PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #6

I was hoping to post a video update this time but if you’ve been following these updates over the last few months you know they’re doing construction right outside our windows. Today it’s especially noisy. So this is going to be a text-based update.

In the last couple of months we’ve made significant progress in several areas. I’ll go over each of these.

Searching

I demonstrated searching last time. Since then we have made it so search words/phrases are highlighted in the text and in the search results themselves.

Search results are highlighted in the text and categorized in the search results pane on the left.

If you’ve used PocketBible for Android, iOS, or macOS, you’ve seen how we organize search results into categories like “exact match”, “sounds like”, “same root word”, etc. We’ve implemented all those searches now in the Windows version. You can tap on the heading of each section of results to collapse or expand it to make it easier to navigate through the results.

Search results are displayed as they become available and a progress bar shows you how far along you are in the search.

The “did you mean ‘go to’?” result category is implemented, so you can “search” for John 3:16 in a Bible and the app will realize that you just want to go to that verse and will take you there.

In addition, there are three different “sizes” of the search results excerpts. You can display just the Bible reference, just a one-line excerpt, or three lines of the full verse.

Text Display

The program allowed you to change the font and font size before; those settings are now saved between sessions. Changing the font size affects the size of text in search results, lists of highlights/bookmarks, notes, etc.

Highlights are shown in the text. The “words of Christ” color (red here) is adjusted to maintain contrast against each highlight background color.

Note links and highlights are now shown in the text. Before you could highlight a verse and it would show up in your list of highlights, but was not shown in the text. The app automatically adjusts colored text (links, search hit, and words of Christ) so that the text has adequate contrast against each of the highlight colors. If we didn’t do this, you wouldn’t be able to see “words of Christ in red” against a red highlight background.

Note links in the text are active. Clicking on a note link shows you the note in the Notes pane.

Color Schemes

While working on highlight colors, and especially while adjusting the various text colors to make sure they’re visible against all the highlight colors, we did some work on color schemes, especially to make sure that text colors were visible against all the different backgrounds.

Color schemes are now persistent between sessions.

Create a custom color scheme. Start by copying an existing scheme.

We’ve added a custom color scheme so that you can choose your own background and text colors for various parts of the user interface. You can copy an existing color scheme then modify it. If you don’t like your changes, you can revert to your previous custom scheme.

In the process of tweaking the color schemes, we’ve defined some additional built-in schemes. We may or may not keep these.

Go To…

The Go To Verse pane works for Bibles. You can type a reference like “John 3:16” to go directly there. As you type, a list of all matching Bible book names and abbreviations is displayed to help you get the spelling right.

Go To Verse pane with list of recently visited verses.

Instead of typing a reference, you can choose a book from a list of all the books of the Bible, then choose a chapter from a list of all the chapters in that book, then choose a verse from all the verses in that chapter. PocketBible will correctly display weird chapter schemes, like the “Prologue” in the apocryphal/deuterocanonical book of Sirach and the lettered chapters that appear in Esther in some Bibles.

Any time you go to a verse or click on a link to a verse, the verse is added to a list of recently visited verses that appears in the Go To Verse pane. This allows you to quickly navigate to a passage you were previously reading. A button at the bottom of this list allows you to clear it, though it’s not necessary to every do that.

For dictionaries, commentaries, and “other” books, you will navigate via the table of contents. As of today, the table of contents navigation hasn’t been implemented, but you can type a word into a field at the top of the Go To pane to go to the dictionary entry for that word, or type a verse reference to go to the commentary article for that reference. In both cases, a drop-down list of all possible words (dictionaries) or Bible references (commentaries) helps you navigate these books.

Account

We’ve implemented the ability to log into your account. We use that to determine if you own the Advanced Feature Set and will enable/disable features as a result. Previously we had been using a hard-wired test account.

Schedule

We were really aiming for the end of the year but it’s looking like it’s going to be a little longer than that. A few unexpected and some arguably predictable factors have affected the schedule. One of our key programmers was in a car accident and suffered a concussion that manifests as an inability to focus and think clearly. This has impacted our productivity substantially. In addition, one of our outside contract programmers has had very limited availability. We’re expecting that to improve over the next couple of months.

