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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008  

"Boy, You guys have really been busy!"

Over the past seven days, we've been exhibiting Accordance at the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature. We had about half a dozen people manning our booth at ETS, and no less than fourteen for the larger booth at SBL. Since I started working for Accordance in 1995, I've participated in every SBL meeting except one, and we've always been extremely busy. Still, I've never seen it like this.

Usually I get a little time to stroll around the exhibit hall or otherwise take a break, but this year I was almost continually doing demos, answering questions, or otherwise helping out. In most years, I'll do fewer demos on the last half-day of the show, since people are generally in a hurry to catch their flights home and so may only stop in to make a quick last minute purchase. Not this year. I was demonstrating Accordance until the moment I had to leave to catch my flight!

At one point, during a quick trip to the restroom, I ran into one of the book publishers exhibiting at the show, and after the initial hello-how-are-things-going, he remarked, "Boy, you guys have been really busy over there!" I just laughed and joked that I had barely had time to breathe! Later I learned that other members of the booth staff were hearing the same kinds of remarks from other people. Apparently, we created something of a stir.

A great deal of this activity was driven by new users, many of whom had recently switched to Mac. Some would come hoping this Mac software would prove comparable to the tools they were accustomed to using. They would leave wishing they had switched to Mac (and Accordance) much sooner. Yet it wasn't just Mac switchers who were turning to Accordance. We did brisk sales to PC users wishing to use Accordance on the emulator.

At these shows, Accordance doesn't just draw crowds; it generates excitement. It is quite common to be in the middle of a demo to someone and be interrupted by one of their colleagues or professors who enthusiastically tells them that Accordance is the best. It is also common to have Accordance users sit down at the demo computers and start demoing to their friends and colleagues themselves, without asking for any assistance from one of us.

All in all, these conferences are exhausting but fun. In spite of economic uncertainty and increased competition, this has been our most successful ETS/SBL ever. After I recover from all the activity, I'll blog about the shows in more detail. In the meantime, have a happy Thanksgiving!





Friday, November 21, 2008  

Saving Space with the Apparatus

The Apparatus comprises the footnotes to the Greek and Hebrew text which detail the important variants between different manuscripts. These are available on the Studienbibel CD-ROM (others are on the NT Apparatus CD-ROM).

I received this question from a user yesterday (slightly edited):

I am a relative newcomer to Accordance and am very much enjoying the software so far. I have a quick question about a specific module. I like to use the module "NA27-
GBS" often because of its inclusion of the text critical markings, but I often find myself using the "GNT-T" module instead because it's tagged and I can get info in the "instant details" display without looking words up in other windows. I don't like having them both open at the same time because it seems like a wasteful use of the precious screen real estate. So, my question is, are there any plans to produce a tagged version of the "NA27-GBS" any time in the future? I guess the same questions apply to the "BHS Apparatus" as well.

And I thought that my solution might help other users:

Sorry, the apparatus and the text with sigla belong to GBS, but the tagging belongs to others, so the texts will remain separate for the foreseeable future. One solution would be to make the NA27-GBS the hypertext text for the NA27 Apparatus, and the BHS-GBS for the BHS Apparatus. Then, even though the text is not displayed in the window, it appears in the Instant Details as you mouse over the verse reference of the apparatus. You can do this in Set Tool Display when the apparatus itself is in the selected pane, and be sure to click Use as Default.







Tuesday, November 18, 2008  

Now That's a Review!

Dee Dee Warren (aka "Dizzle") at World of Apple has written an incredibly comprehensive review of Accordance 8. Reviewing a software program properly requires a great deal of time, effort, and skill. Over the years I've been disappointed to see many reviewers simply regurgitate our own marketing materials or simply settle for listing the contents of various packages, a fact I once lamented on the Bible Software Review forums. I have no such complaints about this World of Apple review. Ms. Warren has done a remarkable job of exposing non-users to the way Accordance works and what it can do. She has not hesitated to make suggestions for improvement, while nevertheless expressing her overall appreciation for the product. Be sure to check it out.

World of Apple will also be giving away the Library 8 Introductory Level (a $99 value) to someone picked at random from among those leaving a comment on the review. So if you know someone who would appreciate the Library 8 Intro as a gift, or if you could use it yourself, leave a comment on the article and perhaps you'll win!





Friday, November 14, 2008  

Coming Up for Air

In the Accordance calendar, the months of October and November are both exciting and exhausting. This is the time of year when we gear up for the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature. It is at these conferences on Biblical scholarship that we release new materials primarily of interest to scholars and students.

Last year, we released the tagged Dead Sea Scrolls Biblical Manuscripts, the New English Translation of the Septuagint, the tagged pentateuch and critical apparatus from Swete's edition of the Greek Septuagint, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Washingtonensis (both tagged), the tagged Christian Apologists (Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, etc.), Ben Sira (tagged), the tagged New Testament of the Latin Vulgate, and the Context of Scripture. With the exception of Context of Scripture, I believe most of these resources are still only available for Accordance.

