notes displayed in a pane of the Search window. You inadvertently click in the notes pane and then begin typing something. You've just changed the text of your notes, quite possibly without realizing it. Even if you do realize it and delete the spurious text right away, you've still made a change, and Accordance would have to prompt you at some point to ask whether you want to save these changes.

    All that is to say that we're not likely to abandon the Edit window any time soon. The good news is that most of the complaints people made about using the Edit window can be easily avoided by using the following simple set-up:

    Here I have a Search window displaying the text of Genesis 1, with my Study Notes displayed in a parallel pane. To add a note to verse 1, I clicked in it, then hit command-U to open the Edit window, which annoyingly (okay I admit it!) appears on top of my Workspace. So I clicked on the Workspace, then chose Tile Windows from the Arrange submenu of the Window menu (actually, I just used the keyboard shortcut Command-I). Now my Edit window is neatly arranged beside the Bible text and notes. As you can see, I've typed a singularly brilliant note, and I'm ready to move on to the next verse.

    Prior to version 7, I would have had to click Update (or use command-S to save), close the Edit window, click in verse 2, and then use command-U to open another Edit window, which would, of course, appear on top my Workspace. That's far too repetitive, and thankfully, there is now a better way. In version 7, I can simply option-click the down arrow button at the bottom left of the Edit window, and Accordance will automatically save my note on verse 1 and create a new note on verse 2, all in the same Edit window.

    Note how the pane displaying my Study Notes has been updated to include my singularly brilliant note on Genesis 1:1. With this simple window arrangement, I can see the text I'm commenting on, add my notes in the Edit window, and immediately see each note as I move on to the next one.

    Here's another trick. If reality sets in and I realize my note on verse 1 was not as brilliant as I thought, I can make changes to that note simply by clicking in that note in the pane containing my user notes, then start typing. Accordance will automatically open an Edit window and I'll see my changes being made as I type. So you see, you can type directly in the notes pane or User Notes window. It's just that your changes will be made in the Edit window, and you'll need to update your note to see those changes reflected in the notes pane.

    While I agree that we could improve the default location of the Edit window, so that it does not cover the existing workspace as much; I think you'll find that once you lay the windows out neatly (using tiling) and take advantage of the new option-click method of adding notes, your note-taking experience will be vastly improved.





    Thursday, August 17, 2006  

    User Notes: A Personal Example

    On Tuesday, I listed what I consider the primary advantages of using Accordance's note-taking and highlighting features as opposed to marking up an actual print Bible. Today, I'll give a few examples of how I personally use Accordance User Notes. In an upcoming post, I'll get into the nuts and bolts of using user notes and highlighting.

    Now, I must confess that I am not the most systematic note-taker in the world, so I'm not sure how helpful my own use of user notes will end up being. I have a number of different user notes files which have been started at various times and for various purposes, only to be left to languish. But perhaps my discombobulated note-taking habits will help to illustrate just how flexible the user notes features of Accordance actually are.

    My two most comprehensive user notes files are my Study Notes and Textual Notes. Study Notes is loosely dedicated to any literary, exegetical, and interpretive notes I happen to make on a given passage. Scrolling through them now, I am surprised at how many notes I've actually made, and it's readily apparent that most of the notes I've made have centered around Sunday School classes I've happened to be teaching. When I was asked to sub one week for a class on Nehemiah, I recorded my observations on chapter 5 in my Study Notes, and left little instructions to myself colored in red.

    By the way, these helpful prompts got me into a bit of trouble when I was doing a demo to a predominantly Jewish audience at Brandeis University. My pastor has a great affinity for the "Christian hedonism" of John Piper, so when Nehemiah prays in 5:19 that God would remember him with favor for all that he's done for the returning Jews, I jotted a note to myself to "Talk about Nehemiah as a Christian Hedonist." What I meant, of course, was not that Nehemiah was a "Christian," but that I should show my Sunday School class the parallels between Nehemiah's prayer and the approach to life which Piper describes as "Christian hedonism." When a Jewish user at Brandeis saw my note to self, he naturally found it a little disturbing, and I was at a loss to explain what the note meant without completely derailing the demo. Fortunately, a colleague came to my rescue and offered me a graceful way out!

