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

Friday, May 18, 2007  

Is Accordance Too All-Purpose?

Sometimes I wonder about how Accordance is really perceived by people. For example, I occasionally read reviews by PC-oriented writers who seem to communicate that Windows brand X is best if you want a large library of stuff, Windows brand Y is best for original language work, and, oh yeah, Accordance is the software to get if you're on a Mac. While I appreciate the fact that they're recommending Accordance to Mac users, such reviews fail to communicate that Accordance offers an enormous library of material, including a fair amount not available for Windows brand X, or that Accordance is arguably better for original language work than Windows brand Y. Is it easier for such reviewers to categorize Accordance as the software to get if you have a Mac than it is for them to conceive that Accordance might just rival or even surpass the best-in-category programs available for Windows?

Likewise, I wonder if our own users have a complete grasp of what Accordance can do or whom it can benefit. Do our scholarly users sometimes fail to recommend Accordance to "laypeople" because they think of Accordance as a specialized tool for the study of Greek and Hebrew, rather than as an all-purpose Bible study program? Do our "lay" users have any idea how powerful Accordance is and how much it can benefit the pastors and scholars they know?

Each year I demonstrate Accordance at the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society and Society of Biblical Literature, as well as at MacWorld San Francisco. The audiences could not be more different. The scholars at ETS/SBL want cutting-edge tools for serious research, while most of those at MacWorld just want some basic Bible study tools with a true Mac interface. At ETS/SBL I spend my time demonstrating complex Greek and Hebrew searches, while at MacWorld I'm showing off English Bible texts with Key numbers and graphical tools like the Atlas and Timeline. Yet at both conferences I'm seeing jaws drop open in amazement and eyes light up with excitement.

In short, it's easy to show users of every stripe how Accordance can meet their needs and make their study of the Bible easier. But I wonder if some users get so focused on what Accordance does for them that they fail to see what it can do for others.

When you recommend Accordance to others, how do you communicate what Accordance is? Do you say it's the "Best Bible Software for Mac"? The "Best Bible Software for any platform"? The "Best Bible Software for in depth study"? The "Best Bible Software for this or that specific purpose"? It's hard enough for us to communicate everything Accordance is and does. How do you do it?

Instead of trying to push it on people, I usually just let people see me using Accordance. Whether it has been fellow classmates or pastors, I'll just look something up real quick and watch them be amazed at how helpful Accordance is. Even if they're Windows users, eventually they start to ask questions about Macs or Accordance.

I say it's the "best Bible software for the Mac", even though I think it's better than the Windows Brand X - because, like it or not, platform is a discriminator. People aren't going to rush out and buy a Mac just to buy Accordance on, neither are Mac users going to rush out and buy Windows just to run Brand X on. (Although Bootcamp is muddying the waters somewhat.)

Indeed, I watched the Brand X forums for a few years as they got more and more frustrated about slow progress on the Brand X Mac version, and they gave up and started recommending Accordance instead.

When people finally come around to the light side, they'll find Accordance waiting for them. Until then, we watch and pray. And so do they...

I usually try to see what someone wants to do and show them how Accordance can help them and take them to another level.

Platform is a discriminator, but I don't necessarily agree that Windows users won't rush out to buy a Mac since, well, I did, and for the main purpose of running Accordance. I doubt many Mac users will switch to Windows just because they are more loyal to the Mac than Windows users are to Windows. I saw an article on MSNBC how a Mac user "switched" to Windows Vista, but at the end of the article he had gone back to the Mac because he thought the Mac was better! Still not sure why MSnbc would post that, but anyways...

I'm not into pushing stuff on people either, but when Bible software comes up I always talk about Accordance and how it can help a person with their Bible study within the context of the conversation.

A few thoughts on this:

First, I think it is reasonable to challenge the idea that, because something is one way on the Windows platform, it should be that way on all platforms. Outlook is an "all in one" PIM, but many Mac users find that iCal, Address Book, and Mail serve the same purposes well (maybe better) even though they are separate. Similarly, just because Windows Bible software is niche-marketed, that doesn't mean that Mac software should be too. Accordance is a very flexible program-- not only because it offers something at every usage level, but also because it does so without difficulty. I can't see QuickVerse (as an example) offering high-level academic study tools without substantially changing their interface, making it difficult for all users at every level.

Second, the primary players in the Windows world-- Bibleworks and Logos-- have been trying to move away from the niche-market divisions for some time now. Bibleworks has been beefing up its non-Bible, non-academic tool library, while Logos has been expanding its academic offerings. When I first started seminary (in 2001), I saw primarily Bibleworks running on the computers around me; by the time I graduated (2005), there were equal numbers of Bibleworks, Logos, and Accordance.

Accordance has had dominance in the Mac world because it has long been the only serious choice for academic study (or other study, for that matter). Mac users are slowly seeing more commercial packages available-- QuickVerse for a couple of years now, Logos keeps promising something-- but none of these have the established presence Accordance does. That doesn't mean Accordance should slack off in development, but when your only established competition is the likes of MacSword or Online Bible, it is easy for those making comparisons/recommendations to say "Accordance is the choice if you are on a Mac."

I'll probably get a copy of Logos when it becomes available-- but that is because I still have about $1000 in Logos modules from when I used a PC, and I want to have access to those again. Logos has this advantage: they have a huge selection in their offering, and it would take a lot of investment for Logos or anyone else to rival it. This will make them a real competitor when they eventually get their Mac act together.

