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Accordance for Windows on a Surface Pro

Last week, Accordance for Windows dropped its "beta" status and was released to the world. I've been running Accordance for Windows since very early builds on my Surface Pro, and I've watched as each release improved stability and added in features already present in the Mac version. 

For those who don't know, Accordance has been a premium Bible software application on the Macintosh since 1994. It was the first Bible application on the Mac to bring original biblical languages to users, and it has continued to maintain its reputation as being the application for serious study of biblical Greek and Hebrew (and now a number of other related languages).

Accordance has always had the reputation of being extremely fast, able to perform complex searches, often in a literal blink of the eye. Fortunately, the newly released Windows version maintains that same speed and flexibility. 

As I mentioned, I've been running Accordance on a Microsoft Surface Pro (128 GB model, running Windows 8.1 Preview). I've put together a video that lasts roughly 12 and a half minutes featuring Accordance on my Surface Pro. Normally, if I were demonstrating software, I'd use screen recording software, but in this instance, I've used a hand-held Canon video camera so that I can demonstrate the use of a digital pen. 

Here's my video on YouTube. I recommend watching it full screen at 720p or 1080p.

Or if you like, here's the original and more shaky version on Vimeo.

Want to run Accordance on your own Surface Pro? Oak Tree Software has just announced that they are giving away a brand new Surface Pro 2 to a lucky winner. Enter here.

For more on Accordance for Windows:


As always, your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome in the comments.


Accordance for Windows: Yes, It's Real

Optional headline: A significant temperature decrease in Hades has been reported.

Click on image for a larger view.

What you're seeing above is an internal beta for Accordance 10.x for Windows, running in Windows 8. Yes, Accordance, which has been exclusively on Apple platforms since it was launched in 1994, is coming to Windows. This is the second internal beta released in as many weeks. Although an exact release date (beyond simply 2013) has not yet been announced, the build I have is already starting to impress. 

If you've been wanting to run Accordance--with all its speed and power--but didn't want to leave Microsoft Windows to do so, you won't have to wait much longer.

For what it's worth, I would suggest that the beta of Accordance for Windows is already faster than similar programs on the same platform.

Stay tuned. More details to come. 


The image above has been posted with permission. Your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome below.


OakTree Releases Nestle-Aland 28th Edition Greek New Testament with Apparatus for Accordance

Yesterday, OakTree Software released the new 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (or Greek New Testament) for Accordance Bible Software. The NA28 first appeared near the end of 2012 in print, but the electronic edition in Accordance allows for much greater flexibility in its use. The Accordance edition of the NA28 takes the content of the hard copy and separates it into three distinct modules that can run in sync together or with other New Testament texts and reference tools, such as commentaries. The three modules include the text itself, the critical apparatus and a separate cross reference tool.

Text, apparatus, and cross references. Click on the image to see fullscreen. The changes between the 27th and 28th edition are not earth shattering in what I've looked at so far, but all who are interested in the latest developments in New Testament studies will want this update. The official website of the Nestle-Aland text contains a basic summary of the changes:

  • Newly discovered Papyri listed
  • Distinction between consistently cited witnesses of the first and second order abandoned
  • Apparatus notes systematically checked
  • Imprecise notes abandoned
  • Previously concatenated notes now cited separately
  • Inserted Latin texts reduced and translated
  • References thoroughly revised
  • New reconstruction of the text
  • Defining the Consistently Cited Witnesses for the Catholic Letters

There are 34 changes in the 27th and 28th editions of the text, and these occur only in the Catholic Letters. If you already have the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text, you can use Accordance's compare feature to immediately see the differences between the two editions:

Comparing the NA27 & NA28. Click on the image for a larger view.Rick Bennett has put together a fantastic video exploring the NA27 in Accordance that easily demonstrates the flexibility and superiority of a tagged electronic biblical text over a regular print edition. The video clocks in at 6:50 minutes and is well worth your time. 

New users will pay $109 for the NA28, but there is also upgrade pricing available for those who own an earlier edition of the Greek New Testament. See details at the Accordance website.


As always, your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome.


Review: Microsoft Surface RT

I switched from Windows to the Mac as my main computing platform in 1998 for reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere before. Of course, I never left Windows completely behind. I’ve kept up with it over the years by running current versions first in VirtualPC and more recently in VMWare Fusion. I even spent part of last decade in a job where I administered two Windows servers and about 140 Windows client machines (all of which I managed from an eMac).

Having said that, however, I still admit that Apple’s family of devices work well for me. In our home we have iPads, MacBooks, iPhones, and an AppleTV. Everything works well together, and I have no plans on switching back to Windows.

And yet, if you don’t count the netbook I bought three years ago for the purpose of turning into a Hackintosh, the Windows Surface RT is the first new Windows machine I’ve bought in almost a decade and a half. And guess what? I like it.

For whatever reason, I was intrigued by the Surface RT since it was first announced. The tech press (of which I spend way too much time reading) has been fairly critical of the Surface RT. And yet, I discovered something very interesting a few weeks ago. I was on the website of one of the national chains selling the Surface and I looked at the customer reviews. That is, the reviews of people who are actually using these machines—not the tech writers who spent a few days with a review copy of the surface and then went back on to other equipment. I noticed in reading the customer reviews that “real life” owners of the Surface RT really seemed to like the device. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. I checked some other sites with customer reviews and found the same situation.

Around three weeks ago, Staples offered a coupon for $100 off any Windows 8 tablet or notebook computer, so I bought the low-end Surface RT. I’m referring to the one with only a measly 32 GB of storage space, almost half of which is taken up by Windows 8.

Windows 8 has been a very polarizing operating system. I hear more negative than positive, but I also realize that people who don’t like something are usually more vocal than those who do. I’d read in a number of places that Windows 8 is best experienced on touchscreen, and I can now agree that’s completely true. In fact, I understood Windows 8 better in using the Surface RT in two days than I’d understood Windows 8 using it in VMWare for five months.

Since it's been five months since the Surface RT was released, I'm glad I waited and let the rest of the Windows faithful suffer through the early rough spots—especially after listening to some of the early SurfaceGeeks podcasts. I'm a big Evernote user, and if I can have Evernote on a device, I can get a lot done. From the sound of things, the early Evernote release was not quite up to par. Of course, I assume I could have used it on the web. Nevertheless, I find that Evernote Touch on the Surface RT is quite usable.

For those who are not in the know, Microsoft, which has traditionally been primarily a software company, has released their first tablet computers with the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. There seems to be a lot of confusion between these two devices, but basically, the Surface RT can only run Windows 8 apps and Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, & OneNote only), while the Surface Pro can essentially run any Windows program. Both devices look very similar, although the Surface Pro is slightly thicker. And the Surface pro costs a good bit more than the Surface RT.

