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June 21, 2004

Comparative Review

I have added a new review article to Bible Software Review, entitled A Comparison of Accordance 6.2 Against the Baseline in H. Van Dyke Parunak's Review. The review alluded to, of course, is his Windows Software for Bible Study, JETS 46/3 (September 2003) 465-95, which can be downloaded here.

Back in February 2004 I requested permission to reproduce the article online, but have not even heard back from JETS. I'm sorry for our readers, but it will be worth your while to download the PDF and print it.

Notice that this is not a review of Accordance 6.2 as such. It is meant to be read alongside Parunak's article, so that you can see at a glance one of the "missing columns" that the author could not include originally. Enjoy!

August 9, 2005

Graphical Searches: A Test Case

A few days ago, Rick Brannan posted an interesting example of a graphical search performed with Libronix. He wanted to find instances of the Greek adjective καλός ("good") followed or preceded by a noun. The conditions were that they had to be 0-3 words apart, and agree in case and number. The search was restricted to the Pastoral Epistles, and he used a grammatically tagged version of NA27. The whole article explains, step by step, how to build this search, and the end result is shown below.

The Graphical Query Editor was introduced not so long ago, and its features are explained in some detail in this tutorial.

Later that same day, David Lang, member of the development team of Accordance, compared Rick's procedure with the Construct Window that has been available in Accordance from the very beginning. His post (number 6 in the thread) glossed the simplicity and intuitiveness of Accordance when compared to Libronix.

Last Monday, Tyler F. Williams -- without previous knowledge of David's comments --, blogged about this, comparing the graphical search capabilities of these two programs.

The original query presented by Rick would look thus in Accordance:

The thread caught my attention from the start, and I was planning on writing some comments on it, but both David and Tyler drew their guns faster than me, so to speak ;-) Nonetheless, I would like to introduce another element that has not been mentioned yet.

There is another contestant in this area of graphical searches: the Advanced Search Engine in BibleWorks. The same search discussed above would look like this in the ASE:

As one would expect, all three programs yield the same results. They use the same databases, but their user interface and workflow are vastly different.

I decided to test the same search in Libronix, Accordance, and BibleWorks (in this particular order). If you look at the screenshots you will immediately realize some of the differences. Let me summarize them for you:

1. Libronix uses more "cryptic" language than both Accordance and BibleWorks, and requires the user to go through far more steps, in the form of dialog boxes and drop-down menus.

2. In Libronix, "At most 3" allows for up to 2 intervening words, just like "WITHIN 3" in Accordance. However, BibleWorks allows up to 3, so I had to use "At most 2" in order to get the same result.

3. Both Libronix and Accordance have a Sentence search field. BibleWorks lacks a specific field, but can look for sentences and clauses by allowing or disallowing certain punctuation marks and crossing verse boundaries. Incidentally, in 1 Timothty 6:11, the term πραϋπαθίαν found by BibleWorks is a wrong hit, since it is followed by a period and should not be counted. UPDATE (August 12): It has been brought to my attention that if one specifies which punctuation marks are NOT allowed, rather than the other way round, then the search yields the right results.

4. Libronix and BibleWorks have an option to ignore word order. Accordance does not, hence the need to duplicate the Construct window, invert the search terms, and perform an OR search. 5. Each one of the programs return different statistics, but they are all right, since they follow a slightly different logic. Thus, Libronix finds 47 occurrences (hits) in 19 articles (i.e., sentences). Accordance yields 25 hits (containing the same 47 hit words found by Libronix) in 40 verses (but only 20 of those displayed contain hits). Finally, BibleWorks' search results in 26 hits and 21 verses. Here the figures would be the same as Accordance, except for the false hit already mentioned in point 3 above. UPDATE (August 12): But see the Update. By reversing the logic of the punctuation settings one gets 25 hits in 20 verses.

My personal conclusion regarding this type of search is that BibleWorks requires slightly less steps than Accordance, and a lot less than Libronix. On the other hand, Accordance is considerably more intuitive and easier to set up than the others. As for Libronix, it's catching up fast (considering it is only at version 2.1, and the Graphical Query Editor has been developed only recently compared to Accordance and BibleWorks).

May 10, 2006

A Graphical Search

For a long time I have wanted to run a graphical search based on a comment made by H. Van Dyke Parunak in his article "Computers and Biblical Studies," ABD, vol. I, pp. 1112-1124, where he talks about a search for "all verbs that occur within three words of the phrase 'in Christ,' without intervening verbs."

Today I decided it was about time to put some Bible software programs to the test, so I fired up Accordance, BibleWorks and Logos to perform this particular search, using the different graphical search engines available in each package. The goal of this little exercise was simply to find out which one of them offered a cleaner, more intuitive way to build the search. Here are the results (in alphabetical order):

accinchrist.gif

Accordance seems to be very straightforward, and I didn't need to refer to the online help at all.

bwinchrist.gif

BibleWorks took me a bit longer, because there are different ways to "filter out" intervening words, and I had to look them up.

logosinchrist.gif

Logos' search was more involved, since I had to specify the Greek words and their morphology independently. I also needed to refer to the help files.

