Paging vs. Scrolling on the iPhone

Posted on: November 17th, 2009 by Craig Rairdin 62 Comments

I guess I’m going to have to address this issue at some point, so here we go.

Apparently one of the more controversial decisions we made with PocketBible for the iPhone was to follow the other major eBook reader software like Kindle and eReader and present the text a page at a time rather than continuously scrolling. That is, to move through the text of a PocketBible Bible or book, you swipe right to left (or just tap on the right side of the page) to “turn the page”. The new page enters from the right.

The alternative is to present Bibles and books as a long stream of continuously scrolling text and allow you to use drags and flicks to smoothly scroll the text. This method is followed (with some variations) by some other Bible software programs.

You Only Think You’ve Seen Continuously Scrolling Text Everywhere

People tend to point to applications like Safari, which lets you flick around on a Web page to scroll up, down, left and right, and claim that “all iPhone apps let you flick to scroll”. This is true when you have a limited amount of text, but not when the text is virtually unlimited. For example, a Web page is a finite amount of text (and images and whatever). It can be rendered once into an in-memory buffer, then portions of that buffer can be moved onto the screen as needed. More importantly, the overall dimensions of the page are easily determined. The programmer can tell the iPhone “I’ll be scrolling around on a 1391- by 3287- pixel image of this page.” That way, the iPhone knows when you’ve hit the “top” or “bottom” of the page and can do that cool “bounce” animation it does when you try to go past the edges.

Even large scrolling lists — like your list of contacts or PocketBible’s search results list — have bounds that are easily determined. It’s easy to count your contacts or your PocketBible search results, multiply by the height of one contact or search result entry in the list, and tell the iPhone the result. So 25,000 search results times 80 pixels is 2,000,000 pixels. If you go past 2,000,000 the iPhone knows you’re at the end and stops asking for more (in this case it actually stops because you’re looking at the 25,000th item, but down inside the code it’s animating the end-of-list behavior based on the y-coordinate being greater than or equal to 2,000,000).

The iPhone needs to know how tall your view is going to be. The problem with the text in PocketBible is that it’s practically infinite in length, and the time it would take to calculate the height needed is probably measured in hours (or at least in minutes), not the milliseconds you expect when you open a book or change the font/size you’re using to display text. The iPhone needs to know this height and we can’t calculate it in a timely fashion.

There are ways around this, but because we can’t calculate the height in advance we’re violating a built-in assumption the iPhone has about scrolling views. So that means we have to code our own scrolling view or at a minimum do some nasty jury-rigging to fake the iPhone into believing it has a finite-length view when in fact it doesn’t.

You’ve probably run into apps like Facebook which shows you 25-50 items in a list then allows you to press a button to load more. Again, you think you’re seeing a long, continuous list but in reality you’re seeing a short, finite-length list and you have an option to see a longer, finite-length list. You just think it’s an infinitely long list.

When To Load the Text?

Because the text of the Bible or a reference book is so long, it’s impractical to load the whole thing into memory at once (both to determine its size and to have it available for continuous scrolling). So we use techniques that allow us to load the text in pieces. (In our case, one paragraph at a time.) The problem, of course, is that it takes just as long to load the whole book one paragraph at a time as it does to simply load the whole book into memory. To get around this, we make use of idle moments (such as while the view is “coasting to a stop” after a flick) to load some more text. Normally the processor isn’t doing anything during this time, so you don’t notice that we’re loading text at that time.

The problem is that it can take longer than that time to load a paragraph. And you may be furiously flicking through text, not giving us time to do any loading. In these cases, we end up using time that is normally spent to recognize your input gestures. As a result, the system seems to be slow to recognize your gestures, and the motion of the text gets jerky.

At some point, we have to draw the text to the screen, which also takes time. One option is to launch a second thread to draw text that has been loaded and decompressed. But since the iPhone has only one processor with one core, this second thread is no more efficient than the method described above (using idle time on the main thread).

Furthermore, there are limits on what kind of drawing you can do in a second thread. Because the iPhone is a relatively new OS and doesn’t have the maturity of, say, Windows Mobile (which, like iPhone OS vs. Mac OS, is also a subset of its desktop counterpart), there are significant missing components for drawing text in anything but the main thread. Apple assumes you’re going to do all your text rendering with its built-in Web view component. But it, too, is an immature component and doesn’t have all the features we need to support everything we need to do with and to the text. So they give us one really nice why to draw text, but limit it to only being used in the main thread of the application. The text functions that can be accessed from other threads are more limited in their scope.

A Little History

Our initial implementation of PocketBible used continuous scrolling. We released an alpha version (a preliminary release that was nowhere near feature-complete) to a small group of testers in January 2009 with the goal of releasing the finished product in March. Because of all the problems described above (and more), the scrolling was a bit clunky. I actually thought it wasn’t horrible once you got used to it, but the alpha testers hated it and sent us back to the drawing board.

For the next six months I tried variations on when to load text, how much text to load, what thread to load text in, when to draw, what thread to draw in, etc., eventually writing at least four complete, from the ground-up, implementations of loading, rendering, and scrolling text. Late in the process I threw it all away and started again and had a relatively good implementation. We released beta 1 and the testers weren’t happy with the scrolling performance.

This was pretty disappointing. We were tempted to just go ahead with this implementation, but when we tested with the newly released OS 3.0 the performance was significantly worse. Something had changed with the new OS and would have required starting over again.

What do the Other Guys Do?

At this point I paused and did a survey of other similar software. I wanted to see what kind of performance they were getting during scrolling, and if there was anything I could divine from applying a programmer’s eye to the use of their software. I opted to look at general ebook software like Kindle, eReader, and Stanza. I chose not to look at other Bible software because the general ebook readers have larger user bases and well-funded, professional development teams.

What I found was a constant use of a “paging” metaphor as opposed to “scrolling”. This was interesting. If they were “getting away with this” with their enormous customer bases then potentially we could do likewise.

User Fatigue and Reading Comprehension

Within a couple days I had a paginated user interface up and running and for the most part, the beta testers liked it. Sure, there were those who really wanted to scroll. But there were others who actually preferred the paginated approach. They found it required a lot less concentration on manipulating the text and allowed them to focus on reading. Their fingers weren’t in the way all the time. And when they tapped the screen they knew it was going to move exactly one page instead of flicking and having to figure out when/if to stop it from scrolling too far, then having to find their place.

This was encouraging because it gave us some very real benefits to the new approach. Paging required less interaction and less concentration on navigating, thus allowing more concentration on reading and comprehension. And the performance was adequate and the implementation simple.

At about the same time my daughter was complaining about a college class that required them to read hundreds of pages of PDF files from the professor’s Web site. The school made the case that this was part of their “green” initiative, but my daughter found that in order to easily read and mark up the text it was necessary to first print it, thus negating the green argument and costing her a fortune in paper and ink. (Ironically, whereas the school could easily have printed this material on a two-sided printer, my daughter could only print on one side, thus costing TWICE as many trees as the “non-green” solution.)

This led me to do some research on online reading vs. reading in print. It seems to be a consistent conclusion that offline reading (from paper) results in better reading comprehension. One of the reasons that was cited was that the eyes can easily go from line to line and from page to page in print, but when reading from the screen the eyes have to constantly adjust for the motion caused by scrolling. The difficulty of moving the screen to the next full screen of text resulted in the eyes and brain having to continuously re-locate their position in the text. The resulting diminished comprehension negatively impacts test scores and was one more point against my daughter’s school’s “green” initiative.

Interestingly, the results of this research could easily be applied to what we were doing on PocketBible. When you flick the text you have to stop and figure out where you’re at. When you turn a page you know right where to continue reading. If you avoid this by slowly scrolling as you read, your eyes can’t move from line to line as easily as they can when those lines aren’t moving. And your fingers get in the way.

So Where do we Stand?

