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

Friday, January 26, 2007  

Through the Bible in a Year with Kids

Like many, my wife and I tend to start every year with aspirations to read the Bible through in a year. And like many, we usually get hopelessly behind schedule about half-way through January! This year, we've committed our family devotions to this ambitious reading schedule. The advantage of doing this is that we now have the kids keeping us accountable to stick with it. The disadvantage is that it is extremely difficult to read three chapters a day—especially when those pesky kids insist on asking questions so they can actually understand what's going on!

Thankfully, I have a secret weapon in my arsenal: Accordance! Here are some of the ways Accordance has bailed me out in recent weeks.

First, I'm using the Daily Readings module (included in the Introductory Level of the Library) to give me the passages for each day. This module includes two through-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plans. A devotional arrangement gives you an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, a psalm and/or proverb for each day. A chronological arrangement arranges various Biblical passages in roughly chronological order. We're using the chronological arrangement. I open this module to the current day, and then drag a selection across all the linked Scripture references to view all of them in a text window.

Since pictures always help cement the stories in my kids' minds (okay, I like pictures too!), I've made liberal use of the Bible Art module and the PhotoGuide. We're going through Genesis right now, so the Bible Art module contains wonderful images of Eden, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. I'll use the PhotoGuide whenever a particular place name is mentioned, such as Beer-sheba, which figures prominently in the patriarchal narratives.

Where Accordance really saves the day is when we come to a passage which is particularly difficult to explain—and let's face it, Genesis is chock full of those kinds of stories! Last night we read about Jacob placing striped rods in front of his mating flocks in the hopes that it would magically produce striped offspring. How does one explain that? Thankfully, the IVP Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament had a very helpful comment on that whole passage. Yet while that commentary helped us understand what Jacob was generally trying to do, it didn't help explain the actual sequence of events in the passage, which was itself somewhat confusing. So I turned to the NIV Study Bible Notes, which gave a nice succinct explanation of who was doing what to whom. I probably could have turned to any decent commentary on the text rather than a study Bible, but time was short and I was looking for something I could scan quickly.

Throughout this little family adventure, Accordance has come in very handy in getting me the information I need to help my children understand a very foreign world. About the only thing Accordance hasn't been much help with is in explaining things like polygamy, incest, deception, rape, and all the other fun topics the Bible exposes us to. When it comes to explaining those things, I'm afraid I'm on my own!

Friday, January 19, 2007  

Cool Commentary Search

At MacWorld, I had someone ask me to demonstrate Word Biblical Commentary, so I showed them how you could display it as a pane in parallel with the Bible, how you could open it as a separate window and search it by field, etc. Then I thought I would really wow him with a multi-field search. Unfortunately, I didn't have a good sample search hidden in my bag of demo tricks, and every multi-field search I tried flopped. Just as lawyers are taught the dangers of asking questions they don't already know the answers to, it can sometimes be dangerous to demo something you're not sure is going to work! Oh well, such moments are good for my character, right?

Later in the week, at the Berkeley training seminar, my coworker Greg took a few minutes to demonstrate Word, and he used a really excellent example of multi-field searching that I wished I had thought of during my earlier demo. Here it is for your edification.

Greg began by explaining that the challenge of working with large multi-volume commentaries like Word is that in addition to the comments on specific passages, there may be other references to those passages scattered throughout the other volumes, buried within introductory articles or excursuses (excursi?) which are not easy to locate. How do you mine the full depths of what such massive commentaries have to say about your passage of study?

Greg began with the WBC-NT module and looked up Ephesians 4 in the Reference field. He immediately found the main comments on this passage and pointed out that this passage focuses on the theme of "unity." Greg then opened the WBC-OT module and searched the Scripture field for any place in the Old Testament volumes where Ephesians 4 was cited. This returned 13 hits, but it was clear that the first couple of occurrences focused on aspects of Ephesians 4 other than the theme of unity. So Greg opened up the More options section of the Tool window and added one extra field to be searched. He chose the Content field, entered the word "unity," and clicked OK.

Now he had clear cases where Word Biblical Commentary discussed the theme of unity in Ephesians 4 in its Old Testament volumes! This is valuable commentary which would have been missed if we had just looked up the Ephesians 4 passage in the actual Ephesians volume.

Of course, this kind of multi-field search doesn't just work in Word Biblical Commentary, but Word is so extensive that it provides us with an excellent example of how Accordance can help you access commentaries in ways that would be extremely difficult and time-consuming in print. Try this search with your favorite commentary and you'll likely be surprised at what you'll find.

