Posts Tagged BibleReader

My Experiences Learning Greek Part 1

Tonight I am going to start a series of blogs centered around my experiences learning biblical greek.I don’t know how many blog posts this journey will encompass but I have decided I will write shorter posts to spread them out some and to keep from writing one long boring tedious blog post that no one wants to read. :-)

The topics I plan to cover at this point will be my choice of a grammar, and why. Some of my experiences with that grammar so far. I will discuss some of the tools I have used up to now and which I am continuing to use and why.

I will also discuss how bible software has helped me along the way and explain some of the reasons why there are times that I prefer Accordance over BibleReader and visa versa. I apologize for not including Logos in that mix but I started my investment in Accordance over 3 years ago when Logos for the Mac was an additional charge and not as polished as it was on Windows at that time.  I simply don’t have the money to invest into Logos, especially when I have access to all of Olive Tree’s greek resources. So my silence on the Logos front is not because I am biased against it, I simply have no experience with it but I know that Logos does have some very talented and enthusiastic greek geeks on staff like Rick Brannan.

If I seem to be biased towards BibleReader, well I am 😉 because I work for Olive Tree and love every bit of it. That being said I will try to be as balanced and fair as I can be through this journey.

It is my hope that these posts will provide some guidance and insight into self studying biblical greek, and inspire some to take on the journey themselves.

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What’s Going On At Olive Tree?

Since the beginning of the year Olive Tree has been planning some major changes to the iPhone (and now iPad) BibleReader. It began last January with a few large brainstorming sessions and lots of whiteboard space. Then in February we got a bit sidetracked by the arrival of the iPad. The addition of the iPad to our app has been a huge success and from our work on that app we have learned a few things that have caused us to rethink a few of our ideas for the future of BibleReader.

Just as we thought we were getting our feet under us again, we went to WWDC 2010 – and everything changed again. 😉 As soon as we got back from WWDC we resumed our brainstorming sessions trying to incorporate many of the ideas we had been exposed to at WWDC into our BibleReader update. The past two months have been very focused. We have spent a considerable amount of time planning, having meetings, ad-hoc discussions, and friendly debates, all of which have helped us hone in on our new vision for BibleReader. We have also hired a few more people to help us carry out this new vision and now we feel we are ready to dig in and focus more on the work and less on planning.

Its all very exciting to me. Bible readers on mobile devices have been around since the inception of Olive Tree as a company. Since that time mobile devices have evolved and as such so have the readers on those devices. I believe we are still at the defining moments of this technology and Olive Tree plans to lead the way on what that technology will look like, I think you will be quite impressed.

Stay tuned for my next blog post discussing the trials associated with making large changes to an application that people use daily and love.


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Developing BibleReader for the iPad


Well it’s finally here! The Apple iPad. There has been no single technology that I have been more excited about than the iPad. Ever since the tablet rumors started last summer I have been anxious to get one and yesterday I finally did.I have been developing for the iPad since they announced the availability of the SDK in January. It’s been a long road for us at Olive Tree as we worked to prepare our software for the launch of the iPad. Not having the actual hardware in hand has been a bit frustrating for us.

For one thing we didn’t know what the performance of some of the features we were adding would actually be. Developing for the iPhone has taught us that the simulator runs things typically faster than the device and there are things that the simulator will let you get away with that the actual hardware would never let you get away with. So we have gotten into the habit of testing on the device and testing often to be sure we are not getting to far down the road with some performance bottleneck. This was one luxury we did not have with the iPad.

Second and just as important is usability and user experience. We knew from day one that this was not just a big iPhone, anyone who says it is doesn’t get the iPad, it’s a whole new device that the world has never seen. It is true that developers had access to the simulator from the first day the SDK was released but the iPad can not be fully experienced in a simulated environment. Let me put it this way the iPad is not simply software it’s the whole package, hardware, software and Apple magic. As such new and innovative approaches have to be developed along the way to capture that experience and you can really only do that with a real device in hand. So when we were faced with a design question that we just couldn’t answer with an iPhone we typically took the safe route and developed something we knew was familiar to most users rather than developing something so totally new and foreign to users which in the end could potentially be unusable on the iPad. I think time will tell but I believe our initial release will be a strong contender in not only the bible software arena but also in the eBook reader realm as well.