The Surface RT in many ways is meant to be the “pure” Windows 8 experience because it cannot run any older Windows programs, other than Office. Many consider the version of Windows on the Surface RT (called Windows RT) to be the future of Windows. Personally, because I do not run Windows as a primary platform, I did not need the more capable Surface Pro because I have Windows 8 Professional in VMWare on my MacBook Pro. As I said, it was the Surface RT that intrigued me, and I wanted to experience Windows 8 on a touchscreen.

In spite of much outcry against Windows 8, and regardless of the debates as to whether the direction Microsoft has taken is the right one, I do believe they should be given a little credit. It’s not easy to make a big shift in computer platforms, especially when considering the massive user base that Microsoft has with Windows. Also, I believe it’s worth noting that in a technology culture that has been so heavily influenced by Apple’s iOS, Microsoft actually came up with an interface that is significantly different.

Although it's not a strictly apples to apples comparison (no pun initially intended, but there it is), I can best compare the Surface RT to my iPad experience. And, although there are a number of important differences between the Surface RT and the iPad, I do believe this is a fair comparison. The Surface RT is distinguished from the Surface Pro in that it is intended to be a lower-cost, consumer-level tablet, much like the iPad.

What the Surface RT allows me to do that I cannot do on the iPad. I teach university classes which entails a lot of paper grading. Students upload assignments to Blackboard, and I download them and grade them on my MacBook. I can't do this on my iPad for a number of reasons. Obviously, there's not a native version of MS Word for the iPad (yet). I use Word's internal commenting system to comment or correct aspects of a student's paper. None of this is really feasible with any of the applications on the iPad that will import and export Word documents. But even if it were possible, all of the iPad applications that will read Word documents change the format of the document when it is imported and change it again when it is exported. This often can affect a document's layout in regard to headers or margins, and it would not be fair or right to do this to my students' work.

Moreover, I've yet to find a browser on the iPad that lets me navigate the Blackboard website correctly. In Blackboard, students' grades are laid out on a spreadsheet-type interface that simply cannot be moved from the left to the right (for some reason unknown to me) in any browser I've tried in iOS. Yes, there is a Blackboard Mobile Learn app, but this does not allow me to do any kind of administrative work such as grades. I can interact in discussion forums with my students or create announcements, but that's about it.

However, the Surface RT lets me do all these things. The first Saturday afternoon I had my Surface RT, I sat down in a coffee shop with only my brand new tablet and the accompanying TypeCover keyboard, and I was thrilled to know that I could access all aspects of the Blackboard website. I was able to download a student's paper, save it to the Surface in a nested folder, and edit it in a real copy of Microsoft Word. I could have just as easily uploaded the graded paper back to Blackboard, but I wanted to wait and view it on my laptop to make certain everything came out all right. And when I did this later, it was fine. Since then, I’ve graded a number of papers on the Surface and have uploaded them back for the student to retrieve afterwards.

So, I'm very pleased that I can do this. It may seem like a very simple task, but this is something that takes up a good percentage of my week. I believe it will be nice to sometimes leave my 15" MacBook Pro at home and go sit in a coffee shop and grade papers for a few hours on the Surface RT--something I cannot currently do on an iPad.

The only downside to this, however, is that I can do it much faster on my laptop. This is primarily due to the fact that Word on the Surface RT has very small touch points. This makes using Word for RT a bit more difficult and certainly slower than using a laptop. I’ve since learned that by changing the size of items on the desktop to 125%, the touch points become a bit easier to target. Nevertheless, if I were behind in my grading, which is often the case, I would not be able to use the Surface.

Yes, I bought the TypeCover, so I have a trackpad, but I'm not overly impressed with it. I’m sure that a lot of this frustration comes from being used to a large glass touchpad on my MacBook that is incredibly responsive. The tiny touchpad on the TypeCover is not as responsive, and even with tracking speed turned all the way up, it doesn't move as quickly or as accurately as I'd like it to. Perhaps this will improve with use as I grow accustomed to it, but I've also noticed that sometimes the mouse pointer on the Surface RT simply disappears, and I have to restart the machine or go into mouse settings to get it back.

On a side note, occasionally my students will want to compose a paper entirely on an iPad and submit it to Blackboard. However, no Word-compatible app on the iPad that I've seen allows for a different header on the cover page than the headers on the pages that follow. A student would, however, be able to use the Surface RT for both composition and submission of a paper that meets the style guide specifications because of having a "real" version of MS Word.

I also like the expandability of the Surface RT with its SD card slot and USB. Both of my iPads are 64 GB and both of them are completely filled up. My next iPad purchase will be one of the 128 GB models, but I like how expandable the Surface RT is right out of the box. I bought the 32 GB model, but if I were going to use this as a main device, I'm sure I would want to get the 64 GB Surface RT and then add a 64 GB flash card to it. Currently, I have 10 GB of space left on the Surface. I don’t necessarily have to depend on it, but I had a 32 GB microSD card, and it’s been a great solution for quickly transferring files back and forth between the Surface RT and my MacBook Pr.

From what I understand, the iPad doesn’t have any kind of external expansion capabilities because Steve Jobs liked smooth edges on the sides of Apple’s devices. From an aesthetic perspective, I can understand this, but after seeing how advantageous the microSD and USB slots on the Surface RT are, I really have to think, “Come on Apple, why not?”

I often teach straight from my iPad, plugged into a projector, at the university where I teach or at church. I mainly use iWork Keynote for this, and I make heavy use of presenter notes that I can see on my screen while a class looks only at my slide from the projector. Although I still find Keynote to be a more elegant presentation tool in general over PowerPoint from an audience's perspective, I can say I was very impressed with PowerPoint's presenter screen on the Surface RT. It is much more robust than Keynote's presenter screen (on the iPad, not my Mac) with more options and the ability to see my notes much better.

What the iPad allows me to do that I cannot (yet) do on the Surface RT. I've included the word yet here because a lot of what lies below has to do with app availability or compatibility, and I assume that most of this can and will improve over time.

If you're wondering what fills up my two 64 GB iPads, it's not so much from apps, video, music or pictures, but rather from the somewhere over 6,000 books, journals, magazines, and articles that I carry with me at all times. One of the aspects I've really enjoyed about having a tablet, since my first iPad in 2010, is the ability to carry an entire library with me at any time. Most of these are academic titles, and it's been great to have such a wealth of information at my fingertips.

