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iPocketBible Update: Categorized Bookmarks and Desktop Synchronization

Posted on: February 20th, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 9 Comments

Last night we posted an update to the iPocketBible.com site, adding categorized bookmarks and support for desktop synchronization to the program.

Bookmarks

You can create bookmarks the same way you did before: Tap the verse number to bring up the verse context menu, then select “Set Bookmark”. By default, the bookmark is stored with no category information. To create a bookmark in a category, simply select the category prior to pressing “Set Bookmark”.

To use categories you first have to create them. When you’re on the context menu there’s a button in the Bookmarks section for “Add/Edit Bookmark Categories”. Selecting this takes you to a screen where you can add, rename, or delete bookmark categories. Note that when you delete a category, the bookmarks in that category are still there — they just don’t have any category associated with them.

To view your bookmarks, select the Bookmarks button from the toolbar, just like before. You’ll find there’s now a list of categories at the top of the screen. The default is “All Categories”. You can choose a category you want to view, and only the bookmarks for that category will be displayed.

Remember when viewing your bookmark list that bookmarks are displayed in “pages”. The number of bookmarks displayed at one time is controlled by a setting on the Options screen. To get to the next page of bookmarks just select the Next Page button on the toolbar (or double-tap the margin if in one-finger scrolling mode).

Synchronization

If you use PocketBible for Windows on your desktop PC you can synchronize your personal data (notes, bookmarks, highlights, and devotional reading progress) between your iPhone and your PC. When you synchronize the two databases, the result is a combination of the two. We don’t just overwrite your iPhone data with data from your PC, but rather the information is intelligently combined.

For example, if you bookmark a verse on your PC, then sync with your iPhone, the bookmark will appear on the iPhone. If you decide you don’t need that bookmark any longer, you can delete it on your iPhone. The next time you synchronize, the bookmark will be deleted from your desktop PC as well.

Since the iPocketBible program is Web-based and all your personal information is stored on our server, there’s no need to run iTunes or cradle your iPhone before doing synchronization.

If you don’t own PocketBible for Windows you’ll need to buy that first. The sync providers for both the Windows program and the iPhone are free. Just go to www.laridian.com, select the Windows desktop link, then under the products menu at the top of the page you’ll find “Synchronization Providers”. Select that to see a list of providers along with download and installation instructions.

Time is of the Essence

Because the synchronization process relies on accurate date and time stamps to know which note, bookmark, etc. is more current than the other, it’s important that the time on your PC be the same as the time on our server. We synchronize our server with one of the various Internet time servers that is tied to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s official Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). You can do the same by configuring Windows to access a time server once a week to keep your computer clock up to date. Just double click on the time in your task bar to bring up the Date and Time Properties dialog, then select the Internet Time tab (Windows XP). Follow the instructions to set the time.

If that sounds too hard, just go to http://nist.time.gov and get the current time. Bring up the Date and Time Properties as described above, and manually set the time so they are within a few seconds of each other (the closer, the better).

Other Sync Providers

It looks like we’ll be able to use the same provider for Windows Mobile Smartphone as we use for Pocket PC. There will be an update required to the Windows Mobile Smartphone version of PocketBible to support synchronization. It’s likely this will be rolled into the next major update of PocketBible for WMS, which should be coming along soon.

Work continues on the MyBible sync provider. As mentioned before this has required a lot of programming. But in the course of doing all this we’re adding some features to MyBible that should be pretty nice. We’ll let you know as we get closer to shipping the product.

9 Responses

  1. Lawson Culver says:

    I have a two usability suggestions for the iPocketBible.

    1. I want my iPocketBible shortcut on my iPhone desktop to open up the chapter selection window. Browsing there and creating a bookmark doesn’t work. Can you provide a URL that I can bookmark that will take us straight to the chapter selection?

    2. I have the NAS with Strong’s numbers, but with the numbers being the same size it can be difficult to actually read. It’s also not easy to switch back and forth between numbers. Would it be possible to provide a version of the book that has div tags around the words with an onclick that takes the user to the same link in the Greek/Hebrew dictionaries? To the end user, this would make it much easier to read, without sacrificing the functionality of looking up the words. The only downside I see with that is that an inadvertant tap will load the dictionary. With so many Strong’s number links anyway, that happens as things work right now.

  2. There is not a direct link to the chapter selection page that will work. Remember it’s an AJAX app so the chapter selection page is actually the same page as the Bible text page, but with different data.

    The question about the NASEC takes me back to the decision-making process ten years ago on how to present the numbers. I considered not having the numbers there at all because it could be argued that they don’t really add any human-understandable information. What difference does it make that the word is “G75″? You just want the dictionary entry for that word.

    The problem with that approach is that the numbers do, in fact, add information. You can more easily see that the same Greek or Hebrew word is used twice in the verse if you have the numbers visible. You might notice that one word in the verse is within a couple word numbers of another word. This might prompt you to see if and how the two words are related. So there is information conveyed by the numbers that you’d hate to give up.

    The solution we settled for ten years ago was an on/off setting. On your Pocket PC you can turn the Strong’s numbers off. The problem with the iPocketBible version is that the text is somewhat static. The numbers and links are either there all the time or not there all the time. I could experiment with giving them a class ID and turning them on and off with CSS. I may look into that in the future.

    The other possibility is to give everyone who owns the NASEC free access to the plain NASB text in iPocketBible. That is easier and could happen quicker.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  3. John Brock says:

    What is the fastest way to read the same text in another version. It seems to take a number of steps to make this change using select Bibles route I use. John

  4. Lawson Culver says:

    I agree with John. Craig’s solution for the NASEC/NASB plain issue only makes sense if it is easy to switch between the two (or other translations.) I’m interested in seeing what options the soon to be delayed iPhone SDK will give us, even if that means for now just providing a quick front end to looking up things in the web-based iPocketBible.

