Accordance has always offered lightning fast searches and incredibly convenient ways to interact with your search results . . . with one notable exception. The Search All window let you search every module in your library at once, but it didn't exactly break any speed records. What's more, it showed you where the results were found, but you still had to open each resource separately to examine the results. That approach was okay when the Search All feature made its debut in Accordance 3, but now Accordance offers hundreds of modules containing thousands of volumes, and that old approach was just too slow and inconvenient. The Search All window has therefore been completely redesigned for Accordance 9.
First, it's fast. A new method of indexing lets you search even the largest library in seconds. Best of all, your computer won't bog down for hours during the indexing process.
Second, you can now browse the results right in the Search All window. The left-hand browser pane lists every resource found, and in the case of tools, shows which search "field" contains hits. When you click on one of the items in the browser pane, the content pane on the right shows the corresponding hits in context.
If you want to see the hits in context for more than one module or field at a time, simply command- or shift-click multiple items in the browser pane. When you find a resource you want to dig into more deeply, simply double-click its name in the browser to open that module in its own window.
Third, a new Captions option lets you search for images in tools which contain a caption field, making it easy to mine your library for useful pictures and illustrations.
Shameless Tease: I was going to illustrate this with a screenshot, but couldn't come up with a search that didn't reveal one of many cool new graphics resources we haven't announced yet. Watch for some exciting announcements soon!
Another helpful use of the Search All window is viewing the same passage in all your Bibles at once. Accordance has always let you open a bunch of parallel panes, but some users have requested the ability to see a verse in all Bibles without having to open multiple panes. By searching [All Texts] by reference, that can easily be achieved using the new Search All.
The new Search All is one of the features which has drawn rave reviews from those who have upgraded to Accordance 9. If you'd like to see the new Search All in action, Dr. J has just released a new podcast on it. Be sure to check it out.
In my previous two posts I've discussed the new zones feature of Accordance 9. Zones lets you open different kinds of Accordance resources in different areas of your workspace. But what if you find the proliferation of zones to be a little too much? On a 27-inch iMac screen, you can view a half-dozen or more zones quite comfortably. But on a thirteen-inch MacBook screen, too many zones can quickly become unwieldy. That's why we let you limit the number of zones which Accordance can open.
If you go to Preferences, the first item in the General settings lets you set the Default maximum number of zones. If you're on a MacBook, try setting this maximum to 2 zones. If you begin with your Bible text in a single zone and open a tool, that tool will be opened in a second zone. If you then open other kinds of resources, they will only appear as tabs within one of your two existing zones. They will never automatically open a third zone in your workspace.
That doesn't mean you can't create a third zone yourself. Simply drag one of the tabs in either zone to a different area of the window and you can create a third zone. Do it again and you can add as many zones as you want. The preference setting merely restricts the number of zones Accordance can create automatically.
If for some reason you open a resource which cannot be opened in any of your existing zones, Accordance will simply open a new Workspace window. For example, Search details are a special category of resource which cannot appear in a zone with other kinds of resources. So if you set your default maximum number of zones to 2 and you already have a zone for texts and a zone for tools, when you choose to display Details those will be opened in a new Workspace window rather than one of the zones of your first Workspace.
If for some reason you want Accordance 9 to function just like Accordance 8, you can simply set your Default Maximum number of zones to 1. New resources will then always open as tabs within that single zone. Even so, you can still create additional zones when you want them.
By setting the maximum number of zones Accordance can open for you, you can ensure that zones are always a help and never a hindrance. On that 27-inch iMac, you may allow for an unlimited number of zones to be opened, while on your MacBook you may restrict it to just two or three. This simple preference setting puts you in control of how zones function for you.
Yesterday I described the new Zones feature of Accordance 9. Zones are areas of a workspace which can each contain multiple tabs. You might have a zone with tabs containing Bible texts, another zone with tabs containing dictionaries, and a third with tabs containing commentaries. Or you might divide your resources among zones completely differently. Zones are designed to let you work however you like.
Today I want to explain how new zones are created and how Accordance attempts to guess which zone you're going to want a new resource to appear in. While there's no way we could anticipate every possible use of zones, we have tried to create a system which is flexible enough to adjust to your way of working.