In summary, the reason PocketBible doesn’t have continuous scrolling isn’t because we haven’t thought of it. It’s because we’ve tried several ways of doing it and none has resulted in acceptable performance.

While pagination started as a second-choice user interface, it turns out it’s used by all the large, well-funded, popular ebook reader software for the iPhone. And it turns out it has documented benefits when it comes to user fatigue and reading comprehension.

It cannot be argued that pagination is “not the iPhone way”. The large, continuously scrolling text often cited as examples of “the iPhone way” isn’t actually as large as our text. And there are lots of similar applications that don’t use scrolling as their user interface for books. So while it can be said that continuous scrolling is an iPhone way to interact with books, it cannot be said that it is the iPhone way.

I’m aware of the fact that other Bible software uses scrolling instead of paging. I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether they do this successfully or just “acceptably” in the opinion of their users. I’ve also heard that some do continuous scrolling within a chapter (thus avoiding the problem of having a large amount of text) but then have another gesture that means “next chapter”. This is great for Bibles but doesn’t solve anything for other types of reference books. And it creates a weird concept of “sometimes you flick to scroll and sometimes you have to do something else” to see the next bit of text.

I don’t have any insight into the other guys’ code so I can’t comment on why they may get acceptable scrolling behavior when we don’t. Maybe their standards aren’t as high. Maybe their code isn’t as feature-rich. Maybe they’re better programmers than we are. In the end it’s irrelevant. We are all playing the cards we were dealt. Knowing someone else at another table has a better hand than I do doesn’t mean I can win at my table. To continue but convolute the metaphor, you can either stay in the game with us or you can go play with someone else. We can’t control your behavior.

We have not disclosed our plans for any future features of PocketBible, other than to say we’re continuously working on it, and that the features you see in other versions of PocketBible will find their way into the iPhone version in the future. We have a long list of must-have features in PocketBible and a long-list of suggestions from all of you. We consider the must-have list to be the more important one at this time. We’ve been implementing little things from the suggestion list as we work through big things on the must-have list, but are prioritizing useful new functionality over simply changing the way things work.

Pagination is a feature that is not broken and doesn’t need to be fixed. While we may look at wasting another six months on scrolling in the future, we’ll do that at a time when it won’t cause other very necessary features to be delayed.

Before You Comment…

This article is meant to be informative, not to launch discussion. We already know that some of you would prefer to scroll rather than page through the text. If you’re just writing to tell us that, then you must not have comprehended this article very well. Try paging through it instead of scrolling. πŸ™‚

Furthermore, this article summarizes some complicated programming issues into imprecise layperson’s terminology. Like a paraphrase of the Bible, there is a lot lost in the process. If you are not a programmer and think you have an idea for doing this in a way we haven’t tried, don’t bother to comment. Chances are good you don’t really understand the issues and I won’t be able to tell you that without insulting you. If you’re a programmer and are sure you know how to do this better than we do, I remind you you haven’t seen our code so don’t know what we’re working with, then ask you to send completed, working code to me by email instead of discussing it here where we’ll only confuse the masses.

Comments are moderated. I will remove references to other iPhone programs. I will remove feature requests and off-topic posts. I will remove links to other sites. I may remove other things I haven’t thought of.

Now, other than the above, feel free to comment. πŸ™‚

62 Responses

  1. MarcT says:

    As a programmer, I think it was a very clear explanation of the problems you face and the tradeoffs involved in coming to the decision you did. I’ve also learned from experience that convincing a user that a certain problem is _hard_, when to them it looks easy (and especially when x, y, and z already do it), is nearly impossible. So thanx for shipping the best solution you could find, and for being transparent about the process.

    You’re basically saying, “We can’t make your 1-ton pickup get 35 mpg while towing a horse trailer”, and people reply, “But my subcompact hybrid gets 45 mpg! Why can’t you? And don’t give me a bunch of technobabble about power-to-weight ratios and aerodynamics!” Good luck with those people.

  2. Josh S says:

    Hi Craig,
    I appreciate you taking the time to explain this issue. My comment is not THAT I prefer scrolling, but WHY I think I (and maybe others) appreciate that capability for a Bible application where it might not be as important for an eReader application.
    For an eReader, the typical use case is very linear; when I’m reading a news article or a novel, once I turn the page, I don’t turn it back. When I’m using my phone to view the Bible, I generally want to look at the context of a verse and appreciate the capability to flexibly get the portion of scripture on the screen intuitively.
    Thanks again.

  3. Marc: Thanks for getting it.

    Josh: Of course, WHY you prefer scrolling is irrelevant, since THAT you prefer scrolling is irrelevant. πŸ™‚

    While respecting your opinion of why scrolling is better for your use case, I personally disagree with the basis of your case. I regularly re-start a paragraph in a Kindle book (which might be on a previous page) if I don’t understand it or if my mind is drifting while reading. In fact, I find that I go back and re-read a passage MORE often in Kindle books than in the Bible, because in the former case I’m “on autopilot” — just reading the text page after page for pleasure — and in the latter case I’m reading each word carefully for comprehension. My mind is more likely to drift while reading from the Kindle app than while studying in PocketBible because I’m generally more focussed while reading the Bible. And when my mind drifts I have to go back and re-read.

    Furthermore, with PocketBible I generally go directly to the passage I want to read. Last Sunday we were studying Hebrews 10:24-25. I went to Heb 10:24 and read both verses. I never had to go back a page to see part of the passage because I went there to begin with. If a person is in the habit, however, of turning to the start of the chapter then turning pages to get to verse 24, it could be that only part of verse 24 is visible on a page. That’s just a misuse of the program.

    If the passage is longer than a page, then one might want to turn back a page or two to get to the beginning of the passage. Simply tapping a couple times does that for you. You don’t have to look for the starting verse of the passage — it will be at the top of the page when you get there.

    What I’m saying is that the argument in favor of scrolling (that it’s easier to get the passage on the screen that you want) may indicate more of a problem with how the program is being used than the tools the program gives you to interact with the text. And the argument that you seldom go backwards in a novel while you do that frequently in a Bible is only arguably true.

    And if you just want to go back in the text and get some context, there’s no difference between scrolling and paging. You can’t make the argument that “context” means N lines or pixels, and that the inability therefore to scroll exactly N lines or pixels means you can’t get context. “Context” is a general term, and being able to turn a page at a time in reverse is no better or worse for determining context than being able to scroll N lines or pixels at a time.

    My point isn’t that you’re wrong, but that your argument isn’t sound. You can still prefer scrolling, but your argument doesn’t prove that scrolling is qualitatively better. Just that you prefer it.

    I would encourage you to give paging the benefit of the doubt and try it for a while. You may find that you sometimes flick to scroll, even after using the program for a while, but I think you’ll find that there’s no real qualitative difference between scrolling and paging for most practical purposes and that such arguments are merely academic.

  4. Michael Werle says:

    First, I agree that page turning is fine once you get used to it. It’s very rare when you can’t just bump a few verses one way or the other and set convenient page boundaries.

    That being said, there is a certain element of consistency in a platform that users expect, and while experts learn to use and even appreciate exceptional features for unusual applications (reading the Bible is not like reading a web page or a novel), beginning users often think of different as bad.

    As a developer, I wonder if it would be possible to pre-compute scrolling positions, either by full volume (e.g. the Bible, a dictionary, ete.) or by some smaller sub-division (book of the Bible, letter in the alphabet for a dictionary, etc.) for every line, and ship that data for all reasonable font sizes and all default iPhone fonts.

    Note that I haven’t done any iPhone development. That being said, I know that relatively immature (

  5. Peter says:

    Great post, Craig. I thought that the initial part of it sounded familiar as it had come up with the WM team some time back. πŸ™‚

    Personally, I’m okay with the paging thing, especially if I turn off animations. It makes for a snappier experience on my WM device and lets me keep going w/out too much of an interruption. On a semi-related topic, I’ve found the concept of flick-scrolling to be a little painful at times – either the text scrolls too fast or I can’t actually stop it when I want to and flick past my desired stopping point too often.