  5. My plan is to put a link on the verse context menu that will take you to a page that shows the current verse in all your Bibles. From there you can choose one of the Bibles and be taken there. So it won’t be too bad.

    If we do a native app it’s unlikely we’ll continue to access text over the Internet. I don’t think anyone would find that very useful, since the main complaint seems to be the inability to use iPocketBible when you have no connectivity. (Which I still find funny — nobody complains that their PHONE can’t make or receive PHONE calls but they do complain that their PHONE can’t be used as a BIBLE. In other words, instead of blaming AT&T for spotty coverage in some areas, or spending a few dollars to install a WAP at their church, they demand that we develop a native Bible application for a device that doesn’t support native apps. :-) By the way, Michael Mace just posted an interesting blog article about this topic: Mobile Applications, RIP.)

    I also don’t think a native front-end would be any faster than the Javascript that you’re using now. We’ve done some timing to try to speed up certain operations and it’s always the case that even the most complex Javascript is a minuscule amount of the total time. In every case we’ve been able to improve speed the most by optimizing our database queries on the server.

  6. John Brock says:

    I really appreciate you Craig for the fine work you do and your ministry mindset. Your products, while commercial, are nevertheless a source of great blessing and productivity. However you view the world through the lens of your own experience and technical comfort. I speak for the thousands of smaller churches whose technical capabilities are limited and whose limited expertise and knowledge makes them fearful of open access. In my church (average attendance of 125) we have wireless and I have the access code so I’m fine. However I get that access because I’m a trusted deacon (not sure the trust is deserved). I was told to guard the code with my life and not to share it. I think the average member would be hesitant to ask for special favors that would cause additional efforts or expense by others. I think there is one other person in the congregation that uses a iphone. To expect smaller ministries to provide technology support for one or two users is unrealistic. Sometimes comments sound patronizing assuming churches that don’t provide this kind of technical support are backward bumpkins. I think it is natural for the few technical users of hand held Bible programs to desire to be as low impact and independent as possible and to avoid making special requests to support our gizmos when there are many more important ministry needs that have priority. Our motive is that neither AT&T nor our congregations support our personal worship style preferences. That is out motive–to be unburdensome and independent. Now IF your company were to be able to make this happen that would be great. Please remember that we do not take cell phones to Church to make calls during services. Churches are not designed to maximize cell phone service–nor should they be. Many of us can walk out the door and have fine cell service. In the middle of an auditorium is a different matter. Thanks for listening.

  7. John,

    Thanks for your comments and let me apologize right at the top for any patronizing attitude I may have toward our customers who hold views that are different from mine. Sometimes it’s hard to see this kind of thing when it’s coming from yourself.

    In the 20 years I’ve been in this business I’ve identified certain behaviors I find interesting. One of them is what you expressed. It goes something like this: “Craig, you should do something about this because, while it was simple for me to figure out, other people aren’t going to be able to do it.” Sure, you and I know how to set up a wireless access point at a church, but we can’t expect anyone else to know how to do that. I think that’s a little, well, egotistical or something. I’m betting we’re not the only two people that know how to set up a WAP. :-)

    But here’s the point that I think keeps getting lost in this discussion: You have a device that relies on connectivity its functionality. It either needs WiFi or cellular coverage for 50% of its functionality, and it has to have cellular coverage for whatever percentage you assign to the phone itself. That would be fine except that you then limit its distribution to a carrier whose coverage in some areas of the country is spotty (I get a great signal on my Verizon phone at church but no signal on my AT&T iPhone). Furthermore, the phone does not allow native applications to be run on it. So now you own one of these devices and you run into this obvious flaw in its design. So who do you blame? For some reason, people are blaming the company that wrote the Web-based Bible software that they access from the phone. I find that interesting.

    You should read the Michael Mace piece for an interesting take on mobile applications.

    Anyway like we said: We will be taking a look at the SDK when it comes out. It has been delayed now (big surprise) so it’s not going to be for a few more weeks. And in the meantime again I apologize for any implications about the technical expertise of churches that might be in any of my comments.

  8. Lawson Culver says:

    On the frontend issue… I’m specifically talking about the total cumulative time required to look up a verse.

    Without WiFi:
    Opening the main page via bookmark and waiting on menu to load: 11 seconds
    Tapping Go To and getting a list of books: 6 seconds
    Selecting the + symbol next to Romans: 4 seconds
    Selecting the + symbol next to chapter 12: 3 seconds
    Tapping verse 6: 6 seconds
    Grand Total: 24 seconds to look up one verse

    Using a local verse lookup system would prevent us from needing to download from the Internet how many books are in Romans (something unlikely to change). Minumum, you could make the three touch verse lookup work much faster (as it does with the Pocket PC.)

    That said, on WiFi most of the time issues go away. Two years from now, it won’t matter at all… :-)

  9. OK now I understand what you’re talking about. Yeah the trick would be that the front-end (or the Javascript in the current app) would have to know what books are in every Bible, what chapters in every book, and what verses in every chapter. That’s not un-doable but it’s not something you want hard-coded or else you have to update the code every time you ship a new Bible. So you’d want to download it (hopefully one time) from the server.

    In the meantime since you know your way around the Bible just use the Find button to go to a verse. Tap find, and enter the full reference (book, chapter, colon or period, verse). For one-chapter books like Philemon, use Philemon 1:3 for verse 3. You can use most recognized abbreviations for the books of the Bible, so 1Tim, 1Ti, 1 Tim, I Tim, First Tim, etc. for First Timothy will all work. This is much faster for moving around within an open Bible.

    And thanks for recognizing we’re ahead of our time. :-) In two years, yes, these issues will go away.

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