Accordance 8 - The Best just got Better  
   
  Version: 8.2.3  
  Developer: OakTree Software  
  Rubén Gómez  
Overall Rating:  9.4
User Interface: Searching:
Ease of Use Features:
Help & Support: Modules:
Customization: Original Languages:
Speed: Price:

August 6, 2009

A review written by Rubén Gómez, Bible software translator and beta tester. Copyright © 2009-2010 by the author. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce any part of this document without obtaining permission from the author.

Introduction

You know you have reached a certain status in life when it is virtually impossible for other people to talk or write about important developments in your particular field of study, research or expertise without making reference to you and your work. Accordance Bible Software is a point in case. Anyone who knows a little bit about Bible software has heard of Accordance. Even those who have never used a Macintosh in all of their lives, or have never seen a demo of the program, have nevertheless probably heard or read some nice things about it. Accordance has a kind of halo around it. Only a handful of applications have the right to be called killer applications, and this is one of them.

But before you think this is a bit of an overstatement, let me tell you something from first-hand experience. When I was a kid there were no personal computers around (so yes, I fall under the category of what has been labeled as a “technological immigrant,” not a native). As an adult, my first computer was an Atari. Shortly after that I got myself a PC. It was okay for everyday tasks, but since I was looking for software to help me explore the Bible in some depth, I was soon exposed to certain news and reviews of a Mac-only program called Accordance. I was already using the original GRAMCORD for MS-DOS at the time, but I kept hearing about how good this other software was for academic studies. So I investigated the matter as much as possible, and, to make a long story short, ended up buying a Power Macintosh just to be able to run Accordance on it. That was a big step for me to take (and an expensive one at the time!), but it was well worth it. Not only did I discover an excellent piece of software, but also a far better, enjoyable, intuitive operating system that was both more productive and fun to use.

In short, is Accordance as good as they say? Absolutely! Not only that. It continues to be the standard against which most Bible software applications (Mac, Windows and Linux alike) are to be measured.

But why has Accordance won such a reputation, despite the fact that it has not been developed for the larger Windows market? In my view, there are a number of reasons. Among them, I would point to the following:

The user interface – Whereas many programs do not seem to pay much attention to the UI, in Accordance, the user interface is everything. [1] Accordance has taken the WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) concept to heart. That makes it consistent and intuitive all the way through. There are no hidden options or arcane procedures. Everything you need to know is right there, in front of your eyes. Moreover, the flexibility of drag-and-drop, visually appealing design and object-based philosophy of the Mac environment all add up to its ease of use (figure 1).

Fig. 1 General view of Accordance's user interface (main Search window, with no palettes or Instant Details box open).

The metaphor of a “study Bible” – While the prevailing metaphor commonly in use today is that of a library, Accordance uses what I call the study Bible metaphor. It is just like reading any of the printed study editions many of us have been using for decades, but with all the advantages of the electronic media. Thus, we start from the biblical text and, as we read, we can constantly refer to cross references, parallel passages, maps, timelines, glossaries, background information, charts, relevant commentaries and dictionary entries, lexical aids, and so on, without ever leaving the Bible passage at hand. True, Accordance does have a very large library of secondary works, but it is not primarily a digital library. It’s more like a “study Bible on steroids.” See figure 2.

Fig. 2 A sample of what the study Bible metaphor looks like in practice (with independent windows).

Besides, a floating window (called Instant Details box) displays all the relevant hyperlinked information available. The nature of the information displayed (Bible reference, Strong's number, parsing, glosses, topographical data, etc.) depends on the active module (figure 3).

Fig. 3 Instant Details box.

The tagging – All high-end Bible software applications have some degree of tagging in their electronic texts. Accordance has one of the most thorough mark-up systems available, but what makes it stand out is the straightforward way in which each one of these levels of tagging (fields) can be combined and searched. Again I have to emphasize how the blending of a clear user interface and the tagged texts not only allow for pretty impressive and complex searches, but also make these kinds of searches accessible to average users (figure 4).

Fig. 4 Search in Louw & Nida combining three different search fields.

I will be reviewing the latest version of Accordance (8.2.3), which can be downloaded here for as little as $49.00 ($39.00 if you upgrade from version 7) and used with the free Starter package. However, most of the features and texts used are contained in the Accordance 8.1 Primary DVD (different levels are available) and the Graphics DVD Bundle.

