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Posts Tagged ‘PocketBible’

New for PocketBible: Too Busy Not To Pray

Posted on: October 4th, 2013 by Michelle Stramel No Comments

Too Busy Not To Pray coverToo Busy Not To Pray (20th Anniversary Edition) is a classic title on prayer by Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Revised throughout and including a new introduction and new chapter on prayer and compassion for the world, Too Busy Not To Pray calls both young and old to make prayer a priority, and broadens our vision for what our eternal, powerful God does when his people slow down to pray.

Too Busy Not To Pray is not a deep theological treatise on prayer but rather a practical guidebook on the why and how of prayer. It is a reminder, encouragement and inspiration to spend daily time communicating with the God who saved us and loves us. Because this book came out of Bill Hybels attempt to improve his own prayer life, you won’t find yourself judged or condemned if you struggle with regular prayer. Instead you’ll be challenged to look at why you may not be praying regularly and encouraged to take some practical steps to get started. As one reviewer put it: “You cannot read this book without praying more, and praying better. It is thoughtful, clear, compelling and challenging–Bill at his best!”

Too Busy Not To Pray requires PocketBible for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, PocketBible for Windows Phone, PocketBible for Android, PocketBible for Windows Store, PocketBible for Windows PC or MyBible for Palm OS. The list price is $9.99.

PocketBible and iOS 7

Posted on: September 20th, 2013 by Craig Rairdin 62 Comments

This week brings the release of iOS 7 from Apple. As this new version of the operating system rolls out to more and more devices we’re beginning to hear from you about what’s working and what’s not. I want to take a minute to tell you how to work around the one problem we know about, then tell you what we’re doing to fix that, then tell you what I think about all this. Since that flows from absolutely important to “who cares?”, you can stop reading as soon as your questions are answered.

“Go To Verse” on the iPad

iOS 7 removed a feature of “popover views” (the box that pops up out of the toolbar to show you our “go to verse” buttons) that allowed developers to specify the size of the contents they were putting in the view if that size changes after the initial contents are placed. As a result, after you choose a book, the view gets resized to its default size, and the chapter buttons get cut off.

There are two work-arounds for this:

  • Press the button in the upper left corner to go back to the list of books and choose your book again. This little bit of magic seems to break Apple’s concentration and they quit trying to resize the view.
  • Choose a different go-to method for the time being. To do this, go to the Settings menu, scroll down to Program Settings, and choose a different Bible Verse Selection method. There are two other than the book/chapter/verse buttons that are the default: The Calculator method and the Spinner method. Of the two, the spinner is the easiest to use and is less quirky. Choose the Spinner and work your way out of the Settings menu. Next time you choose Go To, you’ll see the Spinner instead of the buttons.

There are other small cosmetic issues you may or may not notice as you use the program. We don’t know of anything that affects the actual function or usability of the program beyond the one mentioned above.

What We’re Doing About It

While developers have had access to beta versions of the iOS 7 developer’s toolkit for several months, we’ve found in the past that you can waste a lot of time chasing the changing specifications of the new version of the operating system if you start your work too early. For iOS 6, many developers were stunned to discover the apps they developed and uploaded to the App Store using the final beta version (which was approved by Apple for submission to the App Store) did not function correctly on the final released version of iOS 6. They had to scramble to make changes. So with all this in mind, and after reviewing the new features in iOS 7, we decided to wait until we had a version of the developer’s toolkit that was closer to final.

We’re working on version 3.0 of PocketBible, which will be fully iOS 7 compatible. Most of the changes we have to make are user interface related. That is, tweaking colors and behavior of the UI to match the new, flat look of iOS 7. There are several new features in PocketBible 3, but these have been in beta for a few weeks now and are in pretty good shape. In particular:

  • Advanced Feature Set – New Features
    • Journal Notes allow you to take notes that are not associated with any particular Bible verse.
    • Assign names to your highlight colors.
  • Features in the Standard (Free) Version
    • Autosync feature allows you to synchronize your user data (notes, highlights, bookmarks, etc.) with the Laridian cloud automatically in the background while you continue to work. Manual sync is still available if you prefer.
    • Synchronization speed is improved.
    • Added underline styles (underline, dotted, and dashed) to the list of highlight choices.
    • Display one verse per paragraph (start each verse on a new line).
    • Support iOS swipe gestures to delete notes, highlights, bookmarks, etc. from lists of those items.
    • When deleting a bookmark category, the bookmarks themselves are deleted (instead of being moved to “uncategorized”
    • Added “Email Passage” and “Text Passage” to the list of “Passage Actions”.
    • Various speed improvements and minor bug fixes.

