Review of Accordance

Accordance 9. By Oak Tree Software. 2010. Price varies depending upon the package purchased. (877) 339-5855. http://www.accordancebible.com.

Having heard so many Mac users rave about both Apple machines and Accordance Bible Software, I determined that the next time a PC in my possession died, I would switch to a Mac to see what all the fuss was about. The day came (no surprise to Mac users), and the switch was made. In recent months I have been learning the world of Apple and Accordance. This review will focus on Accordance Bible Software, but some Mac comments will be inevitable. Along the way I will mainly compare Accordance and BibleWorks. I am also grateful to have and use Logos 4, but I will not say much more about it. The main benefit of Logos is its massive electronic library. If you don’t want a big electronic library and you operate a PC, BibleWorks is for you. If you don’t want a big electronic library and you operate a Mac, Accordance is the obvious choice. It is possible to get software that will enable you to run Accordance on a PC, or BibleWorks on a Mac, but the only reason for doing this would be if you had been using one of them and were switching platforms and did not want to purchase and learn the other software. In what follows I will comment on price, environment, my one big complaint (which really isn’t about Accordance), search capacity, and the thing that has me most excited about the switch to Accordance.

I begin with some surface level comparisons. Macs tend to cost significantly more than PC’s, and Accordance Bible Software is considerably more expensive than BibleWorks. The basic BibleWorks package comes with every English Bible translation you could imagine, while the comparably priced Accordance package comes with a couple English Bibles and you will pay $30 to $40 for each additional one. BibleWorks comes with BDB unabridged. If you want the complete BDB in Accordance, the price is $50–$70, depending on whether you are upgrading from within a package. BibleWorks comes with the Syriac Peshitta and the Aramaic Targums, the Peshitta will cost you $100 in Accordance and the Targums another $100. Somehow BibleWorks is able to bundle BDAG and HALOT and offer these two lexicons for $212. The BDAG and HALOT bundle costs $299 from Accordance. In general I think it is fair to say that less money will get more texts in BibleWorks, though more can be done with the texts you pay to get in Accordance. These observations about prices should not be taken as complaints. Workers are worthy of their wages, and these companies are rendering a tremendous service and making precious resources available at a fraction of the retail price.

PC’s are notoriously unstable, but I have always found BibleWorks reliable. It suffers only from its environment: the PC’s in my possession take a long time to wake up, often need to be restarted, and seem to be constantly downloading updates of one sort or another. The Mac knows no such instability or sluggishness. It is fast, responsive, and smooth. Accordance Bible Software has the Mac advantage, though it does come at a price.

Running Accordance on a Mac does not return us to the Garden of Eden, however, and not everything is perfect. My biggest disappointment has been the fact that Word for Mac simply will not handle right-to-left text correctly, making it impossible to copy Hebrew text from Accordance, paste it into Word for Mac, and produce a structural layout of the text. Accordance/Mac users tell me that Mellel, a word-processing software developed in Israel, can do this, but I’ve already paid twice as much for this machine and I refuse to shell out the extra cash for Mellel. The $30–$50 Mellel would cost me could be used to purchase the texts of the Apostolic Fathers in Accordance (Lightfoot ed., which comes with BibleWorks at no extra charge, the Holmes ed. costs $100 in Accordance). When I need to do a structural layout of a Hebrew text, I will be returning to my trusty copy of BibleWorks on a not-so-trusty but functional PC. I will probably go there when I need to search the Apostolic Fathers as well.

I hasten to observe that this my biggest complaint has to do with something that is a problem with Microsoft Word for Mac. It is not a problem with Accordance, which has been nothing but impressive. I also hasten to add that I still love BibleWorks and find it to be nothing but impressive. I have found the two programs comparable in terms of search capacity. If I run up against a search that I don’t know how to do, someone knows how to do it, and a google search, or a scan of instructional material, or a phone call to a knowledgeable friend quickly resolves the difficulty. I would also observe that in my years of working from Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic to teach and preach the Bible and write articles, books, and reviews, I simply have not needed to do that many complicated searches. Most searches are simple and straightforward. Admittedly, most of the time I am not doing technical grammatical work, but neither are most of the people using these programs. So I am confident that BibleWorks and Accordance can both do whatever you need them to do in the way of smart searches. Let me say, too, that the best way to learn the way words are used and how grammatical constructions work is not to spend a lot of time doing searches with powerful Bible software but to spend a lot of time reading and re-reading the biblical texts in the original languages.

