Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crossing Swords with Mac Bible Software (Part 2)

Inside Accordance

Currently at version 8.4.7, Accordance Bible Software has long been a preferred choice among many Mac users. Available exclusively for Mac, Accordance has had several years to mature as a Bible software platform and it shows. The attention to detail in Accordance is apparent from a design standpoint, as well as from the perspective of functionality. In short, Accordance comes across as an extremely polished Bible software package for Mac. First developed by OakTree Software in 1994, Accordance is in general very fast. In particular, users upgrading from an older Power PC-based version to the latest version will notice a significant speed bump, assuming, of course, that one is running fairly recent hardware.

Accordance looks and feels like a slick Mac application. Using a tab-based feature, users can have many different resources open without cluttering a screen with multiple windows—something that can easily happen in Logos. It's also easy to open one or more Bible versions in Accordance while also having one or more resources open for easy access to biblical commentaries and Bible notes, for instance. The "Text" pallet allows quick access to opening a variety of books such as English, Greek, or Hebrew Bibles and reference tools including maps and user-created notes. For those studying the original biblical languages, the "Text" pallet also offers language tools that provide syntax, diagramming, and parsing functions.

Interface: Palettes and Windows

The Accordance interface is what I'd describe as pallet-based. There is a main window where biblical texts and reference resources appear, surrounded by various palettes. Logos, on the other hand, is more window-based. Each program takes some getting used to, as they both contain a number of features tucked away in file menus and such. As far as being intuitive, Accordance is easier to navigate when it comes to searching for a particular verse or passage or for a key word or words. Logos seemed a bit clunkier as far as performing similar tasks is concerned. Neither program, however, is particularly intuitive when it comes to uncovering the power available to users who take the time to master the respective software. The "My Library" window in Logos makes it easy to find a particular electronic resource, as does the Accordance "Library" palette.

For reference work, Logos offers more detailed information under its "Help"/"About This Resource" option including an image of the book cover, a brief description of the text, detailed bibliographic information, and more.

Accordance, on the other hand, features an "About The Text" option under the "Accordance" menu.

Information within this Accordance window, however, is less detailed, providing only rudimentary information such as publisher and publication date. Logos also has a slight edge in being able to identify what page number a particular portion of the text is actually found in a physical copy of the resource in question—a useful feature for scholars who may wish to consult the physical text or who may be required to cite physical page numbers in scholarly publications.

Seek and You Will Find

Searching is a big part of Bible software. The ability to quickly enter key words or phrases and have the software search a number of resources saves a vast amount of time. Comparable searches with physical books would take, for instance, quite a bit longer to retrieve results that software can produce in seconds or mere minutes. Global searches of my entire resource library in Accordance did take quite a bit longer than comparable searches in Logos, but in its defense, in general such search results in Accordance were often more detailed. Neither platform seemed intuitive to me when it came to global searches of my entire resource library. In the case of Accordance I had to do some digging within the program before I could figure out how to perform a global search (from the menu or, far simpler, from the "Search" icon on the "Texts" pallet. Of course, knowing what you're looking for also helps. In writing a paper on the Documentary Hypothesis, for instance, I not only searched for that specific term, but also related terms and phrases that resulted, in each program, in additional valuable information.

Accordance offers an excellent "Fuzzy" search feature. With so many Bible translations it's sometimes difficult to recall the exact phrasing of a passage. Using a Fuzzy search, a user can type in some key words and Accordance will do its best to approximately match passages that fit the search range even though the search string is not exact. For instance, searching for "God loved world" with the Fuzzy feature active, with the ESV as the translation, will result not only in the typical verse that comes to mind (John 3:16), but also Deuteronomy 23:5 ("God loved"); 2 Chronicles 9:8 ("God loved Israel"); 1 Corinthians 1:21 ("God, the world"); Galatians 2:20 ("The Son of God, who loved me"); and 1 John 4:11 ("if God so loved us"). As you can see, Fuzzy searches can come in handy. As best I can tell, Logos on Mac lacks Fuzzy searching in its current version, although it is available as a Power Tools Addin for the Windows iteration (see http://www.logos.com/addins/details/powertools). For now, at any rate, Accordance is my choice for any kind of Fuzzy searching.

As a cautionary quibble, from the perspective of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation), I prefer the default search results in Logos because they present the user with the passage found always within its broader context. Accordance, on the other hand, will only show the user the verse or verses searched for unless one opts to set the "More options" feature under the search box to "All" under "Add context."

Getting Updates

With so many resources available on each platform, it's important to obtain updates that offer improved features and corrections. In this area, Accordance is the clear winner. While the Logos version on Windows contains updating features, the current version of Logos on Mac (1.2.2) does not appear to have any update features within the program itself, requiring users instead to visit the Logos web site in order to manually check for updates. Needless to say, such an approach is cumbersome. Logos 4 on Mac will correct this deficiency. Accordance, on the other hand, includes a helpful "Check for Updates" feature that can be automated to check for updates daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever a user decides to manually have the software find updates.

The Accordance update feature is quite helpful, requiring no action on the part of the user other than selecting updates one wishes to install. Some Accordance updates, however, require purchasing updated software, something that is the case on Logos as well.

On the Go

Logos also has a companion iPhone/iPod touch application that some users may find useful on the go, though I prefer PocketBible, primarily because the reader is free and my previously registered Palm and Pocket PC software from years ago is available to me free of charge for use on my iPod touch, with my second on-the-go choice being OliveTree's Bible Reader. Although this is a debate for another article, there are inherent limitations to Bible software that appears on a small handheld screen as opposed to a larger laptop or desktop screen. After running connected to a 24" LCD most of the time, for instance, even a 13" MacBook screen appears cramped to me, while the small screens on an iPhone or iPod touch are even more difficult to utilize if one is trying to emulate the look and feel of desktop software (only time will tell if something like the iPad will usefully offer some middle ground of usage that will truly fill a gap).

Does Accordance need a mobile version for iPhone, iPod, and iPad? It's not a big selling point to me, as there already exist such options for the iPhone OS. Still, it's a nice extra provided by Logos for those interested in the mobile capabilities.

Continued in Part 3 (see Part 1)

1 comment:

Rick Bennett said...

"Information within this Accordance window, however, is less detailed, providing only rudimentary information such as publisher and publication date. Logos also has a slight edge in being able to identify what page number a particular portion of the text is actually found in a physical copy of the resource in question—a useful feature for scholars who may wish to consult the physical text or who may be required to cite physical page numbers in scholarly publications."

With both apps this is dependent on the resource having page numbers within it, which is not true in every case. Often the format the text is received in does not retain them and we have to add them in or release as is.

In every resource that has page numbers within it, Accordance does display the current page just underneath the search entry box. In addition, both apps have the option to automatically insert formatted footnotes and bibliography entries into (most) word processors. Logos offers more formatting options, but Accordance is more accurate in the citation styles it uses (based on an external comparison review by one of our users).

Hope this helps to clarify this point in your review. Good work.