This version of PocketBible will be uploaded to the App Store soon. We’re still working through all the issues brought about by the release of iOS 7. In the meantime, the only thing you really need to do is change your go-to-verse method.

So What Do We Think About All This

One of the frustrations with our industry as a whole and Apple in particular is the pace at which it changes. Most of the changes in iOS 7 that affect us are cosmetic. Apple has decided that it’s their user interface, not their limited availability and high price, that negatively impacts their sales. So they spent a lot of time turning everything flat, gray, and translucent. Many of those changes are applied to programs automatically, but not all of them are implemented well.

For example, in the intrest of transparency, the system status bar (the signal strength indicator and clock across the top) is now transparent. That’s great, but our app is used to a solid status bar and would never bother to put anything behind it. Now, since that bar is transparent, the OS tells us it isn’t there and tricks us into writing under it. So when the status bar is laid over top, it just is unreadable since it’s either black or white text on top of a white page of black text. So we had to take the time to create a little colored rectangle to put under the status bar so you can see it.

While changing the look of table views (those lists of contacts, appointments, settings, etc. that you see all over iOS), they decided the headings between groups of choices should ALWAYS BE UPPER CASE. So it looks like THE PHONE IS YELLING AT YOU all the time. Furthermore, they limited the text to six lines without documenting the limit nor truncating the text. So it’s possible for text to flow over the list items. This would be fine if they provided a way to say DON’T YELL AT ME but they didn’t. So we had to implement custom text views to put in those locations.

This is all characteristic of a philosophy that has little sense of history or the importance of supporting existing apps, existing versions of the OS, or existing hardware. For example, PocketBible 3 will be compatible with iOS 5 devices, but you won’t find much, if any, mention of iOS 5 from Apple. I know people running iOS 4 and 5 who just never bother to plug their device into their PC/Mac to download updates. It’s working for them, so why bother? I’m typing this blog article on a PC running Windows XP. It works great. Why upgrade? Apple doesn’t understand this idea. They assume everyone rushes out and buys a new phone every year or two, or they at least upgrade the operating system every time an update is available.

As a result of this blindness to the past, it’s not unusual to discover that something is broken in the OS and it’s just never going to get fixed. For example, we depend on a particular method being called (viewWillDisappear:) when one of our “dialog boxes” is dismissed. I found out yesterday that iOS 7 breaks that rule (it’s been around since version 2) in certain cases. As a result, instead of one programmer at Apple fixing one bug, it creates millions of bugs in hundreds of thousands of apps, and each of those hundreds of thousands of programmers has to take an hour or two to figure out how to work around it. Apple doesn’t care because programmers who start programming new apps tomorrow will never know any differenc and will always code as if viewWillDisappear: won’t always be called, and they are the only ones who matter.

It’s as if Apple has incubation pods where they harvest new programmers. They pull them out of their drawer and they start writing code with no sense of what came before. A year later, after working 24×7 with no sleep, they are recycled to feed the next batch, which are harvested just in time to release the next unnecessary update to the operating system.

Anyway…

We’re still in the process of making changes, but this is just a couple little things we’ve run into in the process of moving PocketBible to iOS 7. We think you’ll like PocketBible 3 when we’re done, but it’s going to take a couple more weeks to get there. In the meantime, change your go-to-verse settings and 2.0.6 will continue to work fine.

