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Accordance 9 is another big step forward in Bible study software

Accordance, long regarded as the premier Bible study software for the Mac, has a new version 9 that's now available for download.

At first glance, it may look at a lot like version 8, but that's because most of the changes have gone on under the hood. Don't let that fool you into thinking this isn't a big update, though, because it is, and there's more coming.

Four primary new features will appeal to almost all users:

"Workspace Zones" are a new way of grouping tools. Put Bibles in one zone, dictionaries in another, or put related tools for a project together so that you can access them all at once. These also seem to work better side-by-side than what I was able to do previously. Maybe there was a way before, but if so, it's much, much easier now.

Learning a language is more than just translating words; you also have to understand syntax, grammar, idioms, and so forth. This won't make you a Greek or Hebrew scholar by itself, but it's a good reminder for those who have been out of seminary for a while and need a refresher, or a good aid to those just trying to learn.

"Easy Install" is OakTree's way of saying "you won't have to wait around for discs to arrive in the mail anymore." Most of their resources are now available for immediate download. Good riddance to media through the mail. Keeping track of installation disks and unlock codes is a hassle that no one will miss. If you haven't already created a user account on Accordance's website, now is the time to do it. You may need to contact support to get your past order history added to your account, but once all the pieces are in place, this is going to be a huge boon for everyone involved.

I've definitely saved the best for last: Search All. My biggest gripe about Accordance 8 (which was the first version that I used) was that, when I searched for something, I didn't get the feeling that I was getting results from all of the different books that are part of my Accordance library. That was one of the biggest advantages that Logos had over Accordance. Search All eliminates that. Not only that, but it's fast, and I mean really fast. It's fast enough that you'll wonder how it was that fast. OK, I'll admit that wasn't particularly eloquent, but you get the point.

So, those are some of the details, but how does Accordance 9 feel? Read on.

Overall, Accordance feels much, much faster than it did before. This is another stark contrast to Logos 4, which is warning users via their FAQ that they should have a computer no more than two years old for best performance. According to Logos, this is due to a switch to using .Net and WPF.

I was recently visiting with a pastor who was using Logos 4 on a Windows computer, which was about four years old and painfully slow. Given how slow most churches are to update their computers, that strikes me as a very strange decision by the Logos developers. The reason I mention this is because Accordance has gone very far in the other direction. How far? Here's a quote that should blow your mind: "Accordance will also run on any older Macintosh with OS 7.5 or higher, a CD-ROM drive, and at least 16 megabytes of available memory." Need I remind you that OS X has been around for 10 years now? Heck, Classic required at least OS 9. Accordance is still running on OS 7.5! I've been running Accordance on a four year old MacBook Pro, and it runs like champ.

My only real gripe about Accordance is that it looks a little dated in terms of the UI. It's clear that this is an app that has been around for a long time. That being said, I've gotten used to it, and after I get into using the application itself, I don't even notice it. At some point, it's going to be time to revamp the UI, and I'll welcome the changes when they arrive, but it certainly doesn't hinder the use of the application.

New users can get into Accordance for US$69. Upgrades from version 7 are $59, or it's $49 from version 8. If you purchased Accordance 8 after June 1, 2010, you can get a further discount. There are also discounts available for full time students, teachers, ministers, or overseas workers. If you don't qualify for any of those, you might want to get on the Christian Macintosh Users Group as their members also qualify for a discount. There is also a payment plan available.

The biggest difficulty a new user is likely to face is the dizzying array of collections and packages that Accordance offers. There is a Levels Comparison Chart that is a good place to start, but then there's also Bundles and Coupons. It's important to take some time and look through the offerings to see what is available and what you are likely to really use. Yes, it might be great to have 15 different versions of the Bible available, but if you're only going to use two, get the package with those two or add them individually. Quite honestly, I think the choices are overwhelming, but they have a toll-free number available (877-339-5855) for help. If you're really confused, call them, tell them what your needs are, and let them tell you what would be a good fit. If you're at a complete loss, request a trial period before you place your order.

Logos version 4 for Mac will be officially released in about a week, and I plan to review it as soon after its release as possible. This is a very exciting time for Mac users who are interested in Biblical studies. As seminaries, divinity schools, and Bible colleges begin their fall semesters, Mac users have exclusive access to one of the most respected Bible software packages available. Find the right package for your needs, and you absolutely cannot go wrong with an investment in Accordance.

Looking ahead, Accordance has announced plans for an iPhone/iPad app that will offer off-line, synced access to your library. No timeline has been offered other than "soon," but if they are able to pull off anything close to what Search All does on the Mac, it's going to be a huge boon. I can't wait to see what they unveil.

Update: Just a reminder that offtopic comments will be deleted. This post is about the app, not any specific religion or beliefs you may or may not agree with.

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