On Friday, I began to engage the comments of a blogger who wrote that Accordance has been "left in the dust" by the alpha release of a Mac port of a major Windows Bible program. I don't generally respond to negative reviews here, but I felt it necessary in this case because of this blogger's position as an executive at a Christian publishing house and the misleading nature of his assertions.
In my previous post, I dealt at length with the first of his four reasons that Mac users should opt for the Windows program over Accordance: namely, that it is the "largest provider of digital texts" (true) and "All major Christian publishers are using them as their platform of choice" (simply not true). Today, I want briefly to address the blogger's last three assertions.
His second assertion is that Accordance's historical advantages in terms of original language study have been practically eliminated by this other program's more recent efforts and offerings. That is something users must decide for themselves, and I'll leave it to those who have tried both programs' original language capabilities to make those comparisons. I will simply point out that there are plenty of people who specialize in original language study who would strongly disagree with this blogger's assessment. I would also point out that Accordance is not standing still. Some groundbreaking original language features are slated for the next version of Accordance.
The blogger's third reason for recommending that Mac users eschew Accordance is Accordance's "clunky" interface and failure to keep up with the "evolving Mac interface." I'm really not sure what that means, since Accordance was the first Bible program for OS X, and since we have systematically added support for Aqua interface standards and such OS X technologies as Quartz rendering, OpenGL, Services, Widgets, multiple users, Universal Binary (coming very soon), etc.
I have looked at the Mac alpha to which this gentleman has compared Accordance, and saw nothing particularly Mac-like about the interface. Most of the interface conventions follow a web-browser model rather than anything specific to the Mac, and at least some of the interface widgets are carried over directly from the Windows product rather than replaced with Aqua controls. To be fair, it is an alpha release, and the interface may well change dramatically. My point is simply that this blogger's statements about interface make little sense to me.
Now, as a long-time user of this other Bible program, I can certainly understand this gentleman finding Accordance's radically different interface approach to be disconcerting. Any time you have to adjust to a new way of doing things, the new way can feel awkward and clumsy, even if it is actually more streamlined and efficient.
I worked in an office way back in the days of Windows 3.1, and I was surprised to find our secretary complaining about how "clunky" Word for Windows was in comparison to WordPerfect for DOS! This woman had been using WordPerfect for years and knew every arcane alt-ctrl-function key combination by heart. Now all of a sudden she was digging through menus trying to find out how to italicize text. Although most would agree that the menu-driven interface was easier (heck, even the keyboard shortcuts were simpler!), it was clunky to her. The same thing is true for most Windows users who switch to the Mac. They struggle with the differences and find themselves thinking of the Mac as "clunky."
That's not to say that the Accordance interface can't be improved. It certainly can. But if the Accordance interface is judged by how much it is or is not like another program with which a user is more familiar, Accordance will always suffer in the comparison.
This blogger's final reason for recommending his readers choose this other program over Accordance is that it is the only program which offers certain Lutheran resources, such as those published by his employer. This point is hard to argue with, but the reasoning behind it is strikingly circular. If the publishing house has chosen to work exclusively with one Bible software program, then of course that program will offer more of those materials! Conversely, this one real advantage could easily be removed if that company would also choose to license its materials for use with Accordance. As this blogger has himself written, "competition is a good thing." Publishers can choose to squelch competition by deciding which Bible software program their customers must use, or they can encourage competition by licensing to multiple software developers and letting the users decide which is best.
As it was originally stated, this blogger's case against Accordance sounded particularly damning. Fortunately, most of his assertions were based on erroneous assumptions and hasty conclusions. Ultimately, I know that Accordance is not for everyone, and that some people do prefer other approaches to Bible study. There is certainly room in the Macintosh world for competing and complementary Bible software programs. The appearance of one need not spell the death of another. And where Accordance is concerned, you can rest assured it will not.