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News, How-tos, and assorted Views on Accordance Bible Software.

Thursday, August 24, 2006  

More Issues with User Notes

Boy, this "anonymous" guy sure is keeping me busy! Another user left an anonymous comment pointing out some issues with the User Notes feature of Accordance. (Where were you all when we were working on version 7?)

Before I respond, can I respectfully ask that if you have suggestions for how to improve Accordance, you not just post them as an anonymous comment? I don't mind you airing those issues in the comments section of the blog, but if that's all you do it's a bit like leaving a voicemail message without giving your phone number. I'd like to call back, but I have no way to do it. By all means, leave your comments, but please also e-mail your suggestions to me directly (my first initial [d], my last name [lang], at [@], accordancebible.com). That way, if I don't understand something, or need to interact with you further, I have some way of contacting you.

Okay, that said, here are the points this user raised:

As a newcomer to the "Notes" feature, I too found it hard to use, for a number of reasons:
  • Cmd-T doesn't bring up standard font dialog; have to choose fonts from incredibly long list
  • This is a good point, though it shows one of the perils of being a long-time Mac developer. The OS X Text palette may be the "standard" now, but it's really a relatively new interface change that Apple has sprung on its developers. When I first encountered it, I saw it as a step backward rather than forward, though now I am finally getting used to it. My point is simply that what the OS X user sees as standard is often new for us, and involves an adjustment on our part. The challenge is to adjust to all of Apple's changes while still moving forward with the cool new features we want to add, and occasionally, we miss things. For technical reasons, I'm not sure we'll implement the OS X Text palette, but this suggestion does give us ideas for enhancing our existing Text Palette (which can be turned on in the Window menu).

  • No unicode, therefore hard to enter Greek/Hebrew directly
  • It's not hard to enter Greek and Hebrew directly into notes. You just select Helena (our Greek font) or Yehudit (our Hebrew font) and type away. To learn the keyboard layout, consult the Accordance Fonts PDF in your Manuals & Documents folder.

    That said, this is another area where we also need to adjust to new ways of doing things. One request we've had is to create alternate keyboard layouts for our fonts that match the layout of Unicode fonts, so users who are used to that layout won't have to learn another one. These kinds of enhancements are on our list, but they all take time, and we appreciate your patience if this is important to you.

  • Hyperlinks don't work in edit mode
  • No they don't. If they were live links, how would you edit them? Every time you tried to click in a link to change it, you would be taken to another window displaying that Scripture reference! How frustrating would that be?

  • Hyperlinks don't act normally in window (e.g., Cmd-Click won't open stand-alone window; links don't always open in previous window; the window opened is not a standard search window)
  • Again, what's normal? You seem to be expecting Accordance to act like Safari, but you may be surprised to realize that Accordance has been around longer than any web browser in common use today. That doesn't mean we shouldn't adopt new standards, but it does mean that we may not think to do it until you our users suggest it. :-)

    I'll talk more about how Scripture links in User Notes work a little later, but first let's get through the rest of this user's issues.

  • No apparent way to tell which verses have notes attached, apart from opening notes
  • As I pointed out in my post last Friday, "A red dot will ... appear next to the verse you selected in the Bible text pane, indicating that there is a note on that verse." When Robb Brunansky pointed this out in the comments on yesterday's post, "anonymous" complained, "I missed the red dots, which are pretty small, pretty faint, and I for one was looking for something on the other side of the window." While I can certainly see how you could overlook the dots, I'm not sure we want to make them any bigger or brighter. The point is to give a visual cue without distracting from the text. The important thing to realize is that the dots will always appear to the right of whichever Bible text pane is selected. If you select a notes pane, the dots are not displayed.

  • Notes are limited in that they can only be attached to verses
  • Robb Brunansky answered this point as well as I could in the comments. User notes are intended to be attached to verses, just as reference tools (commentaries, cross-references, etc.) follow Bible book order. If you want to create a more freeform document in Accordance, User Tools are the way to go. You can still create hypertextable Scripture links, along with hierarchical browsers, a few basic search fields, etc. Yes, it's a different kind of Accordance resource, but it serves a different purpose. A hammer is great for driving nails, but if you want to turn a screw, you need a screwdriver rather than a hammer. (I have tried driving a screw with a hammer—trust me, it never works out that well!)

    Now, I promised to deal with the question of how hypertext links work in user notes, but I think that's probably best left for another post.

    In the meantime, I appreciate the dialog. I'm human, and I naturally wish every Accordance user thought everything we did was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I may not like it when our warts are pointed out in public, and I may argue that some of them aren't warts at all, just beauty marks. But I would much rather you give us feedback on what frustrates you than just go away frustrated. So thanks for the feedback. :-)

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