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

Wednesday, February 07, 2007  

Creating a User Tool from Scratch

Monday I mentioned that I'm using the User Tools feature of Accordance to create searchable versions of some old papers from college. So how do you create a new user tool? Here's a quick rundown of the basics:

1. Create a New User Tool. Go to the section of the Resource palette labeled "My Stuff," then click and hold on the My Tools icon. This is the icon of the blue book with the pen over it. (The plain blue book indicates that User Tools function much like Accordance General Tools, and the pen indicates that you can write to them.) The menu that appears when you click and hold on this icon will list all of your currently installed User Tools, and at the bottom of this menu you'll find an item labeled "New User Tool..." Select this item and a dialog box will appear asking you to give your User Tool a name. Simply enter a name and click OK. I gave my college paper user tool a brilliantly creative name: "Papers."

2. Edit Your New User Tool. Your new User Tool will open as a blank window. You can begin editing it either by selecting Edit User Tool from the Selection menu (the keyboard equivalent of which is command-U) or by clicking in the display portion of the tool and beginning to type. Either way, a new Edit window will open in the top right corner of the screen.

The first line of the Edit window has a red T in the margin, indicating that this paragraph will constitute your tool's first title. In my "Papers" tool, I entered the Title of my first paper, "Fleshing Out Jacob and Esau." I then hit return twice and began typing the body of the paper.

3. Format Your User Tool. When I'm entering the text, I can format it by using all the standard keyboard shortcuts: command-B for bold, command-I for italic, etc. To change font size, center justify a paragraph, etc., I usually open the Text Palette from the Window menu. This handy little palette has accessible buttons and menus for formatting text in User Tool and User Note Edit windows. I could also control- or right-click a selection of text and select various formatting options from the contextual menu. Finally, I could select those formatting options from the Display menu at the top of the screen, but that is by far the least convenient method.

4. Add Titles and Subtitles. As mentioned above, the first line of your user tool is automatically set as a title. To add additional titles and subtitles, you simply drag your cursor into the margin to the left of a paragraph. You'll notice the cursor change to a capital T. If you click in the margin at that point, a red T will appear next to the paragraph, and the text of that paragraph will appear at the top level of your User Tool's browser.

If you want that paragraph to appear as a subarticle of another article, hold down the option key when you drag over the margin. You'll notice the cursor change to a capital T with a plus sign (+) beside it. If you click in the margin, a red "1" will be placed there, indicating that this is the first sublevel in the hierarchical browser. If you hold down the option key the next time you click in the margin, a "2" will appear, indicating that this article will be at the second sublevel of the browser.

If you want to go up a level, simply hold the shift and option keys down while dragging over the margin of the browser. In that case, the cursor will change to a capital T with a minus sign (-) beside it, and clicking will result in a lower number (or a capital T at the top level) being placed beside that paragraph.

5. Add Scripture Links. To format a Scripture reference as a hypertext link, simply select it and click the Scripture Link button at the bottom left corner of the Edit window (or use the keyboard shortcut command-L). The selected text will appear in the Edit window in a blue underline style, but it is important to understand that it is not an actual link in the Edit window. When you update your user tool, the link will be parsed and checked to see if it is a valid reference. If it is, it will appear as a live link when you view it in the User Tool window.

6. Update Your User Tool. When you're finished editing, you can update the user tool and save your changes by clicking the update button in the lower right corner of the Edit window, or by using the familiar keyboard shortcut for saving: command-s.

That's pretty much all there is to creating a user tool from scratch. You can, of course, copy and paste text into a user tool rather than typing it, and there are some other tricks I'll discuss in a later post. I'll also cover the ins and outs of importing User Tools from html. But that's pretty much how I'm tackling the task of re-typing all those old college papers.

Thanks for this post! Are you planning to put all your papers into one user tool?

I'm trying to see what the best way to store sermon notes is. Would it be better to use a user tool or user notes?

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Unless you preach verse by verse, a user tool is probably your best option for sermon notes.

I usually use the Revised Common Lectionary for my preaching texts, so I have one tool for each year of the lectionary. Each Sunday is a Title, with subsections for the various readings and for categories like Illustrations, Sermon Outlines, etc. (The exact structure varies by Sunday)

Sometimes I go off the lectionary and develop a preaching series. When I do, I create a user tool for the series and include hymn suggestions, liturgy elements, etc. as well as sermon notes and/or outlines.

I user User Notes to keep exegetical notes as I study a passage or passages. Then again, I preach verse-by-verse as a general rule, so that works well for me. Then I write my sermons in Pages.

When I introduce a new book through which I'm preaching, I'll use the User Tools to create the introductory notes to the book. I used to use Pages and TextEdit and create an HTML file (which usually came with its own problems), but now with spell-checking in Accordance, I'll just use the user tools directly.

I've created a User Tool and want to dispose of it and start over from scratch. I've noticed that if I delete the user tool file, the tool name itself still appears in Accordance. Any help would be appreciated.


Just go to Edit-->Arrange Modules...

In the Arrange Modules window, open the My Tools section and find the tool you want to remove. Select it and click Remove. Then just click Update to save the change.

This is very late, David, but thanks for the tip!

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