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Jul 8, 2011 David Lang

Not All E-Books Are Created Equal

Recently I've been discussing the various cool things you can do with the Tool Browser. The Tool Browser is a powerful and flexible feature of the Accordance application which interacts with the information built into each Accordance module. When we develop an Accordance module, we think long and hard about what should and should not appear in the browser. What will the user expect? Are there special circumstances we need to work around? It's part of what makes developing an Accordance module more of an art than a science.

NIGTCBrowser

For example, look at the browser for the NIGTC commentary. Each volume of this commentary has a lengthy title such as "The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text" or "The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text." If we let the entire title show up in the browser, a narrow browser pane would show numerous instances of "The Gospel of" and "The Epistle of" without letting you see the actual name of the biblical book! We therefore tweaked the browser so it would give you the information you need at a glance.

It's that kind of thought that goes into the development of every Accordance module, and many of these decisions are so subtle you would never even notice them. But they are all designed to save you time and effort, to enhance your user experience, and to go beyond merely delivering an electronic copy of a book.


 

Jul 7, 2011 David Lang

Tool Browser: See What You Need to See

On Tuesday, I showed how you can option-click a section of the Tool Browser to highlight it. When you do, all subsequent searches will be limited to the selected portion of the tool. But this tip isn't just useful when you want to narrow a search; it can also be used to display only the portions of a tool you want to see.

zeb_set.sm For example, let's say you're studying the Assyrian siege of Lachish described in 2 Kings 18–19, and you want to read a couple of relevant articles from the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible—such as the articles on Lachish and Sennacherib. Unfortunately, you're going to be away from your computer all day. If you had an iPhone or iPad you could just bring Accordance and the ZEB with you, but alas, you don't own an iOS device. You do, however, have a Kindle, and it would be nice to be able to read those articles there.

Using the Browser, you find the article on Lachish and option-click its title to select it. Then you find the article on Sennacherib and shift-option-click its title. Holding the shift key down enables you to select more than one article at a time, so now both articles should be selected in the browser.

Now that you have the articles you want selected, you need a way to show only those articles. To do this, be sure an asterisk is entered in the search entry field, and that the Show pop-up menu is set to Articles. The asterisk tells Accordance to display all the selected articles, while setting the Show pop-up to Articles tells Accordance to show only the selected articles.

BrowserArticle

Now all you need to do is print to PDF and transfer that PDF to your Kindle!

By using this simple trick, you can specify the precise sections of a tool you want to display, print, copy, or work with.


 

Jul 5, 2011 David Lang

Tool Browser: Setting a Search Range

Last week, I gave a few tips for how to get more out of the browser which is built into every Accordance tool. Today I want to give you a glimpse into the real power the Browser offers.

Let's say you want to search Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of Will for the word "happiness." It's part of a compilation of Edwards' works, and if you search the Content field of that entire module you get more than 1200 occurrences of "happiness"! What you need, therefore, is a way to restrict the search to Freedom of Will by itself.

BrowserRange To restrict your search to a portion of a tool, simply open the browser and option-click the desired section title. In this case, I'll option-click the title Freedom of Will. A red bar will appear to the left of that title, and that highlight will remain visible no matter what sections of the browser I open or close. For example, if I click the triangle for Freedom of Will, all of its subsections will also have the red bar beside them. If I close the triangle for a higher level, such as Volume One, a light red bar will appear to indicate that some portion of Volume One (but not all of it) has been selected. Even if I close the browser completely, a red underline will remind me that a range has been set.

Once I've selected a portion of the tool to search, I need only click the Find button or Hit return to perform the new search. Now instead of more than 1200 hits, I get a much more manageable 44 hits.

When I'm ready to remove the range, I simply need to hold the option key and click on the vertical red bar to get rid of it.

This simple yet powerful feature has countless applications. You can use it to search one volume of a multi-volume commentary, a single church father in the massive Early Church Fathers collection, a specific issue of a magazine or journal, etc.


 

Jun 28, 2011 David Lang

Tool Browser: When You Can't See the Triangle

For the past couple posts I've been showing how to get the most out of the Tool Browser. Here's a simple tip which will soon have you spoiled.

As you know, the disclosure triangles let you expand or collapse a section of the browser. But what if you can't see the disclosure triangle? For example, the top level of the browser for most dictionaries is each letter of the alphabet. Expand one of those sections, and you'll likely get a long list of articles beginning with that letter. As you scroll down through that list, you can very quickly lose sight of the disclosure triangle. Consequently, when you want to close that section of the browser, you first have to scroll up to find its disclosure triangle.