System Requirements

Accordance can run on most Macintosh computers, due to its very reasonable minimum system requirements, and while it is a Mac-only application, it does also run acceptably well on Windows-based PCs under emulation.

My own computer specs are quite reasonable (iMac 24", 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 3 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD and Superdrive, currently running Mac OS X 10.5.7), but I have used Accordance on an old Power Macintosh 4400, a G3 iBook and a PC running Windows XP, and have never had any problem whatsoever. [2]

Installation

All Accordance products ship on either one DVD or a set of CD-ROMs, and include a fully automated installation system.

Although everything runs smoothly for the most part (in some cases there can be font issues that are quickly fixed by running the latest installer) there is a whole lot of help to be found online in the Accordance Forums, Accordance Blog, Accordance articles, online webinars [3] and podcasts, or the excellent Accordance training DVD, which is now available online. [4]

A number of manuals are included in each DVD in PDF format. It is probably best to start with the Accordance Tutorial and then move on to the Accordance Mini-Manual. A fuller User’s Guide is also available, but it has not been updated to version 8.2.3 yet. Other Supplements are useful for those wanting to know more about particular areas of the program, like the Grammatical Supplement (for grammatically tagged texts) or the Atlas Supplement. Finally, the Accordance Help (Help | Accordance Help, or Command-?) is very thorough and functional.

I should mention at this point that the program itself and a good number of modules can be conveniently updated from within Accordance (figure 5) via Internet.

Fig. 5 Built-in Updater.

General Features

It is absolutely impossible to fully review such a feature-rich program in a single article, but readers can also refer to this general Accordance introduction and overview of the main features. Besides, a fully-working copy of Accordance version 8.2 can also be downloaded and used with some time and module size restrictions.

These are some of the qualities that stand out in Accordance:

Consistency – Absolutely essential in order to keep the unavoidable learning curve to a minimum. All the windows and dialog boxes work pretty much the same way across the program. This means that you just need to master some general concepts, and once you get the hang of it you are in a position to use the program effectively.

Flexibility – The key to an enjoyable user experience. Accordance preferences, module arrangements, text collections, verse order and display or search ranges are very flexible. Generally speaking there is always more than one way to perform any given task. This flexibility extends to all areas of the program, so that it can be made to look and work the way that best suits our particular study and computing habits. [5

Amplifying – This is what integrates every part of the program into a coherent all (hence the study Bible metaphor mentioned above), what allows users to follow up any avenue of study elicited by a text, a Bible reference, a place name, a person, etc. (figure 6)

Fig. 6 Different ways to display the Resource palette, which is one of the three ways amplifying can be done in Accordance. The other two are via the Amplify menu or the context menu.

It should be noted that Accordance’s ability to amplify is not limited to the modules available in the library. In Mac OS X it is possible to look up the selected word in the System’s built-in Dictionary (which includes Wikipedia entries) via the Services menu (Accordance | Services | Look Up in Dictionary). Google (shift-command-L) or Spotlight (shift-command-F) searches, to name just two more examples, are also possible via the same menu, allowing us to research the web or our hard disk and find relevant information on the word selected in Accordance.

Customization – That which enables users to feel at home with the settings they are most comfortable with and the layout they happen to like best. In Accordance there is a little bit of everything for everyone. Not two copies of Accordance have to look the same! The array of possibilities is really quite mind-boggling.

Let’s turn now to some of the most salient features offered by the program.

Comparing texts

Whenever you are looking at two different texts in the same language and need to focus on the differences, you just have to check the Compare Texts box. There is no need to open a new window or get distracted with any extra steps. A click of the mouse is all it’s needed, and it all happens in the main (Search) window.

The units to be compared (Words, Lemmas or Grammatical Tags), as well as the sorts of differences to be noted and the color codes displayed are all configurable under Preferences (Accordance | Preferences...). See figures 7 and 8 below.

Fig. 7 New American Standard Bible and American Standard Version in two parallel panes.


Fig. 8 Same Bibles (i.e., NASB and ASV) with the Compare Texts feature checked.

Powerful highlighting tool

Verse or word highlighting are an important part of many different types of Bible study, and electronic media can greatly enhance the traditional use of pen markers. Accordance offers the ability to highlight texts or tools with almost any combination of colors, intensities, shapes and patterns one could think of. But above all that, it makes the highlighting searchable (and printable!). Thus, the command [STYLE nameofhighlight] can be used as part of a search string.