    Regardless, this was a great explanation of the problem and why you made the decisions that you made. I appreciate the work your team does and PB is one of the first things I load up when I upgrade or get a new device.

  6. Wes says:

    Hi Craig,

    I cannot agree with you more. I started using another free Bible program for my iPhone while I waited for you to finish PocketBible and it uses the scrolling technique. At first it was “cool” using what many consider to be the iPhone way of scrolling text, but I quickly became less satisfied with it. I also noticed that both the Kindle app and the Stanza app (most consider this the best eBook reader for the iPhone) used the pagination method.

    So, I agree with you that it’s the better way to read electronically. And, now that you’ve stated more of the research that backs my personal opinion, it sure seems that it doesn’t matter even whether or not you find a better way to programmatically load pages for scrolling, since pagination decreases User Fatigue and increases Reading Comprehension over scrolling.

    Your customers greatly benefit from your due diligence, research, coding, etc. – even when we don’t know it. πŸ˜‰

    Thank you for all that you and your team at Laridian do for us, your customers (and for God’s Kingdom)!

  7. Chris Buri says:

    Hi Craig, Thanks for this post as it is informative about the issues involved. While it took me a little bit of time to get used to the iPhone app vs. the WinMobile version I think that the page by page implementation works well. I have used the Kindle app a lot on my iPod Touch as well as the Stanza app and the pagination works similarly so it all feels “right” (subjective but you get my point). I think that the toggle controls overlay is genius and makes it so easy if I want to back up a verse or a chapter and can’t remember which quadrant of the screen does what . . .

    Thanks as well for the notes feature in 1.1! I used that this past Sunday and it was a welcome addition to the iPhone version. And lastly, the copy verse/passage implementation on the iPhone version is my favorite new addition. Very easy to use and set the begin and end verses.

    OK – I’m off topic now but just wanted to express my thanks for a great product.

  8. Kevin Purcell says:

    I was one of the beta testers who complained when they switched to scrolling. I think I might have even panned it in my review. But now that I have used it and after reading the info above about the research about reading pages v. scrolling text online, I am not as opposed. In fact I like it since the few times I actually use my iPhone in public speaking situations have a set amount of text that doesn’t move until I do something very consciences like tap or swipe the screen.
    BTW Craig, hope you are healing well.

  9. John says:

    I’m not sure logic will convince anybody. It is like he verse picker approach. The “iPhone way” is to use the spin-wheel method. And when you indicated that you were going to give everybody the 3-tap or spin-wheel option I saw that many people expressed a strong preperence for the spin-wheel. In reality I bet almost all of those have switched to the 3-tap method. The page method you have chosen is faster for most reading and I think I would now prefer it over continuous scroll if I had the choice. Maybe this is where the “grass is always greener” metaphor applies. It seems for many that choice/familiar trumps logic. Remember New Coke?

  10. Jayson says:

    Thanks Craig for all the info. I gather that this is a rather sensitive topic for yourself and a lot of users. I appreciate the months of pain that you went through looking for a nice solution…

    However, I spent the first few weeks changing books when I really just wanted to read some of the following text. And everyone that I’ve shown it to and ask them to get to the next bit of text, does the same (both iPhone users and non iPhone users). I guess most users (well, a small selection of Australian users anyway πŸ˜‰ are accustomed to scrolling through text that is on an electronic display. Could it be that it’s not the ‘iPhone way’ but the intuitive way?

    I’ve been a PocketBible user for at least a decade, so I’m not about to jump ship, I just need to retrain my thumb…

    Thanks again Craig!

  11. Tom Law says:

    I agree with all your comments Craig! I too am a programmer and we too at my work have upgraded a heavily used program to a newer version and many of the normal usage tasks have changed. Most of the users are upset because it isn’t just like the old version. This basically boils down to “we humans don’t like change!” period.

    Well, lets face it folks “life is nothing but change!”.

    After using PocketBible on my iPod Touch since it was released, I actually prefer the way it does pages. It is easier on my eyes and with being able to toggle the screen menu, I can easily get to where I want to go with the minimal clicks and swipes.

    I just went back to my old Palm and MyBible seems way cumbersome to use now that I am used to using PocketBible.

    Craig and company, keep up the good work. Your explanation and research is evident enough for proceeding the direction you did. Now that I am used to it, I like it too.

    God’s Peace,

  12. Paul Meiklejohn says:

    The post and responses might suggest that users will ‘love the one and hate the other’, on the contrary I’ve found both systems quite satisfactory with slight pro and cons for both. However, Craig’s point on the issue of eye strain on a moving page is for me the deciding issue. I believe that the fixed page reads much easier. Although you get quite used to ‘tapping’ between pages, a possible future feature might include ’tilt’ to change pages.

  13. Jonathan Morgan says:

    Paging has problems: I know this because I use paper Bibles and I use chapter-oriented Bible software on the PC, and it does make it difficult to read context if it happens to be split over two pages/chapters.

    However, I found your discussion of the problems with scrolling fascinating. I am not in a position to test scrolling vs. paging on the phone, but I imagine the differences could be quite interesting. Anyway, I agree with you that you should try to get the best balance between a competing budget of features and technological hurdles, rather than expending too much effort on one area of the UI.

    One thing I’m not so sure about is whether it is wise to say someone is “misusing” your software. Surely doing something that it was not designed for and misusing it are different things?

    Also, how do we judge something is better? Efficiency of use? Satisfaction? (which, I might add, is likely to allow you to focus on the scriptures rather than on the software, which must be a goal of all good Bible software). Familiarity? (I’m not quite sure how you “flexibly get the portion of scripture on the screen intuitively” except by analogy with something you are familiar with).

    All up, an interesting article about an obviously very real problem.

  14. Tim Wisner says:

    Craig, I just wanted to say that I have been a fan of the page turn from the very beginning. Yes, scrolling occasionally would be nice, but when I read my paper Bibles, I somehow manage to turn pages back and forth when I need to πŸ™‚

    When I am in study mode on the iPhone and have multiple versions, dictionaries and commentaries open, the left /right page turn through the book, up/down “page turn” through open resources and corners for jumps just seems to work for me. This way of doing things is much better for study and serious reading.

    By the way, I love the quick access to open resources by tapping on the top menu and I’m slowly getting the hang of the search functions. Keep up the good work.

  15. Michael Werle wrote:

    As a developer, I wonder if it would be possible to pre-compute scrolling positions, either by full volume (e.g. the Bible, a dictionary, ete.) or by some smaller sub-division (book of the Bible, letter in the alphabet for a dictionary, etc.) for every line, and ship that data for all reasonable font sizes and all default iPhone fonts.

    Scrolling positions is a small part of the problem, but rendering an entire book, for whatever reason, in all fonts and at all sizes is impractical for reasons that become obvious when you consider there are 8 fonts in the current OS release (dozens more could be added with any point-upgrade of the operating system) and 65 supported sizes. Images can be at one of 2 zoom levels in the current implementation, and that will change in a future update. The phone can be in two orientations, each with 8 possible heights depending on the settings of the status bar, title bar, and tool bar. There are 3 variations of the footnote settings to be taken into consideration with each book, and if a footnote is displayed it potentially throws of subsequent pre-calculated values (one would have to render all the text to the next pre-calculated point to determine if and by how much — every time a note is displayed). Strong’s numbers can be on or off in some books. Poetry indenting can be on or off. Every user note that is added to a Bible throws off subsequent pre-calculated positions. Verse numbers can be turned on in Bibles like The Message that don’t support them. Search results, when highlighted in the text, change the width of the text.