While I had a hand in developing some of that material we released last year, most of that work was done by various scholars who work with us to develop these tagged Biblical and extra-Biblical texts. Thus, while I always have plenty to do in preparation for ETS/SBL, I am always pleasantly surprised at this time of year by the massive amount of new material which these scholars have quietly been producing.

This year will be no exception. While I can't make any official announcements until the conferences, this year we'll be releasing new tagged manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, new extrabiblical and cognate language texts, and more.

Some of the "more" I have to confess that I'm still trying to finish up (which is why I haven't blogged this week!). So I'm afraid I need to crawl back into my hole and keep working. In the meantime, be sure to download version 8.1.1, a new update to the Accordance application which fixes a few bugs (and reduces the height of the tabs slightly). If you haven't tried the new automatic update feature of version 8.1 yet, this latest update will give you a good excuse to do so.

I'm afraid you can expect blogging to be light for the next couple of weeks, but I hope to get back to detailing new features of Accordance 8.1 soon. There are still plenty I haven't talked about.





Thursday, November 06, 2008  

New in 8.1: New links within User Tools

When Accordance 8 was released, it included support for two new kinds of links within Accordance tools: links to other Accordance modules, and links to internet URLs. The immediate reaction we got was, "This is great! Can we include those links in our own user tools?" The answer at that time was no, but it was always our intention to add that capability in user tools. In 8.1, we have.

To create a link to another Accordance module, enclose your link in brackets and use the following format:

[Module name, Field to be Searched, Search Argument]

For example, let's say I'm doing a study of the Greek word agapao and I want to create a kind of running record of my study. In my user tool, I would include the following link:

[GNT-T, w, agapaw]

This link will open a window containing GNT-T, set it to search by words, and enter the word "agapaw" into the argument entry box. Note that in text modules, "w" is enough to specify a word search and "v" is enough to specify a verse search.

Next I look this word up in BDAG, so I include the following link in my user tool:

[BDAG, Greek Entry, agapaw]

Clicking this link will open BDAG and search the Greek Entry field for agapao.

By the way, in links such as the one above, Greek and Hebrew words have to be displayed in Roman characters. That's because user tools use the font to determine which search field to place text in. If you place the word inside a link in the Greek or Hebrew font, it will index that word as belonging to the Greek or Hebrew field, and no longer recognize it as a valid link.

The search field and search argument are optional. If I want to create a link that will just open a module without searching it, I only need to include the module name in brackets, like this: [NIDNTT]

For internet URLs, simply enter the full URL into your user tool and make it a link. For example, let's say I want to reference the online Liddell & Scott lexicon entry for agapao. I would just enter the link below:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%23347

You can also create links to documents on your hard drive using the file:// protocol. Let's say I wrote a paper in college on agapao, and I want to link to it. I would just include a link like this:

file:///Users/davidlng/Documents/Agape%20Paper.pdf/

You can use this protocol to create links to anything: image files, movies, Pages documents, even resources which are only available in other Bible programs.

By the way, Joe Weaks has created a handy little droplet application that will give you the URL for any file you drag onto it. When you click the link above, the application will be downloaded to your hard drive, and you can then place it in your dock or any other convenient location. When you drag a file onto it, the URL file path for that file is copied to your clipboard, and you can just paste it into your user tool and make it a link. Pretty cool, huh?

Now, including these long links to files and web pages is admittedly ugly, and I wish there were a way to hide the URLs and allow you just to display a brief description of the link. That was actually our original intention, but we found that the underlying structure of user tools prevented this. We actually debated whether we should just kill this feature, or go ahead and make it available with the understanding that you have to display the link itself. We decided on the latter, in the hope that the increased functionality will far outweigh the lack of aesthetic appeal.

With this new ability to link to Accordance modules, web pages, and files on your hard drive, your user tools can now become a launching pad to a wide array of resources. We hope you'll make good use of these links, and personally, I'm hoping to see some innovative new user tools submitted to the Accordance Exchange.





Wednesday, November 05, 2008  

New in 8.1: Looking Up Both a Word and a Verse

Picture this scenario. You're looking at Matthew 6:10 in the tagged Greek New Testament (GNT-T), and you triple-click the Greek word translated "done" in the phrase "Your will be done." This opens your default Greek lexicon to the entry on ginomai, a word with an extremely broad semantic range. The article for this word in BDAG is no less than four pages long. Who wants to wade through such a lengthy article in order to find the discussion of how this word is used in Matthew 6:10? Is there a way to zero in on that particular meaning using Accordance?