As for the results, Accordance and BibleWorks agree in returning 34 hits. Logos, on the other hand, finds only 31 verses (missing 4 true occurrences and returning one spurious hit). The reason for this is that Logos doesn't really count words, but characters. So, even though I specified 0-3 intervening words, the program in fact takes it as 0-21 characters (i.e., each "word" would amount to seven "characters"). For Greek, that includes accents and breathing marks, not just letters. Therefore, this explains why in one case four intervening (shorter) terms were returned as hits, while in four other cases three intervening (longer) terms were missed altogether. I have been told that the new Logos 3, with its ability to perform syntactical searches, handles these types of queries in a better and more powerful way. Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for my copy, so I haven't been able to make use of the latest version. I'll be glad to update any relevant info once I get it. BTW, I want to thank Rick Brannan and Vincent Setterholm for their help in explaining the behavior of Logos's graphical search in this particular instance.

Now, I want you to be the judge. Apart from your own familiarity (or lack of it) with any of these three programs, which one of the screenshots strikes you as been the most "user-friendly"? Evidently, there's more to these searches than just what is displayed here (number of steps required, dialog boxes, and so on), but I'm more interested in letting you see the interface of the graphical query and interpret the information shown in each particular case.

Update:

- I forgot to explain that this search looks for all those verbs that not only occur within the set distance but also precede the phrase 'in Christ.'

- I hope I did not give the impression that I was looking for the more aesthetically appealing screenshot. What we are concerned about here is clarity and ease of use.

- Vincent (Setterholm) sends me a screenshot with a somewhat more organized layout, which I gladly reproduce below (slightly reduced in size). Note that some unnecessary proximity operators have been removed, and the morphological codes changed to full descriptions.

vincentquery.gif

I am also told that the new database engine and syntactical tools in Logos version 3 do not have the same limitation noted above and, consequently, return the exact number of intervening words specified by the user.

Update (May 11):

- Rick Brannan blogs about syntactical searches, and the ways in which they can take us further than the current morphologically-based queries when it comes to doing exegesis. It's an interesting piece, but I am clearly at a disadvantage here, since I won't be able to speak intelligently about these new syntactical tools in Logos 3 until I actually use them. Got to be patient... Meanwhile I guess I should say that morphology and syntaxis must always go hand in hand, and the line between the two is often blurred. In fact, some morphologically tagged e-texts already take a more functional approach, and by doing so take us closer to what would be a typical syntactical analysis. But I digress, I'll get back to this fascinating issue in a future review. One thing is true, though: we have come a long way since Parunak's article was written.

- David Lang also interacts with my search over at Accordance blog, describing the steps that lead up to the construct window I showed above and commenting on some of the ways the resultant data can be handled by Accordance to enhance our research of this typically Pauline expression. I appreciate it, since I had no space to dwell on the implications of the search.

- Now, is anyone from BibleWorks going to give us some insights? I really wish they would set up an official blog ;-)

May 11, 2006

On Comparative Reviews

Writing general product reviews is a worthwhile exercise, but writing comparative reviews is even more fun. However, it can also be a bit of a headache. No matter how hard you try to be objective, fair, and all the rest of it, you are probably going to leave just about everybody unhappy ;-)

Despite the difficulties, I do have a few comparative reviews "in the back burner." Hopefully they will elicit some interesting exchanges (they always do), and help improve our general understanding of some of the key areas of Bible software. At least I hope so.

May 24, 2006

Review of Tagged Greek Texts

Contributed by guest blogger Ken Ristau

In tandem with the release of Accordance 7, I thought it would be appropriate to release a review of the morphologically tagged Greek texts (PDF) available on the Scholar's Collection 6.9 CD-ROM. I have reviewed the texts in comparison with BibleWorks 7 and Logos Bible Software 3.

My review concentrates on the databases themselves rather than the actual programs but nevertheless there are some points at which I do comment on all three new programs. I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comment thread. These are happy times for fans of Bible software!

Update: In response to criticism I received in the BibleWorks forum, I have made corrections to my review to better communicate my points regarding their implementation of morphological databases. I have also updated my review to reflect the additional information provided by Ken Penner, who is presently working on the Logos Pseudepigrapha. I apologize for some of my imprecise language and regret any unintended misrepresentation of the implementation of morphological databases in BibleWorks 7. At the same time, I stand by my assessment as it is now written and am disturbed at the treatment I have received in the BibleWorks forum (to be distinguished from BibleWorks, LLC with which I have no qualms). I believe that posts in the forum overstate the nature and extent of my mistake and attempt to insulate BibleWorks from my otherwise fair and responsible criticism.

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