    So at a minimum you have to calculate 199,680 sets of scroll positions for each book and you still have a bunch of cases where you can’t use them. For a Bible you have a minimum of 1189 chapters. If you store a 4-byte integer for each chapter you’re adding over 900 MB to each Bible (they are currently about 3-5 MB each. Reference books would require even more.

    I’m not trying to make you look dumb for suggestion something like this, but rather pointing out that it’s easy to “solve” someone else’s problem. We live, breath, and eat this program every single day. It’s difficult for someone not in that position to say anything useful; hence my comments about what to think about before posting comments. πŸ™‚

    Jayson wrote:

    I spent the first few weeks changing books when I really just wanted to read some of the following text. And everyone that I’ve shown it to and ask them to get to the next bit of text, does the same

    Remember you probably read the “Welcome” document that explains how to move through the text on page 1. Your friends to whom you hand the program did not. Bring up Stanza or Kindle and do the same test. You’ll have the same results.

    Then go to your “recents” list and ask your friends to get the mailing address of the last person who called you. Try to do it without calling the person.

    Then tap and hold on a program icon on the Home screen until the icons start to wiggle. Panic because you don’t know what that means. Hand your phone to a friend and ask them to make the icons stop wiggling without deleting any programs.

    Hand them your stock iPhone and ask them to create a to-do list.

    I was at a convention recently where a celebrity (70’s rock star) was speaking to a small crowd. Afterwards we all had a chance to meet him personally and get our picture taken (I wasn’t a fan so I was just hanging around). A guy handed me his BlackBerry and said, “Would you take a picture of me?” I’m both a reasonably experienced photographer and a mobile phone fanatic, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. Well, nothing I did resulted in the stupid thing taking a picture.

    I’m sure once someone showed me which button to push or whatever that it would be “intuitive”. My point in each of these cases is that it’s unreasonable to hand a phone to a complete neophyte and expect them to be able to use a particular program as well as someone who has read the documentation and/or played with the phone for a while.

    Jonathan Morgan wrote:

    One thing I’m not so sure about is whether it is wise to say someone is β€œmisusing” your software. Surely doing something that it was not designed for and misusing it are different things Also, how do we judge something is better?

    “Misusing” just means to use in the wrong way. We regularly have people who say it’s too hard to get to the middle of a chapter from the beginning. We find out they’re using “next book” and “next chapter” functions to navigate through the Bible (easier in some of our other apps than in the iPhone app). So they back-back-back their way from Matthew to Psalms, then forward-forward-forward to Psalm 119, then complain about how long it is taking them to get to Ps 119:150. Yeah. No kidding. They always have some reason that they don’t like the direct go-to feature (or they haven’t found it).

    When you’re studying a particular passage, use the Go-To feature to go right to it even if you’re already pretty close. This does a number of things. First, it positions the text on the page so that the majority of the passage is readable on one screen. Second, it puts it in the navigation history so that “back” and “forward” operations work as expected. In our Windows Mobile app it makes it be the default first verse in “copy passage”.

    What I often find is that people complaining about verses being split across page boundaries are not going directly to the verse they’re looking for to begin with. And if all they’re complaining about is that some verses are split across pages, well, that’s just complaining for the sake of complaining. Of course there are verses that don’t completely fit on the screen.

    And the question about “how do we judge something ‘better’?” is exactly my point. The scrollers argue that scrolling is is “better” for a variety of reasons (related to them not reading the Welcome document), such as “more intuitive” and “it’s the iPhone way”. My article is trying to make the case that there are arguments for paging that suggest it is “better”. Among them are improved reading comprehension, reduced eye strain and fatigue, analogous behavior to a book, compatibility with the behavior of very popular apps in our category (ebook readers), etc.

    “Better” is in the eye of the beholder. What I get disappointed with is the number of people for whom “better” is whatever they determine is better, and we’re bad/wrong/incompetent if we don’t agree.

  16. Tom Law says:

    β€œBetter” is in the eye of the beholder. What I get disappointed with is the number of people for whom β€œbetter” is whatever they determine is better, and we’re bad/wrong/incompetent if we don’t agree.

    Craig, you can’t state it any clearer or more concise.

    Bottom line here folks… We are complaining about FREE, (let me say that again) FREE software here. Laridian is working many hours and continuing to work additional features into this software. AND DOING IT ALL FOR FREE. Honestly folks, how many of you if you asked a fellow Christian to help you do a project at your house, then you complain that they aren’t doing it right — would expect then to stick around? No you don’t do that. You simply are extremely grateful that they are there helping you in the first place.

    So let’s do that with Laridian too. We are getting their time and energy and research for FREE. Please just be extremely grateful.

    Peace and Joy,

  17. David Furey says:

    I was originaly a WM PocketBible user, very happy one. I then purchased an iPhone 3GS six months ago and waited for the Pocketbible app to be released. Once released I wasn’t completely sold on the paging vs. scrolling, but that has changed. I think it works really well and have no problems in using it.

    Is there a possibility of this feature being used in the WM version, being that we now have capacitive touch screens being released? As the WM devices have higher resolution screens than iPhone I can understand how some wouldn’t want this feature as it would alter the way they look at multiple books on screen (same time), but the option would be nice.

    For those who wonder why I got an iPhone, I try every mobile device before commenting on it, both a hobby and work related. I am happy to say my new HTC HD2 arrives tomorrow, my preferred device.

  18. David: PocketBible/WM already does paging. The animation is different and the text layout is slightly different — the WM version may show a partial line at the bottom of the screen, which becomes the top line when you page down. The iPhone version does not show partial lines.

    PocketBible/iPhone uses a modified version of the PocketBible/WM touch handling. The latter has just four touch areas (top/bottom/right/left) where the former has nine.

  19. Jonathan Morgan says:

    I do appreciate your arguments for paging. And I think the discussion about misusing is more a discussion about how words are used than a disagreement. I’m still not convinced that a software developer is entitled to say that a user is using software in the “wrong” way. However, I’m quite happy to agree with you that if they don’t use it as it was designed to be used then it might not work as well, or just plain badly. If by “wrong” you mean “not as designed” then that’s fine. If you mean it is the software developer’s job to dictate to users exactly how they should use software, then we strongly disagree.

    Also, in fairness to users, a lot of free software for the PC (particularly e-Sword) does seem to encourage going to a chapter and then finding a verse (though it can go straight to the verse). Because of the different screen size that doesn’t translate well to a phone, but I can’t fault them too much for starting by doing what they are used to. Also, you don’t always know what verses your going to in a chapter (though if that’s the case you are always going to have to skim through the chapter content up to where you want to go, whatever method you use).

    Another, probably crazy idea I wondered about was allowing some form of half paging, which has many of the problems of scrolling in that the text you are looking at moves, but should allow you to keep what you are looking at on the screen while removing the arbitrary boundary which is my biggest problem with any paging model. As you say, you know the software better than I do, and it is probably not worth it, but I just throw it out as an idea.

    And I can sympathise with people who don’t want to read introduction and welcome documents (I’m sure I’m one of them). Yes, if well written they can give valuable information that I would find hard to find out myself (obviously it’s not “intuitive”), but at the start I just want to have a play. If it strikes me as useful software then it is time to go back and read the manual to find how to use it better.

  20. Joel Peterson says:

    How about LiveScribe, why can’t I write a note in my paper bible and have it show up in PB? What about Nintendo DS or PSP? How about the Wii? I heard that one company is working on developing that one platform that’ll work on that one device and perform that one cool function…why haven’t you released PB’s version for that yet? Get with the program guys! I mean, come on, EVERY single app ever developed in the history of computers worked with Windows 7 prior to it’s release, right???

