Tools of the Trade: Accordance — First Impressions

Accordance Bible SoftwareI am very fortunate to have received, some years ago, review copies of Logos and BibleWorks, and so I’ve periodically posted articles regarding my experiences with those two Bible study programs.

Every time I’ve posted such an article, readers have asked for my views on Accordance, the Apple competitor to these products. And since I don’t use computers that charge a 100% premium for a fruit-shaped logo, I’ve never been able to answer the question. Until now.

Accordance has finally released a Windows version, and the good people at Oak Tree Software were kind enough to let me try out the Advanced version (or module). This costs $999.99 normally, but is presently on sale for $749.00 through July 31. This is the next-to-best bundle they sell, and is closest to the packages I have from Logos and BibleWorks.

It includes extensive Hebrew and Greek resources, such as dictionaries, interlinear texts, Strong number references (English words are linked by word number to the original Greek or Hebrew word), Greek and Hebrew declensions, the ability to search by word form or lemma (root word), and grammars. The package includes Thayer’s, Louw-Nida, and many other well respected original language reference works.

The commentary collection is quite good, including the commentary set from Tyndale, the Pillar Commentaries, IVP commentaries, and the venerable Barnes Notes, as well as out-of-copyright but still useful commentaries by Matthew Henry, John Calvin, J. W. McGarvey, and others.

All the major translations are included, including my favorite ESV and NET Bible, as well as the NIV, RSV, AV, KJV, Living Bible, the Message, and more.

Out of the box experience

Well, there’s no out of the box experience because there’s no box. I downloaded the whole thing and installed it from the Internet. The process took about 2 1/2 hours on a 50 Mbps downstream connection, so plan ahead. Still, that’s much faster than FedEx. (I’m not a patient person.)

I had one, trivial glitch in the setup. One of the documents was corrupted and didn’t install correctly — but it’s a document I have no need for. Accordance immediately offered to fix the problem, but it just wasn’t worth the time. And, as it turns out, the bug was corrected by Accordance in a software update less than a week later.

Upon opening the program, I couldn’t get anything to work right. So I rebooted, and it began to run like a charm. It’s much faster than Logos but a hair slower than BibleWorks. That is to say, it’s plenty fast on my computer (3.10 GHz, i7-3770S, 8 GM of RAM, Windows 8.1).

All these programs handle a huge amount of textual data and so require a fairly decent computer. But my impression is that I could run Accordance on a much older computer, and it would still run fine. Download the free trial version to be sure. It runs on Windows XP or later.

Newbie experience

It’s my opinion that excellent software should require no instructions at all for basic use by an experienced computer user. Therefore, I always try these programs out without reading the instructions. It’s not just a guy thing. There are just so many features, and I only need certain ones.

Accordance provides plenty of help features, podcasts, videos, etc., etc. on how to use the program — but those things require patience. I’d rather just dive in.

So upon rebooting, I found a page opened to the Apostolic Fathers, but I was able to easily figure out how to click to change to the ESVS, that is, the ESV version with Strong’s numbers to link the English words to the original languages. Cool.

Despite its Apple heritage, the software supports right clicking in the Windows tradition, which is contextually sensitive — although the number of choices can be a bit overwhelming.

I clicked on the Add Parallel button and found I could add English, Greek, or Hebrew texts that would scroll in parallel with the ESV. And I could go to Tools and load commentaries.

And the program was smart enough to set up the windows intuitively. With no effort by me, I had the ESV and NIV in parallel windows at the top of the screen, synced, with four windows below with the Tyndale, IVP, Pillar, NET Bible translator notes parallel and in sync. For me, this is Nirvana.

I’m fortunate to use a very large monitor (30″), and so this all fits and lays out very helpfully. In fact, while their competitors have their advantages, this presentation is hard to replicate elsewhere — and mindlessly easy (the best kind of easy) in Accordance.

On the other hand, the default font was 16 points with vast vertical spacing in between lines. I had to go into the Text Display feature to reduce the font to 11 points with very little vertical space so I could read enough text at once to be useful and yet large enough to easily read.

This was just a right click away. The formatting can be easily changed on the fly, which is an immense help. (You can also set your preferred formatting as the default in Edit/Preferences.)

So I thought I’d check out the Greek. I clicked Add Parallel and selected a Greek text, and it appeared in parallel with the ESV, above all the commentaries. When I highlighted a word in one, the corresponding word in the other was automatically highlighted. Very cool. (I’ve not seen this feature elsewhere, and it’s a time saver.)