By the way, Word is very near release and can still be pre-ordered for just $599. After this month the price will go up to $899, so if you can possibly swing it, now is the best time to order Word Biblical Commentary.

Thursday, January 18, 2007  

Copy As Submenu

Whenever I do a training seminar, it's always interesting to see which aspect of Accordance draws the most oohs and ahhs from the attendees. This time around, a spontaneous chorus of oohs broke out when I showed some of the features in the Copy As submenu of the Edit menu.

I've blogged recently about the Copy As Citation feature and the new Preference pane which lets you format the citation however you like; but there are a couple of other Copy As options which are extremely cool.

The option which drew the chorus of oohs at Berkeley was Copy As References. To demonstrate this feature, I did a quick search for "Adam," used the keyboard shortcut command-A to select all the search results, and chose the Copy As References option from the Edit menu. I then switched to TextEdit, typed the words, "Adam is mentioned in the following verses:" and then chose Paste. As if by magic, the following string of verse references appeared: "Gen 3:17,20-21; 4:1,25; 5:1,3-4; Josh 3:16; 1Chr 1:1; Psa 90:3; Hos 6:7; Luke 3:38; Rom 5:14; 1Cor 15:22,45; 1Tim 2:13-14; Jude 1:14." Quick. Easy. Painless.

Even cooler still, in my opinion, is the Copy As Transliteration option. If you ever have to transliterate Greek or Hebrew text for an audience which doesn't read those scripts, you know there is a fairly complex set of diacritical characters that you're supposed to use, such as macrons, breves, subdots, underlines, and so forth. In Hebrew for example, a samekh is transliterated as "s," a sin is transliterated as "s" with an acute accent, a shin is transliterated as "s" with a hacek, and a tsadi is transliterated as "s" with a dot underneath. Life is too short to remember all that, so have Accordance transliterate the text for you! Simply select the Hebrew or Greek text you want to transliterate, choose Copy As Transliteration, and then paste into your word processor, user notes Edit window, etc. Voila! You'll get a string of transliterated text in our own Rosetta font.

There are other Copy As options, but the Copy As Citation, Copy As References, and Copy As Transliteration are by far the coolest—not because they were technologically difficult to do, but because they can save you a lot of time.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007  

MacWorld Pics

Some of my coworkers sent me a few photos of MacWorld Expo to share with you:

Ready to start the show. A good look at our booth layout prior to the opening of the show. J.P. is standing on the left, Martha is partially hidden behind the projector, Margaret is sitting at the sales table with her back to the camera, I'm the guy gazing off to the right, and Mark is at the far right. Greg is taking the photo.

Lots of traffic. J.P. took this shot of the mobs of people packing the aisles at MacWorld. Greg can be seen in the bottom right corner of the photo, and you can now see Margaret and Mark without their backs turned.

Training Seminar at Berkeley. I wasn't kidding about having a packed house at the Berkeley training seminar. Thanks to J.P. for this great panoramic shot.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007  

Rick Mansfield's Accordance Library

In a recent post to his "This Lamp" blog, Rick Mansfield talks about his transition to the Mac from Windows and his switch from Windows Bible Software to Accordance. He also lists all of the Accordance modules he's acquired over the years. Thanks, Rick, for the support and the kind words! In the comments on that post, a few other Accordance users also chimed in with kind words about Accordance.

By the way, Rick's blog is always interesting, even when he's not talking about Accordance. It's worth checking out, as long as you can get past the ankle tattoo photos! ;-)

Monday, January 15, 2007  

Did I say MacWorld was Invigorating?

Last Friday, I wrote that being at MacWorld Expo is invigorating. After a week of MacWorld, an all-day training seminar at Berkeley, and a red-eye flight home to Florida, "invigorated" is the last word I would use to describe myself. "Bedraggled" is a bit more appropriate!

Not that MacWorld hasn't been fun. We got reacquainted with lots of MacWorld regulars who have been using Accordance for years, and we demoed Accordance to more first-time users than I can count. It's always fun to see people ooh and ahh over the things we've been working on for the past year, but all that talking does take a toll on one's voice (the plus side is that I can now sing like Barry White!), and all that standing does wear on the feet, knees, and back.