  21. Jim Barr says:

    After using PocketBible and literally hundreds of other iPhone/iPod Touch apps, for me, the issue is absolutely NOT if it should be paged or scrolled–that’s been settled, and it works and it works well. The issue is that the “tapping grid” is the real problem. Tapping in the middle of the screen shows the tappable regions on the screen and their functions. The problem is that the regions are not consistent from book-category to book-category. The behavior between Bibles and Commentaries differs enough to be quite annoying. Why should I have to constantly refer to a screen diagram when it could be made consistent throughout the app?

    So, here’s my solution to making PocketBible more user-friendly:

    1. Simplify the screen tap regions
    Tap the left side to page back. Tap the right side to page forward. A left-swipe should take you to the previous chapter, and a right-swipe to the next chapter. Simple as that. Need to move to a speecific verse, why not just use the “Go To” feature? Simple and elegant.

    2. Retool the bottom toolbar
    The toolbar at the bottom really needs to be retooled. Ideally, it should be user-customizable, but some real thought should go into its functionality. For example, by all means, change the behavior of the left “Open” button! It should display all currently open books from which you can switch to whatever open book you want. Ideally, you should also be able to close a book from there as well as open other books from there, but that means some complexity in the programming, so see my suggestions about reqorking the “Menu” button.

    You have a “Back” button but no “Forward” button. Not sure why. Seems like the addition of a Forward button would be a great way to toggle back and forth between views as well as to retrace your steps.

    Remove the “Today” button. I don’t use it–ok, maybe I should be!–but I find it taking up valuable space that could be used bu more useful (to me, anyway) buttons.

    3. Rework the “Menu” button
    Reorder the sections to put the reading-based selections at the top and the settings at the bottom. For example, move the current “Books” section at the top followed by “Lists”, followed by “Settings”.

    Do you really need the “Navigation” and “Find” sections when you have buttons for them?

    4. Make paging animation user-definable
    Provide a user-definable setting to modify the animation used in page turning and book changes. To me, it’s just the opposite of what it should be: Page tuning should have the “curl” animation and book changing should have the “slide” animation. Others may disagree, so make it customizable.

    My intent in these suggestions is to both leverage the capabilities of the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, and maintain a sleek, elegant, efficient application that the user can tailor to his or her needs.

    -Jim Barr

  22. Jim Barr says:


    I forgot to mention, GREAT posting! Lots of excellent and informative stuff. I think we can all agree that paging is the way to go for this app–PocketBible just needs some usability tweaking to make it solid and elegant.

  23. Jonathan: I use “misuse” in the sense of people using tabs in Word to create tabular data instead of using tables. It’s 2009 and if you’re still using tabs to line up columns in Word, you’re misusing Word.

    If you hold down the underscore key to create a line for people to sign on, you’re misusing Word.

    If you write letters in Excel because it lets you put the return address block in the upper right corner, you’re misusing Excel.

    Joel: Thanks for getting it. πŸ™‚

    Jim: I don’t normally leave suggestions in blog comments but I made an exception in your case.

    Navigation Overlay: There are only two variations on the tap zones: Bibles and non-Bibles. For non-Bibles, the entire left and right thirds of the screen are previous and next page, respectively. For Bibles, add prev/next chapter and prev/next verse in the corners. There’s no such thing as “next verse” in a devotional or dictionary, and its meaning in the context of a commentary is harder to define than you probably think. So the only way to make them more consistent is to remove the chapter and verse navigation entirely. I’d be happy with that, but we’d get grief from the beta testers who originally demanded it and from those who use those features.

    Once you get the idea that non-Bibles don’t navigate by chapter and verse, you can turn off the overlay.

    A general comment on all your suggestions: You make these suggestions as if yours is the only way to look at the problem and that our failure was in not consulting you at the beginning. I choose to interpret your comments as suggestions and not in the black-and-white, right-or-wrong terms in which they were made.

    1. Simplify the tap regions: We get lots of positive comments from people who love the power of having 8 functions available by tapping/flicking. Furthermore, if we did what you suggest there’d be no way to turn the page in books like Nave’s Topical Bible and NASEC/KJVEC that are dense with links.

    2. Tool bar: I’ve already said in other contexts that the tool bar will eventually be customizable. I’ve also said that “features you see in our other PocketBible versions will find their way to the iPhone over time.” Both Windows and Windows Mobile versions of PocketBible have a reconfigurable tool bar.

    If we made the Open button only show open books, we’d be duplicating existing functionality (try reading the Welcome document, then tap on the title bar to see a list of open books). And there’d be no way to open a book that wasn’t open. Right now you can ALWAYS tap the Open button to either open a book that isn’t open or one that is. And if you know the book is already open you can tap the title bar or use the top/bottom tap or up/down flicks.

    I agree that we need more functionality for managing open books, installed books, and uninstalled books. For now you can close a book from the context menu. And I think from the main menu.

    “Back” is on the tool bar, “Forward” is in the menu. We opted to do that based on our past experience with whittling down what goes on tool bars. When we had both Back and Forward on the tool bar in our WinMob app, many testers suggested we replace Forward with something more useful.

    Ditto the Today button. YOU may not use it (sorry again that we didn’t come to you right away before making any design decisions) but many people do. It has earned its place on the tool bar based on our 20 years of experience designing Bible software.

    Keep in mind we designed the tool bar with the knowledge that you’re eventually going to be able to customize it. We put what we felt were the most commonly needed functions on there to begin with but will eventually let you change it.

    3. Reorganize the Menu button: You want settings at the bottom. That’s where they were until the beta testers suggested we move Settings to the top. After using the program a while I find I seldom use ANYTHING on the menu except Settings.

    Navigation and Find sections are toward the end because we have buttons for many of those functions (though not all).

    4. Customizable animation: The iPhone “curl” animation goes only up or down. There is no left/right curl animation. Since pages move from right to left or left to right (like a book), the curling animation doesn’t make sense for page turns.

    In general I’m in favor of more customization. As I’ve said many times over the last year (i.e. since before we released the program) the current version is a work-in-progress. We appreciate your suggestions and maintain a prioritized to-do list based on everything we know needs to be in there plus feedback from users (which is often contradictory).

  24. Jim Barr says:

    Thank you for keeping my suggestions in this blog. While you pretty much struck most of them all down, I’m not going to turn this into a bickering session of who’s right and who’s wrong–that’s not the issue here. Instead, I’ll simply say that Laridian has an excellent product in PocketBible for the iPhone. In my opinion, it could stand some usability improvements, primarily in the form of providing user-selectable settings for many of the issues discussed here. While this is obviously my opinion, know that I have assisted in the design and testing of quite a few applications over the years. I had hoped that some of my usability experience from both design and user perspectives could be helpful here.

  25. Geoffrey Heaford says:

    When reading the passages in the Bible in a Year section pagination is far superior to scrolling IMHO

  26. Paul says:

    Craig, Thank you for all of the excellent work you and your team are doing. With the addition of notes and copy/pasting, I use this program almost exclusively for sermon prep and Bible study. I have used your program on WM then iPod Touch. I love it. Thank you for enhancing my Christian experience.

  27. Erik Leisten says:

    Whereas I cannot appreciate the finer aspects of programming, I know that those at Laridian have worked hard and moreover considered many details before choosing the page turning method. I have become accustomed to a scrolling Bible reader and at the time prefer it over page turning, however I will continue to use pocketbible in order to give it an opportunity to grow on me the way the scrolling reader has. Otherwise, I am confident that Laridian will continue to continually upgrade and fine-tune pocketbible as they did with MyBible. It will just take some time and continued communication between their customers and themselves, this blog for instance! : )

  28. Jonathan Morgan says:

    I’m upset – I use underscores to make blank lines (at least in :). I think we are mostly in agreement though, that using things in a way that they are not designed for will often be sub-optimal.

  29. There are a couple good ways to draw a signature line in Word. I set tab stops at the start and end of each line. The tab stop at the end is set to “right” with leading underline. So then tab-tab will move to the start of the line and underline to the end.

