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

Monday, July 16, 2007  

No More Pasting Search Arguments

The past couple of blog posts, I've been talking about the distinction between searching Greek and Hebrew texts for lexical forms (the dictionary form of the word as representative of all occurrences of the word no matter how it is inflected) and inflected forms (the specific form a word takes in a given passage). In tagged Greek and Hebrew texts, Accordance defaults to searching lexical forms. Thus, when you search for agapao in the GNT-T, Accordance returns all 143 occurrences of that lexeme. To search for a specific inflected form, such as agapeseis, you simply enter the form enclosed in quotation marks. In the last post, I explained that we make lexical forms the default because it is a much more common kind of search.

Yet this distinction between lexical and inflected forms sometimes leads to confusion. Most commonly, this happens when a user copies some Greek or Hebrew text, pastes it into the argument entry box, and clicks OK. The words as they appear in the text are inflected forms, but if they are entered without quotation marks, Accordance interprets them as lexical forms and gives an error message.

For example, if I copy the phrase me genoito in Romans 3:4 and paste it into the argument entry box, Accordance will recognize me as a valid lexical form, but genoito is not a valid lexical form, so Accordance will bring up the list of lexical forms so that you can pick the one you want. At this point, you can do one of two things. If you know genoito comes from the lexical form ginomai, you can choose ginomai from the list. This will find all occurrences of me followed by any inflection of ginomai (not just genoito). Another option is to cancel out of the Select lexical forms dialog box and enclose the search argument me genoito in quotes.

Whichever way you choose to get this pasted search to work, you've taken a lot of unnecessary steps. Here's a list of the steps involved:

  1. Select the text you want to find.
  2. Copy
  3. Select the contents of the argument entry box (hit the tab key to do this quickly)
  4. Paste
  5. Click OK (or hit Return)
  6. Choose a new lexical form from the list and click OK to dismiss the dialog.
  7. Click OK (or hit Return) to perform the search.

That's a lot of steps just to perform a simple search for something you see in the text, so let me show you a "more excellent way." Forget about copying and pasting text into the argument entry box of the Search window. Instead, select the text you want to find, then click the Search button at the bottom of the Resource palette. In case you're counting, that's just two steps, and the cool thing is that Accordance will automatically insert the lexical forms which correspond to the inflected forms you selected. Thus, if you select me genoito and click the Search button, Accordance will open a new Search window, insert me ginomai, and perform the search.

If you want to search for the specific inflection me genoito, you simply need to hold down the option key while clicking the Search button on the Resource palette. This will cause Accordance to open a new Search window, insert the inflected forms you selected, automatically enclose them in quotation marks, and perform the search. No muss, no fuss, no copying and pasting, and no error messages!

If you prefer to use contextual menus rather than clicking palette buttons, just control- or right-click on the word or phrase you want to find, and choose either Lemma (another word for "lexical form") or Inflected from the Search For submenu of the contextual menu.

By using either of these methods, you have Accordance do the work of inserting the right search syntax for you. This becomes expecially helpful when working in Hebrew, because Accordance will automatically account for any prefixes or suffixes you may have selected. Try it, and you'll never go back to copying and pasting search arguments in Accordance.

By the way, all of this is covered in painstaking detail (and with corresponding visuals) in the new Training DVD.

Here we are again with the inconsistent results. If I click search on a tagged text I get different results than if I do it on an untagged text.

Again, I like to KNOW what is going to happen with a particular action, click or query and not get potentially the "wrong" answer because I did it on the wrong text. If you can't guarantee a simple action will give the same results in all cases, then it should be a special option to get the special behavior, so that the user knows what he has asked for.

>What you seem to want is for Accordance to give >you an error message when you copy and paste a
>lexical search into a window containing an
>untagged text. I'm not sure I understand why that
>is preferable.

Because you could silently get the wrong answer!

Let's take an example. I'm searching for the lexical form Greek "H", meaning "or".

Now if Accordance silently translates that into a literal search, it is going to find all the instances of the feminin article, for which it is not the lexical form.

How would it be if when you're writing a computer program, and you make a syntax error, instead of giving you an error message, it just decides to silently do something random instead?

So yes, for me an error message to say "you can't do that here" is preferable than doing something different in different circumstances. I'd rather learn one way to do one thing and always get one result. I don't care if I have to type one or two characters more to do it, but I like consistency. English bibles don't do lexical searches without quotes, so I want the same behaviour in Greek texts. One way, one result. Predictability.


At this point, I'm tempted to paraphrase Emerson: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small [interfaces]." I understand your point, and I appreciate the fact that you have given a specific example of when this inconsistency presents a problem.

Ultimately, the point of contention here is not that you want consistency and Accordance is inconsistent, but that Accordance is consistent in a way that you don't expect or agree with. You want Accordance to be consistent in the way it handles texts of the same language, regardless of whether or not those texts are tagged. Instead, Accordance is consistent in the way untagged texts are searched, regardless of whether they are English or Greek. But Accordance handles tagged Greek texts slightly differently.

The reasons for this are both practical and historical. Practical in that we don't want to require the user to do something special in order to do the search they will perform most often (lexical searches in the case of tagged texts, or simple word searches in the case of untagged texts). I have argued that enforcing an extra step for the sake of consistency among tagged versus untagged texts of the same language would amount to a "foolish" consistency.

Historically, all the Greek and Hebrew texts we originally offered were grammatically tagged, so the inconsistency you seem so frustrated by did not exist. When untagged Greek and Hebrew texts were added, they behaved consistently with the other untagged texts we offered, but the inconsistency with tagged Greek and Hebrew texts was introduced.

So while I see your point, I do not see how changing a fundamental aspect of the interface to satisfy one person's "hobgoblin" is a wise move. All I can do is try to offer you help in avoiding confusion, and reinforce the fact that you need to confine your searches to the tagged Greek and Hebrew texts rather than the untagged. The untagged texts are useful for comparison, but are of limited usefulness in searching. Making the change you suggest would not make them any more searchable; it would just eliminate a pet peeve.

Ultimately, we are forcing our users to learn which texts are tagged and which are not, and that does add to the learning curve slightly. However, that learning curve is minimized by the fact that you can easily see which texts are tagged by looking at the Instant Details for each text.

I hope this helps.

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