Minor aches and pains aside, however, we had a very successful show. We were in the South Hall of the Moscone center a few aisles from the Apple booth, and there was a steady stream of people flowing by our booth. Most years I am able to get away to the Apple booth and catch a demo or two, but this year we were so busy you probably know more about the AppleTV and iPhone than I do!

We got all the usual reactions from the people walking by our booth. On the one hand, there were quizzical stares, raised eyebrows, and even a few snickers. On the other hand, many would walk by, blurt out the words, "Bible software," and rush up to us like we were an oasis in the desert. It's always fun to see how excited people get about the things Accordance can do.

The training seminar at Berkeley also went well. We were in a smart classroom which seated about 60 and it was absolutely packed. Everybody was very attentive and enthusiastic, even after the lunch break when we really dug into the Greek and Hebrew!

All in all, it was a great week. Now I'm ready for quieter surroundings and eager to get to work on some exciting new projects I can't tell you about yet. Hmmm, maybe MacWorld really is invigorating—once one gets over the jet lag!

Friday, January 05, 2007  

Headed to MacWorld Expo

On Monday, I hop a flight to San Francisco, where I'll "be sure to wear some flowers in my hair." Okay, I'm just kidding about the flowers in my hair—it's from a Hippie-era song for those of you too young to catch the allusion. Perhaps instead of flowers, I would do better to wear a black mock-turtleneck and blue jeans, in honor of Steve Jobs' Keynote presentation at the annual MacWorld Conference and Expo.

We've been exhibiting Accordance at MacWorld Expo for years now, and it's always an invigorating experience. Perhaps it's the work of Mr. Jobs' famed "reality distortion field," but at MacWorld, being a Mac user is the accepted norm, developing Mac-only software is a mark of honor, and getting excited about a computer is viewed as cool rather than nerdy. The pace is fast, the days are tiring, but the atmosphere is always upbeat.

We have lots of users who show up at MacWorld every year and ask us what's new. This year, there's a ton of new stuff, including version 7, an updated Library CD-ROM, the new Atlas and PhotoGuide, WORD Biblical Commentary, NIGTC, the Zondervan Scholarly Suite, and more. Many of our demos this year should consist of showing off new features like the text compare, contextual menus, new Graphs and Charts, etc. In addition to the new users, we'll have plenty of people stopping by the booth who have never heard about Accordance or who had no idea there was Bible software for the Mac. Those demos will be longer, and the challenge will be not to overwhelm them with all the things Accordance can do.

Of course, we always get a few skeptics: loyal users of other programs who challenge us to show them why they should switch to Accordance from Product X. Those are the fun demos, because it's amazing how quickly they get excited about the things we're showing them.

It's also amusing to watch the people who don't end up stopping by our booth. There are always people who casually wander by, attracted by the 3-D maps being projected on the screen, who then notice our sign and get this puzzled look on their faces. Often they'll turn to their friends and whisper, "Bible software?" Then they'll shrug, smirk, or shake their heads and hurry on their way!

All in all, MacWorld is a one-of-a-kind experience, and while I hate being away from my family for a week, a part of me always looks forward to going. If you're going to be there, be sure to stop by booth 2626 to say hi, learn how to get more out of Accordance, and take advantage of some great show prices.

Now, where did I put those flowers. . .

Wednesday, January 03, 2007  

Don't Forget to Use the Parallels

Recently I was writing something and wanted to cite where Jesus deals with a dispute among his disciples about which of them would be the greatest. I had the phrase "greatest in the kingdom" in my mind, so I did a search for greatest AND kingdom in the Gospels. This brought me to Matthew 18:1 and 18:4, a passage in which the disciples come to Jesus and ask him "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" That was close to what I was looking for, but not quite. I wanted the passage in which Jesus asks his disciples what they were quarreling about on the road. I could, of course, try to search for words like "quarrel" or "argue," but I couldn't remember the exact phrasing of the translation I was searching, so such searches would have been hit or miss and probably would have taken an unnecessary amount of time.

A quicker approach would be to take the passage I had already found and look for parallels to it in the other gospels. So I simply clicked in Matthew 18:1 to select it, then chose Gospels from the Parallels pop-up menu of the Resource palette (the icon with two side-by-side scrolls). This opened a Parallel window displaying the parallels to this passage in Mark and Luke. It was the passage in Mark that I ended up quoting from.

The moral of this story: Don't forget to use the Parallel databases to help you find parallel passages to the one you're studying. It can often be more convenient than trying to search by word.