By default, a new zone will be created for each different kind of resource you open. For example, let's say you have a workspace containing only your default Bible and you choose to open the tagged Greek New Testament (GNT-T) from the resource palette. Since you've opened a second Text module, the GNT-T will appear in a new tab within your workspace's one zone. The first time you open a new Tool module, however, a new Tools zone will appear next to the current Texts zone. If you then open other tools, such as Greek or Hebrew lexicons, commentaries, or dictionaries, those will appear as tabs within the Tools zone. Other kinds of resources, such as Maps, Timelines, or Parallels, will open in additional zones.
That's how zones and tabs within those zones are opened by default, but if you create custom zones for specific purposes, Accordance will try to utilize those zones as effectively as possible. For example, let's say you have a tools zone with two tabs: one containing Anchor Bible Dictionary (an English Tool) and another containing the New American Commentary (a Reference Tool). You decide you want your commentaries to be in a separate zone, so you grab the tab containing NAC and drag it to another area of the workspace to create a new zone. You now have one zone with Anchor and another with NAC. From that point on, any additional reference tools you open will appear as a tab in the zone containing NAC, while other kinds of tools will be opened in the zone containing Anchor. In this way, Accordance tries to open resources in the most logical zone available.
Here's another possible scenario. Let's say I combine a Greek text like the GNT-T and a Greek Tool like BDAG in the same zone. From that point on, any Greek Text or Tool I open will appear as additional tabs in that Greek Resources zone.
In short, when you open a new resource in Accordance 9, Accordance looks at the available zones to see which one is the best fit for that kind of resource. And the logic is flexible enough to consider various ways of grouping resources: by resource type, by language, or by some combination thereof. Knowing this, you can hone your use of zones so that new resources open right where you want them.
Yesterday I was at the library of the local seminary doing final checks on a major new Accordance module. I removed twenty-six thick volumes from the shelves and spread them across the table in order. As I found errors I needed to check against the print copies, I would locate each volume in turn, returning it to its place when I was done. That way, I could easily find that volume the next time I needed it.
Of course, no process of study is ever that neat and linear, so despite my best intentions, I soon had several open volumes spread across the table. Next thing I knew, I was shuffling among those loose volumes trying to find the one I needed.
One of the great challenges of in depth Bible study is the need to consult and manage multiple resources. Those who try to do it using physical books usually end up with multiple volumes spread across a desk, one hand with several fingers sandwiched like bookmarks between pages, and the other hand kept busy shuffling books around. The process eventually becomes so unwieldy that we leave helpful resources on the shelf because we already have too many on the desk.
Bible software makes managing multiple resources much easier, but how much easier depends on the program interface. From the very beginning, Accordance has tried to simplify the process of consulting multiple resources: first through panes (1.0), then through workspace tabs (6.0), and now through workspace zones (9.0).
The first five versions of Accordance had windows and panes within those windows. All non-Bible resources would open in a separate window, while multiple Bible texts could be viewed in parallel panes within the same window. Eventually, we added panes for reference tools and user notes, both of which follow Bible book, chapter, and verse order. Panes made scrolling through parallel resources a breeze. While other programs would require you to link separate windows so they would scroll together, Accordance window panes handled all of that automatically.
Panes were great, but any non-parallel resources—dictionaries, lexicons, grammars, and other books—had to be opened in separate windows. As the number of those resources proliferated, the amount of time spent managing, arranging, and shuffling among windows increased.
Accordance 6 therefore introduced the tabbed workspace window. The workspace is basically a container which will display other Accordance resources as tabs rather than as separate windows. Rather than shuffling among overlapping windows, switching between tabs is easy and immediate.
Of course, the downside of tabs is that the front tab covers everything behind it. To see resources side by side, you would need to detach tabs from the workspace and then arrange multiple windows again. It wasn't hard, but it wasn't obvious either.
Accordance 9 simplifies the management of multiple resources by adding zones. You can now divide your workspace window into multiple regions called "zones," and each of those zones can contain multiple tabs. Dr. J does an excellent job explaining the relationship of workspaces, zones, tabs, and panes in his podcast on zones, but I want to relate all of these interface elements to my initial description of how you would do in depth Bible study using print resources.
