Review of Accordance  
   
  Version: 5.5  
  Developer: OakTree Software  
  Rubén Gómez  
Overall Rating:  7.8
User Interface: Searching:
Ease of Use Features:
Help & Support: Modules:
Customization: Original Languages:
Speed: Price:

February 24, 2004

A review written by Rubén Gómez, Bible software translator and beta tester. Copyright © 2002, 2004-2009 by the author. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce any part of this document without obtaining permission from the author. Please note that this is NOT the latest version of the program. An updated review will be forthcoming.

Introduction

If you are a seasoned Mac user, you will immediately feel at home the very first time you open Accordance. [1] If, on the contrary, you are new to the Macintosh platform, it will be like discovering a whole new world you never even thought it existed! Everything is so clear and intuitive that the often-repeated term "ease of use" will take on a whole new meaning. [2] Accordance is amazingly simple, and yet unbelievably powerful. A real masterpiece that makes one wonder how on earth it's been possible to study the Bible before without this incredible tool. Thanks are due to Dr. Roy Brown, of OakTree Software, for designing and programming such a delightful piece of software.

Installation

As is usually the case with most software made for the Macintosh, Accordance installs effortlessly. The installer automatically identifies the type of computer and operating system used, so that user intervention is kept to a minimum. Different options or "groups" are available depending on the CD-ROM being installed, and any "locked" modules (i.e., texts not included in the general price of the chosen collection which have to be paid for separately) can be unlocked at this time. The program can be run off the CD-ROM, although moving the files to the hard disk drive is recommended for optimal performance.

Contents

Accordance endeavors to care for the specific study needs of different groups of users. There are a good number of modules bundled in a variety of CD-ROM collections, with various potential target users in mind: people doing personal Bible study, teachers and ministers, and students and scholars.

There are currently more than a dozen Accordance-compatible CD-ROMs. Users have a wide choice of Bible texts, general-purpose and scholarly tools, maps, etc. This means that a reasonably good library can be built according to the requirements and budget of almost everyone. [3] Suffice it here to say that most of the better-known English translations of the Bible, original language texts and standard lexicons [4] are available as part of the different packages, or else can be unlocked individually.

A word of explanation might be in order at this point. While it is true that Accordance allows us to build a fairly complete Bible study library, it is not primarily a digital library. One must never lose sight of the fact that we are dealing here with an electronic Bible concordance with highly specialized search capabilities and tightly integrated research tools. Quality always takes precedence over sheer quantity.

Program description

Accordance consists of four clearly distinguishable areas. By default, the main window, called Search window, uses up most of the screen's real state. It is not only the largest window, but also the program's "headquarters". This is the window where texts are both searched and displayed. Below it we find the Instant details box, the place where Accordance automatically shows all the information related to the word found under the cursor (parsing details, Strong's numbers, transliteration, description of abbreviations and references, etc.). Above the Search window is the New window palette. From this palette the user can open any of the different modules available. Last, but not least, we have the Amplify palette on the right-hand side. Its powerful features allow us to access all kinds of information about the text, verse reference or search hits shown on the Search window. This layout can be rearranged if the user wishes to do so, and palette items can be displayed as icons or simply text.

For the hearty souls that prefer to use the keyboard, the good news is that most of the main features of Accordance can be accessed via convenient keyboard shortcuts.

Despite its deceptive simplicity, which allows even computer novices to start using the program quite efficiently within a very short period of time, Accordance is particularly well known for its celebrated ability to carry out highly complex grammatical and syntactical Hebrew and Greek searches. So, even though it is so easy to use and so intuitive that any user will be able to operate it without feeling intimidated, it can become, at the same time, an immensely powerful tool in expert hands. After all, if an application can do extremely complex tasks, it will surely perform the simpler ones readily. On the other hand, being a Macintosh program it will come as no surprise if we say that it has led the way from the very beginning, back in the mid-nineties, in the area of graphical searches and analyses. [5] Almost any window can be saved and reopened by double-clicking on it.

