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universally compatible file types for Bible software


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#1 Ken Wieske

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 09:14 AM

Logos Software is coming out with tens of thousands of pages of Calvin material.

This got me thinking: why do Accordance and Logos still produce proprietary file types? Can't they get together and work on an accepted standard for Bible modules?

The end user gets locked into to one or the other; this means we all lose out.

#2 Helen Brown

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 09:39 AM

It's just not possible for the different programs to share a standard format for modules. This has been proposed and attempted in the past, but without success. Each program requires a particular file structure.

However, I agree that it is desirable for companies to share the source etexts. In fact we do license and trade etexts with several other software companies. It takes a major investment of time (=money) to prepare a clean etext of a major work, especially a multilingual one. It makes no sense to repeat this work for the same texts. However, it is not always easy to reach agreement on fair compensation and other conditions with every company.
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#3 R. Mansfield

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 10:50 AM

Logos Software is coming out with tens of thousands of pages of Calvin material.

This got me thinking: why do Accordance and Logos still produce proprietary file types? Can't they get together and work on an accepted standard for Bible modules?

The end user gets locked into to one or the other; this means we all lose out.



Ken, to me there are other value-related issues between the two platforms as well. I might have the same text in Accordance and Logos, but this is more than an issue like being able to open the same .doc file in either Word or OpenOffice.

Let me offer a concrete example.

Take, for instance, the theological journals from Galaxie. Both Logos and OakTree start with the same etext, but they handle them very differently. For one, Logos creates a separate file for each volume, while Accordance handles an entire series as a file. There are probably pros and cons to each approach, but personally, I like the ability to search through an entire series without having to create a group of all the items to do so.

Here's a more important difference--differences in what you can do with a text. I have a few common texts between Logos and Accordance, so let me use one of the aforementioned theological journals as an example.

I wish I had the time to sit down and read these journals from beginning to end, but I rarely have time to do that. Instead, I perform searches in an attempt to find specific content.

If I want to search through JETS vol 47 Logos, look at my options:

Attached File  Screen shot 2010-08-02 at 11.07.39 AM.png   67.41KB   46 downloads

As seen above, in Logos, I can search through the journal according to the following fields: author, footnote text, heading text, and surface text.

Now, look at my options in Accordance:

Attached File  Screen shot 2010-08-02 at 11.06.54 AM.png   87.66KB   42 downloads

The differences are significant. In Accordance, you can search specifically for content in Titles (the same as heading text in Logos), English content (roughly the same as surface text in Logos), Scripture references, Greek content, Hebrew content, transliterated text, page numbers, Author, references to biblical manuscripts, and even Syrian content! This last category is actually found in one of the other volumes of JETS, but again, they're all grouped together in Accordance rather than treated as separate files.

Moreover, using the More Options feature in Accordance allows you to search for two of these categories at the same time.

The bottom line is that while a text that is available for both Logos and Accordance doesn't mean that each text has the same value. It's not as easy as simply creating a common format that both programs could use. The reality is that these categories shown above have to be tagged at the code level. It's not that this kind of detail is impossible in Logos, it's just that generally, you simply don't get this kind of detail in Logos. Oak Tree programmers spend time adding this kind of access to these texts. Thus in texts such as these, dollar for dollar, your best value is clearly in Accordance.

Moreover, if there was a common format for a file that could be shared back and forth between platforms, how could it be decided who would correct the file if errors are found?

One more thing... if there's specifically content in Logos that you wish was in Accordance, often you can create your own user tool (or notes tool for commentaries) and through copy and paste transfer the content over. Logos probably doesn't approve of this kind of work and Oak Tree probably wouldn't officially sanction it, but if you've paid for the content, it falls under the fair use provisions of the 1976 copyright law. And the nice thing is that according to the text in question, you might end up with more search features in Accordance, even though you've created a user tool on your own. It would just take you some time to set up, so the source material would have to really be worth your while.

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#4 Boris Repschinski

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 11:28 AM

I use both programs, being fortunate enough that one is financed by my university, the other was a review copy. One of the things that I value in Accordance is the focus on the biblical texts and the ease of use in analysis of those texts. I would rather have Accordance keep this focus and develop on their ability to make complex searches easy than become a theological library as Logos is undertaking. And as soon as Accordance is getting into syntactical analyses and semantic fields, there is lots of room for applying this sort expertise, making these searches understandable and workable to an average user, and even more, getting textual tagging that is reliable. E.G. some of the sourcecritical stuff that is out there is just plain misleading: Who on earth would today come up with the idea and use Eissfeldt's source criticism of the Pentateuch in order to tag a modern E-text? (ok - venting mode off).

But seriously, that there is a market for theological libraries I am not doubting, but I am very happy for the focus on biblical material, quality of e-texts, and quality of analysis tools that Accordance provides. That is an unparalleled strength in Accordance.

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#5 John C.

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 06:18 PM

Logos Software is coming out with tens of thousands of pages of Calvin material.

This got me thinking: why do Accordance and Logos still produce proprietary file types? Can't they get together and work on an accepted standard for Bible modules?

The end user gets locked into to one or the other; this means we all lose out.