I often digitize my own books (when I know a title is not already available in some kind of ebook form) by scanning them, adding an OCR layer over the original page, and saving them as PDFs. I use GoodReader on the iPad for PDFs. Although its interface is a bit wonky, it has great annotation features and can handle very large files (I have some PDFs that are hundreds of pages long). On the Surface RT, I've not yet seen a PDF reader that allows for the kind of heavy annotating I often do to my documents (although I'm open to suggestions).

The Kindle app (where I have about 1,000 titles) on the Surface seems comparable to the one on iOS for my purposes. I can add highlights and notes, which is important. But I use another program on my iPad called Accordance, which is for academic study of the Bible and related subjects, especially original language work. I doubt Accordance will be on Windows RT anytime soon.

There are competitive Bible programs available in the Windows Store on the Surface, such as an app from Logos Bible software and another from OliveTree. I have plenty of titles in these apps, too, but they are very limited in what they can do on the Surface RT. I was pleased to see that Greek and Hebrew texts display correctly in Logos on the Surface, but the app itself is downright anemic compared to the iPad version. The WinRT version doesn't allow me to highlight text, make annotations, copy and paste text or even perform basic searches of the text. The OliveTree Bible app has search, but for some reason most of the titles I own in that platform do not work on the Surface, including all my Greek and Hebrew texts.

Logos for Windows RT is very limited. Note the inability to search.

Obviously, these shortcomings are not the fault of the capabilities of the Surface RT tablet, but it is indicative of a number of apps that are available on other platforms, including both iOS and Android. Ultimately, it's a real chicken or the egg issue because software developers aren't going to invest heavily into apps for WinRT unless there are users; but users won't come in large numbers if there are not apps. In fact, the CEO of Logos has essentially said that development of their app is on indefinite hold until more users come to the WinRT platform. Both Microsoft and users of the Surface RT are going to have to be patient with the platform. Although rumors continue to fly to the contrary, all of Microsoft’s public comments have stated they are going to continue to support and develop the WinRT platform. Let’s hope so. We all remember HP’s "cut and run" only seven weeks after the release of the TouchPad. I actually thought the TouchPad’s operating system, WebOS, was a very good platform (the TouchPad devices themselves seemed to be a bit cheaply made) that just needed more time to grow its user base.

And while it seems like a simple issue, there was another task I normally perform on the iPad (and have been able to do since its release in April, 2010) that I couldn’t do on the Surface. On Sundays, I teach an adult Bible study at our church to an average of about 40 people. Typically, I use Keynote on my iPad and am plugged into a projector. As people arrive, I play a photo slideshow of about 2,100 photos taken of our group at various events over the past seven years. So that it won't start with the earliest pictures, I set the slideshow to shuffle the images. And I run this from the basic Photos app that comes on every iPad.

So, Saturday night of the first weekend I had the SurfaceRT, because I wanted to teach from my Surface on Sunday morning, I had converted my Keynote file to PowerPoint, and after a little adjusting, it was ready to go on the Surface. I copied the 2100 pictures from Aperture on my MacBook Pro to a USB thumbdrive and then copied these over to the Surface. I tried to do a test run and was surprised to learn there was no shuffle mode in the Surface's photo app. I really didn't want to start with pictures from seven years ago and run them in chronological order. So, even though it was time-change Saturday night, I stayed up way too late looking in the Windows Store on my Surface for a photo app that would shuffle photos. I couldn't find one. Knowing that I could run a slideshow straight from the folder holding my pictures on the desktop, I tried that, too, but again no shuffle feature. This obviously isn't the biggest issue in the world, but if anyone here knows of an app that will do this, I'd appreciate your letting me know. [Note: I’ve since discovered a free app called “Picture Frame Slideshow” that will shuffle photos.]

And the rest... Overall, my impressions of the Surface RT are favorable. I don't expect it or need it to be a full Windows computer (which is why I didn't want the Surface Pro). I was just intrigued by RT and wanted to experience it for myself. Like others have already said, I like the build of the machine. It seems very sturdy and put together in a manner that speaks to quality.

I bought the TypeCover because it looked nicer and more capable than the TouchCover, but after reading others' impressions, I imagine the TouchCover would have been fine for me. I'm actually a very fast typist on the iPad's virtual keyboard. Although I have had a couple of keyboards for the iPad, I hardly ever use them. It sounds to me that if someone is used to a virtual keyboard (that also doesn't have any actual tactile feedback from a moving key), the TouchCover keyboard would work just fine.

And related to that, I've tried out the Surface's virtual keyboard and have found it to be just as capable as the iPad's. I seem to be able to use it as well as I use the virtual keyboard on the iPad. It may be that the TypeCover keyboard is only going to be necessary for me when I'm using the desktop Office apps.

I've also found the responsiveness of the Surface screen to be on par with my iPad. When I had my Galaxy Tab last year, I noticed that sometimes, I had to kind of get the attention of the device because it wouldn't always respond the first time I touched it--even when it was on and I had just been using it. I've had no such problem on the Surface. It seems just as responsive and fluid as the iPad so far. As I mentioned, the only aspect in this regard I'm not impressed with is the touchpad on the Surface TypeCover, especially when using Office apps. I realize that I could use a mouse, but I have no desire to lug around a mouse to use with a tablet. Having to do that seems counterintuitive for why I would want to use a tablet in the first place.

For the most part, the Surface RT is snappy and responsive. When I first got it, some of Microsoft’s own apps were very poky, especially when starting; however, they released updates to many of these a few days ago that have improved these issues considerably. My major complaint has to do with the Mail app. Although it also received improvements a few days ago, there’s no unified inbox for multiple accounts, and there’s an extraordinary long pause when switching between one email account and another.

Some have complained that neither the Surface RT nor Surface Pro work well in one’s lap because the kickstand has a tendency to collapse. I can say that while awkward, it can be done. Nevertheless, if the Surface is in my lap, I’m usually not doing serious work on it. In my lap, I find it easier to fold the keyboard behind the Surface (which disables keystrokes) or simply remove it altogether. As already noted, the virtual keyboard works just fine, and I can surf the web or provide short answers to email.

I bought my Samsung Galaxy Tab and HP TouchPad to familiarize myself with the platforms, but I eventually sold these devices because they didn’t bring anything new to the table that I didn’t already have represented in my iPad. Considering I can actually grade papers on the Surface RT, I may hold onto this device indefinitely and let it become a regular part of my workflow (at least in the weeks in which I’m not running behind). Plus, I’m interested to see how Windows RT continues to develop. Many have predicted its demise, but Microsoft is known for often playing a long game with platforms that are of greater importance to them. Consider that Windows didn’t start to gain traction until v. 3.x, and the Xbox didn’t outsell competitors until the 360 was released.