Manual and Technical support

A very thorough User's Guide is included on the CD-ROM as an Adobe PDF file. It is also available in printed form from the publisher. A somewhat scaled-down version of it, called Mini-Manual, will adequately meet the needs of first-time to intermediate users. There is also an excellent onscreen help (found under the Help menu) and a number of other useful documents, mostly in PDF. Context-sensitive help on the various program windows can also be accessed by pressing Command—;. A number of FAQs and helpful on-line illustrations and screenshots are found on OakTree's comprehensive web site. [6] Finally, any Accordance user can subscribe to the Accordance Users Forum, an e-mail list where users and members of the Accordance development team can interact. [7]

Remarkable features

Space limitations prevent us from going into as much detail as would be necessary in order to do justice to the many outstanding features found in Accordance. We will briefly touch on what this reviewer feels are the most salient ones. [8]

Powerful searches – Every Bible program is, at its core, a more or less sophisticated electronic concordance. It is designed to allow the user to perform searches that would be impossible to do manually, or that would require vast amounts of time. Here lies the real advantage of this particular kind of software, although, once again it ought to be remembered that any results collected in this way should be carefully checked against those given by other Bible software tools and printed works. "Powerful" should not be understood only in terms of original-language searches. With Accordance one can carry out lots of different kinds of searches, at various degrees of complexity. [9] You can base your search on Strong's or Goodrick-Kohlenberger's numbers, look for exact words or phrases, perform multi-version searches, look up any Bible reference, do absolute position, proximity or case-sensitive searches, etc. Furthermore, it is very easy to use keyboard shortcuts in order to look up any previously selected text, verse reference or search hit in any of the reference works available.

Users with knowledge of Greek and/or Hebrew can take advantage of a wide array of options for carrying out morphological searches. Advanced Accordance modules include the full morphologically tagged text of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. [10] Other highly specialized databases (e.g., a selection of non-biblical Qumran texts or some of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers in Greek) also include morphological information. There are still other Hebrew or Greek non-tagged texts available (like the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Mishna or the MT/LXX) which are not found elsewhere. Generally speaking, complex searches are best carried out with the help of the Construct windows (English, Greek or Hebrew), where the different relationships between the search terms can be more readily established and seen at a glance in a purely graphical environment, whereas the Search entry box of the Search window is very handy for most other search

Hypertexting – Closely tied to the previous comments on searches is the issue of marking up the different elements of every single database. Accordance modules exhibit an excellent and extremely versatile hypertexting. This is what really makes an electronic work stand out and become more useful than its printed equivalent work for study purposes. [11]

Different sections of each module are marked and assigned to a predefined field. The names and breadth of these fields can vary, and depend directly on the nature of the module. This means that the program can be instructed to search only the field or fields of our choice, thus increasing the chances of getting the hits we are really after.

Search field

Hits

Entry

7

English Content

444

Bibliography

41

Author

8

Figure 1

The concept of search fields in the case of biblical texts is quite different, but it is also a great help if we want to fine-tune our searches. A relatively simple search like Paul <AND> Silas in NAS95S can yield quite diverse results (see Figure 2), depending on the field selected.

Search field

Hits

Verses

Verse

20

10

Chapter

47

36

Clause [12]

12

10

Sentence

20

15

Paragraph

29

27

Book

143

130

Figure 2

Customization – To say that Accordance is highly customizable is an understatement. Most daily tasks can be done the way we are accustomed to. The program does a very good job at trying to fit into our own way of doing things, instead of forcing us to follow some strict approach. By allowing us to choose ranges, colors, fonts, user notes and tools, highlighting schemes, personal search groups and collections, etc. we will feel as much at home as we would if we were sitting on our study desk using our favorite worn out Bible and reference books. Even the appearance – and in some cases the degree of detail – of the automated reports (Analysis, Plot, Table, Concordance, Diagram and so on) can be modified according to our particular tastes or needs. This degree of customization is one of the things that make the program apt for users with different levels and expertise or who simply pursue distinct interests.

Flexibility – Ideally, a Bible software program must be as flexible as possible in order to account for the different ways users approach the task of studying the Scriptures. Accordance achieves this aim beautifully. It certainly cannot do everything the way I would want to, but it comes pretty close! The program is smart enough to interpret what the user wishes to do. Most of the time only the first few letters of a book, a command, etc. need to be entered. The program fills in the rest.

Even Bible references can be written in no particular order. After pressing the OK button (or simply hitting Enter or Return) the text pane will show the verses in the very same order they were entered. [13] Such apparently simple behavior is not found in other Bible software packagage.

Search ranges can be easily set, but temporary ranges can also be established quite effortlessly. Just open a Search window, check the radio button Verses and write whatever references you want to confine your search to. Then open another Search window, check the radio button Words, write your search argument and use the [CONTENTS] command.