I right clicked and selected Search for/Root, and I got a listing of all the verses containing the same Greek root word in a new window. The original window remained in place. Excellent.

I right clicked, selected Look Up/Dictionary, and I got the definition of the word in the LEH Septuagint Lexicon, which is not what I wanted, since the verse wasn’t in the Septuagint (although it’s great to have a dictionary for the Greek of the Septuagint). I clicked on a dropdown menu to get the definition in Thayer’s (BDAG is an add on or included in the Ultimate package). (The default can be changed by clicking the Library button and then dragging your favorite in each subset to the top of each list. Not obvious, but very easy once you know how.)

To get the declension (gender, verb tense, etc.), I clicked the Instant Details button on the toolbar (it took a little trial and error, but that’s how I learn software), and now I get the grammatical detail on each word on hover over either the English or Greek text, as well as the English transliteration. I don’t need the transliteration for Greek, but my Hebrew is less than weak. It helps for the program not to assume that I can read Hebrew characters well. (One of these days I’m going to teach myself how to read Hebrew, even though it is right to left.)

Click a button above the NIV text and suddenly it’s in interlinear format with the Greek root, Strong’s number, and part of speech.

Blogging

To force myself to learn the software, I closed BibleWorks and Logos — which normally are always open while I’m writing. So far, I’ve only found it necessary to reopen a competitor to access commentaries not in the Accordance Advanced module. I have bought several commentaries in Logos. In fact, I’m now wishing there were a way to consolidate my resources into a single program. (I understand there are hacks.)

I routinely copy my English translation texts from BibleWorks. It’s really easy and fast and let’s me customize the format to my preference. Accordance is not quite as easy.

It has the advantage that I can display the text is natural paragraphs, rather than verse by verse paragraphs, which is very helpful to me, and unique to Accordance so far as I can tell. With this feature, I don’t have to pull a hard copy to know where the translators broke the paragraphs, and in writing an expository series such as the one on 1 Corinthians, the paragraphing makes it easy to decide how to split up the text for teaching.

But Ctrl-C copies the text with the cross-referencing superscripts. (Why on earth?) These are lost entirely in the other programs, and it’s great to have them, but to delete them from the text requires a right click Copy As/No Superscript command, and the Copy As is in a lengthy list of commands. In BibleWorks, it’s just Ctrl-C.

With some finagling, the Edit/Preferences/Citation tab can be set to omit the superscripts with a Ctrl-Alt-C command (which just will not do — but maybe with practice). Ctrl-C should default what most people routinely need, which is an unformatted copy of the text with no superscripts. Nonetheless, it’s not so difficult as to force me to open a competitor.

Summary

In short, I’m extremely pleased with the software. The layout and formatting, once tinkered with a bit, work extraordinarily well — by far the best I’ve seen. And the resources are plentiful and easily accessed. I’ll be working with this software for a while.

But there are some nits:

1. There should be a Ctrl-C shortcut for Copy without formatting but with the footnote superscripts deleted. Who wants to copy the cross-reference superscripts? Ever? And who wants their Bible study tool to set the format? That’s the job of the word processor or HTML editor. (No, I’m not going to let this go. I’m trying to help.)

2. The vocabulary is bit eccentric. In places, dictionaries are very helpfully called “Dictionaries” and other places “Tools.” For example, “English tools” means “Bible dictionaries.” “Greek tools” means “Greek dictionaries.” Just so, sometimes commentaries are referred to as “Reference tools.” It’s not that hard to learn, but it’s not like we don’t have much better words already available for these things.

3. When a search gives me a verse list, it gives the full verse, but I can’t find a single-click means of expanding the text to get the context. I find myself copying the citation and then searching on the citation — which does produce the context. It’s not hard, but Logos and BibleWorks only require a click.

But I’m telling you: I love this software. It has a superb interface. (I’m pretty excited.)

Some day once I get a better feel for it, I’ll update this post and maybe do a comparison of the three.

Oh, and they have an iPhone app that syncs with your PC resources. Lord willing, that will be the subject of a future post.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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2 Responses to Tools of the Trade: Accordance — First Impressions

  1. To paraphrase Paul, I did not know what coveting was untill Jay described his new software. It sounds great.

  2. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jerry,

    There are several less expensive modules available, and they’re all on sale this month for 25% off.

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