My start screen on the Surface RT

Even though I like the Surface RT, as do many other owners of them, it’s still hard to say exactly who the target customer is for this device. Certainly if someone wants a lower-priced tablet and needs a “true” version of Microsoft Office—such as a student—the Surface RT is ideal. But if Office is eventually released for iOS and Android—as current rumors suggest—the Surface RT suddenly loses much of its unique draw.

I also believe the Surface RT is priced too high. I was at a Staples just the other day, and they had an Asus touchscreen notebook computer that had a full version of Windows 8, a touchscreen, and a 256 GB hard drive—all at the sale price of $459. This is $40 less than a Surface RT at full price, and the Surface comes with only a 32 GB hard drive (at the $499 level) and no keyboard.

I have no idea what the Surface RT costs Microsoft to build, but if it were priced somewhere between $299 and $349, I believe they would have a winner on their hands. They would sell more of them, which in turn would draw more developers to the platform. Or perhaps, if history repeats itself, the Surface RT v. 2 or v. 3 may eventually be the hit that Microsoft hoped it would be in its first iteration.

This blog post was written and uploaded with the Surface RT. Your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome in the comments section.


Accordance Bible Software v. 10: Modern Look with More Power

I've been a user of Accordance Bible Software since 1998. After reading a review about Accordance at that time, I was finally persuaded to make the move from Windows to Macintosh. More than any other program, Accordance has kept me on the Macintosh these past 14 years. 

However, even though OakTree Software has continued to steadily improve Accordance, and even though I've still believed it was the most powerful Bible software on any platform, like a lot of users, I felt that the Accordance interface was becoming a little bit long in the tooth. Accordance came from a Mac era in which the floating palette was king. This started with the apps that shipped with the original 1984 Mac, and the basic interface was galvanized in its adoption by companies like Adobe (and Aldus, before they were bought by Adobe). And yet, Mac programs have gradually changed over the years. Palettes have either become integrated into a program or they've been totally replaced by toolbars within the main windows. The average contemporary Mac application takes its cues (for better or worse) from iTunes, in which monochrome icons adorn the top of an integrated window with a library of content against a light blue background on the left. 

When I first learned of the changes planned for Accordance 10 with its integrated main window, I had to admit that I was a bit worried. I've heard new users to Accordance express frustration over understanding the interface which can be daunting. Yes, software should be intuitive, but powerful software (of any kind) always has a learning curve. Something as basic as the resource palette in Accordance, though dated in appearance, is extremely logical in its setup once the user understands how it functions. On the handful of times that I've taught Accordance training seminars, this was one of the first topics I covered because it was key to unlocking the software's power. But how could Accordance lose its resource palette and still maintain its same functionality? 

I can attest that within minutes of exploring an Accordance 10 beta a few weeks ago, my fears were put at ease. OakTree software has been able to pull it off. They've completely modernized Accordance according to a modern Mac app look and feel without losing any of the program's functions and power. Accordance 9 could be a mess at times, with the main window, the resource palette, the instant details window, and the library window. If I was using two screens and wanted to move Accordance from one screen to the other, I had to move all these over individually and resize them. The same thing happened if I happened to change resolutions. Now, however, Accordance 10 is fully integrated. Compare similar views of Accordance 9 and 10 below:

Accordance 9: Library window on left, main window centered, and resource palette and instant details window on right. Click on image for a larger view

And now the all-new Accordance 10: 

Accordance 10 with its integrated window. Click on image for a larger view.

Note that in the image above, I don't have the Instant Details window displayed. That's because it's now something that I can turn on and off with ease by clicking a button on the toolbar. I always found the Instant Details button handy when I needed it, but when I didn't, it was in the way. Now I can bring it into the main window whenever I need it (the same is true for the Library window on the left; if I don't need it, I can also control its presence by a button on the toolbar). A user might decide to completely forego the Instant Details button and take advantage of the new ability to option-click a word to bring up information in a popup window. And if a user still wants to run Accordance "old school," he or she can still detach the full Instant Details pane into a window of its own. 

With Accordance 10, I can now control which buttons I want on my toolbar entirely. So, for instance, since I regularly use the Atlas, I included a button for it on the toolbar; but since I don't use the Timeline that often, I left it off.

 Customize your toolbar. Click on image for a larger view.

The remodeled Library windowAnd there are a number of other changes. The Library window has been updated significantly, with many new features in response to what users have been asking for recently. This includes actual book covers for the representation of titles as well as long-form titles instead of abbreviations used in the past that were often quite cryptic in nature. 

And in keeping with any major number update in Accordance, there are quite a few other new features as well:

  • A new Flex Search will look for words that are similar to the ones entered. As described in the Help system, "a search for 'forgive' would find 'forgive,' 'forgiven,' and 'forgiving.'"
  • Search All is now accessible from the toolbar.
  • While it's always been possible to customize fonts and background colors in Accordance, now there are a number of professional preset Themes to save time. Themes can be customized as well.
  • Graphical charts and graphs have been redesigned giving them a more modern look to this kind of analysis.
  • Character and highlights used to be separate palettes (more windows to move around), but now they've been given the popup treatment.
  • In titles with graphics, there's a new popover feature for looking at images in a larger view. What I really like, however, is being able to scroll through the images of a particular title by hitting an advance button on the right of the image. This could potentially be a major time saver. 

There are a few expected features I'd expect to see, but they have been promised for future release. Some of the features added last year to OS X Lion, such as full-screen view and the ability to resize a window from any point on the edge, don't yet appear in Accordance. There is a new reading mode for version 10, but I'd still like to see a regular full-screen view in keeping with Apple's own apps and many others from third party developers. Like Adobe Creative Suite 6 and Microsoft Office 11, Accordance v. 10 has not yet been updated for the retina display MacBook Pro, but I've been told its coming. Regardless, I'm not overly bothered by apps that aren't enhanced for my rMBP--they just don't look as crisp as the ones that have been updated. 

New website and new packages
With Accordance 10, OakTree has completely updated their website. The entire website design, including promotional graphics and videos have an Apple-esque feel without being a straight carbon copy. I believe users and potential customers will have an easier time finding the information they need.