Think of the workspace window as your desk. When studying, you pull books from your shelves and lay them on your desk so you can work with them.
If you devote different areas of your desk to different kinds of resources, you're already used to the concept of zones. You might have a stack of dictionaries at one corner of the desk, a stack of commentaries at another, and a couple of print Bibles spread out in front of you.
The stack of dictionaries at one corner of your desk is analogous to an Accordance zone with multiple tabs. Grabbing a dictionary from the bottom of the stack and laying it open on top of that stack is like clicking a tab in a zone to bring it to the front.
Finally, parallel panes within an Accordance search tab are analogous to the columns of text in a parallel Bible or study Bible. You're looking at one resource which arranges other resources (different translations, footnotes, cross-references, etc.) in parallel, and as you flip through it these parallel resources automatically stay "in sync."
If we push the analogy further, you can rearrange the stacks on your desk however you like. You can take one of your Bibles and plop it on top of your stack of commentaries. Or stack commentaries and dictionaries together. You might even slide your Bibles to one side and slide the entire stack of dictionaries across the desk so that they are right in front of you. In the same way, you can arrange zones and tabs in an Accordance workspace however you like. Drag a Bible tab to a zone containing all dictionaries. Drag commentaries and dictionaries into a single zone. Or drag a zone containing multiple tabs to a different area of the workspace. You can even drag a zone with multiple tabs into another zone with multiple tabs to group all those tabs together in the same zone.
The new zones interface of Accordance 9 offers you unsurpassed flexibility and convenience in working with multiple resources. If you haven't seen it in action yet, be sure to check out Dr. J's excellent video podcast.
One aspect of the Accordance interface which is most changed in Accordance 9 is the Search window. We rearranged things a bit to save on screen real estate and to make certain features easier to access. Here are a few of the changes that were made.
First, we got rid of the More options section of the window and made the controls it contained more accessible. For example, the search field and range pop-ups, which only apply when searching by words, now appear to the right of the Words/Verses buttons when Words is selected. When Verses is selected, they are hidden altogether.
The Add Context pop-up, which also was hidden inside More options, has now been replaced by a slider to the right of the list of hits and verses. Our goal here was to make adding context as easy and discoverable as possible.
You can drag the slider to the right to add one or more verses before and after each hit verse.
Note how adding one verse of additional context changes the number of verses from 19 to 48, and now you see verses 18 and 19 between Genesis 3:17 and 3:20.
Drag the slider all the way to the right and you'll see each hit in the context of the entire Bible. Click either end of the slider to toggle between no context and all context. It's a simple change which we believe will greatly simplify your workflow.
The Details button, which opened a special workspace showing statistics and graphs of your search results, has now been replaced with an icon pop-up menu. Choosing "Show Default Details" will open whatever stats and graphs you have checked in the Search window settings of the Preferences. You can also choose specific stats or graphs to display.
Instead of opening in a separate workspace, the Stats and Graphs you choose from the Details pop-up will now appear in a new zone in the same workspace. Again, our goal was to make all of these features, some of which have been around since Accordance 1.0, more discoverable and accessible.
The Accordance interface has been designed to be flexible and fluid, enabling you to access search options and display options without having to fumble through multiple steps. We believe these and other changes in Accordance 9 will further simplify and enhance your Bible study workflow.
Okay, so Accordance 9 was released two full weeks ago and I have yet to describe the new features in detail. Frankly, I've been too busy attending the users' conference and teaching training seminars to talk up Accordance 9 properly. What's more, our sales staff have been so overwhelmed just trying to keep up with all the orders that I've been a little hesitant to promote Accordance 9 any more than we already have. I'm afraid things haven't really let up for them, but if I don't talk up the features of 9.0 soon, I'm afraid I might lose my license to blog!
Dr. J has already released a podcast describing the major features of Accordance 9, and is now releasing new podcasts describing each of those features in detail (starting with Zones), so let me start my discussion of Accordance 9 by focusing not on features, but on what you see and what you don't.