The Amplify palette – One of the unique and most useful features of Accordance is its ability to "amplify" one's study from a given word, verse reference or search hit. The whole idea of amplifying can be likened to our modern so-called Study Bibles. Without losing the focus on the text it is possible to access notes, commentaries, cross references, maps, and so on, and not having to actually open any other books beside the Bible itself. Amplifying allows us to pursue any devotional, textual, lexical, grammatical, syntactical, exegetical, geographical, or statistical interest without losing track of where we are. We can literally "jump" from one bit of information to another, gather materials and write down notes, and always go back to our point of departure.

User Tools – One of the very useful additions to the latest version of Accordance is the ability to create and edit user tools. Once these tools are added to the library of available modules, they become, to all practical intents and purposes, like any other General Tool. [14] These tools can be typed from scratch, copied and pasted or scanned as plain text and edited by the user in the Edit window. Obviously, copyright restrictions apply, but all in all it is a very good way to add valuable personal material, works in the public domain, and so on to Accordance. This way, documents of limited interest for a general usership, that would surely never make it into the program, can be integrated seamlessly into it.

Another interesting option is that of importing text to a user tool. Only two formats are currently accepted: ASCII text files and TLG [15] files. Thesaurus Linguae Graecae is a huge database of basically every piece of extant Greek literature spanning from about 600 B.C.E. to 1453 C.E., available in one CD-ROM. No retrieval system is included, but Accordance is able to translate the beta code language used by TLG and convert selected texts into a user tool. [16] This can become an extremely useful asset for both students and scholars, since a lot of the material contained in TLG will be of great interest for Biblical and Early Church History specialists.

Suggestions for improvement

Despite the fact that Accordance is a truly remarkable program in the fullest sense of the word, there are still certain areas where some enhancements could be made, in the opinion of this reviewer. Here are just a few of them:

Punctuation-based searches in Biblical texts – Although the different search fields are identified according to the punctuation signs that appear within the text (e.g., in English, one sentence can be separated from another by a period, a question mark or an exclamation mark), it is currently not possible to base one's search on punctuation criteria as such. For instance, you cannot search for words appearing within quotes or parentheses, or look for question marks, or find square brackets or double square brackets in the text of the Greek New Testament. [17] One possible way to implement this feature would be by means of the addition of a new field (called Punctuation perhaps?), which could consist of the signs themselves, or, failing that, of a series of numbers (somewhat similar to how the Symbols field works in the current MT/LXX tool) [18]. In the latter case, one number could be assigned to each punctuation sign – which unlike the MT/LXX should ideally not appear as a superscript figure within the text itself [19] – and by entering the number in the Search entry box, the user could find the quotes, dashes, semicolons or whatever he wishes.

Exact word searches in Tools and Search All window – this would allow the user to build case-sensitive searches, which are always very useful for reducing the number of unwanted hits. A simple example of this would be the search Gordon <AND> Fee in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (search field set to English Content). Of the 11 hits found, only one returns the name of the author we were looking for (i.e., Gordon Fee). The spurious hits are due to the fact that the search doesn't distinguish between "Fee" and "fee". [20]

Temporary customizable search range command – Instead of having to add very specific ranges to the Search range pop-up menu, or use two different search windows with the [CONTENTS] command, it would be nice, and a lot easier, to have a [RANGE] command, or something along those lines, that one could use to limit any given search to a particular range of Scripture (e.g. Luke 1:46-55; 68-79; 2:29-32) on a single Search window.

Modifications to morphological databases [21] – It seems somewhat odd that the Greek article should lack a lexical form, [22] or that no way is currently provided under the Noun grammatical tag to distinguish between proper nouns and common nouns. There is no doubt that these enhancements would be a welcome addition, since they would allow for more precise searches. [23]

Conclusion

Accordance is a truly exceptional program, whichever way you look at it. It can more than adequately fulfill the hopes of even the most demanding user, while it will certainly not intimidate the newcomer. It is a scholar disguised as a friend.

Over the years, this diehard Mac application has earned a well-deserved reputation in the Bible software scene. As development continues and new features are added, we can confidently expect that it will lead the way in the days to come. Right now, even with the few areas noted in this review where improvements could be implemented, it still stands above any other Bible software package available on any platform.

If there ever was a time to buy a Mac it is now. Failing that, try to get Accordance to run on a Mac emulator; your Bible study will never be the same again! I wholeheartedly recommend it.


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Last updated: 23/02/2010
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