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Archive for the ‘Company Insights’ Category

PocketBible for Mac OS: Design Principles

Posted on: July 8th, 2013 by Craig Rairdin 5 Comments

PocketBible for Mac OSWhile it may not be evident from the outside, there are certain philosophies, both of Bible study and software design, that strongly influence each of our Bible study apps regardless of platform. While we’re not at a point where we can give a concrete demonstration of PocketBible for Mac OS, we can talk about how those philosophies will influence our work.

In no particular order:

You should spend most of your time in PocketBible wrestling with the Bible text, not with your Bible software. This means that frequently accessed functionality should be immediately available, and that you shouldn’t have to deal with overlapping windows that obscure the text you’re trying to read. You shouldn’t be thinking about how to arrange things on the screen or how to access basic functions like navigating to a verse or creating a note, but instead be thinking about what you’re reading and how it applies to your life.

While we should consider specific use cases and how they are served by our design, we shouldn’t design around the use cases. We think a lot about all the things you might want to do with your Bible software, like search for a word, compare Bible translations, and view a commentary on a passage. This list of ways that you use our software defines a set of “use cases” (or “user stories”).

Informally, a “use case” or “user story” is a combination of a specific goal (“User must be able to search the text for a given word or phrase”) and a description of the steps or interactions with the program necessary to meet that goal. Programmers use these use cases as part of validating that their solution meets the user’s requirements.

Some Bible software companies make the mistake of creating new user interface elements for every use case. In these programs, when you’re in “search mode” the program looks and behaves differently than it does while just browsing through the text. When you want to compare two translations of the Bible, the second one pops up in a window that may obscure a portion of what you’re reading, and which doesn’t have all the functionality you have in your “main” Bible. And the only way to view a commentary might be to split your Bible window to show a commentary beneath it, with no consideration given to how you might open a second commentary or that you might not want to lose space for Bible text when viewing a commentary. And while you might consider “commentaries” and “dictionaries” to be just “reference books” and expect them to work similarly, the program might display dictionaries in the form of pop-up windows when activated for a particular word, covering other text and behaving differently than commentaries, devotionals and other reference books.

We will try to create a flexible user interface where, for example, search results, bookmark lists, lists of notes, and other “lists of verses” share a common user interface component or pattern, and where opening a Bible to compare to the current one is no different than opening a dictionary, commentary, devotional, or any other book. There’s less to learn and there are fewer surprises.

PocketBible for Mac OS should not necessarily look like PocketBible for Windows, PocketBible for Android, or even PocketBible for iOS. While it should share a lot of design, algorithms, and even code with those platforms, it should look and feel like a Mac app, not a Windows app ported to the Mac or even an iOS app ported to the Mac. We like to take the best features of all our previous apps and combine them with fixes to the mistakes we made in previous apps and wrap them in a user interface that is consistent with the other apps on the target platform.

Mac users should not feel like they are being accommodated, but rather that Laridian considers Mac to be a primary platform for its products, and PocketBible for Mac a flagship product. We confess that we treat certain platforms as second-class citizens. For example, both our BlackBerry and webOS apps were “Bible only” apps, and neither shared the LBK file format used by our other apps. BlackBerry was primarily an enterprise (business) platform, and the future of webOS was always doubtful. This made it difficult to commit the time and money to those platforms that would’ve been necessary to really do them right. Mac OS is different. It is our intention to make it difficult to tell if we’re “Mac people” or “Windows people” because of our level of commitment to both platforms.

PocketBible for Mac OS will focus on the needs of the 99% of Christians who are neither “clergy” nor “Bible scholars”. Most of our customers occupy the pews on Sunday morning and work in secular jobs during the week. While many are Sunday School teachers or Bible study leaders and a few are pastors, most are simply everyday Christians with a love of the Bible. Some have some experience with Greek or Hebrew, but most don’t do their daily devotional reading from the Greek New Testament. PocketBible for Mac OS may include resources like the Greek New Testament and meaty, scholarly commentaries, but its focus will be on concise, accessible works that help the average Christian understand and apply the teachings of the Bible in their daily walk. It’s not that we have a disdain for the original languages, but rather that, as Bible software users and everyday Christians ourselves, we understand there are people out there who understand those languages significantly better than we do, and it’s better, faster, and easier for us to read what they’ve written in English about the Bible than to depend on our own spotty and questionable original language knowledge.

Of course, the 1% of you who dream in Greek will want a different Bible study app. PocketBible may not be for you. We understand that; you’re not our target user.

