A Close Look a OakTree’s Accordance, Part III: Tallying Up the Value

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 23:01

Even after reading the first two parts of this series (Part I, Part II), the question from the budget conscious person may be, “Why not a different program – QuickVerse or even SWORD – that is a lot cheaper?” That is a good question, but one Accordance can easily answer in one word: flexibility.

Recall the analogy of the entry level DSLR mentioned in the first part of this review. If we look at Accordance like a camera system, buying in means more than just buying a camera body and a couple of standard lenses. Every SLR system has lenses such as the “default” 50mm and a few basic flashes. But, if you need something off the beaten path, you will be much better served if you chose wisely and bought into a system that meets not only your present needs, but your future ones as well – even needs you have not imagined yet! In the long run, looking at the ecosystem around the core product will save you money and the frustration of having to relearn how to do basic tasks later on. This is as true with Bible software as it is with cameras.

First, it should be noted while the Black Box QuickVerse clocks in at just $99 with a very nice suite of modern English translations, the addition of which to even the cheapest Accordance Library would start to edge it towards $200, no version of QuickVerse on the Mac supports Greek and Hebrew Bibles (and only the $699 edition includes a tagged Greek New Testament on Windows). In fact, Accordance also has a lower entry price than its equivalents offered by its nearer competitors, BibleWorks and Logos. Obviously Accordance does cost more than the free SWORD-based Bible software.

But to the hypothetical bargain shopper tempted by QuickVerse or SWORD, I would suggest that an initial investment allows anyone, especially those erring on the scholarly side, a massive advantage in flexibility. Neither QuickVerse nor SWORD offers nearly as many modules covering both original language and English Bible study. While the cost does add up, the convenience of having an unabridged BDB Hebrew or BDAG Greek lexicon will quickly make up in time what has been spent in cash. These simply are not available in the cheaper programs and their substitutes are inadequate (and unacceptable in scholarly work).

Accordance offers one of the broadest selections of commentaries, translations and other tools for any platform. From the ESV Study Bible to the vast, complete 58 volume Word Biblical Commentary. From the more specialized, such as the intriguing CNTTS Apparatus which lists all of the major variants of the Greek text in most (soon to be all) of the New Testament to more widely appealing tools such as the complete archive of Biblical Archeology Review.

To be sure, there is reason to question buying proprietary modules for a program like Accordance, since the ability to use these modules on future computers is highly dependent on the company producing them staying afloat. But, this is more of a general problem apparent in any software offering significant, still under copyright modules than something specific to Accordance or Bible software as a category. By and large, the benefits of having some resources available electronically easily ensures that even if Accordance was discontinued someday in the distant future, the cost of the package would have long since paid for itself.

A 3D view in Accordance's Atlas, with Judea and Samaria in view.

Flexibility also extends beyond the module selection to the company behind the product. If you are going to invest in a somewhat “significantly priced” bundle and various other modules, it is nice to know that you are not at the mercy of a difficult to deal with company. As with the Bible Atlas example discussed above, where the sampler’s cost can be used in full towards the complete edition, OakTree also kindly offers no-penalty upgrades to larger packages from smaller ones, free minor (and sometimes major) updates to modules that you own and flexible policies when new major upgrades come out right after buying a previous version. OakTree is a for-profit company, but it seems very ministry minded all the same.

A final, related consideration has to do with support – though Accordance is easy to use, its depth means that it takes more than simply clicking around to master it. We found OakTree does an excellent job backing the product through both traditional customer support and other means. For example, the company sends trainers all across the country to provide all day, free training seminars. I attended one during the time we were working on this review and found it invaluable. I learned how to use many more or less readily apparent features, including some I would not have even thought to ask about. You do not need to wait until a seminar comes to town to start using Accordance by any means, but any robust product can be better used with a little training and when that training is free, that is worth taking note of.

In addition to those seminars, Accordance developer David Lang blogs for the company, providing in-depth, easy to understand tutorials, often multiple times per week. Lang and other staff members also frequent the company’s vibrant user forums and often reply within hours, if not minutes, when I inquired about both general and somewhat obscure features I was testing.

Accordance is not without its flaws, but at the same time, it remains one of the most satisfyingly well-sorted products of any type to come through OFB Labs. As we have seen over this two part review, there is a lot to commend the product to those considering it and very little to discourage purchase. We appreciated that Accordance is almost in a league of its own in its ability to appeal to varying kinds of users – something even most scholars ought to appreciate at the end of the day when something less than detailed exegesis is called for.

Yes, you can choose cheaper options, but Accordance’s ease of use and flexibility make it extremely attractive for anyone doing any sort of Bible study. The care the company puts into its community of users only commends it further. Whether you are a home user wanting to do a simple Bible study with a little cross-reference or you are a scholar doing academic research, if you are a Mac user (or a potential Mac convert) Accordance should be on your “buy” list.

Summary

Rating: 9.0 (Highly Recommended)

Pros: A mature, polished interface; easy to use, but robust feature set and large selection of modules make this a complete system adaptable to varying needs. A vibrant community and helpful company aid in getting the most out of the product.

Cons: Slow multi-module search limits the ability to quickly work with Accordance’s large library of modules. More current, copyrighted translations and references would be helpful.

Bottom line: If you do any Bible study, Accordance will help you do more study in whatever time you have. A mature product with an incremental, continuous flow of improvements hints at a long, successful future.


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