Let's begin with what you see. Accordance 9.0 is really just the first step in a major interface overhaul. Our goal, especially with this first release, was to make changes that would improve your workflow and make certain features more discoverable for new users. The Zones features is a major interface change which makes it easy for you to arrange your Accordance workspace however you like, and because it encourages you to view multiple resources at the same time, we worked to reduce the amount of screen space devoted to interface controls. Lastly, we had a slew of cosmetic changes we planned to make. Some of those, like redesigned tabs, smaller Add Pane icons, and many streamlined controls, made it in. Others that I can't talk about yet will have to wait for a future update. Our release schedule was set many months ago, and we simply had to delay some of the cosmetic changes we had planned in order to make our internal deadline. So Accordance 9.0 offers a cleaner, more streamlined look, but it's just the beginning of what we've got planned.
One reason some of the what-you-see improvements got put off was because of the what-you-don't-see changes that were made. As you know, Accordance has been in continual development since the early 1990's, and a lot has changed in computing over the last two decades. We have successfully managed the transitions from 68K to PowerPC, from the classic Mac OS to OS X, from PowerPC to Intel, from QuickDraw to Quartz . . . the list goes on and on.
We've actually seen many programs (Bible software and otherwise) get dashed on the rocks of each of those transitions. Some simply refused to make the transition. That was the case with many classic Mac Bible programs which eventually became unusable on PowerPC or which never made the jump to OS X. Others successfully managed to make the transitions, but at the cost of all other development. In other words, they would go years without making any improvements other than remaining compatible with the latest technology shift. Finally, a few got too ambitious, choosing to start over and rewrite their software for that next big thing. I suppose some companies have done that successfully, but most ended up frustrating their existing users while taking too long to attract new ones.
The Accordance development team has navigated so many technological shifts successfully because we have:
1. Immediately done what we needed to do to keep Accordance running successfully under the new technology.
2. Focused the bulk of our development efforts on improving Accordance itself, offering groundbreaking new features and capabilities found nowhere else.
3. Gone back and updated portions of our code to make Accordance more compatible with the new technology.
Note that because full compatibility with major technology changes is our last priority, we have avoided the traps listed above. This approach has, of course, meant that we're sometimes perceived as slow to achieve compliance with the latest technological "buzzword" or interface fashion, but we have found that those who continually try to keep "current" rarely ever do anything else. So Accordance is quick to work with new technologies, quick to offer substantial improvements to the program interface and feature set, and continually updating portions of our existing codebase as we have need and opportunity.
All that is to say that one of the hidden aspects of Accordance 9 is the extent to which we rewrote and modernized large portions of the codebase. Some of these changes were prompted by our efforts to port Accordance to iOS. Other changes were to enable us to stay current with OS X technologies. And finally, some changes were necessary to lay the foundation for the more visible changes we still have planned.
So if you wish we'd gone further in making visible changes to the Accordance interface, rest assured that we're not finished improving what you see in Accordance 9. It's all the improvements you can't see which are laying the groundwork for those you soon will see. Accordance 9 is a substantial upgrade that puts us in a good position to keep moving forward with new technology . . . and of course, I haven't even started talking about its major new features yet.
The Accordance team has arrived safely in Mesquite, Texas and is making final preparations for the Accordance Users' Conference. If you're in the area, you can still register at the door to attend one or both days. Attendees will get a jump start on learning to use all the new enhancements in Accordance 9, and will be among the first to see the upcoming Accordance app for iOS. It's not finished yet, but it's really shaping up and we're excited to show it off.
Whether you're able to attend or just interested to know what's going on, we've dedicated a section of our User Forums to information and discussion about the Users' Conference. If you want to discuss the Users Conference on Twitter, we ask that you include the hashtag #AccUsersConf in your tweets. That way, anyone who clicks the hashtag can easily follow all the tweets about the Conference.
Our official Twitter account will certainly be tweeting news about the conference, and I'll be doing the same at my own personal Twitter account. I imagine you'll also be able to keep up with the Users' Conference on Facebook.
I'm excited about tomorrow, and look forward to meeting many of you face to face. It promises to be a lot of fun.
Accordance 9 is here! If you're already convinced you need it, stop reading this blog post right now and go get it.
If you'd like to see Accordance 9 in action, stop reading this blog post right now and watch Dr. J's excellent video demo at the bottom of this page.
If you need to have all the new features and improvements of Accordance 9 spelled out for you, stop reading this blog post right now and check out the list of new features.
