We drove out to pick up our daughter from my wife’s folks after worship on Sunday. As my day off is Monday we stayed over-night and hit HersheyPark on Monday. This isn’t unusual, it’s a ritual we do year after year. What was unusual, however, is that this time I left my MacBook at home. This isn’t to say that I was sans computer, I had both my iPhone and iPad with me. I didn’t miss lugging my laptop bag with me. In fact, my MacBook remained in my bag until Tuesday morning, when I carried it downstairs for my weekly ritual of translating Scripture. Then, after lugging it downstairs this morning I thought, “What would happen if just left it at home today? Can I do my work without it?”
So I left my MacBook powered completely down, in my laptop bag, at home. Honestly, there were very few moments that I missed having it. My biggest problem came, actually, with the Bible apps that I use on iOS: Olive Tree Reader and Accordance.
Now, let me be clear. I adore both these apps. Olive Tree has been making wonderful Bible software for the mobile realm for years, and Accordance on the Mac is an absolute joy to use (though their iOS version is less mature than Olive Tree’s for obvious reasons). I know people from both companies, and even hosted an Accordance training seminar this past spring. I also have significant money invested in each platform, though I did beta test for Olive Tree for a while and got access to some modules for free (full disclosure there). My problem is, for the most part, neither app works the way I tend to think.
One of Accordance’s great strengths is the ability to arrange the interface into a work-flow which is suited for the individual user. As such, I’ve got my MacOS Accordance install set up for me, myself, and I. The windows are all set up in the places where I expect them to be, and life is good. On iOS, however, every app is full-screen. Accordance for iOS has a rather slick split-screen function built-into it, but when I try to interact with the text (say, to add a user note) the interface gets completely in the way. For example, when adding a user note, the editor over-lays the text you’re commenting on! That doesn’t make any sense to me. A similar limitation for Accordance iOS is the lack of user tool support (though these should be arriving soon), so I can’t do my weekly (badly done) translation ritual in the app. Finally, Accordance iOS only syncs between a Mac and the iOS device. This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s rapidly becoming a deal-breaker for me. Why should I have to manually sync my notes files between locations in the world of dropbox? If I write a note on one device, it should be automatically pushed to my other devices. At least, that’s what I’m looking for now.
Olive Tree Reader, on the other hand, has excellent cloud support (both through evernote and their own cloud-sync service), allows you to edit a note in split-screen view, and doesn’t limit your notes to to verse commentary (as you can see in the screen shot). This means I can (poorly) translate the text while continuing to interact with the text. In a rather weird oversight, however, Olive Tree Reader allows you to edit notes which are attached to a verse in split-screen view, but if you write a new note in split-screen there is no way to assign it to a verse! So, as with Accordance for iOS, I’m stuck editing verse notes in an pop-up overlay. I work around this by adding a blank note for the verses I’m working on and then edit them. While it’s nice to have the flexibility to enter my notes this way, however, it would be nice to not have to do it at all.
When it comes to displaying notes, though, I much prefer the way Accordance iOS handles things. In Olive Tree Reader each note is an independent entry – each of which has to be opened on it’s own. I get the concept, as they wanted the notes to be able to be easily accessed in full-screen view. This set-up, however, makes it difficult to have a sense of an on-going interaction with the text – each note is it’s own entity, and doesn’t need to be associated with the notes which surround it. Accordance iOS, taking a cue from it’s MacOS roots, displays my notes in split-screen mode only, with the notes window automatically scrolling with the text. This scrolling behavior helps to create the sense of an ongoing interaction with the text as a whole, rather than each verse as in individual entity – it is truly a thing of beauty, as you can see in the screen shot. I like it so much that I’ve actually been writing my notes in Olive Tree Reader, and copying them into my Accordance notes (which I then sync back to my MacOS install). It’s not ideal, but then I’m able to function the best way for me.
Do I “need” my MacBook to do my sermon work anymore? No, I don’t – but I can’t deny that the over-all experience is still more flexible and ideal for my work-flow than the iPad (and if I didn’t have a keyboard it wouldn’t even be a question, the on-screen keyboard takes up way too much screen real-estate). If I could marry Olive Tree and Accordance’s different strengths into one app, however, it would be killer app if there ever was one!
To my friends and acquaintances at both these companies I offer my sincere thanks for all you do. I hope you feel my critiques are fair, my compliments genuine, and my thoughts helpful as you keep moving forward on your prospective projects.