Having worked the Accordance booth at ETS/SBL a number of times, I know it can sometimes be confusing to new customers when trying to decide on a collection of titles. In the past there were "Library" and "Scholar" collections that each had multiple levels which often created confusion. OakTree has now streamlined this process into six basic packages: Starter, Bible Study, Original Languages, Essential, Advanced, and Ultimate. Each level increases in included titles and price. A comparison chart displaying the differences between the collections can be seen on the website

One More Thing: A Significant Temperature Decrease in Hades
Way back in the Fall of 2011, I heard hushed whispers of stirrings in Mordor Accordance on Windows. I guess the cat's now out of the bag. With the new Accordance website comes the announcement that Accordance is being ported to Windows with a projected release date sometime in 2013. Yes, there's always been a way to run Accordance in Windows using the Basilisk emulator, but this was always messy and cumbersome in my opinion. This is going to be a native Windows Accordance application. I've heard no word yet, though, whether this is going to be a Windows desktop or a Windows RT app. While I'm not going to give up my Mac, I do believe expanding to Windows is a smart move on OakTree's part, and I believe it will effectively grow their customer base on an exponential scale. This will definitely be an interesting development to watch.

Should you upgrade?/Should you buy in?
This is really probably the most significant upgrade to Accordance ever. Yes, there have been steady improvements over the past two decades; and yes. v. 5, updated for Aqua/OS X was a significant update. Accordance 10 goes further, though. Not only does v. 10 give the user a Bible software experience with an interface representing a modern Mac look and feel, it also streamlines much of the methods that long-term users have grown accustomed to over the years. Veteran users will have to re-learn a few minor aspects of the program, but the heart and soul of Accordance--making the biblical text central--still remains.

If you're a longtime Accordance user, by all means don't hesitate to upgrade. This is the update that users have requested for a very long time. For most users, including myself, the update goes well beyond expectations. If you've never used Accordance, now is a great time to jump in. Accordance 10 costs $49 for either an upgrade or the new Starter package, both of which can be found at the website

Watch These:
New Accordance 10 Introductory Video 

Accordance 10: First Look (Accordance Podcast #77)


Full Disclosure: OakTree Software provided me with a free copy of Accordance 10 in exchange for this review, but they did not dictate the conditions or the outcome of the review in any way. The titles of texts and references I have in Accordance I purchased on my own--some discounted, some not. 

As always, your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome in the comments below.


Finding the Right Image Using Accordance and Logos

The screencast below is a follow up to a previous post, "Balaam in the Flesh." Maximizing to fullscreen is recommended.

Your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome in the comments.


Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ) Released for Accordance

The first installment of the Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ), the successor to the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), has been released for Accordance


Click here for more information on the BHQ.

Click here for more information on the BHQ for Accordance.





Balaam in the Flesh

This past Sunday, we studied Numbers 22-24 in our Sunday morning Bible study, which is also known as "The Balaam Cycle" or "The Book of Balaam." I teach a group that uses Lifeway's Explore the Bible series, which covers Numbers and Deuteronomy this quarter. Although the curiculum focused on a very narrow portion of verses, I spent a good bit of time going over other content from the greater context as well other concepts from the culture of the time such as the various practices of divination in the ancient world. 

A few years ago, I began using Keynote presentation software which I teach at church. Although I try to stick to the outline and theme in the curriculum, I tend to supplement it a good bit, including making my own slides. I often use Accordance's graphics search to find a "just right" image for an idea or event we're discussing. However, before I search through all graphics resources, I usually first check Zondervan's Illustrated Bible Background Commentaries (OT & NT) as well as the Historic Views of the Holy Land: Bible Places-American Colony Collection. Some of the best illustrations I find come from these two sources. A very close third is Accordance's Bible Lands PhotoGuide

Finding just the right picture in Accordance is not merely a result of being able to search through titles rich in graphics. The real strength comes from being able to search only in the picture captions of these titles. Searching the captions for a name, subject, place, or even a scripture reference usually yields a "just right" picture for whatever I'm teaching on—whether at church or in the classroom. In regard to our study on Balaam, I don't believe I could have found a better picture than the one at the top of this post.

This picture came from the Historic Views of the Holy Land: Bible Places-American Colony Collection. This title is a series of photographs taken on location in Israel and surrounding areas spanning a time from the late 1800s to the 1940s (you can read about the history of the collection here). The value of these photos lies in the fact that the people and places depicted (some staged and some natural) are seen before the region became overly modernized. In fact, many of the pictures depict life as it essentially existed for centuries, even back to biblical times in some cases. 

Just look at the image at the top of the post. Perhaps it was staged, but look at the stone wall and Bethlehem in the background from a time before electricity and automobiles were ubiquitous. Yes, I know that the events of Numbers 22-24 don't take place in Bethlehem, but I cannot imagine a more perfect picture for Numbers 22-24. The exact date of the photo is not precisely known, but it was taken sometime between 1898 and 1946. There is a caption underneath the picture that reads:

“The town itself, no longer walled, is still confined within its ancient limits. There are no suburbs, and in fact, planted on the crest of a narrow spur that projects eastward from the central ridge and then abruptly breaks off, it has no room to expand. The white chalky ridge crowned with the long narrow street, with various alleys on either side of it, presents us with one of the few remaining specimens of an old Jewish city, for, excepting in the disappearance of the wall, it is probably unchanged in architecture and arrangement from what it was in the days of David”

Look at this close up of the man on his donkey. Yes, I know it could be nitpicked in some details, such as the fact that paired stirrups and even the kind of saddle in the picture would not have existed in Balaam's day. Yet when I look at the style of dress on the man and the ornate headband on the donkey, I can't help but see a well-respected and somewhat wealthy individual—prestigious—which is how I imagine the Balaam of the Bible (not to mention the Balaam of the Deir Alla inscriptions, which I also mentioned in our discussion on Sunday).

In my search of the Historical Views of the Holy Land module, all I did was search for "donkey" in the picture captions. I found a number of interesting pictures, but this one the first of the hits. From the moment I saw it, I knew I'd found my Balaam. There were some other interesting pictures, but none of them would have really worked. One showed a man riding a donkey while a woman (presumably his wife) walked on foot behind. Obviously, there's no suggestion that Balaam had a wife, let alone traveled with one. Another picture of a man on a donkey might have worked except for the fact that the man in the photo was showing off his rifle, which would have been anachronistic to a picture meant to illustrate an event from biblical times. 

I ended up using the picture of the man on the donkey in three of the twelve slides I prepared for our study. Each time I used it, it was slightly different than the others. In one photo I showed only the man on the donkey with most of the landscape cropped out. On another, I used the entire picture with its entire landscape as seen in the image at the top of this post. 

In all of my uses of the picture, I added a sepia tone layer—an easy modification from within Keynote that makes an image such as this look even more distant than the original black and white. Below is one of my uses of the image, which I only slightly cropped:

Sometimes finding a "just right" image is more challenging, but this one was perfect; and I knew from the moment I saw it that this would be the one I'd use. To me, this fellow on a donkey, photographed perhaps a century ago, is truly Balaam in the flesh.

