PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #1

As you know, our crowd-funding campaign for PocketBible for Windows ended on September 15 so we’re about one month into the project. While I can’t demonstrate much for you at this point, I do want to fill you in on our progress and answer a few questions.

Over the last couple of years we’ve experimented with a number of programming languages, frameworks, and development tools to try to discover the best way forward for PocketBible for Windows. In the process, we’ve explored some proof-of-concept ideas, some of which will find their way into the finished product.

For example, we needed to be able to display and interact with books with complex layouts, like The NIV with Goodrick-Kohlenberger Numbers and our parsed interlinear Greek New Testaments. You would think that displaying formatted text would be trivial these days, given that it’s 2020 and even Web browser technology from the last century can do it fairly well. PocketBible for Android, iOS, and Mac OS uses HTML rendering built into those platforms that does a very good job. Unfortunately, the similar functionality built into Windows is significantly less capable. So as we explored alternative tool sets for implementing PocketBible for Windows, this is one of the areas we focused on. Our ability to successfully render these complex layouts during our experiments in the summer of 2019 is what led us to settle on our current solution. (We’ll have more to say about that in a future update).

Now that we’ve demonstrated that we can display and interact with the text, we need to be able to extract the text of a book or Bible from our Laridian Book (LBK) file format. The code that does that is fairly extensive and complicated and needs to be translated from its current implementation and thoroughly tested. We’re currently working on that task.

A major area of progress is what we call “user data management”, which is keeping track of your notes, highlights, bookmarks, and daily reading progress. In particular, we wanted to tackle synchronization of that data with Laridian Cloud. This would force us to fully implement the ability to read and write the data from and to the database, and would also require us to solve communication with our cloud-based sync provider — both of which are complex tasks that introduce risk into the schedule. Overcoming those challenges and dealing with that risk during the early part of the project avoids the possibility of unexpected delays right before our ship date, when it is least-practical and most-expensive to deal with it.

As of today, even though the PocketBible app for Windows doesn’t allow you to view or edit notes, it can sync its local notes database with the server. You can’t even see any verses, let alone select one to highlight, but you can correctly sync highlights to and from the cloud. This means we’re able to populate the local database from a customer account, make manual changes using a database editor tool, then request that the program sync again. The app accurately identifies what has changed and syncs those changes to the server. At the same time, it receives and records any modifications or new records sent to it from the server. That means that, at least internally, everything is working. There’s just no user interface to it yet. Sounds weird, but it’s very normal for a software project to be completely working but with no way to see that it’s doing so. That will come later.

It’s also worth noting that even though neither of the current versions of PocketBible for Windows (Windows Desktop or Windows Store versions) support Journal notes or renaming highlight colors (features of the Advanced Feature Set in PocketBible for iOS, Android, and Mac OS), the new version already supports those features. Or rather, the underlying support is there; there’s just no user interface to invoke it.

Until next time, thank you so much for your financial support, prayers, and words of encouragement for this project. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will be the effect of the Windows project on work being done on other platforms?

According to comments on a recent customer survey we did, some of you have expressed concern that our attention to the Windows project will take away from work on other platforms. I want to reassure you this is not the case. In fact, the very purpose of the crowd-funding campaign was to allow us to add staff for the Windows project in order to minimize the impact on other platforms. You may not realize it, but you’ve already seen the results — we shipped a new version of PocketBible for iOS coincident with the release of iOS 14, which introduced a number of major new features for PocketBible on that platform, all while work on PocketBible for Windows continued unabated.

When will I get my rewards?

When you get your rewards depends on what type of rewards you are entitled to.

Physical Rewards: Three contributors were entitled to some special rewards (a 1903 KJV New Testament and two framed, first-edition KJV pages from 1611). These were mailed within a week of the end of the fund-raising campaign.

2021 PocketBible Library Collections: Contributors at the $60, $120, $240, and $360 levels will get the 2021 Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Edition PocketBible Library collections, respectively, when those products are released near the end of the year.

Special Diamond-Level Library Collections: Contributors at levels $720 and above will get the special collection we’re putting together just for those contributors. It will be released either at the same time as the regular 2021 Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum collections are released, or shortly thereafter. We’re aiming for having all of the collections distributed by the end of the year.

Advanced Feature Set Subscriptions: Some contribution levels included multiple years of either the AFS for the new Windows app or for all platforms. Those will be distributed when the new app ships. We haven’t announced a specific ship date but are aiming for late summer, 2021. Obviously, those who are entitled to a mention in the in-app credits will see that when the app ships.