    There’s probably also a way to do it with fields.

  30. Erik,

    Thanks for giving PocketBible some time to grow on you. I just want to clarify that we don’t consider paging to be something that needs to be “upgraded” or “fine-tuned”, nor do we think it will be fixed if we “take some time” and have “continued communication” about it. I wasn’t writing to apologize for it but rather to explain why we think it’s better than scrolling.

    On the other hand, we’ve been known to implement sub-optimum features in order to quiet the feedback. The current “Search” dialog is an example. It’s over-wordy and the highlight and category fields aren’t wide enough in portrait orientation to display their contents. However, it was necessary to do this because people were misusing the search feature and instead of reading the help or contacting tech support, they assumed we happily shipped a product that didn’t do basic searching. So we dumbed-down the interface, making it a little awkward for those who get it, but making it a little easier on those who don’t.

  31. Richard says:

    Never really thought about it until Craig’s article. Now I have checked and my goodness, he is right. The left / right swipes to move page are a joy. I went back to my other bible program for my iTouch (on which I have spent over $160) and realised that linear scrolling is not as easy. First my finger gets in the moving it up and down the screen, it’s potluck as to whether you get a full screen of new text or you flick too hard and go over. With Laridian, it is an exact next page. Now if only Laridian can replace the Strong’s numbers feature with a different colour for the word that has a link, then we have a full replacement for the other software. Great job – nicely thought out on the page swipes.

  32. Bryant says:

    Please keep the way you as the programmer want to do it. However, unlike ebooks there are links all over the place and I seem to accidently hit them on a continuos pattern when switching books or pages. I also keep accidently keep switching books when I want to switch pages. I think this is why many are complaining. We just don’t want to worry about getting sent somewhere we don’t want to go.

    I trust this is what you mean by improving existing features. Thanks again for your hard work.

  33. Bryant:

    When you have a book with lots of links, use a right-to-left swipe gesture to turn the page. Then go back to the Welcome document and read about how to navigate in the program. You’ll probably learn a couple things.

    I accidentally do things in all my iPhone apps, thinking they work a different way. Once nice thing about PocketBible over all my other apps, though, is that PocketBible has extensive built-in Help.

  34. Bryant says:

    Well that did help. Because the “tap” menu says tap I thought that was the only way to switch pages. That info is in the welcome book. However, the welcome book only mentions tapping the bottom for switching books which causes me to jump to a linked verse. Just for a test I tried swipping up and down and it caused the books to switch too. So I will now swipe for pages and books. Then tap for links.

    I tried swipping over linked areas and about 25% of the time it still switched to the link. So I have to make sure I swipe fast to make sure it works consistantly.

  35. The Welcome document describes changes pages by both tapping and swiping. It also refers you to the Help document. Now that I got you to read the Welcome book, maybe you could look through at least the Quick Start Guide in the Help. πŸ™‚

    Swiping over linked areas works 100% of the time. You need to swipe some minimum distance (don’t remember how far it is, but it’s not far). So you can’t just move your finger from right to left while tapping. You have to actually swipe.

    And it is possible to swipe too slow. If you just swipe across the screen and don’t TRY to break it, you won’t.

  36. James says:

    You’ve made a convert out of me Craig. I was one of those that was complaining when there was no scrolling and now and starting to realize the current ability to either tap forward or back a verse, page, or chapter, is far more convenient. I’m just more than a tad jealous of those using the 3GS, because they don’t have any delay when swiping whereas mine often takes a couple seconds to move on. I like it now.
    One quick question, is there any way to display the time in the app other than enabling the system status bar to “always show”. Would be great if the overlay text or menu or something had a time display somewhere so it would be easy to see what time it is without having to enable the status bar showing at all times or closing the application and opening again. Thanks for all the work. I love it!

  37. Larry says:


    I just want to say “thank you” for the program for the iPhone. I installed the program a few days ago. I had been waiting for more than a year for the program and was surprised to find out that it had been released.

    A couple of comments.

    The iPhone is my smart phone of choice. No other Bible program exists that is even close to the Laridian product. Having the program resident on the phone vs an on line program like “The Blue Letter Bible” is a quantum leap forward in terms of availability and speed.

    Using the paging system vs the scrolling system took me a couple of days to get used to, but I find that it works just fine. As a matter of fact, what really makes it work is the speed that page turns. I can get to the middle of the chapter with just a couple of hits forward or backwards. Paging to the middle of a chapter with your pagination vs scrolling on another Bible program took the same amount of time.

    To me, this whole argument of paging vs scrolling is really nit picking. Having a comprehensive resident Bible program (that really works!) for the iPhone far surpasses the issue.

    Thanks for your explanation. I wasn’t even going to complain about no scrolling. I just wanted something that actually worked. Your explanation makes a lot of sense (to a non programmer), and I am quite comfortable with your decision process.

    By the way, remember all the turmoil about having no separate keyboard for the iPhone? Apple has chosen their way of entering text, and we all now accept it. The reason that we do is because the iPhone is such a brilliant device.

    I accept your choice. Now that I understand the reasons for your choice, I accept the choice even more.

  38. Larry says:

    A question craig. Will the notes that one has generated (or bookmarks, etc.) transfer to another iPhone if my iPhone crashes and I have to get another one?

    I recently had to exchange my iPhone because my iPhone failed. To my dismay resident notes that were generated in my non-Apple applications vanished. Only Apple applications were saved and installed on my new iPhone.

    I noted (too late) that one program used an on line way to save the files generated in their program. I discovered this too late.

    Can you comment?

  39. Apple gives both you and us very little control over the data on the phone. There’s not a way for us to move data from one phone to another using our app on your phone or using iTunes. This is very much unlike other platforms.

    As I understand it, when you sync your phone with iTunes it makes a backup of the data on the phone. I don’t know what Apple does when you replace one phone with another. I don’t know if you have a way to restore not only your old apps, but the data that was backed up from those apps.

    We’ve said here before that we plan to integrate PocketBible for iPhone into our synchronization system that lets you take your user-created notes, highlights, bookmarks, and reading progress and move it between our various platforms. That’s coming in a future release.

    In the meantime, as you’ve discovered with ALL your non-Apple apps, we’re all at Apple’s mercy when it comes time to upgrade devices or replace a damaged one.

  40. Jack says:

    wow, thanks for the explanation but it seems awkward to have to give a long-detailed excuse not to give customers want they would want.

    I purchased Laridian for Pocket PC before version 3 and was happy with the scrolling feature, until version 3 confined me to the Paging feature. I unhappily complained but was told something about the paging feature being more “intuitive”.

    In all fairness, I can see the benefit of taking time to get used to the paging method when the software is given for free. After a few moment in practice (because it does take time to learn the features) then I can see why it is not so bad.

    Do I still like to page? No, but it was free and I appreciate the charitable attitude when so much work has been put into it.

    Can I convince you to change your mind? No, but I can thank you, nevertheless, and say that the app is still in my iphone and is useful in my biblical research.

  41. Jack,

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. It’s not the case that we’re refusing to give our customers what they want. It’s that there are two competing points of view here. One side is getting what they want. The other side is being encouraged to reconsider.

    While I was spending the first half of this year trying to give you what you wanted, Jeff — my fellow programmer and co-founder of Laridian — kept saying, “Why don’t you just do paging?” I thought scrolling was better and fought to keep it that way. Ultimately I resigned myself to paging, but in the process discovered that a) it’s what the Big Guys do, b) it can be argued that it produces an overall better reading experience, and c) I ended up liking it. So the article isn’t my way of apologizing for not giving you what you want, but rather it’s a note from someone who, like you, thought he preferred scrolling, explaining why you might like paging better, too, if you just give it a chance.

