Mar 5, 2009 David Lang

Don't Take It for Granted: Choosing Your Own Font

Ever since we released Accordance 1.0 way back in 1994, Accordance has enabled you to customize the font used for each individual Bible text. And when tools were added in 2.0, we gave the same capability for each individual tool. I never thought the ability to customize the font was that big a deal, but apparently it is. Believe it or not, the vast majority of Mac Bible programs give you very limited control over the appearance of text—a surprising fact when you consider that text is primarily what you're looking at when you work with Bible software.

I recently did a survey of the various other Mac Bible programs available, including two commercial Windows programs ported to Mac, several freeware programs developed for OS X, one classic Mac shareware program which has been migrated to OS X, and one Java-based freeware program which runs in OS X (as well as Linux and Windows). Here's what I found:

Neither Windows port allows you to change the font at all. You're stuck with the developers' choices.

The freeware programs developed for OS X and the Java-based program did a little better in that they all let you choose your own font by going to the Preferences. Such font customizations are all or nothing affairs: you set the font for all text within the program at one time. These freeware programs offer differing levels of control and flexibility. The most limited of these only lets you choose from about ten standard fonts, while the most flexible offers a fair amount of typographic control.

The Classic Mac shareware program which has been migrated to OS X was the only program other than Accordance which lets you customize the font for each individual Bible or tool. You have to go through an awkward series of steps in the Preferences dialog to make those font changes, but at least it's possible.

Doing this survey really had me scratching my head in amazement. The ability to change the appearance of text using your own custom fonts is such a basic aspect of Mac interface design we don't even list it as a feature! Perhaps we should. In terms of font support and the customization of text, Accordance 1.0 still beats anything else available today. How much more Accordance 8?!

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Archived Comments


March 05, 2009 4:30 PM

I must say, for a long time I did not take advantage of this feature. It didn't really occur to me that I would want to change the font. But then I saw how other people customized their fonts and backgrounds and how attractive and how much easier on the eyes those changes were. I then had to change my own fonts and backgrounds. 

One thing I like about accordance is all the little customizable features that bring so much satisfaction to the user experience. As ridiculous as it sounds, it just feels good.

K.W. Leslie

March 05, 2009 6:15 PM

My first two Macintosh bibles, Online Bible and MacBible, let you switch fonts too. I never considered it a special feature. I think it's generally assumed that Macs will let you switch fonts.

Now, since Accordance has become Unicode-friendly, will we eventually be able to get to change the fonts for the Greek and Hebrew bibles as well? I really prefer reading them in a sans-serif font like Trebuchet or Helvetica.

DM Smith

March 05, 2009 8:30 PM

I agree with you that being able to choose fonts is essential. Especially when viewing Greek, Hebrew, Farsi and other non-Western scripts.

BibleDesktop, the java-based freeware program you referenced does allow you to choose a font in three different ways. You will be able to choose from all the installed fonts on your Mac. It is not limited to 10 fonts, unless that's all you have installed.

For Greek and Hebrew, I recommend the SIL fonts.

1) You can choose the font, it's size and it's style in preferences for the application as a whole.

2) You can choose the font, it's size and it's style in the Book manager for each Book.

3) There in the same Book manager, you can set the font on a per language basis.

Unfortunately, this is not obvious and is an omission in the manual.

Regarding MacSword and BibleDesktop, neither are ports of a Windows program. MacSword was developed as a Mac program from the start. BibleDesktop was developed as a cross-platform program from the start. Nearly all the development of Bible Desktop in the last 3 years has been on a Mac.

DM Smith

Lead Developer for Bible Desktop

David Lang

March 05, 2009 10:47 PM

DM, thanks for the clarification. I knew when I wrote this that I would probably miss the fact that one program or other could do more than I was seeing. I tried changing the font of a couple commentaries in what I assume you mean by the Book Manager (go to Tools-->Books-->Installed Books, then click the Font button), but it never seemed to "take." Finally it occurred to me that maybe I should Quit and relaunch, and when I did that I could see the font change.

By the way, I hope I didn't give the impression that MacSword and Bible Desktop are Windows ports. MacSword was among the "freeware programs developed for OS X" I mentioned (the one with the most flexible typography), and I tried to indicate the cross-platform nature of Bible Desktop. I know many people confuse the Sword Project (the cross-platform open source initiative from which MacSword and Bible Desktop derive) and E-Sword (an unrelated Windows freeware program), but I'm well aware that the former didn't come from the latter. I hope I didn't inadvertently add to that confusion.

DM Smith

March 05, 2009 10:57 PM


Because your article did not name the programs, I was a bit confused by it. Right now Bible Desktop and Alkitab are the only java based freeware programs. (Alkitab is a sister project of Bible Desktop targeted to the Indonesian speaking people.) So I was pretty sure you were referring to Bible Desktop.

Yes, the Book Installer is what I was referring to, according to the path that you gave. It should have taken effect without a program restart. Though sometimes, one has to select a different commentary and then select the original one for it to take effect. Thanks for the feedback. I'll log a bug on that one.

MacSword is another sister SWORD project of CrossWire's. Soon BibleTime, another one, will be cross-platform and available for the Mac.

Thanks for not adding to the SWORD/e-Sword confusion.

Blessings in your efforts,