Wait… Isn’t that a Mac in the picture?

Yup.

9 Replies to “PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #1”

  1. I appreciate the update. I agree that the middle/back-end work is definitely where the most complexity tends to reside, but glad you’re making progress all around.

  2. Will there be a capability to pronounce words, including from a dictionary like the Talking Strong’s Dictionary, and will you have that dictionary available? Will it have the ability to highlight a word in English, Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic and pronounce it out loud if that word appears in a pronouncing dictionary available from Laridian? Or, going even further, will the new program be able to read text aloud in English, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic? I hope you will build those capabilities into the PocketBible for Windows 10 version. Thank you for your work to provide platforms that enhance Bible study and provide Biblical scholarship tools on multiple computer operating systems.

    1. The new version will have the same synthesized speech feature as PocketBible currently does on Windows and other platforms. The challenges with highlighting words and pronouncing them are myriad, with the result that no self-pronouncing feature can ever be even close to 100% correct. Consider the simple fact that we spell many words the same despite differences in pronunciation. Are you taking the lead (in a race) or taking the lead (out of a mechanical pencil)? Are you committed to a style of offense or have you committed an offense? Are you going to alternate between alternate addresses when you address the envelope that envelopes the letter, or alternate between alternate addresses when you address different audiences? And that’s just English. Consider that Koine Greek and ancient Hebrew have never been spoken by a native speaker within earshot of any modern scholar, and that the Hebrew Bible was written without any representation for the sound of vowels that were undoubtedly present in speech at the time.

      Having organized such a project in a previous life (the QuickVerse Multimedia Life Application Bible) I know what is involved in a project like this. We used a human speaker, but today could easily use phonetic tags and synthesized voice. But that’s not the problem. The problem is deciding things like whether “Ruth” and “David” should be pronounced as they are in modern English or biblical Hebrew. And knowing the nuances of regional accents and dialects and choosing one knowing that you’re offending everyone else. This is the kind of project that sounds like a great idea, is immensely expensive, and satisfies few.

      That being said, I can neither confirm nor deny that we’re working on such a feature. 🙂

  3. Appreciate the updates; thanks. May God bless you all with wisdom, understanding & skill to develop a spectacular app beyond our expectations and all to His glory.
    Have never failed to be more than pleasantly surprised by PocketBible on my various devices, even way back to my PalmOS. Thanks for keeping up your good work; God bless.

  4. Thanks for the update and best of God’s blessings in this endeavor!
    On a separate note, one additional feature that I would like is the ability to capture sermon notes. I know that you can put a note on a particular verse which I love but it’s not the greatest for putting in a whole sermon outline (because it’s tied to a single verse). It would be nice to have more of a full featured app like OneNote where you could embed links, presentations, word documents that you could also link to particular passages. As an MVP, just a simple sermon notepad that can be sync’d across devices where you would create pages that represent sermons or topics. And then from there add the ability to link to passages. Would be nice to have all of my bible study information in one place and all sync’d across devices. I currently use OneNote but it’s not syncing well between my work laptop using Windows and my other devices because my company has stopped allowing OneDrive. I know there are other tools I could probably make work but think it would be best in my favorite app…Pocket Bible!

    1. You can do what you’re asking using Journal notes. This is a feature of the Advanced Feature Set for iOS, Android, and Mac OS. It will be in the AFS for the new Windows version. It’s just a note that is not connected to a Bible verse. You organize them by giving each a title. Bible references are automatically linked. You can create links to websites but it may not be easy. For example, in PocketBible for iOS there’s a handy little pop-up tool for creating a Web link but in the Mac OS version you have to manually enter the HTML tag to create the link. I imagine that will be fixed in a future version of the Mac OS version, and I imagine the Windows version will be more like it is in iOS. Being able to embed presentations and word processor documents is unlikely because your notes need to be supported across platforms and the embedded documents would need to be able to be sync’ed to our server.

  5. Thanks for the update Craig! What are your thoughts on using a platform like UserVoice to capture suggestions and upvoting?

    1. We already capture suggestions and feedback through tech support, surveys, and other direct feedback from customers. We’ll be demo’ing as we implement and gathering feedback along the way. It’s important to remember that we’re not doing anything new here; we’re just refreshing the product on one platform that has been neglected. We already have a good idea of what people are looking for and how we’re going to deliver it. But that doesn’t mean we’re not interested in input. That’s why I’m making an effort to communicate with our Jump-Start Campaign contributors and being more open about the development of this product than we usually are. In short, I think we’re already doing what you are suggesting, just not with a tool dedicated to that purpose.

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