Given a choice, we will take functionality over complexity; usability over displays of our technical prowess, and simplicity over beauty. We’re not trying to solve every problem in the field of computerized Bible study, but instead we’re trying to provide a tool that can help you solve the most common problems you encounter in your everyday study of the BIble. We’re not trying to flex our programming muscles to win your admiration, but instead give you something you can be expected to use and understand with minimal learning time. We feel that beauty is often only skin-deep; that simplicity and elegance are beautiful in their own way. You may find another girl who looks prettier, but PocketBible is the girl you want to take home to meet your parents and be with forever.

We hope this helps you understand more about how we think about Bible software, how we try to focus on the way you study the Bible, and that you can see how that is implemented in PocketBible for Mac OS X.

NEW! Export, Share and Publish your PocketBible Notes, Bookmarks and Highlights

Posted on: October 16th, 2012 by Michelle Stramel 26 Comments

Are you a prolific note-taker, highlighter or bookmarker in PocketBible? We have wonderful news for you! We have a new option on our website that lets you instantly pull your personal data (notes, highlights and bookmarks) out of PocketBible for the purpose of sharing, re-purposing or turning into your own PocketBible book (with BookBuilder). Whichever you want to do!

Possibilities abound

Over the years, PocketBible users have asked for the ability to export their valuable personal data out of the program. Yes, you can now do this but we’ve taken it a step further. You choose whether you want to export your notes, highlights or bookmarks. With any of those three options, we provide you with an html file that you can:

  • Use as-is
  • Bring into a text editor and reformat and publish in a format for sharing (i.e. PDF, .doc, .txt, etc.)
  • Publish as a PocketBible book using Laridian BookBuilder program (sold separately)

What kind of book could you publish for PocketBible?

  • A dictionary of your Bible bookmarks, where each dictionary entry is a bookmark category.
  • A commentary based on your verse notes.
  • A dictionary of your Bible highlights, where each dictionary entry is a highlight color.

To encourage your self-publishing efforts, we’ve lowered the prices of both versions of BookBuilder:

There’s never been a better time to consider publishing a PocketBible book!

Getting Started

The first step is to synchronize your PocketBible data with the Laridian Server. A synchronization option is available in every version of PocketBible (except Android OS – still to come!) The second step is to login to your account on the Laridian website and choose the new My Data link. You’ll find complete information on what you can do with your data and how to do it.

Let us know what you think

We hope you like this new flexibility in using your personal PocketBible data. Is this something you will use? Let us know how you will share your writings in the comments below.

Everything I Need to Know About Business I Learned from Ronald McDonald

Posted on: September 4th, 2012 by Craig Rairdin 1 Comment

The other day I was joking with my wife that I should write a book of life lessons that I learned from my first job: Flipping hamburgers at McDonalds. Today one of those lessons played out in real life.

McDonalds was known back in the 70’s for its fast service. As long as you didn’t want your burger with no pickles or your fries with no salt, we usually had your order cooked before you arrived. We counted heads in the lobby and had a formula for how much meat to put on the grill. It usually worked out pretty well.

Sometimes, though, we ended up throwing away food that sat under the heat lamps too long. At the end of the day, the manager had to dig through a big garbage can full of that day’s waste and count how many of each type of sandwich was in there so he could do inventory. This was especially nasty if there were milkshakes mixed in with the Quarter Pounders and Big Macs.

One night, one of the girls who worked the cash registers asked the boss, “Why don’t you just write down each thing as you throw it away so you don’t have to count it at the end of the day?” He looked at her for a second then looked at his garbage can full of Shamrock-shake-soaked McMuffins, muttered something unsuitable for inclusion here, and the next day there was a clipboard by the heat lamps and no more counting waste.

Today one of our publishers asked if we could send them their royalties on an annual rather than a quarterly basis. They said they’re trying to reduce their processing costs and they’d rather handle one giant report at the end of the year than four smaller ones sent four times throughout the year. That’s kind of a pain in the neck for us, because we’re set up to do everything quarterly.

So I suggested that they cash our checks every quarter (that just requires a rubber stamp endorsement) but file away the detailed report until the end of the year, at which time they can pull four quarterly reports out of the file and do whatever it is they have to do with them that is so complicated. My guess is they won’t be very receptive to that idea, so I’ll just do the same here: When I get their check from our accountant I’ll shred it and file away the report. At the end of the year when they email me to ask “Where are our royalties?” I’ll get out the reports, add up the total, get a check issued, and send it to them.

Maybe this is the opposite of what I learned at McDonalds (“Sometimes it’s easier to keep track as you go than to do it all at one time.”). But it’s close. What are you doing that would be easier if you either put it off until you could do the sum of a few smaller tasks all at one time, or if you kept track as you went along instead of doing it all at once later?

What’s free with PocketBible?

