Last week, Chris Heard of Higgaion, blogged about how he used the Accordance Bible Atlas to create visual aids for classroom instruction. Chris mentioned in passing that he used Photoshop to create additional labels for his maps, and I pointed out here that he could have accomplished the same thing within Accordance by creating his own User Layer of the Atlas. Chris has interacted with that suggestion in a follow-up post which I'd encourage you to check out.
Chris gave a number of reasons for his choice to export maps from Accordance and enhance them in Photoshop. The first was that he knows Photoshop well and was in a hurry. It's hard to argue with that.
Next he mentioned aesthetic appeal. Although the drawing tools available in Accordance User Layers are remarkably flexible, Photoshop it definitely is not. That said, some of the things Chris wasn't sure how to do in Accordance are in fact possible.
For example, he mentioned the creation of rectangular shapes with triangular callout pointers. Chris was right that the Bezier curve tool can be used to create polygon shapes with straight sides. Just click to create each corner and don't drag out any curve handles. He's also right that there's no easy way to constrain a side to be perfectly horizontal or vertical. It would be nice to be able to hold down the shift key to do that. As it was, I had to keep tweaking the shape to get it to look right.
Text in Accordance user layers cannot currently be rotated or modified with respect to opacity. I was also surprised to find that the text items do not support center or right justification (I had to fake it with spaces). Heck, I don't think the user layer drawing tools have been upgraded since we first added them in 1998! That's why we need people using these features and pushing their limits.
One little known feature of Accordance user layers is that you can paste images into them, and those images will scale along with the rest of the map. Since I couldn't duplicate Chris' 50% opacity labels with Accordance, I simply took a screenshot of his "Great Sea" label and pasted it into the user layer! Of course, as a bitmapped image, the text can get ragged at different zoom levels, so it's not a perfect solution.
Another thing Chris did in Photoshop was to have drop shadows on the text boxes. That too is not yet possible with Accordance user layers.
Chris next talked about how he used maps in instruction, explaining that his custom maps were used online more than in the actual classroom.
Finally, Chris closed with these words:
I rarely consider any individual application to be "one-stop shopping." I mean, that's so Microsoft. In my Apple world, I use suites of software, and in this case I found that adding my annotations in Photoshop satisfied my immediate needs.
"Microsoft," Chris? That really hurts! ;-)
But seriously, my point was not that Accordance should be a "one-stop shop." Rather, it was that using an Accordance user layer enables you to use any customizations to the map over and over again, with an incredible degree of flexibility. In the following examples, I used an Accordance user layer to mimic some of Chris' custom labels. I then combined that user layer with the "Return from exile" route layer, as well as the various region layers for modern nations.
I appreciate Chris' willingness to blog about his use of Accordance, and to interact with me on the pros and cons of different approaches. I hope it helps some of you use the Atlas in ways you might not previously have realized were possible.