Sure there is, but until now, it has required some extra effort on your part. To find the mention of Matthew 6:10 in the article on ginomai, you would need to open the More options section of the window containing BDAG, specify that you want to search an additional field, set that field to Scripture, enter Matthew 6:10, and click OK. This would highlight both the Greek word ginomai in the article title, as well as any references to Matthew 6:10 within the body of the article. If the reference to Matthew 6:10 was further down in the article, you would simply click the down Mark button to jump to it.

That's not a lot of extra effort, but if you always want to look up the particular occurrence of a word in a Greek or Hebrew lexicon, there was really no easy way to do it . . . until now.

In Accordance 8.1, we've added an option to the General Preferences to "include reference when amplifying from text to tool." Check this option, and your amplifying instantly becomes more powerful. Now, when you triple-click that word in Matthew 6:10, Accordance will automatically set up the multi-field search described above. In other words, it will open up your default Greek or Hebrew lexicon, search the entry field for the word you triple-clicked, and search the Scripture field for the relevant verse. The most you'll ever have to do to jump to the relevant part of the article will be to click the down Mark button.

If the verse you triple-clicked is not found in the dictionary article, you'll simply be taken to the article on the word you selected. You can also override the secondary search for the verse by holding down the shift key when you amplify.

This little feature will go a long way toward helping you zero in on the meaning of a word in a given context.





Tuesday, November 04, 2008  

New in 8.1: Moore Improved User Notes

Earlier this year, we did a training seminar at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Moore college focuses a great deal of attention on teaching a particular exegetical method in which the students create a block diagram of each passage, write their own exegetical comments on the passage, and create their own working translation. Those who use Accordance generally do this by creating three sets of user notes, which they'll conveniently view in parallel panes alongside the passage.

Yet while it is convenient to view all these user notes files in parallel panes, it has not been convenient to edit them—a fact which the students at Moore made very clear. The inconvenience stems from the fact that Accordance does not let you edit the user notes directly. For both programmatic and interface reasons, Accordance requires you to open a separate Edit window when editing user notes. For most users, who may only be viewing one set of notes at a time, opening a separate edit window is not necessarily a major hindrance, but for the folks at Moore, whose screens are taken up with the text in parallel with three notes panes, keeping three additional Edit windows open proved to be a frustrating challenge.

Several Moore students took the time to describe in detail their exegetical method and the reason they were so insistent about wanting to avoid opening three extra windows. While Accordance 8.1 does not do away with the Edit window, it does offer a more convenient way to edit your user notes in place: simply click in a user notes pane and start typing.

When you do, an Edit window will appear directly above the user notes pane without obscuring anything else on screen. When you're done making changes, simply hit the Enter key to get rid of the Edit window and return to viewing the notes pane.

This change to the placement and dismissal of the Edit window should greatly improve the workflow of those who employ user notes to create running commentaries as they study the text. By clicking in the note pane and typing even just a space, the Edit window will appear. By option-clicking the up or down arrow buttons in the Edit window, you can add new notes on the next or preceding verses. And when you're ready to get rid of the Edit window, you need only hit Enter to save and view your changes.

By the way, if you prefer to work with a larger Edit window placed off to the side somewhere, simply use command-U to open the Edit window instead of typing directly. Your default Edit window location will be used when you do.

The folks at Moore College are enthusiastic users who are really pushing the user notes feature, and we know 8.1 hasn't delivered everything they'd like. Still, we hope these improvements will help facilitate their exegetical method, and that they will make life easier for other Accordance users as well.





Monday, November 03, 2008  

Lookin' Good! Accordance 8.1

It's here. After less than two weeks of hints and promises, Accordance 8.1 is now available for download. Like all our point releases, this new update is free to all users of Accordance 8, and is packed with enough new stuff to be well worth paying for. You can read a quick summary of what's new here. Meanwhile, I want to talk about the most obvious changes: the changes to Accordance's appearance.

First, the Workspace window features redesigned tabs which actually look like tabs, as opposed to the former push-button style tabs. The new tabs have a spacious feel, but they actually take up less vertical space than the former tabs, which should make users with small screens happier.

In the Search window, the module name and History pop-ups feature a new look, the Search for Words and Verses radio buttons have been replaced by toggle buttons, and the OK button has been replaced with a round icon button. Also of benefit to users of small screens, the minimum height of the search entry box has been reduced, giving more room for display of the text. Even the close icons for tabs and text panes have been improved.

Additional cosmetic changes were made to the icons in the Library window, the buttons in the Details workspace, and in other windows throughout the program. All in all, we think these changes give Accordance a tighter, more modern look. We hope you like them.

Throughout the rest of this week, I'll be detailing other enhancements in Accordance 8.1. There's a ton of cool stuff to talk about, and when I'm done, I think you'll be surprised at the number of improvements included in this update.