Posted on: June 28th, 2012 by Michelle Stramel 2 Comments

Free PocketBible Books

We often get asked about what free books are available for use with PocketBible. Here’s a one-stop answer to that question.

We offer a variety of free books in different book categories so you can try the program out and see what it can do as well as build your library. Step one is to make sure you actually own PocketBible (or one of our related readers/software programs). Or in other words, you need a reader even to use the free books we offer.

All versions of PocketBible are free to download. This includes PocketBible for iOS (aka iPhone/iPad/iPod touch), Android OS, Windows PC, Windows Mobile and Palm OS. Laridian Bibles also work with Simple Bible Pro for webOS and Noah Bible Study Viewer for BlackBerry (non-PocketBible programs have to be purchased – see product pages for details).

Once you have PocketBible downloaded for your smartphone, tablet or PC, you can download and access our free books (as well as any titles you purchase). For iOS and Android OS, the books are available to you upon registration automatically. Simply log in to your Laridian account within the program and download them. For other platforms or devices, you must order them on our web site (links are below) to add them to your Laridian account for download.

We can offer these titles free because they are in the public domain (not copyrighted). If you have any suggestions for other public domain titles you’d like to see us publish, let us know in the comments below.

Jeff Wheeler

Posted on: May 7th, 2012 by Craig Rairdin 48 Comments

My friend and Laridian co-founder Jeff Wheeler passed away this morning, the victim of a rare and particularly aggressive form of cancer. He was 49.

Jeff and I worked together for 27 years at three different companies and founded Laridian together. The features that you love in QuickVerse and PocketBible and which you often praise me for were likely Jeff’s ideas and his doing. If I didn’t build on Jeff’s foundation, he would dig me a new foundation while I was paying attention to something else. He was my sounding board and my reference library. While being all this to me, he still managed to deeply impact his family for Christ and touch others through his home school choir, his leadership in his local church, and his service to his denomination’s state board.

Men like this do not pass this way often. Well lived, Jeff.

Why Have All My Books Been Updated?

Posted on: February 1st, 2012 by Craig Rairdin 2 Comments
If you’re using PocketBible on your iPhone or iPad, you may have noticed a message on the “Add/Remove Books” screen saying that many of your books have been updated. You’ll also see a similar message if you use PocketBible for Windows or one of the older mobile platforms and visit the “Downloads” page in your account at our website.

I mentioned in a recent Android update that we were going to have to rebuild all our books to support some new search features in the Android version of PocketBible. That turned out to be a 6-8 week rather than a 1-2 week exercise. Part of the reason is that since we had to touch every book that we publish, we used that opportunity to fix all the reported errors that we had on file for each book.

Many of these errors are all but invisible to the user. As a result we tend to let them accumulate for a while rather than jumping on every typo and minor formatting error as soon as we hear about it. The problem is that those things add up after a while and frankly our list had gotten overwhelming. We had one BookBuilder customer who volunteered to help a while back. He did a few books but then gave up. So this seemed like a great opportunity to just clean that list out since we had to look at every single book anyway.

In order to minimize the load on the server from everyone being told all their books had been updated, we created a way we could update the files on the server without the server thinking they had been updated. So the only time we allowed the server to know a particular book had been updated was if it was on the list of books in which noticeable changes had been made. If all we did was change “Laridian Electronic Publishing” to “Laridian, Inc.” (because one is our name and one is not) in the book’s meta data, we didn’t bother to have the server tell you about the change. But if we fixed a number of links or typographical errors — something you would notice — we had the server tell you about it.

We were also a little concerned about the load on the server if everyone went out and started re-downloading all their books. So we didn’t make a big deal about it, and we uploaded the books a few at a time over the last couple of months.

So if PocketBible or our website is telling you that a book has been updated, it means we fixed something that you might notice if you were paying close attention. In reality all the books were updated, but none of our programs currently make use of the new features that necessitated the update. So it’s only necessary to update the ones that say they need to be updated, and then you really only need to update them if you’re picky about every little typo.

We’re not virtual anymore!

Posted on: January 29th, 2012 by Michelle Stramel 11 Comments

If you’ve ever visited the About page on our website in the past, you may have read:

This is as close as you’re going to come to visiting our “facilities”. Laridian is a virtual corporation where employees work from their homes. Currently we’re spread out over three states. We rely heavily on electronic means of communication, though those of us working in our hometown of Cedar Rapids, IA frequently meet in person just to keep from going crazy, if nothing else.