    Embarrassing moments aside, I've found the user notes to be an especially helpful teaching tool. I can display them in a pane alongside the text of the Bible, and I can include links to related Scripture references, so that everything I need is right at my fingertips.

    Although the bulk of my study notes were created for the purpose of teaching, I do have other notes which were created in the course of my own personal study. This is especially true of my Textual Notes, a separate notes files dedicated to recording my thoughts on important textual variants or translation issues.

    In the example seen here, my notes file has become a kind of repository for the information I've uncovered in the course of my study. Here I compare translations, reference BDB, consider the reading in the Greek Septuagint, and discuss Paul's quotation of this verse in Ephesians. One can almost follow the way I've moved through Accordance in the course of this study, from parallel text panes to amplifying to a lexicon to consulting the OT in NT parallel, and so on. Each discovery gets recorded in this particular user note.

    Now, I'm obviously not always that careful to record every observation in my notes, but that day, I must have felt the need to write in order to collect my thoughts. On other days, my notes might be more staccato and disconnected: "See BDB on ragaz," "See Ephesians 4:26," etc.

    By the way, observe how when I referenced BDB in this note, I included the Hebrew word to look up. That way, all I need do is triple-click that Hebrew word or select it and choose BDB from the Resource palette to look it up. Likewise, I've hypertexted the link to Ephesians so I can easily see that as well. When taking notes like this, I try to think about how I can arrange them so that they will be a ready launching pad to other resources.

    While I'm hardly a model of good note-taking practice, I have found the user notes feature of Accordance to be a valuable tool for teaching and personal study. Because they're flexible, interactive, and fully integrated with the rest of my Accordance library, I can employ Accordance user notes for a wide variety of purposes.





    Tuesday, August 15, 2006  

    Paper vs. Electronic Note-Taking

    Rick Mansfield is a doctoral candidate, collector of print Bibles, frequent blogger, and (his most prestigious credential) an Accordance user. Last week, Rick blogged about wide margin Bibles and talked a little about his method of marking up print Bibles and inscribing notes in the margins. Knowing that Rick is an Accordance user, I left a comment asking him to compare inscribing notes in a print Bible with taking notes in a Bible study program like Accordance. He responded with the admission that (gasp!) he hasn't really used the note-taking features of Accordance, and he invited me to write a guest blog on the subject. Before I'm ready to ask Rick to post anything to his site, I figure I'll post some initial thoughts about electronic note-taking here.

    The first thing I want to consider are the advantages and disadvantages of each method of note-taking. In a future post, I'll go into the specifics of note-taking in Accordance.

    Paper notes:

    Portability is one of the primary advantages of scrawling notes in a paper Bible. Sure you can carry a laptop around with you, but it's hard not to look pretentious taking a PowerBook with you to church or synagogue. (Not that I haven't been known to do it, mind you, but I always feel self-conscious when I do!)

    Another advantage of scrawling notes in a print Bible is that there is a tactile satisfaction associated with it. Let's face it, there's a certain feel to reading a well-made Bible and writing in the margins with a good pen—a feel which is impossible to duplicate with an LCD screen and a set of keys.

    (Incidentally, this is one reason we're not interested in publishing an electronic version of every religious book known to man. There are certain books which translate well into electronic media, and some, such as Louw & Nida's Greek lexicon, which almost seem designed to be used electronically rather than in print. But there are other books which are just meant to be read, and turning the pages of a paper book is still preferable to using a scroll bar.)

    Okay, those are the main pros of paper note-taking which I can think of, but there are also several cons.

    The first is that ink notes and color highlighters are permanent. When you mark up a verse, those annotations are there every time you read that verse, and at times, your notes can distract from your reading. In my first Bible, I used a simple system of underlining verses of doctrinal importance in black, and application-oriented verses in red. But I soon found that when I read those passages again, my eye was immediately drawn to the underlined portions, and I began to suspect that my previous observations were forever "coloring" my understanding of those verses.