As always, your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome below.



No Blood Drawn at 2011 SBL Bible Software Shootout

Two years ago, the debates got pretty heated in the blogosphere following the first SBL Bible Software Shootout. I even decided to remove one of my posts from This Lamp because of the bickering, primarily in the comments. Therefore, it's worth noting that this year's Bible Software Shootout was fairly tame and even considerably more collegial.

From the very beginning this second round was purposefully designed to lessen any chance of animosity among proponents of one Bible software package over another. Rather than any overtly competitive theme, this year's challenge centered around how Bible software could be used in the classroom. Titled, "Bible Software Shootout 2: The Revenge of the Teacher," the session was framed in a mostly non-competitive agenda (despite words like shootout and revenge in the title):

Software vendors will showcase their products to demonstrate how their software is used by real teachers in the classroom, in course preparation, and in assignments. The program will explore how the various packages all contribute to the learning environment.

Originally, I was planning to offer detailed description and analysis of the event, but I do not believe I could better the account detailed by Mark Hoffman at the Biblical Studies and Technological Tools website, which I strongly recommend for your reading. 

Three platforms were represented this year: Logos, Accordance, and Olive Tree's BibleReader. BibleWorks opted not to particpate, but I wish they had as I believe they would have performed well in this particular context.

Although the event was less overtly competitive, I could nonetheless offer value judgments if I wanted. However, such opinions tend to upset some people, so I'll keep them to myself (ask me privately if you're extremely curious). However, I will link to Roy Brown's 16-page handout (with screenshots) that serves as his presentation transcript for Accordance. If anyone knows of similar documents for the other presentations, let me know and I'll provide the links to those as well.

Full disclosure: I worked in the Accordance booth during SBL again this year.

Feel free to leave your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals below, but if folks get nasty this year, I'm not deleting the post; I'll only delete your comment.


iPad 2: Not Another Review—Just Some Observations

Some may see it as predictable, but honestly, as early as Friday morning last week, the day of the iPad 2's release, I was denying that I was upgrading from the first gen iPad. And I meant it. But then my circumstances changed about mid-day, and thanks to a very generous gift, I was able to procure the iPad 2 from the Apple Store in Louisville, Kentucky.

This is not a review of the iPad 2. Those are a dime a dozen at this point. Rather, here are a number of mostly disconnected observations based on my experience over the last four or so days.

Black's Always Cool, But White's the New Black.
I don't know if I was fully decided about which color to get—black or white—until I got in the store, but I was leaning toward white. As I assume most of you know, the original iPad came with only a black bezel around the screen. Now consumers get a choice, albeit limited to only one more choice. In the end, I chose white. It wasn't a nailbiter choice, mind you. I just thought I'd like to have a slightly different experience.

It's interesting that since last Friday afternoon, if you walk into just about any Apple Store, you will primarily see white iPads everywhere. Even the employees are carrying the white models.

I had initially one concern about getting a white iPad: it might show dirt more easily. I wasn't alone in this fear since a friend of mine voiced the same thing, and I heard people interviewed on various tech podcasts say this, too. My hunch is that this concern is especially relevant if you ever owned a white plastic iBook or MacBook. After a few weeks, the white plastic, especially on the palm rest, frankly looked gross. You could clean it, but good luck getting it back to the original pristine white.

The iPad's different though because regardless of whether you get white or back, the plastic is under glass. It's not going to absorb the grime from your hands regardless of how much you refuse to wash them.

And an added benefit? Fingerprints show up less against the white than on the black.

If You Use It to Teach, the iPad 2 Is a Significant Upgrade.
The phrase being thrown around in a lot of reviews is that the iPad 2 is an "evolutionary and not revolutionary upgrade." And this is true (and probably by design). However, there was one major new feature that will benefit anyone who teaches with an iPad: the ability to fully mirror the screen.

With the original iPad, video out was implemented on an app-by-app basis. So presentation programs like Keynote for the iPad could send slide images to a projector if connected with the iPad VGA adapter, but most programs could not.

The ability to throw anything on the screen is pretty exciting. This means that if I'm teaching a New Testament class in Keynote, and I want to switch over to a Bible software application such as BibleReader or Accordance, I can switch to these and perform live instruction from these apps. Every teacher with an iPad and a related educational app has no doubt been frustrated about not having the ability to mirror every screen. Now all that has changed. In fact, this past weekend at church, when I switched between programs, one fellow who's seen me use Keynote on the iPad dozens of times, asked "What's that?" when he saw my desktop of icon folders.

Of course, the first gen iPad has always had this ability as evidenced by Apple's own internal use of this feature during presentations as well as a fairly popular app for this that works with jailbroken iPads. Sadly, Apple has not allowed first generation iPads to have this feature even though they are certainly capable of it.

Contrary to What You May Have Heard, Mirroring Works with the VGA Adapter.
Part of the announcement of iOS mirroring, mentioned above, included a new adapter for connecting the iPad via HDMI to an HD television or an HD projector. This led to a question as to whether video mirroring worked with the original VGA connector released with the first gen iPad. In fact, I waited in line with a buddy of mine who was buying his first iPad. The Apple Store sales rep actually told him that mirroring would only work with the HDMI connector. I told her that this did not square with what Apple's own website states: "Video mirroring and video out support: Up to 1080p with Apple Digital AV Adapter or Apple VGA Adapter (cables sold separately)" (emphasis added; see the iPad Tech Specs page under "TV and Video").

I had already confirmed that the first gen iPad would not mirror with the 4.3 update, but one of the first things I wanted to test was the ability to mirror an iPad 2 with merely the VGA adapter. Using the VGA adapter, I have successfully mirrored the iPad 2 with both my television and an Epson projector. It works great. My main use of the iPad for this is with data projectors, but none that I have access to at the moment use HDMI. So, the VGA adapter works great.

Contrary to What You May Have Heard, the Keyboard Dock Works with the iPad 2.
Recently, I read somewhere that only about a quarter or less of iPad owners use an external keyboard. That's probably a testament to how well the on-screen keyboard works, but I occasionally find myself in situations in which I want to use a regular keyboard with my iPad.

I bought Apple's keyboard dock at the same time I bought my original iPad last year. I liked that it provided a very stable stand for the iPad while typing and that it also had an iPad specific row of function keys. However, I didn't like that it's odd shape made it difficult to fit in a bag or that the iPad could only be used with it in portrait mode. I do a LOT of Keynote work on the iPad, and Keynote will only run in landscape mode. That means using the keyboard dock with the iPad can give you a sore neck really fast. For what it's worth, I have tried the iPad with one of Apple's Bluetooth keyboard and that is probably what I'd recommend that most folks use who want a physical keyboard with their iPad, even though there aren't iPad specific function keys. Incidentally, if you use one of Apple's new "Smart Covers," the iPad is quite stable in upright mode to use with a Bluetooth keyboard.