    I also want to clarify that no version of PocketBible for Pocket PC has ever implemented “iPhone-like” continuous scrolling of the text. Versions 1 and 2 presented one chapter at a time and allowed you to scroll through those. Starting with version 3 you had the implementation much as it is now, which does a variation on paging (while providing for line-at-a-time scrolling and auto-scrolling).

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying the program.

  42. Adam Keegan says:

    I really don’t want to post with so many comments and so much time in this post that could be used for further development of PB.

    I have to though. I feel very strongly. I read Tom’s comments above about how we are getting this for free – well I would guess I’ve spent over $1000 on books from Laridian. I read we who want what is a universal iPhone feature (and as has been mentioned very intuitive) should reconsider.

    Initially I didn’t care about pagination. In fact I thought I would like it better. When I first used iPhone and tried a few bible apps I DIDN’T like the scrolling method implemented on the one I chose. I soon grew accustomed to it though.

    After owning the iPhone for a few months it is natural, regular and intuitive in every app I own to scroll up from the bottom to read more text. I have continually heard the argument about ereaders – but I don’t use them and neither would I.

    What I do use is the iPhone – A LOT. I have over 100 applications. I would guess I use it as much as nearly anyone. PB is the ONLY app I have that CONTINUALLY confuses me and does the opposite of what I want. When I flick to scroll more text it changes books on me.

    And here lies the problem. new or ‘light’ iPhone users will like and be used to left to right. It’s no issue. But for people who use the iPhone platform a lot it is logical for the text to go up from the bottom of the screen.

    If Laridian can’t do it so be it. But don’t let that be the end of it!

    I have continually re-iterated this and will do so again.

    WHY NOT CHANGE THE TAP ZONES? If you have to paginate (for whatever reason) then PLEASE let us change the tap zones so that those of us who use the iPhone A LOT will get the next bit of text when we scroll (or tap) up.

    Everyone I know with PB on the iPhone has the same gripe. They can’t understand why it doesn’t scroll. Why does the book change when I try to go to the next page?

    I have used PB from day one and I can not get used to left to right. Sure in one sitting I am doing it fine. But then I use the iPhone for 50 other tasks in other apps (all of which us up/down) and come back to read the Bible and I am back to square one.

    Can I also encourage you to use beta testers who use the iphone for a minimum of 6 hours a day with other apps – not ereaders πŸ™‚

    Even though I own so many books and think some of the features in PB have potential – I still prefer the other Bible app I have (with hardly any books) because it use scroll (up down).

  43. Thanks for your comments, Adam.

    We’ve said before we’re going to give you configurable tap zones.

    I disagree with your assertion that scrolling is “a universal iPhone feature”. The difference between your argument and mine on this point is that I’ve backed mine up with examples and you simply assert yours as true when it is not.

    I sympathize with the question you and apparently everyone you know asks: “Why doesn’t it scroll?” That’s why I wrote the article. Perhaps you should re-read it for the answer. And perhaps you should introduce yourself to some more PocketBible users. Comments are running about 3-1 in favor of paging here. πŸ™‚

    Here’s a hint for you: As soon as you start to drag the text and realize it isn’t moving, pause for a second with your finger still on the screen. Use this time to curse if you’d like. πŸ™‚ Then lift your finger. You’ll find it doesn’t switch books if you pause for a little bit.

    And at your request I’ll now go back to coding the free PocketBible program here on Saturday morning of Thanksgiving weekend while the daughters and grandkids I seldom see are playing out in the living room, just as I did yesterday and all day on Thanksgiving Day before that.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  44. Thomas Sperl says:

    Hi. I’ve always preferred paging. Simpler, crisper, less effort. Thanks

  45. Jim barr says:


    I’ve read the article, past blog posts, and multiple other discussions, and I have been using Laridian products for many years. While there are obvious stated technical reasons, isn’t the real reason for paging simply because Laridian wants to differentiate PocketBible from other Bible apps? By providing a “continuous” reading experience, it sets itself apart from the competition.

    I have purchased and used MANY other iPhone-based Bible readers, both free and paid. Of note are BibleScope and AcroBible NIV. Each has a rich feature set and simple user interface. Interestingly, they ALL scroll, and they all stop at the end of each chapter or book requiring the reader to swipe or tap to get to the next chapter or book. In this one aspect, PocketBible IS different. PocketBible doesn’t care where you are in a book or chapter, it just keeps you going throughout the document.

    While I personally prefer scrolling, PocketBible’s continuous reading does stand out. (I’ve tried to like paging, and though I really don’t like it, I know I will adapt!) But just as important to me, I also like the fact that I can continue to enjoy my investment in the Laridian books that I have purchased over the years.

    I am glad to see that Laridian takes very seriously their commitment in providing solid and enjoyable products. Differentiation is obviously a key way to gain customers and stand out in the market, and I hope that this paging vs scrolling issue doesn’t get in the way. Thanks for providing such a great product in PocketBible!

  46. Jim,

    No, it’s not the case that we just want to “differentiate PocketBible from other Bible apps”. If you’ve read this article, past blog posts, and other discussions, you have read exactly why we paginate. I won’t repeat those reasons here since they’re clearly enumerated above.

    In particular, I’ve never seen BibleScope nor AcroBible. If your description is accurate, though, I would argue that they “page”, not scroll. They page by chapter and scroll within a chapter. Given the choices (continuous scrolling through the Bible, paging like PocketBible, or scrolling within a chapter) I would argue that scrolling within a chapter and paging from chapter to chapter is the worst option and is the one I would never do. (Actually, we have done it in the past; won’t do it again.)

    One of the reasons we don’t like it is that it doesn’t translate well to reference books. There are no short “chapter” divisions in commentaries, dictionaries, devotionals, and other reference books.

    No, our reasons for paging aren’t motivated by the desire to be different. In fact, there is a certain amount of “desire to be the same” that motivated the decision. But again, we’ve already said that above.

  47. Michael Krogstad says:

    I would like to personally thank you for the explaination you gave on this topic. The PocketBible was the first electronic Bible software package I purchased a decade ago. I have gone through more WM devices than I can shake a stick at, but in the end, yours is the tool I predominately use. Give it an original language OT and NT, and it would be the only. With that being said, I appreciate your taking the time to give the ‘why’ behind the ‘how’. In the end, scrolling or paging is just the ‘how’ we get used to using. Being creatures of habit, we like our old ways and we sometimes miss the fact that it is what we are reading that is important. I have used other Bible software packages and readers and as you have noted, paging seems to be the route being taken. Thanks for your thoughtful design, your patience with those who see things differently, and above all, your work to make the Word of God more accessable for all of us.

    A loyal Laridian user,

    Michael Krogstad

  48. Adam says:

    Craig – thanks for the response (I think!).

    I hope you did get to spend some time with the kids…
    I am STOKED to hear that the tap zones may soon be configurable πŸ™‚

    You state I haven’t given examples of scrolling text – do you REALLY want me to start a huge list? Let’s see every app ready installed on a new iPhone, every menu (even in your PB program!) I have ever seen on iPhone apps, Olivetree Bible (and a few other Bible apps but don’t remember the names as haven’t used them for a while) Where should I start with the 100+ apps I have installed, not of which use side to side pages for long text. If you want a list I’ll get one.

    You quote 3-1 in favour of pagination. Are these people who have
    just bought the iPhone? use it for 1 hour a day? Mainly use it for PB & little else? Just moved from windows mobile?

    And even if you can see a HUGE favor of pagination – let’s sort out the direction! up & down or left to right? You have yet again taken ‘pagination’ as meaning left to right.

  49. Adam,

    Obviously there are things that scroll on the iPhone. However, if you read the article I wrote what you’ll find is that the vast majority are scrolling through a relatively small amount of material. In every case it’s at least readily measurable. You mentioned our menus as an example. Those are a case in point. The iPhone asks my code “how many items in this list?” and I tell it. Then it says “how tall is each one?” and I tell it. Just like I said in my article.