    Another disadvantage of written notes and highlights is that they are not easily transferable from one Bible to the next. Notes written in ink are permanent, but Bibles wear out, and when a new Bible is purchased, those previous observations are largely banished to a shelf somewhere, or lost forever if that Bible gets discarded. Then, of course, should you decide to switch to a new translation, your notes don't get carried over. Unless you rewrite your notes in each Bible you purchase, written notes eventually get lost. And if you do copy your notes from one Bible to another, you no longer have room in the new Bible for future annotations.

    Finally, the permanence of written annotations makes it difficult to switch to a different mark-up scheme mid-stream. I did this with my second Bible. I got four colored markers and assigned each color a certain theme. I even put a color-code legend in the front. After a while, however, I tired of this system, but switching to a different system seemed like a recipe for confusion.

    Taking Notes in Accordance:

    Taking notes in Accordance may not offer the tactile satisfaction and portability of paper notes, but it avoids all of the disadvantages just mentioned. Since you can hide your highlighting at any time, and you only need to view your user notes when you want them, it is easy to read the text of the Bible without your previous annotations directing your interpretation of the passage. Because you can create multiple note files and highlight sets, if you want to switch to a different mark-up scheme, or have different notes for different purposes, you can do it easily. And of course, through copy-and-paste, drag-and-drop, and export to text or rtf, it's relatively easy to transfer notes to other documents, other computers, even other Bible programs (though I can't imagine why you would ever want to do that!). Finally, user notes in Accordance are not dependent on a particular translation or Bible text. If you want to view your notes on text-critical issues in parallel with the Message, or your devotional notes in parallel with the Greek Septuagint, you can easily do so.

    In a future post, I'll talk a little more specifically about how to do these kinds of things in Accordance; but if you haven't tried the note-taking and highlighting features of Accordance yet, I'd encourage you to take advantage of them.





    Tuesday, August 08, 2006  

    Don't forget to Amplify!

    A user recently sent me the following question:

    I have both NIDNTT and Pillar NTC. In the Eph. commentary O'Brien refers to NIDNTT.

    footnote #19 under chapter 4;
    "19. On 'meekness' in the Old Testament and the Qumran community, see F. Hauck and S. Schulz, TDNT 6:645-51; and W. Bauder, NIDNTT 2:256-59." (emphasis mine)

    Is there a way I can link to my NIDNTT? O'Brien gives volume and page number, is there a way to look it up?

    Now that's an excellent question, and I thought others of you might benefit from the answer.

    If NIDNTT included page numbers, as some Accordance tools do, this user could open NIDNTT, switch the search field to Page Numbers, and then enter the page number cited. Unfortunately, NIDNTT does not include the printed page numbers, so there is no way to look up the exact page. But note how the footnote also explains that the pages cited discuss the subject of "meekness." By looking up the term "meekness" in NIDNTT, we stand a good chance of finding the article cited.

    Now, we could open up NIDNTT, select the English entry field, type the word "meekness," then click OK; but who has time for all that? The still more excellent way to look up this information is to amplify to NIDNTT.

    Amplifying is the term we use to describe the process of automatically looking up any information you select. If we simply select the word "meekness" in the Pillar New Testament commentary and drag the mouse over the Resource palette, the cursor changes from a regular pointer to a magnifying glass. This indicates that whatever resource we choose will automatically be searched for the selected information. If we choose NIDNTT from the Greek Tools drop-down menu, a new window or tab will open displaying NIDNTT's article on "Meekness." A quick glance at the article found shows that it does indeed discuss the concept of "meekness" in the "Old Testament and the Qumran community", and that it is, in fact, written by W. Bauder.

    Amplifying like this from one resource to another is the key to becoming an Accordance power user. It's a seamless way to get the information you need quickly and then get back to the word or passage that you were studying. So if you're wanting more information about something you run across in Accordance, don't forget to select it and look it up in your other Accordance resources. In a word, don't forget to amplify!