FYI: stability is an issue in these contexts, because even when using an external keyboard, you still have to use the touch interface of the iPad's screen. You want it to be stable so that it doesn't fall over every time you touch it.

Regardless, the new iPad 2 rests in the original keyboard dock just fine despite its slightly different dimensions. In fact, I used the two together for a faculty observation I was performing last night, and I noticed no difference from the performance with the original iPad. Having said that, though, I still may eventually go with a Bluetooth keyboard myself. It would certainly be easier to carry the two together.

About Those "Smart" Covers.
Apple likes to refer to the iPad as "magical." While that may be a bit of silly hyperbole, the new Smart Covers are the closest thing I've seen yet to anything that might be called magic. It was really somewhat amazing when I first attempted to place the cover on the iPad 2. There seemed to be a bit of AI in play as the cover didn't even wait for me to line it up, but immediately grabbed onto the iPad and was lined up perfectly. The ease of placing the cover on the iPad 2 is quite a contrast from putting Amazon's Kindle cover on their eReader. The first time I tried that, I nearly broke one of the hooks, not understanding how it was supposed to be attached.

This automatic "physical syncing" between the Smart Cover and the iPad 2 is achieved through magnets--31 total between the cover and the iPad 2 according to folks who have taken both apart. Somehow this feels dangerous. I remember when we were told to keep magnets away from our computers!

As amazing as these covers are, somehow my new iPad seems a bit naked. The screen is protected, which is a good thing, but the aluminum backside is bound to get scuffed and scratched after a while. There are numerous companies that provide protective films for screens, and now we might need something similar for the back of the iPad. Or at the very least, all those companies that make iPad cases can breath a sigh of relief because I imagine some iPad owners will opt for a bit more protection.

I actually liked Apple's original folio case with one exception. With the case on, it wouldn't fit in the keyboard dock (which, again, evidently only I liked). So, as some of you remember, I "modified" mine with scissors, but Kathy said it looked unprofessional because I can't cut straight. I also liked how the iPad looked and felt in the folio case when I could carry it into a meeting as if it were a very thin Daytimer.

Besides the gee whiz aspect to the Smart Covers, I have to wonder why Apple went this route. I can only imagine it might be because they got tired of seeing the iPad covered up (or more likely, their logo covered up) whenever an iPad was used in real world situations or on television. With the increasing number of new tablets appearing on the market this year, and inevitably appearing in media and in the workplace, Apple probably wants to make certain that their iPad is distinguishable from the rest of all the forthcoming tablet noise.

Get a Grip.
I wonder if whether longterm, I'll want to put the iPad 2 in a more traditional case. The way it folds to prop itself up, either vertically or at an angle for typing, works great. But Sunday, when I was trying for the first time to use my new iPad with Keynote, connected to a projector, the iPad wouldn't stay at the top of the podium I was using. This was never a problem with the original, black folio case. I could turn the cover back, slip it into its notch to put it at an angle, and it would hold its place, even on a slanted podium. With nothing on the back of the iPad 2, there's nothing to grip the underlying surface. I wanted it to stay at the top of the podium, but it insisted on sliding to the bottom.

With the Smart Cover folded into a triangle, I've found that I also could hold the iPad in one hand, in portrait mode, providing I kept my thumb over the bezel. These magnets are strong, but the cover can still come off quite easily and the entire iPad should never be left hanging from the cover. In fact, I've already dropped mine this way, but fortunately, it landed on my living room couch. But how many of us dropped our first gen iPads and were thankful we had them in a full case? I predict with Smart Covers alone, we're going to see a lot more broken iPads this year.

I wouldn't recommend anyone use an iPad regularly without some kind of protection for it. I believe there are going to be better ways to protect the iPad 2 (none of the first gen covers fit the iPad 2, incidentally) than the Smart Covers, but at the very least you need to have something on your iPad.

Professionalism Comes with a Price.
It's nice to see Apple bringing some visual variety back to its products. In some ways, I miss the colorful days of the fruit-flavored iMacs and original iBooks. Most Apple products in recent years have been black, silver, and sometimes white. Last year's iPad folio cover from Apple only came in black, although third parties supplied a wide variety of colors and designs. Nevertheless, Apple's return to colors, even in this small way, is a welcome change.

The new covers come in either polyurethane or leather. The difference in price is significant—$39 for plastic and $69 for animal hide. I would have been fine with a polyurethane cover, having given up on any need for "real" leather a long time ago, if it were not for one thing. What was not immediately clear to me (and probably a lot of others) is that only the neon/pastel colors are polyurethane, while the darker colors—what I consider to be a better fit for most "professional" contexts—come only in the leather. I would have been more than willing—no, preferred—to buy a lower priced polyurethane cover, but I didn't want ANY of the polyurethane colors. In the end, I opted for the dark blue leather. As already described, there are pros and cons to these covers, but they are pretty amazing for what they are. However, when you hold it by itself in your hand and realize that you just paid $70 for it, well...that's a bit hard to take.

How Much Faster Is It?
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2, he said it was up to twice as fast as the first iPad. It has a faster dual core processor as well as twice as much RAM (although Apple never wants to talk about the RAM in its iOS devices). As everyone has said, the first gen iPad was no slouch, so how distinguishable is the second one? Well, I have no idea; the first iPad was fast enough and in most apps, the difference is imperceptible. However, I do see a real difference in a couple of apps.

First, I see a difference in some Keynote transitions. I'm not one to use too many distracting transitions between slides anyway. A plain dissolve is usually fine with me. However, I do like the "Anagram" transition in Keynote which, when advancing from one slide to another, will use a few letters on the first slide to create the word on the second slide (here's a brief YouTube video of it in action). I like Anagram because it's subtle, but also because I feel it can visually link the concepts in one slide to the next.

On the original iPad, sometimes the Anagram transition would stall a bit. I'd be ready to go to the next slide, but I could tell that Keynote was processing a number of algorithms to get the transition to work. Often I would go through a presentation ahead of time, and if an Anagram transition took too long, I'd simply use a simple dissolve. Sunday, I noticed that none of my transitions were slowed down. The Anagram transition worked without a hitch, no doubt benefitted by the extra RAM and faster processor.