I believe Ken is asking for one thing and everyone is focused on another. I, like Ken, would like to see compatible files such that I only have to buy the source text once. That would be the goal. What each program does with that source text would be the differentiator for why I would choose to buy Accordance over Logos or any other tool.

I understand that tagging the text in certain ways allows for some of the advanced functionality of Accordance over it's competitors but again, there is no technical reason why a file format can not have a base set of tags as well as allowing for app specific tagging. XML comes to mind as a very clean and simple method of representing the text files while allowing for unlimited tags and tag types.

What I describe here would mean changing the financial paradigm of the bible software industry but there is still money to be made (for profit or research), under my model. A company would be spurred to provide clear application specific differentiators in order to attract buyers and could also make money by selling additional "tag" files and tag types that extend and enhance the functional use of the base tagged source text. The cost of the latter content would be cheaper because the base content is already developed. Therefore the cost to the consumer could potentially be less even though you have to buy the base file + the advanced tags.

In this model, I can choose to buy accordance with base tagged files and not incur the expense of the more advanced tags unless my studies or interests warranted it.

#6 David Lang

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 09:19 PM

A "universal" file format for Bible study software was tried back in the nineties. It was known as STEP, and it was a kind of least common denominator format that was supported by a few Windows developers. We actually toyed with the idea of supporting STEP books, but the format kind of fizzled. Craig Rairdin, the original developer of QuickVerse and one of the main proponents of the STEP format, recently wrote an interesting article about the challenges of implementing a common format.

As Helen said, we've found it much simpler to share and trade e-texts with other software developers than to try to coordinate some common format. While I think most people in the industry wish there was a way to let users buy books and transfer them from one platform to another, no one has yet found a way to make it practically feasible.
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#7 R. Mansfield

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 08:44 AM

A "universal" file format for Bible study software was tried back in the nineties. It was known as STEP, and it was a kind of least common denominator format that was supported by a few Windows developers.


I, for one, don't want an "least common denominator format" for my Bible software, for the same reason I choose not to use RTF format for word processing. Frankly, I'm appreciative of the extra value supplied in the texts I have in Accordance. Yes, I have other Bible software, and yes, I even have some duplicated titles, but there's a very real reason I use Accordance for the large majority of my work.

Regarding John C's suggestion:

In this model, I can choose to buy accordance with base tagged files and not incur the expense of the more advanced tags unless my studies or interests warranted it.


Personally, I wouldn't want to have to keep track of whether my texts had "base tags" or "more advanced tags." However, even if this were a possibility, it doesn't negate the fact that the initial tagging would have to be done in the first place. One of the reasons that we pay for these texts anyway--even those that are in the public domain--is because there has been significant work by programmers before a module is released. I can't imagine saying to them, "Go ahead and do all the work for us, but we'll only pay for the part we want to use." I think that would result, in the long run, simply with a lot of those lowest common denominator texts.

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#8 R. Mansfield

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 08:51 AM

But I tell you a universally compatible file type that I could go for--user notes.

One aspect of OliveTree's BibleReader app for the iOS devices I've found particularly innovative is their use of Evernote for personal notes. They've created a standard way of setting personal notes in BibleReader that can easily be transferred/synced via the software connecting to Evernote. Notes can even be edited in Evernote and they update in BibleReader.

This entire thread speaks to the reality that many of us use more than one Bible software platform, even when we have our favorites (such as Accordance for me). But think of how convenient it would be to write one user note for Accordance and have it filter to other Bible apps via Evernote.

I'm not going to hold my breath for this to happen, but it might be an idea eventually worth considering. While I don't see the overall idea of universally compatible file types as either practical or feasible, I'm not so certain that this couldn't be done with user notes using a third party platform like Evernote.

Edited by R. Mansfield, 03 August 2010 - 08:53 AM.

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#9 MicheleS

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 12:36 PM

Since business is what it is, I don't expect non-proprietary content in ebooks, or in Bible software. If you try the ebook market, it is DRM controlled and although there are a few options for text - like reading Gutenberg etexts without a dedicated reader, for the most part the industry is DRM heavy and likely to be so (Kindle, Nook, SONY, etc). For Accordance to stay in business they must have a product you have to pay for to get. And that's fair. For libraries this whole subject is a nightmare, for we would love to "circulate" ebooks regardless of source, but that's just "pie-in-the-sky" as someone once remarked to me. Maybe someday... :)
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#10 R. Mansfield

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Posted 04 August 2010 - 12:43 PM

Since business is what it is, I don't expect non-proprietary content in ebooks, or in Bible software. If you try the ebook market, it is DRM controlled and although there are a few options for text - like reading Gutenberg etexts without a dedicated reader, for the most part the industry is DRM heavy and likely to be so (Kindle, Nook, SONY, etc). For Accordance to stay in business they must have a product you have to pay for to get. And that's fair. For libraries this whole subject is a nightmare, for we would love to "circulate" ebooks regardless of source, but that's just "pie-in-the-sky" as someone once remarked to me. Maybe someday... :)



Regarding libraries, Barnes & Noble's concept of lending an ebook has promise, especially if other platforms followed suit. From what I understand, you can "loan" a book to another person who either has a Nook or the B&N software on their device, and there's two weeks for it to be read before it expires.

And hey, no more late book fees! In fact, you don't even have to go to the library to return the book!

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