CloseBrowserLevel Or do you? In Accordance, you can drag your mouse to the left edge of the browser and the cursor will change to a black X. If you simply click the mouse button at that point, the current section of the browser will be closed, just as if you had scrolled up to click the disclosure triangle!

Back in the days of the classic Mac OS, I used List view in the Finder all the time (in OS X I now use column view). List view uses disclosure triangles just like the Tool browser, and I soon found myself trying to click in the left edge of Finder windows to close a folder whose disclosure triangle was no longer visible. Unfortunately, the shortcut only worked in Accordance, and I would then grudgingly scroll up to locate the disclosure triangle. As I said, when you learn this trick, you'll quickly become spoiled by it. Consider yourself warned!


 

Jun 27, 2011 David Lang

Tool Browser: Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Last Friday I discussed the value of the Tool Browser as a navigation tool and promised to show some other cool features of the browser. The first of these I want to talk about is the Browser's value for showing you where you are in the context of a tool.

For example, let's say I want to see what Grudem's Systematic Theology has to say about Genesis 1:26. I search the Scripture field of that module for =Gen 1:26 (the equals sign tells Accordance to limit the search to where a verse is cited exactly rather than included in a range of verses). The first hit I get is somewhere in the middle of an article, and I want to have some idea of what Grudem is discussing in this article: is it the Trinity, creation, gender, or what? If I'm interested in this verse as it relates to the creation of humanity, I don't want to have to skim a bunch of articles on other theological subjects.

If I open the Browser at this point, I will see the top level of articles, which are broad theological subjects like the Doctrine of God, of Man, of Christ and the Holy Spirit, etc. I'll also see that the section which contains the current article is highlighted.

Forest1

So without drilling down any further, I can see that this article is in the section on the Doctrine of God. Since I'm interested in the creation of humanity, I might just want to hit the down Mark button until I find a hit in the section on the doctrine of man. Once I get to such a hit, I might want to drill down further to see what is being discussed. By clicking the disclosure triangle for Doctrine of Man I see by the highlight that the current article comes from the chapter on the Creation of Man. I can then drill down a couple more levels to see that this paragraph is part of a discussion of humanity's creation in the image of God. If that's not exactly what I'm looking for, I could click the down Mark button to look for a hit in a different section.

Forest2

Now, being able to see from the highlight where you are in the article hierarchy of a tool is helpful, but depending on how deeply nested the current article is, you may have to click several disclosure triangles to see that hierarchy in its entirety. But you know we would never require to click things repeatedly right? So here comes the cool shortcut: if you option-click any of the disclosure triangles in the browser, or even the one to open the browser itself, Accordance will automatically expand every article and subarticle containing the current article. So for example, if I had option-clicked to open the Browser when I was looking at the very first hit from my search, the browser would have expanded to show the following:

Forest3

This simple trick makes it easy to see the forest for the trees when you're examining the results of a search, and that can save you having to skim articles to see if they're really what you're looking for.


 

Jun 24, 2011 David Lang

Who Needs a Table of Contents?

Did you know that Accordance module developers routinely strip out information from the e-texts we receive? That's right. We select a big chunk of text and just hit the delete key. Often the text we delete has been carefully prepared with hypertext links to other parts of the text—links someone worked hard to put in there. We don't care. It gets left on the cutting room floor.

What information could we possibly be so cavalier about tossing aside? The Table of Contents. Many of the e-texts we receive have a detailed table of contents at the beginning which has been fully linked to each chapter and section. The creators of the e-text intend for it to be used as the primary means of navigation, but to us, it's redundant and just adds to the stuff you have to scroll past at the beginning of a book. That's because the Accordance tool browser does everything a table of contents does and more.

Every Accordance tool has a browser which can be opened by clicking the disclosure triangle labeled Browser. The browser lists every article and subarticle in the tool, and you can drill down as far as you like. Once you've found an article that interests you, simply click it to navigate to that portion of the tool.

AnchorBrowser

The advantage of a browser over a table of contents is that you can open it no matter where you are in the tool. A table of contents requires you to scroll back to the beginning of a resource in order to navigate somewhere else.

In addition to functioning as a convenient means of navigation, the browser can be used in a variety of other ways: to select a portion of a tool to search, to see where your current article fits into the overall structure of the tool, and more. In future posts, I'll show you how to harness the power of the Tool browser.