Second, I keep quite a few PDF files on my iPad in GoodReader. Some of them are quite large, hundreds of pages long. I use GoodReader, not because I liked its interface best (I really don't), but rather because it's been more robust than a lot of the other readers, crashing less often than other apps when viewing extremely large documents.

But as good as GoodReader is, I could still crash it on the the larger files, especially if I moved through pages too quickly. With the new iPad, while I don't imagine that the extra memory and faster processor make a program like GoodReader completely crash proof, I have noticed that larger files are much more stable, and I'm seeing fewer crashes.

About Those Cameras...
The biggest criticism the iPad 2 has received relates to the lesser quality of the iPad 2's cameras, although from what I understand, the front facing camera is the same quality as the front facing camera in the iPhone 4. It's the rear camera that receives the bulk of criticism as really lacking in quality. Believe it or not, that rear camera is LESS than one megapixel!

Now every once in a while, for sake of full disclosure, I do remind readers that I own a small amount of Apple stock. However, I have no desire to defend Apple on the quality of the camera, as I would like to have better ones, too. However, I do try to understand Apple's reasoning in issues like this—beyond the mere suggestion most often offered that crummy cameras were offered now, so the better cameras can be a feature of the iPad 3. I'm certain each iteration of the iPad will continue to get better cameras, but why not offer something better right at the beginning?

I can't fully answer that question, but here's my theory. I think that for right now, although the lack of a camera on the first gen iPad was lamented even before it was released, Apple's main goal for cameras on the iPad 2 is to help further solidify FaceTime. Whether this will be successful in the long run, I have no idea. I have FaceTime on my iPhone 4, my Mac and now my iPad, but I think I've only used it a couple of times. I have no doubt that there is a Windows version of FaceTime in the works, too. I really believe Apple is trying to make Facetime as much of a standard as Skype.

And for FaceTime, these cameras are perfectly fine. Of course, I have no doubt that many will use the iPad for photos and recording video, and while I don't believe it's going to be the best tool for that job, Ken Rockwell is surely correct when he says that the best camera is the one you have with you. Fortunately, I usually have my iPhone 4 with me, which is an undecidedly better camera, although not as nice as my Canon Digital Rebel (which I don't often have with me).

If Apple didn't intend for people to shoot video, why would they release iMovie for the iPad? Well, if they didn't, someone else would release a similar product. More on iMovie on the iPad in a bit.

Economics 101.
Another criticism of the iPad 2 is that there is no drop in price from last year's iPad. We're accustomed to seeing technology gradually come down over time. And it's no secret that the cost for production of a product goes down after a time, although I guess the iPad 2 would at least partly count as a different production run.

Again, I'm not wanting to defend Apple here so much as simply understand their motives, and in this case, I think I do. Again, I'm no different than any other customer in that I'd like to pay less for an iPad, too. However, from Apple's perspective, keeping prices the same for right now is good business sense.

Why should Apple drop its prices? You drop your prices in order to be competitive. And here's the key: at this moment, Apple has no competition in this market. I have no doubt that eventually, the tablet field is going to get very crowded. When there's some real competition for the iPad, Apple will decide to drop the price of its device. This will competitively undercut the competition who will still be under the obligation of a higher cost of production to keep their products at a higher cost just to recoup their investment. This is Economics 101, really.

I have no idea if it's true, but I remember when the iPad was first released, reading that some Apple insiders were surprised when the bottom tier iPad was announced at $499 instead of $399. In the big picture, $499 surprised everyone a little bit because Apple rarely sells anything for under $500. A lot of early predicters were expecting the iPad to be higher. But knowing that it costs less than $300 to make, evidently many inside Apple were supposedly told that the iPad would start at $399. And then, according to the rumor, Steve Jobs/Apple changed his/its mind.

And again, why not? Economics 101 again: prices are set by what the market will bear. If customers hadn't gone gangbusters over the iPad, I have no doubt it would have been dropped down to $399 for the starting level within six months. But people kept buying it at the prices set and no competition emerged during 2010, so prices remain the same today.

Competition from other companies will be good for consumers because it will bring iPad prices down as well as prices for competing tablets. Further, competition will result in a better iPad 3, 4, 5, etc. and that will cause better results from the competition as well.

And the Rest...
Here are a few more minor observations:

  • iMovie: My upgrade to iMovie on the iPad was free because I had bought the earlier version released for the iPhone. I tried using it one time on the iPhone a while back and gave up. The iPhone's screen is simply too small for editing video. It was difficult simply based on the impracticality of it. However, iMovie on the iPad is quite handy and pretty easy to use. I doubt I'd ever do much video recording with the iPad, but I did transfer over about four minutes of video I'd recorded on my iPhone. Editing on the iPad was easy and even enjoyable. The themes save a lot of time. There are a number of ways to share the final product, but oddly the MobileMe gallery is missing.

  • GarageBand: Okay, if you've never been into GarageBand on your Mac, don't let  that stop you from taking a look at the iPad version. It's the touchscreen that makes the difference because you can actually play instruments. Even I, with zero musical ability, can fake my way through it with the so-called "Smart Instruments." In fact, I found that doing some basic strumming on the guitar to be quite relaxing, even though I'd have no desire to do so on a real guitar. GarageBand works on all iPads, even last year's, so for $5 give it a try. See a demo video here.

  • Elbow Room: I realize that my use of  an iPad is probably not typical, but with the original iPad, I had run out of room in recent months with the 32 GB version I'd bought last year. I regularly had to move files on and off the iPad based on what I needed for the week, often having to put them back on if I need them again the next week. So, this time, I got the full 64 GB iPad. I'm very pleased. In fact, it was a bit thrilling to be able to download my entire Accordance library over the weekend to my new iPad. I've been using Accordance on the Mac since 1998 and over the years, I've built up quite a digital library. Before, I had to be very selective as to what titles I carried on the iPad. With this larger iPad, I can load everything and not worry about it.

So, those are a few observations. I agree with most who say that if you already have an iPad, the iPad 2 is not a "must have" upgrade. In fact, my wife, Kathy, says that while she wouldn't mind having a new one, doesn't feel any rush to get one. Nevertheless, I feel very fortunate to have mine, especially in light of the ability to mirror screen and the upgrade to the 64 GB model. Feel free to ask question or add your own in the comments.

I've said before that I'm excited about tablet computers in general and the potential they bring. Some are going to prefer the Xoom, or the Playbook, or the Galaxy Tab, and that's fine. These devices, while not currently replacing everything a computer can do, certainly give us greater freedom and mobility when we can use them instead of a computer. Yes, there will always be the next big version of each of them coming down the pike, but if you don't have one yet, I encourage you not to wait, but instead, jump in and enjoy the party.