What most excites me about Accordance is the way it grants access to the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. Not only can the high-resolution photographs of the manuscripts taken by Dan Wallace and his team at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) be integrated into Accordance, Accordance has fully tagged, fully searchable transcriptions of the NT text of Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Washingtonensis, and the NT Papyri from Comfort and Barrett. At some point I read of an NT scholar in the 1800s who tried to access the NT exclusively from the manuscripts. That possibility is now open not just to those who live near a library with manuscripts but to all who have Accordance. And the tagged and searchable texts hold out astonishing promise for the study of, among other things, the nomina sacra. Reading the text from the photos in Accordance will do more for one’s understanding of the challenges involved in the task of NT text criticism than countless books and articles on the topic could ever accomplish. The images are clear and legible, but not everything appears on them. For instance, take a look at the photographs of 1 Corinthians 14 from Codex Vaticanus provided by Philip B. Payne here. Not as much can be seen in the CSNTM photograph of a facsimile of Vaticanus provided here. This, of course, is not Accordance’s fault, as they are simply integrating the CSNTM photographs.

The pricetag on both Mac and Accordance may be high, but the treasures yielded are priceless. The unique ability to search a fully tagged text of the earliest manuscripts of the NT is astonishing and unprecedented, and to my knowledge Accordance provides the only way to do it. Proverbs 16:16 insists that wisdom and understanding are better than silver and gold. Accordance Bible Software is definitely a means to wisdom and understanding, limited only by the capacity of the human who makes use of it.

11 Responses to Review of Accordance

  1. Rod Decker January 11, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    Thanks for a good review of Accordance. Your assessment that the primary strength of Logos is a very large e-library is correct, though how much of that quantity is current, reliable material is open to some question. A great many of the books they count are old, public domain works that have long been superseded and in some cases rejected by scholars as seroiusly flawed; someone I read recently suggested that any company that includes say, Vincent’s word studies ought to be required to also include a free copy of Don Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies!

    If someone were to do a comparative study of just the scholarly, language tools, the library advantage might just disappear altogether. For breadth and depth in that area, Accordance can hold its own with any other library collection–and surpass them in a number of areas. No, there aren’t as many devotional books and sermons, etc., but for serious study of the text, they aren’t in the picture.

    Yes, BibleWorks manages to pack in more “bang for the buck” than any of the other 2 major programs, at the basic starting level of ca. $3-400, but once you start compiling a larger library the difference isn’t as great. The interface, however, is one that only a programmer could love! :) People who have the determination to learn that system can do some very complex searches, but it’s rather intimidating to the average person (IMHO!).

    There are 2 solutions to getting Hebrew out of Accordance. As you note correctly, this is not an Accordance problem; it’s totally a Microsoft problem. First, this is *only* a problem with exporting Unicode Hebrew text; if you can live with non-Unicode, legacy fonts, there’s a preference setting that allows you to do it the “old way” and export Hebrew text in the Yehudit font which has already reversed the text as if it were entered left-to-right. That’s not a good solution if you want long term compatibility and re-usability of the text you export or if you need to exchange it with others. But it does work. Second, no need to buy Mellel (though if you do a lot of work in Hebrew and need Unicode text, it’s probably well worth the minor investment–I think at times as low as $35 education price?). You can install NeoOffice or OpenOffice for free and have an office suite that is as capable as MS Office. Both Neo- & OpenOffice handle right-to-left text just fine. Their interface is not as “fancy/pretty” as the last two versions of MS Office, but the functionality is all there. (Neo- is based on OpenOffice and adds a more Mac-like interface; I’d try that first.)

    As to MS Office not supporting R-to-L text, from what I can gather this may be a *political/marketing ploy* by MS, not a technical limitation. By deliberately omitting R-to-L text support MS can maintain the dominant OS position in all those countries with R-to-L languages (primarily Israel and the Arab world). So long as they can maintain the impression that their suite is the Cadillac and/or “standard,” they can discourage a lot of people, businesses, and governments from considering Mac OS (or Linux, etc.). The OpenOffice project has made good R-to-L support a priority for just that reason.

    • Jim Hamilton January 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      Thanks Rod! Very helpful and informative. I had tried Neo-office, but it wasn’t as easy right off the bat as copying into Word from BW on a PC. Maybe I’ll get over my frustration and give it another go.

      Thanks for all you do!

      Jim

  2. Robb B January 11, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Dr. Hamilton, you might try to use TextEdit for your right-to-left text entry scenarios. It comes free on every Mac. It’s not flashy like Word, but, depending on what you’re doing, it could be an easy and free option.