The biggest issue is that we severely underestimated the amount of time it would take to re-write the entire program in a new language and deal with issues that would arise as a result. There are still major pieces of code (especially Advanced Feature Set features) that have not even been touched.

We’re not going to predict a new date at this point. Suffice to say it won’t be in 2021. Sorry about that. Stick with us, though β€” the program is really going to be good when we get it done. And as soon as we feel like we can be 80% sure of a ship date (or a beta date) we’ll let you know.

Construction

As I mentioned above, our office sits right above a major construction site. The street in front of our office has been closed for complete replacement for a block and a half in each direction. At the same time, a one-block wide, three-story tall retail/apartment building is going up across the street. This has been going on since June or July. They hope to open the street by the end of the month, then close it back down next spring.

180Β° panorama of the street below.

The construction project has been a source of endless surprises, such as showing up one morning a couple weeks ago to discover that there was literally no access to our building. The sidewalks were closed from both directions. Yellow caution tape was taped across our door. We discovered the secret was to walk boldly through the construction site as if you belong there, and remove the caution tape as if the danger is past. The downside, however, is that then they pour a new sidewalk right outside your door and you can’t leave until it’s dry enough to walk on.

On another day, the electricians were digging a hole for a street light foundation and augured right through the new water main in front of the neighboring building. We didn’t anticipate a problem, since one of the features of the new system is that they can shut off water to one building without affecting the others. Despite that grand promise, we were still without water for most of the day for some reason.

On a positive note, we were able to get a bike rack installed, so no more locking our bikes to whatever stationary object is convenient. Just in time for winter. πŸ™‚

PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #5

If screen shots and videos of this Windows app appear to have been captured on a Mac, that’s because they were. We are able to do development and testing on macOS even though we’ll eventually deploy on PC.

I’ve heard from a couple of you asking for an update. That usually means I haven’t taken the time to look up from my work and look at a calendar for a while.

Since the last update, PocketBible can perform searches and show results. If you use any of the non-Windows versions of PocketBible, you know that it performs about a dozen different searches in parallel to accomplish one search. So you’ll see results that match exactly; results that have all the words you’re looking for, but in a different order; words that sound the same; words that have the same root word; etc. I mentioned before that it is a challenge to launch these searches in parallel in the new Windows version, but we’ve figured out a way to do that and we think it’s going to work reasonably well. Right now, we’re testing these one at a time to make it easier.

The video below demonstrates searching as compared to the current Mac version (on the left). The videos are synchronized so that the searches start at the same time on each platform so you can compare the times. As you can see, the time it takes to return exact matches is pretty close to the same in both apps. This is pretty impressive given that the Mac version is a native, compiled app and the Windows version is something less than native and something more than interpreted. If that makes no sense to you, suffice to say that we’re seeing good results when it comes to search speed.

Note that in one of the searches, the Mac version returns some results right away because they’re easy to calculate, but takes about the same amount of time to display “exact matches” as the Windows version does.

Early look at searches in PocketBible for Windows

Last time I mentioned that while we were displaying lists of bookmarks and highlights, those lists were not yet fully optimized. Trying to display a list of 30,000 verses would bring the program to its knees (not to mention what it would do to a user or to Allen in Tech Support). We spent quite a bit of time since the last progress update downloading the source code for the third-party component we’re using and modifying it to do what we need it to do in order to display lists of things (search results, notes, highlights, and bookmarks, primarily). In the demo above you’ll see that we’re able to quickly display a list of over 20,000 search results. That was the goal.

We subsequently have had to do similar customizations with context menus (the little pop-up menu you get when you right-click). Our development tools have a very basic one built-in, but it doesn’t allow for sub-menus. The third-party one we found has sub-menus but they don’t have the same functionality as the main context menu. And it doesn’t handle the correct placement of sub-menus on the screen β€” they will happily display themselves off the right edge of your screen. So again, we’ve had to download the source code for this component, learn completely how it works, then modify it for our usage.

One of the interesting things to me as a programmer is having the opportunity to go through this body of code that I’ve lived with for 23 years now and translate it line-by-line into another programming language. In the course of doing that, you learn a lot of things. For example, there are at least 4 different reasons you need to extract Bible text from the compressed LBK file: displaying it on the screen (of course), copying a passage to the clipboard, extracting text during an Autostudy, and displaying a little excerpt in search results.