On a related note, search hits can be easily highlighted by simply shift-clicking on any of the available styles. This makes it really easy to display multiple search hits in different colors or to use the [STYLE] command instead of a series of search hits. For example, suppose we run a search for the most common Hebrew and Greek words used to describe “love” in a keyed text like NAS95S (namely, h157, h160, g25, g26, g5360, g5363, g5368, and so on). Then we simply have to highlight the results with our chosen style (for example Hit 1) and we can forget about the list. A search like love* <NOT> [STYLE hit 1] will find any verses where the word love* is not attached to any of the common key numbers represented by the hit 1 highlighting style.

In Tools, highlighting can also be used, apart from the more obvious uses, to bookmark a particular place so that we resume our reading or research exactly where we left off. [6]

User resources (notes, tools and Bibles)

Ideally, Bible programs should foster as much user interaction as possible. Users want to be able to not only access the available standard resources and search them, but create their own content and integrate it within the framework of the application itself. This is a difficult call for developers, but it is a growing demand.

Accordance enables users to import just about anything into the program. The typical user note that is displayed in sync with Bible texts is only the beginning. Whole Bibles can be imported, and the ability to write user tools for general and topical use is very welcome. And the best part of it is that these texts and tools behave pretty much like any of the other Bibles and Tools in Accordance (with just a few limitations that most users will not even realize).

Accordance Bible Atlas

This is the best, most flexible and customizable Atlas available in any Bible software package today. To dig into its many features would require a separate review. Suffice it here to say that short of a full integration with Google Maps, it has almost anything else.

In the figure below (figure 9) I have created a custom site layer with the names of the different places we are scheduled to visit in an upcoming trip to Israel. For some additional places not found in the Atlas database (e.g., Golan Heights and Safed) I simply defined a user layer.

Fig. 9 Bible Atlas with additional custom sites.

You can select any portion of the map, view it in 3D, rotate it and fly over it! (figure 10).

Fig. 10 3D view of a section of the previous map.

This beautiful Atlas can be displayed in all of its glory when using the Slideshow mode, specifically designed for projecting the contents of the Accordance windows in front of an audience, and its usefulness is greatly increased by the ability to amplify from any of the names displayed on a map to the tool of our choice (modules like Place Names, Sites or the superb PhotoGuide come immediately to mind).

Accordance Timeline

Once more I must simply mention this feature in passing, since it would take us a long time to delve into it in any detail.

The Timeline works just like the Atlas, only that it gives the historical, archaeological, biographical and literary context, rather than the geographical one.

This time I decided to add a few custom items (the first seven ecumenical Church councils) and define a custom layer. As shown in the figure below (figure 11), option-clicking from the beginning of the Council of Nicaea to the beginning of the next one, gives us the exact time that lapsed between the two. Nicaea took place in 325, whereas Constantinople assembled in 381.

Fig. 11 Custom items displayed in the Bible Timeline.

Original Language Features

Accordance has a strong appeal to scholars because of its many original language capabilities, but it also offers numerous ways for those with limited knowledge of Hebrew or Greek to dig into the originals from any of the English Bibles tagged with Strong’s numbers.

Original Text Highlighting

Provided we have at least one keyed English text and one morphologically tagged Greek or Hebrew text displayed in a Search window, by checking the Key Highlighting option (under Preferences), we will be able to see the original word that corresponds to each English term we happen to have our cursor on. Conversely, if we hover the cursor on any of the Greek or Hebrew words, Accordance will highlight the parallel English term in the Bible tagged with Strong’s.

This is a very handy feature that gives a quick overview of the underlying/translated word and allows us, for example, to launch further original language searches or amplify to other reference tools right from the context menu (figure 12).

Fig. 12 Hebrew text automatically highlighted when the cursor is places on the English word "mercy".

Diagrams

Accordance does not include a default set of diagrams on different sections of the biblical text. However, it offers all the necessary tools for those who want to use this popular method as an aid in exegesis.

Over at Accordance Exchange users can share many different kinds of Accordance files, including diagrams.