That said, a final word of encouragement to the Accordance staff: at my seminary, when professors were asked what Bible software they recommended, they said, "Accordance." Even in the face of protest that the inquiry came from a Windows user, their only answer was, "Accordance."

I use Accordance via the emulator on a PC. As such, I can use it along side the other windows bible software programs. Accordance is better in some areas and weaker in others. That is intended to be an objective statement and not an insult to Accordance. As such I recommend software based upon the needs of the user.

Using Accordance on a PC has its limits and disadvantages mostly due to the limited size of the virtual drives and the difficulty in working with an emulator. If the user is not very technically capable just getting the emulator installed would be difficult. The truth is that there is some very good software available and Accordance has its place among them.

Here is my recommendation tree:

Mac or PC
If Mac then are the users needs beyond what is free or inexpensive;
If so then Accordance.

If PC then I will usually recommend another program unless they are considering moving to an Intel Mac soon. The strengths of Accordance over Windows X programs do not offset the limitations in using it in an emulator, especially if considering an investment in the thousands of dollars.

Now Mac users can easily try and make a case to switch OS, but that is not really what your question is about. If there becomes a time when the OS does not matter, then comparisons and recommendations will be easier. Until then, in my opinion, Accordance is currently the best bible software for a Mac.

I have no personal in-depth experience from any other Bible software so I cannot offer any comparing comments when asked. Accordance was my initial choice and I have never felt the need to switch to another.

When I talk about Accordance - which I frequently do - there are usually three points that are brought upp.

First, of course, is the outstanding capabilities when it comes to handle the original language texts. As of now I commute 4 days a week 40 minutes one way to my seminar. I spend the time on the train with my BHS and Accordance as support. One important aspect of the original language handling is the formidable interactivity between the texts and say for instance HALOT - used every day. The portability of the massive amounts of linguistic and text-related information provided by the Accordance modules is a major feature that is usually brought to attention together with the easy-to-use interface.

Second, the great possibilities to "do my own thing" with the texts is brought up. The easily accessed grammatical searches, the possibilites to work with the texts (parsing, syntax etc) and the the brilliant ways to construct different forms of output from Accordance are features that I like to both talk about and demonstrate.

Third, the interactivity between the texts and other modules like ABD, Map or Timeline is usually a popular topic. The easily accesssed nuancing of the texts and the textual worlds through the different modules' interaction with eachother is usually an appriciated aspect of Accordance. Every now and then I compare the Accordance modules with the books that would equal the amount of textual information. The ABD usually works as an illustrative example. (Six heavy books compared with a click of the mouse...)

Last but not least - working in a Swedish language enviroment the availability of the SWED2K-text made it a lot easier to demonstrate the formidable advantages with Accordance as an all-round and in-depth software platform.

I tell people it's the best Bible software period. I have used Accordance and Logos (have not used the scholar edition of either) and like the Accordance format better. The resources that come with Accordance are more practical and useful than those of Logos (my opinion). Logos Pastor library comes with a bunch of stuff, but I have found most of it useless. Accordance comes with tools I would be more apt to buy on my own.

Great product, keep up the good work - Oh yeah, and I don't get viruses on my Mac that keep from using the software on my computer either - lol

I had a quick glance (and it was quick!) at the website, and I find it hard to figure out what resources you do actually have for accordance. I think that it may be best (especially in the days of boot camp) to encourage people to have TWO bible software programs - certainly for the real geeks among us, knowing that there was an accordance-exclusive package of resources might suck us in more than a great interface - tho to be honest I DO struggle a bit with the search interface on my current bible software, I will never give it up because I have too big an investment in its books etc.

The software itself is recommendable simply for its content, but one problem with recommending for new users it is that it's not native on the macs that those "switchers" are going to be buying: intel macs.

For those old mac users who have older/PPC computers, it's great, but rosetta makes it a bit of an awkward application even on my macbook. I realize the Accordance development team is small, but I'm concerned that they're more interested in developing for past generations of macs than in supporting the present (not to mention looking to the future). Honestly, to me it looks like the hesitation to go forward with the intel native program might be a sign that the company may not have the sales and resources to maintain the program in the future. I could (hopefully) be wrong... but when talking about recommendations, I have to tell it like I see it....


If you're calling it like you see it, it's a good thing you're not a baseball umpire! ;-)

Seriously, there is no "hesitation" on our part to "go forward with the intel native program." We've had a programmer dedicated to that exclusively for some time now, and he's making excellent progress.

You must remember that Accordance is a massive program which has been under continuous development for more than a dozen years. In spite of Steve Jobs' "reality distortion" regarding the ease of porting to MacIntel, it has taken most developers much longer than users were originally led to expect, and we have been no exception. We've also been Mac developers long enough to know that it's never wise to be the first to adopt Apple's next big thing. (Just ask Adobe what they think of all the resources they sank into supporting Altivec.)

As for your fear and uncertainty about our having "the sales and resources to maintain the program in the future," I can only assure you that our sales and user base are continually growing at what we consider an exceptional rate. And, of course, I don't know of too many other programs which have a development schedule as aggressive as ours.

Still, if you're really worried about our financial outlook, you can always do your part by making additional purchases! ;-)

Thanks David. It's me again, the one complaining about the slowness in Rosetta. I want to take it all back! Partly because the performance described on the Accordance website wasn't meshing with what I was seeing, I took a deeper look into the state of my system.... Well, turns out I'd accumulated a lot of background applications that were leeching off my CPU and memory. I removed most of them from my startup items, except the ones I really need. And I want to report that Accordance is now starting up in 3 seconds or less pretty much every time. Thanks for the advice about the startup screen too! I'm happy now!

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