New for PocketBible: Hard Sayings of the Bible

Posted on: September 19th, 2013 by Michelle Stramel No Comments

Hard Sayings of the Bible CoverThis new PocketBible title from InterVarsity Press (IVP) is a unique commentary that focuses on the difficult passages of Scripture. Hard Sayings of the Bible was originally published in five volumes by IVP:

  • The Hard Sayings of Jesus by F.F. Bruce
  • Hard Sayings of the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser
  • More Hard Sayings of the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser
  • Hard Sayings of Paul by by Manfred T. Brauch
  • More Hard Sayings of the New Testament by Peter H. Davids

The PocketBible edition of Hard Sayings of the Bible combines these best-selling volumes into one volume along with new material from Walter Kaiser and Peter Davids. Over one hundred new verses have been added to the list of texts explained, as well as a dozen introductory articles addressing common questions that recur throughout the Bible.

The original “hard saying” of the Bible was John 6:53. This passage is explained as well as over 500 more. What makes a verse or passage a “hard saying?” “What F. F. Bruce wrote in his introduction to The Hard Sayings of Jesus can likely be said of nearly all the difficult texts in this collection: they may be hard for two different reasons. First are those that, because of differences in culture and time, are hard to understand without having their social and historical backgrounds explained. Second are those that are all too easily understood but that challenge the ways we think and act…”

Hard Sayings of the Bible requires PocketBible for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, PocketBible for Windows Phone, PocketBible for Android, PocketBible for Windows Store, PocketBible for Windows PC or MyBible for Palm OS. The list price is $19.99.

Follow us on Google+

Posted on: September 11th, 2013 by Jon Grose 4 Comments

I started a Google+ page all about the latest PocketBible for Android news and development. About every week or so I post what is being worked on now and what is up next.

You might ask: “You already have a blog. Why make another blog on Google, and only for Android stuff?” Two reasons:

1) We don’t have a huge Google+ presence right now, but a lot of our customers use it already. If you are like me, you might not even have a Facebook or Twitter account, so there are not social media outlets for you to connect with Laridian other than coming to this blog.

2) By having a Google+ page, we are able to promote PocketBible in Google Play in a much more organic way. Believe it or not, during a talk at the latest Google I/O conference, it was revealed that the search algorithm Google Play uses actually looks at your +1s, ratings, and even your friend’s +1s and ratings in Google+ to give you customized search results. In other words, the more we promote PocketBible on Google+ the more it will come up in search results in the Google Play.

So check us out, get the latest news, +1, share, link and tell all your friends about PocketBible for Android on Google+

Two New Books for PocketBible

Posted on: September 2nd, 2013 by Michelle Stramel No Comments

IVP Pocket Dictionary of Reformed TraditionIVP Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition is the latest addition to our collection of Pocket Reference titles from InterVarsity Press (IVP). With 300 entries, this dictionary is a concise introduction to one of the great Christian traditions. The title can be purchased separately for $4.99 or as part of the 15 volume Pocket Reference Series bundle.

John Wesley’s Notes on the Whole Bible are also now available for use with PocketBible. These verse-by-verse comments on the Old and New Testament give you a glimpse into this great theologian and preacher’s thoughts on the Bible text — all in the convenience of PocketBible. This title is available for $24.99.

Serendipitous Programming

Posted on: July 27th, 2013 by Craig Rairdin 6 Comments

Today I’ve been working on a new feature for PocketBible for iOS and one thing led to another, and, well, I ended up implementing a feature I didn’t know I was working on, and didn’t realize how much of it was already sitting there, waiting to be exposed to the user.

So the new feature I thought I was working on is the ability to “rename” your highlight colors. That is, you’ll be able to assign a topic to each color. Then when you highlight a verse, instead of seeing a list containing “Khaki”, “Cornflower Blue” and “Hot Pink”, you’ll see “Salvation”, “God’s Love” and “Prophecy”. We’ve been wanting to implement this for a long time. While we were upgrading our cloud synchronization protocol over the last few months, I added the ability to sync highlight color names with the server and we took advantage of that in PocketBible for Windows Phone and Windows Store. The plan has always been to roll that into other platforms as we have the opportunity.

