I have used Accordance Bible Study software for several years, but version 10 (which was released a few months ago) caught me completely by surprise.
I knew that there was a new version coming out, but I had not been a part of the beta process and I had not read anything about it before it was released. So when I read that it was available, I just downloaded it and installed it, without thinking much about it, until I launched it for the first time, and was quite literally speechless. I just stared at the screen for a moment.
"They did it," was the sentence that finally formed in my mind.
Why I'm not writing a feature recap.
I'm purposefully not going to recap all of that for you. Instead I'm going to focus on why Accordance 10 is such a significant step forward.
Insight into hindsight.
When I launched Accordance 10, I was shocked because it had been completely overhauled. It no longer looked like a Mac app hanging on to an old, familiar user interface. But then I began to worry that features might have been lost, or functionality removed. We've all seen redesigns where what we have is simpler, but a lot less powerful and flexible than what we had before. Usually this seems to happen when development goes at such a pace that features are added and added but finally everything has gotten too complicated to hold together, so the developer scraps everything and starts over.
Massive redesigns are almost always a functionality disaster.
As I looked through Accordance, however, I realized that all of the tools I wanted to use where still there, even if they looked a little different.
I reached out to David Lang, VP of Development for Accordance, and buried him in an avalanche of questions about the redesign process. To his credit he actually took to the time to respond, and gave me a great deal of insight into the process. The first key insight was realizing that the changes in Accordance 10 actually started in Accordance 9, which made a lot of "under the hood" changes which paved the way for the more visible changes.
He wrote, "When it came to planning for Accordance 10, we resolved to take a hard look at every aspect of the interface-even things that had been around since the very beginning. In every design decision, we tried to simplify, declutter, and beautify, while being careful not to fix what wasn't broken or to lose Accordance's distinct advantages. We especially focused on the areas where new users would get confused or make common mistakes."
That's a challenge for any software company, but especially difficult for a company with customers who have been using your software for almost two decades. Think about the changes that Microsoft tried to make with Office and "the ribbon" and you'll realize how difficult it is to really make improvements in this area.
One of my former complaints about Accordance was that it was difficult for me to even find and use the resources that I had as part of the software package. The redesign puts my library only a few clicks away, and much easier to navigate.
Wait, What? Windows?
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Accordance 10 was learning that there is a version of Accordance for Microsoft Windows planned for 2013. Accordance has been Mac-only since the beginning. The idea that Accordance would be a Windows app might be anathema to some, especially those who fear that it will morph into some sort of unholy "hybrid UI" application like those made by companies who use such abominations as (shudder) Adobe Air.
David assures me that Windows development is not the driving force behind the UI changes, and that the development cycle for Accordance will continue unimpeded by the addition of a Windows version. He even said that I could stake him through the heart if things go awry. (Ok, he didn't actually say that, but I think it was implied.)
As strange and scary as it might initially seem for a Mac-only company to branch out into Windows, there's no denying that Accordance will be able to reach a much broader group of users with a Windows version. I know plenty of pastors whose "office computer" is a Windows PC even though they have a Mac at home, and the ability to use the same software on both computers will be a huge benefit.
Likewise, development of Accordance for iOS continues to improve. While it is primarily a tool for reading and searching, you can sync your notes and highlights across both platforms, which is extremely handy.
A few of my favorite things
While I won't recap the feature-list of Accordance, I do want to point out a few of my favorites.
Instant Details gives me information about words in the text as I hover over them with my mouse. While these details sometimes suffer from being overly abbreviated if you aren't familiar with the terminology, it's a quick and powerful way to learn more about words, terms, people, etc. as you read. There is also a new preference to show full words instead of abbreviations in the Instant Details pane, which is helpful if you (like me) have trouble remembering what the abbreviations mean. (Check out the preferences for "Instant Details" to set this.)
Speed and stability are consistent throughout the app. Search results are instantaneous. Cross-references work immediately. New resource windows open instantly. I never have to wait for Accordance to catch up.
Toolbar Customization is not an unusual feature, lots of apps have it, but it's not something I usually use. Accordance's toolbar is different, perhaps because there are so many different aspects of the app. Toolbar icons can provide quick access to the library, daily reading, atlas, parsing tools, word chart, and more. They won't replicate all the former functionality that was in floating palettes in earlier versions, but they're a lot easier to manage and a lot cleaner.
Simple Upgrade Options, Even for Mac App Store Purchases
If you bought version 9 on or after May 1, 2012 directly from OakTree Software, the developers of Accordance, you can get version 10 for free. See the upgrade page for more details. Note: That offer expires at the end of December, 2012. So don't delay if you are eligible for an upgrade.
Other users can upgrade for $50 and keep all of their existing content. However, if you would like to upgrade to version 10 and increase your library of resources, you can do that here. Prices will vary based on what you already own and what you want to upgrade to, but if you have trouble deciding you can contact Oak Tree directly for assistance.
Why Buy Direct?
I'll start off by admitting that I am not a fan of the Mac App Store. I don't like that Apple is keeping some features, such as iCloud, only for Mac App Store apps. I'll skip my rant about the sandboxing debacle and just say that I think they could have handled it a lot better. Some apps had to be removed from the Mac App Store, and others lost useful features because Apple didn't include ways for them to continue to be offered. I don't like that Apple seems to have no interest in upgrades or trial versions, which I believe hurts customers as well as developers. If I ever have the choice between buying directly from the developer or from the Mac App Store, I'll choose direct every time. It gives developers 30% more money and more flexibility.
For an app like Accordance, which sells for $50 on the Mac App Store, the lack of upgrade options is a significant problem. OakTree gets around this pretty much the only way they can, by offering an equal credit on their store. You can find out more about those details on their Accordance 10 upgrade page.
Accordance is available on the Mac App Store because it helps provide increased visibility to reach new customers. Purchasing Accordance directly gives you the opportunity to purchase a collection which will make Accordance a lot more useful, plus you will be able to easily upgrade in the future.
Accordance really is better than ever.
Accordance has been well-known and well-regarded for almost 20 years, but version 10 seems like an important milestone in its history. The work that went into the last few versions changed a lot 'under the hood' and now the user interface has been updated as well, creating a tool that doesn't just look different, but looks better and (more importantly) works better. For existing users, it's a terrific upgrade easily worth the price. For users who have been considering Accordance, wait no longer, this new version is a great place to start.