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Jan 12, 2012 David Lang

Know Your Enemies

AncientEnemies

My family has been reading through the Psalms together for the past few months, and the other day we read Psalm 83. Reading like a Who's Who of hostility, this psalm lists "Edom and the Ishmaelites", "Moab and the Hagrites," "Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek," "Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre", and "Even Assyria" in the space of a few verses.

In an attempt to give my family a sense of who these various enemies of Israel were, I opened the Accordance Bible Atlas and overlaid the Divided Kingdoms region layer. I clicked the plus icon to magnify that zone so that it filled my entire workspace, and then had one of my children read the list of enemies again. As she read each name, I pointed out its location on the map, so that my family could clearly see that Israel was surrounded by all these nations. I summarized by saying, "You see, it's not that the psalmist is paranoid; they really were all out to get Israel!"

ModernNations Showing all of these ancient nations naturally raised the question of where these places are today, so I merely switched the region layer pop-up from "Divided Kingdoms" to "Modern Nations" to show that Edom, Moab, and Ammon are now part of modern Jordan, ancient Philistia is now part of modern Israel, and ancient Tyre is in modern Lebanon.

This kind of geographical orientation was incredibly easy to do, and it helped make our discussion of the psalm much more engaging. If you're not using the Atlas as an impromptu teaching tool, you definitely should be!


 

Jun 14, 2011 David Lang

What the Heck Are "Extra" Sites?

Over the last two weeks I've been talking about how truly flexible the Accordance Bible Atlas is. Far from offering a series of static maps, the Atlas lets you create your own unique maps by combining various layers of information. I've also spent some time showing how you can customize these layers to eliminate label conflicts and get just the look you want. Today, I want to explain the concept of "extra sites" to you and show how you can use them to create even more customized maps.

If you've ever selected a place name in a Bible text and then clicked the Map button on the Resource palette to find that site, you've already seen an example of an "extra" site. The site name you searched for appears on the map even if it is not included in the currently displayed site layer. That's why we call it an extra site.

You can add extra sites to a map by amplifying like this, by searching for them using the Find button of the Map window, or by shift-clicking a site name that you already see on the map. If you want to remove an extra site name, simply click to select it and press the delete key on your keyboard. If that site name does not appear in your current site layer, it will disappear completely. If it does appear in your current site layer, then it will appear as part of that layer and will no longer be highlighted in red.

Now here's where the shift-click trick described in the previous paragraph becomes really cool. Let's say you have a site layer like Major Biblical Sites displayed, but you want to create a map which shows only a few specific site names. I did this for the current project I'm working on. In explaining the expression "from Dan to Beer-sheba," I wanted to create a map which showed only the sites Dan, Beer-sheba, and Jerusalem (as a point of reference).

Shift-click site names to highlight them as

Starting with Major Biblical Sites, I shift-clicked the names of these three sites so that they would appear as extra site names. I then chose Convert to Custom Layer… from the Site Layer pop-up menu.

Standard Site Layers like Major Biblical Sites display sites which meet certain biblical and archaeological criteria. You can customize these layers by tweaking the criteria, as I showed in a previous post, but you can't specify the exact sites you want to appear. A Custom Site Layer lets you create a list of the exact sites you want to appear on the map. We install a couple of pre-defined custom site layers such as Philistine Cities and Seven Churches so you can see how they work.

The Convert to Custom Layer… command simply gives you an easy way to build a Custom Site Layer from all the extra site names which are displayed on a map. When you choose it, the following dialog box will open listing all the extra sites you had:

Choose Convert to Custom Layer and name your layer

All you need to do is give this Custom Site Layer a name and click OK. You can also customize the font, scale, color, and kind of marker used. You'll then have a layer with just the sites you want.

Your map now shows just the sites you selected

From there it's a simple matter to copy and paste your map into Pages and dress it up even further.

You can now paste your custom map into your document

Understand how extra sites and Custom Site Layers work and you'll be able to create custom maps quickly and easily.


 

Jun 10, 2011 David Lang

Gimme a Map with No Overlap, Part 3

Last week, I showed how the Accordance Bible Atlas lets you create custom maps that show information you won't normally find in a print atlas or a software program that offers only static maps. The final map I showed combined several layers of information, and a user pointed out that there were some places where the labels overlapped. So I followed up that post by showing how tweaking one of the Site layers eliminated all but one of the label conflicts. In yesterday's post, I showed how to eliminate that last conflict by removing one of the subregions of a Region Layer. But even that wasn't quite good enough, because the labels for Philistia and Judah, while not quite overlapping, are still unacceptably close.