While looking through the code that shows you your list of highlight colors (which I’ll have to modify to show you your user-defined names for those colors) I stumbled into a bit of code that Jeff wrote years ago but then “commented out”. (If we have code that we’d like to retain for reference purposes but don’t want to actually have the computer execute, we turn the code into a “comment” so it will be ignored by the compiler but still be there if we want to see it.)

Those of you who have been with us for a while know that Jeff was my programming partner for 27 years before his death from cancer in May 2012. It’s been a bittersweet year as I’ve had to deal with his passing while surrounded and immersed every day in code that he wrote. I keep running into little things that remind me of him, make me want to give him a call to talk about a problem, or give me a chuckle. So it’s always interesting when I run into a piece of code like this.

What this particular piece of code did was add three additional highlighting styles to the list of colors you can highlight with. These are “underline”, “strikeout”, and “underline+strikeout”. Those look like this, this, and this, respectively.

Now, why would you ever want to strike out a verse? That’s a good question and takes me back fifteen years to the days of the Palm operating system when cameras were cameras, phones were phones, and “portable digital assistants” were all the rage. In those days, color displays were luxuries that cost money, size, weight, and battery life. So most of those devices had monochromatic screens.

On color screens, we could highlight a verse with a background color. But what could we do on these black and white screens? Since our text was coded in HTML, and since HTML offered simple styles like bold, italics, underline, and strikeout, we decided to use those. We ended up not using bold and italics because they could cause the text to re-wrap when they were applied, and in those days of wimpy processors, it just took too long and was disturbing to see. That left us with underline and strikeout, so that’s what we used.

As time has gone on, we’ve gotten to where we don’t even include these underline and strikeout highlighting styles in our programs. They’re not in PocketBible for iOS, and we weren’t planning on implementing them in PocketBible for Android. Unfortunately, some of you who were around back then and have sync’ed your highlights from your Palm PDA to PocketBible for Windows to our server and to PocketBible for iPhone expect to see those underlines. So we have to at least be able to display them if they exist, but we don’t let you create them (because we don’t want to proliferate a bad idea).

What I discovered today was Jeff’s original code for being able to create underline, strikeout, and underline+strikeout highlights in PocketBible for iOS. His comment said he had taken them out because the display engine (my code) didn’t support them. Sometime between then and now I implemented those highlight styles but we just never went back into Jeff’s code and turned those choices on.

On a whim, I enabled those lines of code and what do you know — they worked! That put me in the awkward position of trying to decide whether or not to leave them in. I never liked the idea of striking verses from the Bible, and even once you get over that, it makes the text hard to read.

About then it was time for dinner and I set the laptop aside to meet my wife and get something to eat. On the way there it occurred to me that we now have some better styling options that we had back in 1998. New versions of HTML with CSS support dotted and dashed underlines.

When I got home I spent about 30 minutes and implemented the styles you see here. These new styles replace the old styles rather than adding to them. So where you had strikeouts, you’ll have dotted underlines. And where you had strikeout+underline, you’ll have dashed underlines. I think this is a nice way of making your legacy data from your Palm days more usable and it gives you three more highlighting styles to use in PocketBible for iOS. (If you’re having trouble making out the dots and dashes, click on the screen shot to see the original size image.)

One of the cool things about this is that the underlying data storage and cloud synchronization already supports it. We’re not changing the data we save, but rather the interpretation of the data. So nothing changes in any of the other platforms nor on the server.

What I think is special about this — even though it’s not a life-changing feature — is that Jeff left it behind and it only took a little extra work to make it useful. And I like that all the infrastructure both for storing the new highlight styles and displaying them was already there.

Tomorrow I’ll get back to work on naming your highlight colors. But this was a nice little one or two hour detour to give us an unexpected new feature in PocketBible.

PocketBible for Android 1.0.8 – Managing Open Books

Posted on: July 16th, 2013 by Michelle Stramel 18 Comments

PocketBible for Android version 1.0.8 has been released on Google Play. If you downloaded the app from Google Play, you will be automatically updated. If you are using a Kindle Fire (or other non-Google Play device), you can download the latest version by browsing to http://lpb.cc/android while on your device.