Syntax charts

Accordance automatically populates the original text, lemma, parsing and translation information, but the Function and Comments columns are completely configurable by the user. The number and title of each column varies depending on the kind of Bible text used. Thus, for a keyed Bible we would get the English text, key number, form, transliteration, function and comments, whereas for a plain, untagged text the window would open with only three columns: text, function and comments.

TLG import

One of the unique features offered by Accordance is the ability to turn any of the texts included in the TLG (Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) CD-ROM into a User Tool. This requires a TLG license and an additional unlock fee, but it’s a great way to keep all the texts in one single program. By doing this we can not only integrate the texts seamlessly into Accordance, but also make use of its advanced search and amplifying features. This is, undoubtedly, the best option for Macintosh users who need to access the TLG CD-ROM.

I imported Plato’s Dialogues from the TLG E CD-ROM. They happened to be found in file TLG0059.TXT, weighing about 4,4 MB in the original Beta Code (figure 13). Accordance imported this rather large document in a few minutes and converted it into a user tool that I then could easily export in Unicode (figure 14).

Fig. 13 Plato's Dialogues displayed in the original Beta Code format.


Fig. 14 Plato's Dialogues exported in Unicode format straight from the newly imported Accordance tool.

In Accordance I limited my search for νου* to Phaedo, as can be seen in the figure 15 below.

Fig. 15 Searching Plato's Dialogues in Accordance.

Searching

Accordance offers powerful –yet easy to use– search features.

All text searches are launched from the Search window, the central hub of Accordance. Keeping with its WYSIWYG philosophy, the default search mode is a literal search, whether we write a single word (love), a sentence (love of god – Notice that quotes are not required) or a verse reference (isaiah 53). Only when something other than the literal terms are meant do we need to use search operators, and even then, it is simply a matter of choosing from a drop down menu the appropriate English operator (such as <AND>, <OR>, <NOT>, <WITHIN>, and so on).

Fig. 16 Menu list of Search commands.

But strictly adhering to WYSIWYG when searching is not without its own problems unless you pause and think about what you really want to find. So, for example, the search jesus <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 WORDS> christ will find exactly that. However, you’ll probably want to find Romans 15:30 and Philippians 2:21, which include Jesus Christ’s. So, the right syntax would be jesus <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 WORDS> christ* or jesus <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 WORDS> (christ <OR> christ's).

It is also worth keeping in mind that sometimes text searches and graphical searches do not yield the same results at first sight. Take, for example, the syntax jesus <NOT> <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 WORDS> (christ, christ's), which results in 797 hits in 766 verses. The equivalent graphical search does not match those numbers (785 hits in the KJV). In order to get the same number of hits, we would have to search within every clause in the Search window. Otherwise we get a mismatch of 9 verses, and, what is worse, a misleading figure. [7] The bottom line is that if you want to make sure you are getting the right numbers, it is better to build certain searches via the Construct windows (see further below).

Special Search Commands

Besides all the usual Boolean and proximity operators, Accordance gives users the opportunity to perform fuzzy searches (<FUZZY>), and search for possible allusions (<INFER>). Also, search windows can be linked (<LINK>) and its contents or hits compared and contrasted (<CONTENTS> and <HITS>, respectively) in very powerful ways. Finally, searches can be fine tuned by specifying the position of the search terms within the search field (<FIELD>), constraining the search range (<RANGE>) or the amount of instances (<COUNT>). All in all, Accordance offers an incredible amount of search parameters coupled with great speed.

Limiting searches in Tools

This incredibly useful feature is also quite unique. The advantages of constraining the contents of a given tool are numerous. To start with, it allows us to search just the section or sections of the work we are interested in (and they can even be non-contiguous), but also it is an excellent way to display or print only that particular passage of the book.

Let’s take for a moment Bibliotheca Sacra. This journal, included in the Theological Journal Library DVD vol. 1-11, contains volumes 91-164 (73 years worth of biblical articles!) of this well-known quarterly publication. Now, let’s suppose we want to search only the Book Reviews section. We can choose the Titles field and write book reviews in the search box. Then, as we move down the search results via the Mk button (or pressing the option-command-down arrow keyboard shortcut) we can option-click on the Browser’s disclose triangle to move to the corresponding section (which will be the Book Reviews) and option-shift-click on it to select that range (or use the Add to Range option in the context menu). After we’ve finished selecting all the ranges (and this is a rather extreme example, since in most cases it will take us just a few seconds to select the desired ranges), we can choose the English Content field and search for whatever word or phrase we may happened to be interested in, or else stick to the Titles field if we want to search the book titles.