Well, times have changed and we’d like to officially announce that we have left our home-based, coffee shop, Skype’ing days behind us for a physical location where we all work together in one office in Cedar Rapids, IA. Yes, there are a few unhappy coffee shop owners in the area but for Laridian it has been a great move. We all loved the perks of working from home (i.e. optional showering, work in your pj’s) but now, having tried the alternative, we have to admit that there are some definite advantages to working together in the same building. We’ve already seen improvements in productivity in every area of the company. And as far as communication goes, we only have to get up and take a short walk to find out what is going on with a co-worker. We’ve replaced our “virtual” reality with a “new” reality that isn’t half bad and might just be worth having to take a daily shower.

Why the change? Until this summer we had used a number of outside contractors and companies to create the books and Bibles that go into PocketBible. When this process was working, it worked well. But recently, two of our best outside contractors had changes in their situations that robbed them of the free time they were devoting to tagging books. As a result it was taking longer and longer to get finished books. So we decided to bring this operation in-house. In addition to having more control over the schedule, we thought it would be easier to manage.

When putting together the budget for the new employees, we decided to include office space, office furniture, computers, internet connections, and everything else we’d need to operate a “real” office. It turned out the cost wasn’t really that bad, and the benefit of having the new people sitting right next to seasoned veterans made training a breeze. So we rented some office space close to Craig and Jeff’s house, then hired the editors. The result is that you saw more new titles from us in the last quarter of 2011 than in some previous entire years.

Just this month, the last of our home-based employees moved into the office with us. Yesterday, we made it official by putting a sign up on the door telling the world (and the FedEx driver) we’re here. So you won’t find us out in the virtual world any longer – we’ve come down to earth and we hope it will be for your benefit.

Craig Rairdin, Christian Computing Hall of Fame Inductee – Part II

Posted on: September 30th, 2011 by Michelle Stramel 4 Comments

A couple of months back we reported the great news that Craig Rairdin, President of Laridian, had been inducted into the Christian Computing Hall of Fame. For those who enjoy the story behind the story, Christian Computing has published an article in their September issue, written by Laridian Vice President Jeff Wheeler, that tells more about Craig and his contributions to the Bible software industry.

Laridian President Inducted into Christian Computing Hall of Fame

Posted on: July 29th, 2011 by Michelle Stramel 13 Comments

We’re pleased to let you know that Laridian President, Craig Rairdin, is one of five charter inductees into the Christian Computing Hall of Fame. Craig is being honored for his significant contributions toward the use of computers and technology in Christian ministry.

The inductees were announced in the July Issue (links to PDF) of Christian Computing Magazine.

Is the iPad the perfect platform for PocketBible?

Posted on: June 21st, 2011 by Michelle Stramel 41 Comments

In a recent post, I asked if you were still using a print version Bible along with PocketBible. Although not a scientific survey, of forty-some comments via Facebook and the web, around 35% of you are still using print regularly and another 20% are using it occasionally – mostly for personal study at home or in preaching (we still can’t trust electronic entirely!). I related to the person who mentioned that he uses print so he is not distracted by emails, texts, Facebook, etc. when he is trying to read the Bible. I can further add that a printed Bible does not attract the notice of children (or adults) in the same manner that an electronic device does, giving the printed Word another advantage for quiet times. In summary, the electronic and print still seem to offer something that cannot be replaced entirely by the other. Although I couldn’t help but notice a certain “extra” enthusiasm about PocketBible from the iPad owners.

I’ve always thought the iPad looked cool but there’s no way I’d part with $500 for what I consider to be a non-essential electronic device. However, your comments intrigued me and I was able to borrow an iPad and use it for the last week or so. Let’s just say, I “get” your enthusiasm. I haven’t felt this way about a device since I first got my iPhone. As a personal study tool and a replacement for a paper Bible, I can’t imagine anything better. However, if I prepared Bible studies or wrote sermons, I think I would continue to use PocketBible for Windows at my desktop. And, of course, PocketBible on my iPhone would be used because I always have my phone with me. But, yes, PocketBible for iPad along with all the other features of the iPad is making $500 seem like a wise investment rather than an extravagance.

What’s to love about the iPad?

1. iPads are more portable than a laptop and they turn on instantly. I don’t carry my laptop around the house and it sure doesn’t turn on instantly even from sleep mode.

2. It still has that “geeky-cool” factor (as one customer put it) and everything, including PocketBible, game apps, web sites, looks great on it.

3. PocketBible for iPad. It beats out PocketBible for iPhone in my book for one really important reason: screen size. For the first time, I’m using the split screen option regularly – up to 5 windows open on the iPad is amazing. The extra buttons on the toolbar and the extra toolbox make changing settings and adding highlights and bookmarks easier. And I love that the search feature shows results for all my books instead of just the current one. On the iPad, there is more room to spread out and, for me, that makes it more enjoyable to use.

iPad owners, am I missing anything about PocketBible or the iPad in general?

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