The new feature in 1.0.8 is the ability to manage open books. Tap on the title bar where the book name is displayed – you’ll see a drop down list of all books you have open in that window or pane. Tap on the X next to a book name to close the book. Or choose the option at the bottom of the list to Open a New Book in that pane.

You can use this feature in a variety of ways in PocketBible. I like to split the screen and keep multiple Bibles open in one pane and my other type books (i.e. commentary, reading plan, dictionary) open in another pane. I have PocketBible set to keep books that are organized by verse on the same verse (Menu | Settings | Program Settings | Bible Synchronization). Then as I move through the Bible, I can tap on my second window to consult commentary or look at other books while I keep my Bibles open in the top pane. I can also easily compare variations of the same verse in the top pane by tapping on the title bar to move quickly to a different translation. Finally, I use the second pane to view my reading plan; then I can view the assigned passage in the top pane so I know where to start and stop.

If you are using PocketBible for iOS, Windows Phone or Windows Store – they all have similar capabilities.

PocketBible for Mac OS: Design Principles

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

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

In no particular order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PocketBible for Android 1.0.6

Posted on: July 2nd, 2013 by Michelle Stramel 47 Comments

PocketBible for Android version 1.0.6 has been released on Google Play. If you downloaded the app from Google Play, you will be automatically updated. If you are using a Kindle Fire (or other non-Google Play device), you can download the latest version by browsing to http://lpb.cc/android while on your device.

The major new feature in 1.0.6 is the ability to highlight Bible verses. It is easy to do – just tap on a verse and PocketBible will temporarily underline the verse. Choose the pencil icon from the menu to select a color and you’re done!

Along with the highlighting, PocketBible will now sync your highlights with the Laridian Cloud. So if you have highlighted verses in other versions of PocketBible, those will be transferred over to the app as well. In conjunction with this, you’ll find a new setting option on the menu for Sync Settings where you can specify how and how often your data is being synced.

While we were at it we threw in some other popular requests like the ability to view Bible verses one line at a time, set the screen in PocketBible to not time out and the ability to hide the status bar. You’ll find these new options in the Setting menus.

Which NIV Bible is Which?

Posted on: June 28th, 2013 by Michelle Stramel 9 Comments

The New International Version of the Bible (NIV) was originally published in 1973. It was updated in 1978, 1984 and then again in 2011. If you purchase the New International Version Bible from Laridian today, you will be purchasing the 2011 edition. If you purchased the NIV Bible previous to 2011, you have the 1984 edition. According to the translators of the NIV, the 2011 update reflects developments in biblical scholarship and changes in English usage yet 95% of the text from the 1984 edition has remained the same.

The PocketBible version of the NIV includes two options (or files) – one with cross-references and one without. If you purchase the 2011 version, the two files will be labeled as follows in your download account:

  • New International Version (NIV Cross Reference Edition)
  • New International Version (NIV)

Note that the cross-reference edition lists a larger file size than the second or non-cross-reference edition. If you also owned the 1984 edition of the NIV, you can continue to use it even if you purchase the 2011 edition. You will see the 1984 edition in your download list as:

  • New International Version (1984 NIV)
  • New International Version (1984 NIV)

Again, look at the file size to distinguish between the cross-reference and non cross-reference edition – the larger file contains cross-references.

If you are not interested in cross-references, install the edition without cross-references. If you like to use cross-references, install only the cross-reference edition. If you ever want to view the Bible text without the cross-reference indicators (also known as footnotes), you can turn those off temporarily in the settings of PocketBible.

If you install both the NIV 1984 and NIV 2011 editions (either cross-reference or not), when you go to open the Bibles – the 1984 Edition is the one that is titled The Holy Bible: New International Version. The 2011 edition is entitled simply as the New International Version. If you open both versions, they each use the NIV abbreviation so it is better to open only one at a time.

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