  3. Jeremy O January 11, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Jim,
    On the copy + paste matter, there is an option within Accordance preferences > Greek & Hebrew: check or uncheck ‘Export all characters with Unicode format.’ If you have it checked for Unicode, you will have problems pasting a Hebrew text in, e.g., Word. If you uncheck it, the text pasted will be non-Unicode, of course, and should show up properly in Word. If you do want Unicode Hebrew to be pasted in a document, usually Mellel is the best. Pages of iWork can handle Unicode to an extent with a specific Unicode font (I’ve played around with the different fonts and the vowel pointing shows up improperly. One font, I can’t remember, gets very close to aligning the vowel marks). Really, the person to ask on these things would be Rick Mansfield or Chris Heard.

    From my experience with BibleWorks I haven’t come across a Unicode option (those it has been several years and they may have an option to do that now).

  4. robertholmstedt January 11, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Nice review. Welcome to the Mac and Accordance world.

    That MSWord for Mac doesn’t handle unicode Hebrew is just plain idiotic and what drove me from Word altogether. Mellel looks nice and I appreciate the attention to the proper display of the Semitic fonts, but it doesn’t have a lot of the layout features I often use.

    Give the free NeoOffice suite a try (www.neooffice.org). It handles right-to-left unicode Hebrew very well (especially with a good keyboard layout) and all Hebrew fonts look great without the vowels. With vowels, only one “biblical” font places the vowels correctly, though: New Peninim MT. And, unfortunately, if you want the accents/te’amim, you’ll have to resort to Mellel.

    Even so, NeoOffice is worth a try — the price is certainly right. (And, the latest version allows import/export from/to docx if you need to so for sharing or use on your PC).

  5. Rick Bennett January 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Jim,

    Thanks for the insightful comments regarding your experience thus far with a Mac and of course, Accordance.

    One tip that I would add re: Hebrew and Macs is to try OpenOffice.org / NeoOffice. I recently tested the newest version of OOo, and it handles RTL Hebrew quite well; the exception being vowel pointings – which it still handles, but you might need to try a few different fonts to get it perfect. New Peninim MT is standard on Macs and looks good, or you can try Cardo or SBL Hebrew (both free). Also, the Accordance bibliographic citation feature works perfect in OOo (supporting both SBL and Turabian automatic footnote insertion). Mellel is a great product that has many strengths, but if your main purpose is to find something to do text layout in Hebrew, OOo will definitely handle this well, without having to fire up the PC or invest any additional funds.

    Regarding the study of NT MSS, it was pointed out to me in the comments of the ETC blog that there are user-create BW modules that accomplish something similar for the codices 01, 02, and 032, though the images are not nearly the resolution of those provided by the CSNTM and do not contain transcriptions of the introductions (where available), and other content.
    Also, if you’re interested, check out the short blog post I wrote about my research on nomina sacra that I presented on at ISBL 2009.

    • Jim Hamilton January 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

      Thanks Rick, I look forward to taking a look at your stuff on the NS,

      Jim

  6. Luke January 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Good review. I agree that Accordance is great software, and that a macintosh is a great computer with a great OS (I have an imac and it is great). Accordance does some things better than Bibleworks (it is certainly prettier), and Bibleworks does some things better than Accordance (it is certainly cheaper!). However, I struggle to see that the price justifies the purchase for one who has been a windows and Bibleworks user for years. Windows 7 has been nothing but delightful for me, and my 4-year old dell laptop still runs as good as new. I would never turn someone away from purchasing a mac or Accordance, as I think competitive rhetoric between bible software companies is contrary to what they should stand for, but I do believe the mac and Accordance talk is mainly a bunch of hype by fanboys who make mountains out of molehills.

    I’m surprised to see you make the switch, Jim, given your praise of Bibleworks in the past and how long you’ve been using it, not to mention the amount of extra cash you had to spend to make it happen (unless you at least got a review copy of Accordance, which I assume to be the case, but with the add-on modules it still a hefty price-tag and the apple computers being much more expensive than pc’s). Godspeed on your mac and Accordance journey! I hope it’s worth the added cost for you.

  7. chris taylor January 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Having used both a MacBook Pro that had Accordance (this Mac also had Parallels running Windows XP so I could run BibleWorks) and a PC that has Bibleworks, I decided to buy a PC again just so I could keep with BibleWorks.

    I agree that the Advanced Search Engine that BibleWorks offers is a bit overkill, but I just like BibleWorks for it’s price, speed, and interface. I also think Windows gets a bit of a bad rap. Windows XP was a very stable OS (still using it!) and I haven’t heard that many complaints Windows 7. My MacBook Pro was actually less stable than my PC.

    My only complaint about BibleWorks is that they seem to be purposefully ignoring the trend towards online and mobile divices. I have Accordance on my iPhone, but I with I could have a BibleWorks integration instead!

  8. Trevor Bechtel June 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Mellel is a must have for any person who does word processing. That it gracefully handles hebrew is a bonus. I can’t imagine going back to Word for any kind of essay longer than 10 pages.

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