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Nota Bene and the Emulator


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#1 Helen Brown

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 04:50 PM

A long time user of Nota Bene on the PC tried to work with Accordance on the emulator but ran into serious problems with the emulator crashing the entire system.

I don't know much about Nota Bene except that it has been around for a long time. Is anyone experiencing success using the two together? Can anyone fill me in as to what Nota Bene does?
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#2 R. Mansfield

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 10:12 PM

A long time user of Nota Bene on the PC tried to work with Accordance on the emulator but ran into serious problems with the emulator crashing the entire system.

I don't know much about Nota Bene except that it has been around for a long time. Is anyone experiencing success using the two together? Can anyone fill me in as to what Nota Bene does?


Nota Bene is a Windows-based academic word processor with built in reference database abilities and integrated access to original language biblical texts. The biblical text integration does not replace biblical search software such as Accordance, Logos, or BibleWorks, but does give quick access when someone wants to quote a passage from the Greek, Hebrew, or KJV. Nota Bene is also used by members of academia in other areas outside of biblical studies.

Nota Bene is a Windows program, but its strength is internal integration. To do the same kinds of things on the Mac that NB does in Windows, one would have to have Mellel, Bookends (or Sente) and Accordance but the seamlessness of the process (or at least the illusion of it) would be lacking.

Some background. I first learned of Nota Bene from Dan Block back in the mid-nineties. He had written his entire Ezekiel NICOT commentaries (both volumes) in Nota Bene for DOS only to have Eerdmans not be able to read the manuscript when he submitted it electronically. However, he highly recommended the program and I began paying attention to it at that time. The folks behind Nota Bene were very slow to release a Windows version, but one finally appeared in the late nineties. Since then, Block and a number of other scholars who use it have convinced a few major publishers to invest in it so that they can submit direct electronic versions of their manuscripts. It is still not the preferred format for publishers; however, Nota Bene now has an add-on PDF generator that can be installed to work with the program.

The biggest weakness of Nota Bene: It is actually still a 16 bit DOS program running in Windows emulation. Let me explain. Nota Bene has its roots in a DOS program from the eighties called XyWrite. XyWrite was one of the first major word processing programs to come along about the same time as WordStar and I believe even before WordPerfect. XyWrite had a particularly strong macro language built in and quickly became a favorite program among academics. I don't remember the exact history, but after the company that produced XyWrite folded (after competition from WordPerfect and eventually MS Word which became the standard word processor), the rights to the code were bought by the company that became Nota Bene. If I remember correctly, Nota Bene even employed one of the main original XyWrite programmers.

Nota Bene is essentially an updated version of XyWrite, and that's fine because XyWrite was a good program. The problem is that the code base is still basically a 16 bit DOS program. It's been made to function in the Windows environment and even look like a Windows program, but the DOS roots of the program come to light in a few peculiar ways. One of these is that you cannot keep documents created with Nota Bene in the typical Windows "My Documents" folder. They have to be kept in a directory right off the root directory of the main hard drive, usually C:\notabene. The problem is that if you start trying to save or open files in nested folders, such as C:\Documents and Settings\Username\My Documents\ etc. Nota Bene, as a DOS program, runs into a limitation that the file path becomes too many characters for it to interpret. So forget having a well organized folder structure unless you want to constantly move files that you are working on back and forth between folders.

The other factor relates to the future of Nota Bene. One day, Microsoft is going to simply eliminate backwards compatibility with 16 bit DOS apps. Nota Bene's code cannot be directly translated over to 32 bit (let alone 64 bit) Windows code. In fact, to make Nota Bene into a true Windows program (or even a cross-platform Mac or Linux program), it would have to be completely re-written from the ground up. Nota Bene is a very small company and has a very small team of programming engineers. It is going to cost them a significant investment in time, personnel and money in order to secure the future of the program. I'm not saying they won't do this, but they certainly have not done it yet.

From an interface perspective, Nota Bene has all the beauty of a Windows 3.1 program (if you're hearing sarcasm there, you're reading me correctly). Its interface is quite antiquated even by Windows standards. Now this doesn't even bounce on the radar of concerns for academics who use it everyday, but it's the kind of thing that might drive a Mac user crazy.