If you want more detail about why Accordance 9 is the best Bible study software ever, watch for future blog posts on the subject. I'll be covering each new feature at length in upcoming posts.
Last Friday night we invited all the sales, office, and tech support staff to attend a dinner and demonstration of the new features in Accordance 9. For many of them, this was their first chance to see what the development staff has been working so hard to produce. Dr. J and I both made long drives to be there as well, even though we had been testing the new features for weeks. After all, we both need to be able to tell you about everything that's new, and we've been around Accordance long enough to know that there would surely be cool little features even we hadn't discovered yet.
Dinner was delicious, and I enjoyed the chance to catch up with some of the coworkers I don't get to see every day. After dessert, we settled in for the demo, and I was excited to see how everyone would react to the new stuff.
I've never seen Accordance demonstrated without hearing ooohs and ahhhs from the crowd, and our sales staff was no different. They were impressed with the simplicity and convenience of the new Groups feature, the speed and utility of the revamped Search All window, and the aesthetic appeal of all the changes to the program's interface. But without a doubt, Workspace Zones elicited the loudest reactions. Once they saw how easily you could drag tabs and zones around to arrange your workspace however you like, they got very excited. Zones is the feature I was talking about when I tweeted a few weeks ago: "Testing an upcoming feature that is so freakin' cool I just want to giggle. Love my job."
Easy Install was the next feature to be demonstrated. Where zones are flashy and cool, Easy Install is a simple feature that just works. While it didn't get any ooohs and ahhhs, I saw the sales staff's eyes light up at the prospect of users being able to download and install new modules without having to mess with shipping disks or entering cryptic unlock codes.
At the end of the evening, we rushed through the powerful new syntax features of Accordance 9. Even so, this was the part of the evening where I learned the most. I've been testing and playing with syntax searching for some time now, but I quickly learned that there are several cool syntactical features that had completely slipped by me. I was definitely glad I came.
So you can hear their reactions directly, I asked some of the sales staff to tell me what most impressed them about Accordance 9. Here are their reactions:
What I got out of the meeting was the amount of dedication I saw from those who have put this together. The careful thought and deliberation that was put into this is just amazing and it certainly shows that these people love doing what God has called them to do and to see the knowledge and foresight He gave them to come out with such a great product.
The "search-all" feature blew me away.
—Keith, Tech Support
Seeing the inner workings of version 9 has confirmed why I love working for Accordance. The many hours and dedication the developers have committed to these past several months I know will continue to enhance the Biblical studies needed by students, pastors and scholars.
—Jackie, Seminars and Shows
I think the most impressive new feature is the new zones feature since it will help to organize our studies and make the use of Accordance that much better! From the sales point of view, I also like the new ability to download most of the product we have available via Easy Install.
—Martha, Sales Manager
What about Accordance 9 impressed me most? I would say... the simplicity... the speed... and the flexibility is greater than any previous version.
I was very impressed with version 9: the Easy Install and speed along with the new look. Zones are also very impressive. I love it.
—Margaret, Customer Service
What impresses me the most with version 9 is the "Easy Install" feature. From the perspective of a sales rep, it simplifies the entire process starting from the beginning when the order is placed and ending with the installation of the product.
So there you have it. Everyone inside the company is excited about Accordance 9. We're confident you'll be excited too once you get a chance to play with it. It won't be long now. . .
If you've visited our website recently, you've already noticed that big changes are afoot. The most obvious change is that the website has a cool new look, including a banner which reads Accordance 9.
No, Accordance 9 is not yet available. We did our best to coordinate all the website and infrastructure changes with our new product releases, but I'm afraid we didn't quite make it. So for a very short while, we're going to be in a state of transition.
Okay, so now that you know Accordance 9 is right around the corner, how can you find out more about it? You can read about the major new features here, and find out about the updated Library and Scholar's levels here. You can watch this page for occasional progress updates, and if you'd like to pre-order Accordance 9, you can do so here.
I'll be describing the new features of Accordance 9 in detail in upcoming posts, and I know Dr. J is working on an Accordance 9 podcast. We're all working very hard to get this new upgrade to you as soon as possible, so keep checking in to find out when you can experience all the new features and improvements.