Accordance Bible Rides Again – First Impressions of version 10

For over 15 years I have been a user of Bible software and until three years ago, it was always on Windows. During my years as a Windows user, I would hear of Accordance Bible being the industry leader in computer assisted Bible study. I could have run Accordance on Windows using an emulator, but I never had the fortitude to do this so my first opportunity to try Accordance was when I made the switch to Apple OSX. Once I did, I was stunned at how good Accordance was. It was simple enough for basic use, but also powerful enough to satisfy the most demanding scholar.  It was fast, silky smooth and just as you would expect with a quality OSX application, trouble free in that it ‘just worked’.

The challenge for any software company is to continue to maintain these standards and in terms of version releases, repeated ‘hits’. Sometimes companies start off brilliantly and then decline.  I found this to be the case with Quickverse. Or sometimes company does well up to a point, but releases a version that has significant issues. I have this problem with another Mac Bible software program and I really wonder after nearly three years of waiting on the current version if it will ever really improve.

So Oaktree announced the release of version 10 of Accordance yesterday and the question is whether this is another hit or possibly a dud. Can they produce another stunning evolution of their software, or is it a rehash of old ideas bundled up into a new release number? My first impression is yes, this is yet another stunning hit.

Step one was to download the program.  The first thing that struck me was that the software alone is only about 49 megabytes.  I am tired of bloatware that just gets bigger and bigger, but does not seem to deliver a proportionate punch. Once downloaded even on our limited internet connection here in Africa, it installed painlessly.  So far so good.

The minute you to go click on the icon in the dock is your first indicator that things have changed. The lamp icon is a bit more petite, refined and has a refreshed look.  I don’t have the fastest macbook as it is about three years old now, but after two bounces of the icon… bounce, bounce, BANG! The window snapped open instantly in good old Accordance speed freak fashion.

Once my eyes focused on the workspace, my first impression of the interface was literally wow. The interface has been updated to follow the current trends in Mac software.  While version 9 was no slouch, it looks clunky now compared to version 10. The tabs and windows are elegant, with a lovely teal blue indicating the active zone.  The toolbar is simple, but very clean and inviting. Quickly clicking on the buttons started to reveal the various options which were intuitive, but not limited.

The biggest difference that you notice as you click on these buttons is a change in philosophy had been employed in version 10 in that Accordance has made it much easier to manage screen space. Instead of the small windowed approach with a separate workspace, library, palette and instant details box, a single workspace has been created of which things can be added and scaled more seamlessly into your workflow resulting in you managing every centimetre of your screen. Even amplifying photos and graphics is more efficient and quicker.

One of my gripes about Accordance has been the interface has a lot of stuff buried that you only figure out how to use these features by watching the training videos on iTunes. These videos are brilliant, yet for first time users it can be a bit daunting to remember keyboard controls or mouse movements to make certain things happen. Version 10 in my opinion is a lot more first time user friendly without losing any of its power. Little refinements by way of adding buttons and indicators to windows has made version 10 more intuitive to users who haven’t even watched the videos yet.  Further to this is that Accordance follows standard Mac conventions in user interface design. For example, opening and closing tabs is the same action that you would perform on the web browser program Safari.

The Library window while reflecting the same powerful options of the past has undergone changes to make it more pleasing to the eye and user friendly. Book icons are now visible along with friendlier titles. Most recently opened resources are offered as well as numerous ways to display information in the Library window.  Again this is done in typical Mac conventions, so if you are used to the sidebar in Apple’s mail program, the Library window is going to look in many ways very familiar. The instant details box is an off color gray and looks wonderful. Like the Library window, it can be toggled on and off easily from the top tool bar making space instantly available to the program as it scales to use the extra space.

There’s much more that I can write about the interface and in summary, it is an amazing refresh. Things are easily and intuitively accessible in a very polished and elegant way. It’s a delight for the eyes and fun to use. Did I say fast?  Yes it is fast. Every function is snappy even on my three year old Macbook.

In addition to my first impressions, version 10 has some new features that I am really looking forward to testing.

  • Flex Search – Similar to a fuzzy search, this function allows you to find variations of the words and phrases you search for including all inflected forms of verbs and all singular and plural forms of nouns. I am a search junkie, so this could well be my favourite feature of version 10.
  • Automated Search Modes – Do you struggle on setting up your search?  Accordance now intelligently adjusts based on your search criteria making it simpler for you to get your work done.
  • Themes - Accordance has always been the king of customization and users like me who aren’t that good at making the interface look the way we want have the ability to use out-of-the box themes for tweaking the look of texts and tools.
  • Analytics – Accordance has catered to those of us who love charts and graphs by giving them a work over with new ways to customize them.
  • Highlights and Characters – Again, making good use of scene space highlighting and characters have new popover displays!
  • Reading Mode – I have longed for a reading mode on Accordance and version 10 has one for allowing you to minimize distractions as you read a book.

At the time of writing this blog I have not had a chance to look at the rework of resource collections. From what I understand, Oaktree is updating their bundles to give even greater value to new users and people like me who upgrade at all major version releases. I am looking forward to what sort of goodies I can buy as part of a bundled upgrade.

Major Gripes?  There were none really. I really struggled to find them. My main workspace which has the ESV, Greek and French texts is still a brilliant starting place for me to study scripture.  Accordance is still king in terms of making the text central and all things flowing out from it. This new design makes workflow from the text even easier and quicker.

I only have two minor areas that I would like to see improvement in a future update.

  1. At least the version I downloaded did not have the ability to use the full screen mode of OSX. This is not a big deal for me really, but I was curious as this would give a user yet just a bit more space. However, this is almost inconsequential to mention considering that everything else scales and uses space so well as it is.
  2. I am not a big fan of the search all results box. I don’t know why, but it just seems like a bunch of run on text in various formats. I guess I kind of prefer a google type readout of snippets with the ability to sort results in different ways. I do recall reading at one point that this would be improved and perhaps later in version 10 we will see a killer enhancement of this feature. If this happens, I am sure it will be as good as amazing customisable interlinear that Accordance added not long ago.

OK, these are really nit picky things and the fact is, this is a killer update. I could not be happier with it. Sometimes when you update software there is an adjustment period to get used to it. Version 10 is similar enough to version 9 to help you make the transition.  It uses Mac conventions to keep it consistent with other software that you use. Yet in version 10 there are some substantial improvements to grow into. All of this has been executed in a very tight, disciplined way with no compromise of speed and of course pesky bugs or crashes. In my view this is good software development.

So my opinion is that Oaktree has pulled off another hit. How they have done while doing all the other things they do I don’t know. My first impressions are that this is a highly desirable update for any existing Accordance user and a very good reason for those that aren’t to try Accordance out for the first time.  I am personally looking forward to spending hours using this wonderful application. Updates like this make computer assisted Bible study even more fun.  Good job Oaktree!

** Update – Oaktree has also announced they are going to launch a Windows version of their software in 2013.  Look out Windows world!

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