    Friday, August 04, 2006  

    Cocktail Trivia

    When I was in college, I had a professor who liked to impart what he called "cocktail trivia"—useless bits of knowledge that make you look really smart in cocktail party conversation. Now, I don't go to too many cocktail parties, but occasionally I do take a break from module development and spend enough time with people to toss around a little cocktail trivia. For example, I will sometimes tell people that I am experiencing borborygmi. That's the scientific term for your stomach grumbling. Or I may say that I'm triskadekaphobic. That's an irrational fear of the number 13. (I'm not really, but it sure is fun to say!)

    Today, we're going to use Accordance 7 to collect a little "cocktail trivia" about the Bible. And we'll do it using the Table Bar Chart.

    If you're following along, open a Search window with the Bible of your choice. I'm using the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Now click the Search for Words radio button and enter a single asterisk (*) in the argument entry box (if it isn't there already). The asterisk is a wildcard. In verse search mode, it means "any verse." In word search mode, it means "any word." So when you click OK to perform this search, Accordance will find and highlight every word of the Bible. Why would you want to search for every word in the Bible? Because if you click the Details button, you'll get some really interesting statistical information.

    Now, select Table Bar Chart from the Graph drop-down menu at the top of the Details workspace. A Bar chart will appear showing the average hits per book. Since we searched for every word, average hits is rather meaningless, but if we choose Total Verses from the pop-up menu at the bottom right corner of the chart, things get a little more interesting:

    Now, your Bar Chart will look a little differently than mine at first. I've customized the appearance of my chart by using the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn: Command-T. In the dialog box that opens, choose to Show the count on the right, and to "sort by count," then click OK. Your Table Bar Chart should now look like mine.

    If we look at this chart, we see that Psalms has the greatest number of verses by a big margin. You probably already knew that. But did you know that 2 John has the fewest number of verses? Or that Genesis with its 50 chapters and Jeremiah with its 52 chapters both have more verses than Isaiah with its 66 chapters? Did you know that the two largest New Testament books are Luke and Matthew, and that they only come in 8th and 9th respectively?

    There's cocktail trivia galore in this chart already, but we can get more by using Command-T again and checking "show chapter detail":

    Here we can see that Psalm 119 is the chapter in the Bible with the greatest number of verses, but that Numbers 7, which talks about the consecration of the tabernacle, is second. What is the second longest Psalm? Why Psalm 78. And which chapter in the New Testament has the greatest number of verses? Luke 1.

    But number of verses is not necessarily the truest measure of length. To see which chapters in the Bible are truly the longest, we need to look at total number of words. You can do that by selecting Total Words in the pop-up menu at the bottom right.

    Note how Psalm 119 is still the longest chapter, but by a much smaller margin when looking at total words rather than total verses. Note also that by this measure, 1 Kings 8 comes in second. Counting by words rather than verses, Matthew 26 is the longest New Testament chapter, followed by Mark 14.

    Well, you get the idea. Graphing the total words or total verses in a book or chapter is not exactly as helpful as examining Average Hits or Total Hits after you've searched for a particular word. But when you see a large spike on that Average Hits chart, you may want to switch to Total Words to see the relative size of the book in question. The information is there when you need it, or whenever you want to impress people with some new cocktail trivia. :-)





    Wednesday, August 02, 2006  

    A New Update and a New Widget

    Accordance has now been updated to version 7.0.3. The updater is available for free download to all users of version 7.

    Accordance 7.0.3 squashes a number of minor bugs and answers several recent user requests. For example, the version number has now been removed from the name of the application itself, making updates less cumbersome, and making life easier for those who launch Accordance from within various macros and scripts. In response to requests to be able to add timeline items prior to 3000 B.C., we've now extended the Timeline back to 4000 B.C. and included an Early Bronze I archaeological period.

    Without a doubt, the biggest new feature is the release of a new Dashboard widget called AccUpdater. The AccUpdater widget is designed to help you keep up to date with the latest versions of any Accordance modules you own. Just click the Check button and the widget will consult a database on the Accordance web-site and return any modules you own for which updates are available.


    You can then click on the orange arrow button for information about where to find the update.

    In case you weren't aware of it, this is now our second widget: the first being a cool little verse insertion utility that lets you look up verses (even more than one at a time!) in any installed Accordance Bible text and automatically paste those verses into your documents. If you haven't used the verse insertion widget, be sure to try it out as well.