I know what I know about Nota Bene because I've been careful to keep up with it over the years. I'm on the Nota Bene email discussion list, so I see everyday the comments and questions that its users have in using it and discussing it. What it does, it does well, but you have to use it on its terms. It will not handle like a regular Windows program, and certainly not a Mac program. One problem for Mac users who want to run Nota Bene in an emulation program like Parallels is that the current version of Parallels does not allow keyboard access for the standard function keys which Nota Bene relies on. You can use the function keys through menus in Parallels but this is a pain if you need to access them regularly which you would want to in Nota Bene. Plus, in my opinion, it defeats the purpose of using a Mac if one of your main programs is a Windows application.

If I were a Windows user, I'd probably definitely get Nota Bene and use it in spite of its idiosyncrasies and I'd hope that it would still be around in the future. As I said, what it does, it does well.

As a Mac user, I might be tempted to buy it for direct compatibility with classmates/colleagues who use it or if I had an occasional project in which a publisher preferred this format. Believe it or not, I was actually an owner of Nota Bene for all of two days. I bought a full copy of version 8 from a woman on eBay who said she was no longer going to use it and would be willing to transfer the license (without a valid license, you'd never be able to upgrade to newer versions). When we contacted Nota Bene to transfer the license, it turned out that the license was under her ex-husband's name and he was NOT willing to give up his license. In other words, it was a nasty divorce and she was trying to sell his stuff. Fortunately I got my money back.

And all of that...was probably more than you wanted to know :)

Edited by R. Mansfield, 08 June 2008 - 10:18 PM.

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#3 R. Mansfield

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Posted 08 June 2008 - 10:15 PM

By the way, Nota Bene is notorious for not getting along with other programs. I doubt seriously that the crashing issue is the emulator's fault directly, but rather how NB interacts with it.

On the NB discussion list, there was an issue brought up a few weeks back in which a particular scanner or OCR program (I don't remember the specifics) was causing problems with NB. The offending software was removed and NB worked fine again. But who would want to put up with that?

Rick Mansfield

Technology Evangelist

Accordance Bible Software

 

 

Gear for running Accordance:

OS X

2012 15" MacBook Pro (retina) - 2.7 Ghz Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 750 GB SSD, Yosemite

Windows

2014 15.6" Acer R7-572 - 1.6 Ghz Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB mSATA, 1 TB HDD, Windows 8.1

2013 8" Dell Venue 8 Pro - 1.33 Ghz Atom, 2 GB RAM, 64 GB eMMC, Windows 8.1

iOS

2014 iPhone 6 Plus, 128 GB, Verizon

2013 iPad Air, 128 GB, Verizon

 


#4 danzac

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 08:57 PM

For what it is worth and to anybody interested, by the end of the year the Mac will have, in my opinion, a very good integrated combination that will exceed Nota Bene. That combination is Mellel/DEVONthink Pro/and Bookends or Sente. A couple of things to note before explaining the integration a bit:

1) DEVONthink 2.0 is due to come out in the next few months. One of the main features that contributes to its connectivity with Mellel is that it will use Spotlight importers for indexing text, and will utilize Quicklook for viewing files that it does not natively support.
2) Mellel 2.6, probably rolling out in the next 2 to 3 months, will bring a quicklook integration to Mellel. Mellel 2.5 just recently came out, with the long-awaited cross-references.

So, when these two things happen, I will finally have something I have long been waiting foró I will be able to view Mellel files within my DEVONthink database, and they will be full-text indexed and therefore searchable in my database as well.

The Mellel and Sente/Bookends integration is fairly well known already. And there is already some integrative abilities between Sente/Bookends and DEVONthinkó a user can index all attachment files for Sente/BE citations, making all attachments full text searchable within DEVONthink. This integration will be increased one more step with DEVONthink 2.0, because the databases will be an open folders concept, rather than the funky way the DT files are now. This means that your Sente/BE attachments files can actually reside right in your DT database, rather than external to it.

All of this makes for some pretty slick integration between some excellent applications on the Mac.

As an aside, I'm very intrigued by Rick's telling of the tale regarding Block and Nota Bene. Perhaps someone can start urging publishers to accept Mellel files :-)




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