    I’m not going to repeat what I already wrote because you can easily read it. Suffice to say a) there’s a difference between a scrolling menu with a small, finite number of fixed-height items and a 5MB Bible rendered in any font on the device in sizes from 8 to 72 points, and b) we don’t know/care what/how another Bible software company solved the same problem. If you want the details of those arguments, read the article above.

    Once we decided pagination was the route we were going, then left-to-right motion for pages was a no-brainer. You see the first page of the Welcome book, learn that you need to tap on the right side, see the new page come from the right, and go, “Oh, it’s like a book.” Within seconds you completely get the metaphor.

    If, on the other hand, text moved from bottom to top, you’d go, “Oh, it scrolls a page at a time. I wonder if I can scroll by dragging or flicking. Hmm. No.” You’d wonder if the program was broken or if you just didn’t know how to use it.

    I’m sure, as you imply, that you’re the most experience iPhone user posting here on our blog. That’s probably why nobody else sees things the way you do. They just haven’t downloaded as many apps, haven’t spent as much time on the device, and haven’t thought about it as deeply as you have. Maybe when the rest of us catch up to your level of experience with the platform we’ll see things differently. Until then, you’re going to have to flick from right to left to turn pages in PocketBible. πŸ™‚

  50. Steve says:

    I definitely prefer page-turning over scrolling. That way there’s less focus on page manipulation. I was delighted — though not really surprised — when I first saw that this app would use page-turning. I am surprised that this became such an issue. Best wishes to all!

  51. Mike E says:

    Glad to have PocketBible on the iPod Touch… been with you guys since my Handspring Visor days. All honesty, didn’t even consider other applications for the iPod Touch for my Bible – weren’t happy with other options on the Palm or Windows Mobile platforms so decided just to wait. I don’t use it as much as Adam — I have other things to do with my day. Just glad to have performance and speed be a priority without sacrificing usability (I can’t be convinced that swiping left/right vs up/down is a sacrifice…). I have my preferences, but they’re irrelevant. I’ve done some coding/programming and at some point you have to move on when you don’t get the solution you as a programmer are happy with. Amazed you spent the time you did, thanks for the dedication. Looking forward to other future updates, books, and apps.

    All in all (recognizing that key features are still coming) I find this the most usable version of your software on a handheld platform. Good job.

  52. Neville Ridley-Smith says:

    I’m an iPhone and Java developer (web and mobile) and understand the difficulties involved in this kind of apparently ‘simple’ feature.

    Here’s a thought – is it possible to provide scrolling as an option?

    Now before you dismiss that out of hand, let me suggest what this option entails.

    By default, the program would behave exactly as it is now with all it’s cool features like displaying the blue stars for notes.

    By setting it to scrolling mode all those extra features would be turned off. This may help with the length calculations. You can’t go to the next chapter, next book, tap to add notes, it doesn’t display the blue stars, etc. All you can do is use the Go menu button to go to a specific place in the book. It’s purely for reading.

    And now here’s what I’d really like – autoscrolling. To see this in action download The Graduate for free which uses the iFlow Reader from here :

    You tap the screen and the book starts scrolling up the page. You can tilt the phone to vary the scrolling speed. It resulted in the fastest I think I’ve ever read a book.

    I would *love* this. But anyway, thanks for a great product as it is!

  53. Neville,

    Scrolling as an option is no easier than scrolling as the only UI. Go back and read the article again.

    Autoscrolling is in our Windows Mobile app. If you see a feature in PocketBible for Windows Mobile, it’s on the list for implementation in PocketBible for iPhone.

  54. Neville Ridley-Smith says:

    Ah – cool. I can do without the finger scrolling – it’s really the autoscrolling I want! Nice to hear it’s coming.

  55. t says:

    There are “introduction and welcome documents”? I think I’ll have to go back and read them.
    That being said, thanks for putting out a great product that allows us to carry the Word of God with us and read it, refer to it, meditate on it any time that we want or need (except maybe when driving…)

  56. Brandon M says:


    I know this comment comes waaaaaaay late into the discussion, but I got my first iPhone not long ago, and was extremely happy to find PB available and all my purchased texts readily downloadable. Wonderful resource.

    In a comment above from about Nov 2009, you said that configurable tap/swipe zones would be coming. That alone would fix my problem: I *never* want to swipe to change a book, but I *always* want to swipe top/bottom to change pages. Can I encourage you to get configurable tap/swipe zones back on the to-do list, if it’s not already actively in work?

    If true swipe scrolling cannot be done, my personal setup would be that both left/right *and* up/down swipes would change by a page at a time. If you numbered the zones like this:
    I would make 1234 go previous page, and 6789 go next page, with 5 still the menu/show-zones button. So if you *do* make the zones configurable, please don’t only allow each command to appear only once.

    I migrated from a Palm version of PB, and I liked the extra steps to change Bibles – it never happened accidentally. That’s perhaps my next biggest frustration. I suppose I could close the secondary translations, but I really like having them quickly available – just not THAT quickly. πŸ™‚ So having the option to remove that action from the zones would eliminate that frustration too.

    Also, as a fellow programmer that also deals with displaying and projecting from Bible texts (projection/song-database software for churches), I fully understand the issues you describe above – a *great* explanation. I offer this additional thought, fully aware that you may well have tried it already: Since I don’t often want to scroll past the end of a chapter, perhaps the swipe option could at least scroll within a chapter. That shouldn’t be too computationally intensive to pre-render (except for maybe Psalms 119!). That would allow the iPhone motif within any one chapter, while still preserving the other benefits of zone-based movement.

    Thanks again, and I hope to see a response even though it’s been a while since this thread was pinged.

    • Brandon,

      The interest in changing the way PocketBible scrolls has really dropped off. I think people realize that PocketBible works like all the other ebook readers out there and that its touch-zone interface is actually quite powerful. It’s still on the list to look into, but we haven’t been motivated to make any changes.

      Scrolling through chapters is awkward but OK for Bibles. It doesn’t make much sense for other reference books since they aren’t divided into “chapters”. As a result this is a solution we try to avoid (though our Android app currently works that way).

  57. David says:

    I believe the PocketBible for Android has scrolling of Bible pages. Does this signify a change of stance on this issue for iPad, or is it easier on Android to do this? Personally, I’d like an option to turn on scrolling on the PocketBible for iPad, even if it’s only the appearance of scrolling.

    • David,

      There’s a trade-off. PocketBible for iOS uses our own HTML rendering code to lay out pages. The benefit is that text selection, tap-and-hold, and other gestures and behaviors are easier to implement because it’s all our code. The down-side is that we weren’t able to get continuous scrolling to perform at an acceptable level.

      PocketBible for Android uses the built-in HTML viewer for laying out pages. The benefit is that it has some powerful scripting capabilities that make scrolling possible. The down-side is that it’s very difficult to do text selection and gesture recognition. We’re spending a lot of time just figuring out how to let you select verses to bookmark or highlight.

      We could retrofit PocketBible for iOS with the Android approach but a) this would involve throwing away a lot of low-level code and having to reimplement many, many features, and b) I’m not convinced there would be sufficient increased sales of books or advanced features to offset the cost. This having been said, that option is not off the table. At the same time, we have our hands full with many other changes right now.

  58. Brad says:

    I have purchased several commentaries from you and do love your software and what you have done. Thank you!!!!

  59. Tina says:

    I’m writing regarding continuous scrolling…at one time you suggested that the interest has dropped off! I have been using PocketBible for years and have never understood why I can’t scroll?

    Do you think you will ever ever ever do the scrolling? Couldn’t you just leave it up to the individual user? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE….yes, I’m begging!

    • Craig Rairdin says:

      Much has changed in iOS since this article was written. I may tackle this again after I finish PocketBible for Mac, which does have continuous scrolling.

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