NoOverlap5

Unlike the label for Simeon, which I could simply hide, these two labels are a vital part of what I'm trying to show with this map. So how do I resolve the conflict? The easiest way is simply to change the font.

You can change the font of all Region names on a map by selecting Set Map Display from the Display menu (or using the keyboard shortcut command-T). In the dialog box that appears, select Region names from the pop-up menu at the top.

NoOverlap6

You can then select a font that avoids the conflict. The font I was using, Papyrus, takes up a lot of horizontal space, but a font like Impact is more horizontally compact. And of course, using a different font can also give your map a radically different feel:

NoOverlap7

Once again, a simple change can make a huge difference in the look of your maps. And I've just scratched the surface of the flexibility the Atlas offers. There's still more which I'll cover in yet another post.


 

Jun 9, 2011 David Lang

Gimme a Map with No Overlap, Part 2

Last week, I pointed out how the Accordance Bible Atlas lets you create custom maps that show information you won't normally find in a print atlas or a software program that offers only static maps. The final map I showed combined several layers of information, and a user pointed out that there were some places where the labels overlapped. So I followed up that post by showing how tweaking one of the layers eliminated all but one of the label conflicts. In today's post, I want to show how to eliminate that last conflict.

NoOverlap2

In the map above, you can see that the name Beer-sheba conflicts with the label for the tribal territory of Simeon. Since Beer-sheba is an important site, and since Simeon was a minor tribe located entirely within the borders of Judah, one way to resolve the conflict is to remove Simeon from the Tribes of Israel region layer. To do this, select Define Region Layers… from the Region layer pop-up menu of the Atlas.

NoOverlap3

In the dialog that appears, select Tribes of Israel in the list of layers at the top left corner. In the bottom left corner of the dialog box, you'll see a description of the layer and a pop-up menu which lets you choose the various subregions. In the Tribes of Israel region, each tribal territory is a subregion you can modify individually. Select Simeon in this pop-up menu, and you can choose to hide the label for that subregion while showing its borders, or you can hide both the name and the drawing of the borders to hide the subregion altogether. Here's how each option looks:

NoOverlap4 NoOverlap5

Once again, knowing how to tweak layers like this enables you to get a map which shows the information you need while eliminating potential label conflicts.


 

Jun 2, 2011 David Lang

Gimme a Map with no Overlap

On Tuesday I showed how the Accordance Bible Atlas lets you create custom maps that give you the exact information you need, even when it would not be found on most standard maps. By combining layers and searching for specific locations, I was able to create this map which shows the portion of Dan's tribal allotment which was actually controlled by the Philistines.

Map-Maker3

All this flexibility does have a downside, one which was pointed out in the comments on that post:

What I wish for is a way to reposition names of places so that they do not overlap. In your maps above the country names overwrite the city names. I can't use these maps straight from Accordance for presentations without removing all of the map names and adding my own non-overlapping names.

Look at the map above and you'll see the problem. See how the labels for Dan, Judah, and Simeon all clash with the labels for sites in those regions? If we just gave you a series of pre-drawn maps, we would be sure to design the maps so that no labels overlap. In fact, within each individual layer, we did our best to avoid label clashes even as you zoom in and out. But since you can combine layers in an endless number of ways, there was simply no way we could completely prevent overlapping labels.

So let's say I'm writing a book on the Samson story and I want to be able to include this map in my book? I can't very well have these conflicting labels appear there, so I need a way to clean them up.

Fortunately, it's pretty easy to do. First, we can try tweaking the site layer to avoid the conflict. The site layer I'm using on this map is Major Biblical Sites, and I can see what its various settings are by choosing Define Site Layers… from the Site layer pop-up menu. In the dialog box that appears, be sure to select the specific layer you want to modify in the list at the top left. Here are the settings I had for the Major Biblical Sites layer:

NoOverlap1

As you can see, this layer shows sites from every Biblical period which have an importance rating of 3, 4, or 5. That's a lot of sites, including some sites which had different names during different periods. By simply unchecking the 3 on the Importance scale so that only the most important sites appear, my map now looks like this:

NoOverlap2

As you can see, this simple change immediately eliminated the sites which overlapped with the labels for Dan and Judah. The only conflict which remains is with the label for Simeon. I'll show you how to deal with that in my next post.