While working on search results I discovered these 4 scenarios make use of 3 entirely separate paths through the code to do a very similar thing: (1) One path is used for displaying text on the screen. (2) The second is used for either copying a passage or doing an Autostudy. (3) The third is used to display excerpts in search results. It turns out that the last two methods (2 and 3) were completely duplicating the code that gets text to be displayed on the screen (1), then filtering out what wasn’t needed before using it.

As a result, part of what I’ve been working on is eliminating this duplication of code. Now there’s just one way to get text out of the LBK file. Anyone who wants to use it for something other than displaying it on the screen will filter out the tags and features they don’t need. It sounds complicated but it’s much simpler and significantly reduced the amount of code that needed to be translated and tested.

We’re still aiming for being done by the end of the year. One thing working in our favor is it looks like PocketBible for iOS is going to require very little, if any, updating for iOS 15. That normally consumes all my time in August and September.


Last time I told you about our new office space. After moving in, we realized we hadn’t thought about the fact that the city was about to start a major street construction project that has our main street and several side-streets completely torn up. The construction area is 3 blocks long and our office sits right in the center.

At the same time, the strip mall across the street is being demolished to make way for a combined retail/residential building complex. The view out our office windows has been fascinating as dozens of excavators, dump trucks. bobcats, drills, cement mixers, and more work right below us.

We still have access to the building from the back, but the activity right outside the window is a little distracting. And this will be going on for the next 2 years. So that should be fun. πŸ™‚

Replacing the decades-old sanitary sewer on the main street through town, right in front of our office.
In the foreground, storm sewer work begins on our main street. In the background, footings are being poured for a 3-story commercial/residential building.
An old steam line wrapped with asbestos was unexpectedly found under the street in front of our office and had to be dealt with. Specially trained workers in hazmat suits and respirators filled dozens of large bags with asbestos insulation while surrounding dirt and clay tile was carefully removed.

PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #2

More Rewards Distributed

The 2021 editions of the PocketBible Library Collections are being released coincident with this status update. If your reward package included the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Library, you’ll find those books are now in your account. The special Diamond Edition for those at the higher contribution levels has also been distributed, though of course it’s not available to the public. You can download any new books from these collections using the Cloud Library feature in PocketBible.

Note that the 2021 editions contain some Bibles that are not compatible with the current Windows versions of PocketBible, particularly The Passion Translation, World English Bible with Strong’s Numbers, and the Spanish Nueva Biblia de las AmΓ©ricas. These will work in PocketBible on other platforms.

Note further that the collections include the very recently released 2020 edition of the New American Standard Bible. The publisher has said we can continue to offer the 1995 edition, but we need to refer to it as “NASB1995” and call the new version “NASB”. Since the Windows versions can’t be updated to use the new abbreviation for the 1995 edition of the NASB, you will end up with two Bibles both called NASB. In the Windows Desktop version you could potentially have 4 tabs labelled NASB, NASB, NASEC, and NASEC (the latter two being the NASB with Strong’s Numbers). You’ll find if you hover over the tab you’ll be able to see which one it is. In other places where you’re choosing from two versions with the same abbreviation, you’ll see that “1995” or “2020” has been added to the title so you can tell which one each is.

Diamond Edition Contents

Because the 2021 Diamond Edition is not available to the public, there’s not an easy way to see what it contains. This collection, which was offered as a reward for those who contributed $720 or more to the project, contains everything in the 2021 Platinum Edition plus:

A Hebrew Word for the Day
Ancient Christian Commentary Series
Bible Reader’s Companion
Bible Teacher’s Commentary
Dake Study Bible Notes
Ephesians: Reformed Expository Commentary
Gospel Transformation Bible Notes
Greek New Testament Collection
Knowing the Bible Series
Maclaren’s Expositions of Holy Scriptures
Preaching the Word Series
Systematic Theology Study Bible Notes
The Good and Beautiful Community
The Good and Beautiful God
The Good and Beautiful Life
The Sermon Notebook
Understanding the Bible Series

The total value of all these books sold separately is over $4000. Thank you again for your support!