In this particular instance, there is a quicker way to get the results we are after. Thanks to the ability to search for up to 5 different fields simultaneously, we could easily search for book reviews in the main search box (with the Field pop-up menu set to Titles), disclose the More options section and perform and AND search with another field (e.g., English Content) containing, say, the word theology. This makes Accordance search for any Article entitled Book Reviews that contains the term “theology.”

Construct windows

Accordance has offered the ability to build graphical searches from the very beginning. This feature has been gradually adapted and incorporated by other Bible software packages over the years, but nothing comes quite close to the ease of use, power and flexibility of Accordance’s Construct window. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Accordance should feel flattered indeed.

Accordance offers the possibility of building graphical queries where we can see at a glance exactly what the elements and relationships of a given search are. Everything can be dragged and drop effortlessly and neatly, following the best tradition of Mac OS, but the main advantage is that all the search terms and the relationship between the different items is displayed in an uncluttered, intuitive way. See figures 17 and 18.

Fig. 17 Greek Construct windows built in order to search for instances of genitive absolutes in Mark's Gospel.


Fig. 18 Search window linking the three Construct windows built in the previous step and displaying the results.

Root searching

Accordance tagging includes the Hebrew or Greek root(s) in some of the scholarly original language texts. By doing so, searches can be based on a particular root, irrespective of the word’s form. For instance, a search for +γινομαι will find not only verbs that use different prefixes (διαγίνομαι, παραγίνομαι), but also terms that share the same root or lexeme (γενεά, γενέσια, γένημα, γένος, γονεύς), etc. In practice, this makes it possible to search for whole lexical families, rather than individual lemmas.

Search All

Accordance, and I want to emphasize that yet once again, was not designed to be first and foremost a digital library of e-books. However, the number of titles available has grown so large that it is sometimes advisable or even necessary to search through a substantial amount of modules.

The Search All feature can be used to run searches on any number of texts or custom groups of texts. This way it is possible to scan the whole library of modules available, or any subsection of it, and then look up the instances we might be more interested in. Figure 19 shows an example of the way we can use the Search All window to look for instances of Strong’s number H1818 that have not been translated as blood*. Notice that in one single pass Accordance searches all the different Bibles tagged with Strong’s which have been included in this particular custom group. [8]

Fig. 19 Search All window.

Clicking on the results for NAS95S, another Search window opens with the relevant results, as seen in figure 20 below.

Fig. 20 Search All results.

Search All can even be used in combination with other windows, like the Construct window. This makes it easy to build grammatical searches across multiple versions (figure 21).

Fig. 21 Greek Construct window linked to a Search All window in order to find instances of cognate accusatives in both the Greek New Testament and the Septuagint.

Conclusion

Accordance Bible Software is an incredibly powerful and easy to use program, sporting a very Mac-like user interface and a rather gentle learning curve. It has been designed as a central hub for Bible study (following the study Bible metaphor) and, although it certainly excels as an scholarly tool, it is perfectly suited for general purpose Bible study.

In my opinion, it remains the best overall Bible software product available on any platform. Other packages may offer certain features not yet available in Accordance, or more modules, but all in all, lack the power, elegance and ease of use found in this program. For anyone serious about studying the biblical texts and related works, Accordance is a must-have.

Suggested improvements

To be able to search within a given number of verses, rather than words. i.e., Paul <WITHIN 5 VERSES> Barnabas. Admittedly, verses are quite an arbitrary thing, but it remains the standard way to get around the Bible.

Along the same line, some way to flag (with a number?) those verses that contain more than one occurrence of the search hit, so that the user could see at a glance where those verses are located. For example, in the KJV, the phrase “Lord God” appears in 532 verses, for a total of 546 hits, but there are 14 of those verses where it appears twice.

An option to copy and paste multiple text panes interleaved (currently possible only when printing).

Pros

Clean, intuitive user interface
Training tools
Top-notch primary and secondary sources
Root searching
User notes, tools and Bibles
Tight integration with the Bible Atlas and the Timeline
Full compatibility with all other Accordance products available (including Zondervan’s excellent resources).

Cons

No syntactically tagged texts or syntax searching are currently available
Agreement between a column element and an INTER element are not possible in Construct windows.


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