Progress Update

Work continues on two fronts: Implementing features related to what we call “user data management” (notes, highlights, bookmarks, and daily reading progress), and translating the code at the core of PocketBible that reads and acts on PocketBible books and Bibles.

We’ve completed much of the nuts and bolts of user data management and have begun to work on user interface issues related to those features. For example, neither the Windows Store nor the Windows Desktop version of PocketBible allows you to set bookmarks on more than one verse at a time. (To be fair, neither does the Mac OS version.) But the iOS version recognizes that you have multiple verses selected and assumes you want to set or clear bookmarks on all (or at least some) of those verses. We prefer this behavior and want to introduce it in the new Windows version.

This is what we meant when we said that we would draw on our experience with the Mac OS and iOS versions when writing the new Windows version. Not that we were going to duplicate either one, but that we would allow what we’ve learned while experimenting with different ideas on those platforms to influence how we re-imagine the Windows version.

I’ve said before that we’d be building the new version using a different programming language, application framework, and toolset. So porting the shared portions of the code β€” functionality like being able to read and operate on our Laridian book (LBK) files β€” is mostly a “translation” task. This is not entirely true, as certain concepts are very different between the two languages, as are the syntax, idioms, and data types.

To give you an idea of the size of this task, I counted this morning (automatically, not by hand) the number of lines in the shared C++ code and it came to 457,326 lines. That’s about 8000 pages if you were to print it out. All of that code has to be read line-by-line, translated (taking into account changes made to other parts of the code during translation), and tested.

We continue to make progress in this area, though I believe we’re only about 10% to 20% through it. For example, the program is now able to detect the books you have installed and allow you to select from among them β€” though once you open a book, you’re not able to read text from it. The text we see on the screen is simulated β€” biblical lorem ipsum so to speak. I’m working on that portion of the code right now.

PocketBible is on MeWe

With more PocketBible users making the move from Facebook to MeWe, we thought we should be there, too. We’re not leaving Facebook, just adding a MeWe page. You can click here or search for PocketBible on MeWe. When you find us, follow us.

For those of you who have never heard of MeWe, it’s like Facebook except without the ads and the censorship of certain points of view. It’s free like Facebook, but you can get access to premium features for a small fee. The free version seems to work great, though.

We’ve been happily posting on Facebook since March 2008 and have no plans to leave. We have, however, left Twitter and have no plans to return. It didn’t really fit our needs, nor, apparently, the needs of the majority of PocketBible users.

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 β€” 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 β€” 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.

Americans Lack Basic Understanding of the God of the Bible

The Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University released a study last week showing that Americans demonstrate an increasing ignorance of God and in some cases hold self-contradicting views of God’s attributes and actions.

The survey of 2000 adults was conducted in January, 2020 to determine the percentage of the country that holds a biblical worldview. It found that only 51% of Americans believe that God is the “all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who still rules the world today.” This is down from 73% who agreed with that statement in 1991.

The largest drops are among the youngest (under 30) and the oldest (over 75) among us. There is also a clear divide along political lines, with self-described liberals and Democrats holding the least biblical worldview and conservatives/Republicans, the most. Agnostic (“there may be a God, but we can’t know for sure”) and atheistic (“there is no God”) views have grown substantially in the last 30 year.s

Some contradictory views also come out in the survey. 45% who claim God exists also say they can’t be sure. This would actually seem to be more consistent with an agnostic view. One-third of those who old a biblical view of God way that he has no reason behind what he causes or allows to happen to them. One could argue that an irrational God is little better than (and certainly more frightening than) no God at all. Only 1/3 of those who believe in the God of the Bible say that he is involved in their lives. Again, a God who doesn’t care about us seems little better than no God at all.

Slightly more people believe in the biblical person of Satan than in the biblical person of God. Think about that for a while.


PocketBible can’t fix a person’s ignorance of God or of God’s character on its own, but it can give you the tools you need to repair your own understanding of God and help you share a biblical worldview with the people you live and work with. And this survey reflects only the opinions of Americans, where Christianity allegedly has its best foothold. There is no lack of work to be done, starting here and throughout the world.

We’re not virtual anymore!

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

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

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

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

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

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