So finally getting the device in hand yesterday was exciting because for the first time in two months of solid development at Olive Tree we were finally able to see our software in action on this amazing new device. I was expecting the worst but amazingly everything worked and worked well right out of the box! From a usability perspective I think we did well, and do feel we have more room for improvement but our initial launch on the iPad is a strong one.

Make no mistake we are not done with BibleReader on the iPad we are only just getting started. iPhone users can also take heart in the fact that we have not stopped iPhone development either. We have so many plans for our upcoming releases that we will busy improving our product for years to come.

I wrote this on my iPad 😉


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Evernote Backup – Progress…

I have been working nearly full time on the Evernote backup implementation and things are shaping up nicely. I became inspired by Tweetie 2’s refresh tweets idea so I decided to implement something similar in our app. I have been wondering for a while how we could have a sync button without a sync button and this works perfectly. Simply pull the table view down beyond the end of the list and release. If the user does not want to sync they can push the list back up before releasing and no sync will occur.
The beta testers have been testing it although we do not have as many testers for this round due to my warning to our testers that this may very well wreck your notes. Users are pretty partial to those things so only a few have been brave enough to try it and so far its gone well. None of our testers, to my knowledge, have lost any of their notes, and as an added bonus their notes are making their way to the evernote server and back.
I am hoping to release another beta to our users later this week as we are shooting for a final release to Apple by the end of the month so that we can have something to show off at ETS next month.


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iPhone BibleReader Progress Update

So after a slight delay I finally posted a new beta for our beta testers today. It was a long haul but worth every bit of work in the end. I totally underestimated how much work would need to be done on our end when using someone else’s services. I figured that since they were doing the heavy lifting we had it easy, but I was wrong. There is just as much book keeping on our end as there is on their end. Adding the concept of a trash bin is what really tripped me up and exposed some hidden bugs in our already existing notes system.
See, when I promised a beta last week I had not yet added the trash bin and really didn’t give it much thought, but as I played with the two together I found not having the trash bin on our side was clumsy and short-sighted so I decided to add it. That unraveled everything on my end for a few days and in the end I learned something about myself.
Isn’t God amazing, He uses my simple little problems at work to teach me something about myself. What I learned is that I am easily unsettled and expect everything to go smoothly. I feel like just because I ask God for a good day at work He should grant it. (After all I am doing the Lord’s work, right?) Then I hit these obstacles, and I freak out inside. If you could have seen me (inside) these last few days you would laugh, because I was pretty frantic trying to pin down what ended up being about 3 bugs stacked on top of each other. Funny thing is I should expect that this is going to happen as I write code, that I am human and do not write perfect code, but I don’t always do that, I rarely do that. Instead I freak out that my code does not work and second guess every design decision I have made in the last week. Things might have gone more smoothly had I been a bit more calm inside.
I think I might try that next time.
Matthew 6:25-34
Prov 12:25
1Pe 5:7


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Evernote Backup Update

Progress on the Evernote backup is moving along quite nicely and I expect to be releasing our first beta with Evernote integration to our beta testers later this afternoon or early tomorrow morning. I am excited to hear their initial reactions and feedback on how to make it better.

Because Evernote is not intended to backup bible notes I had to get creative with the note tags that Evernote does offer, and I think I came up with a simple yet effective system that does not intrude on a user’s experience when using Evernote for notes outside of BibleReader.

Every note has associated with it a category, a verse reference, and an icon. I used tags to store this information, so a note referencing John 3:16 will have a tag [Verse:Jn 3:16]. If that note is in a folder such as “Bible Studies” I create a tag [Category:Bible Studies] and associate the tag with the note. Also it should be noted that in order to keep a user’s notes separate from their bible notes I create a notebook in Evernote called “Bible Notes” and place all the notes we sync from BibleReader in that notebook.

We are trying to make this as open and as generic as possible so that end users do not feel like their notes are forever tied to Olive Tree and so that hopefully other bible programs such as Accordance can make use of the Evernote system and we can have desktop to mobile note synchronization.


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Waiting for BibleReader 4.09?

Stephen and I put a lot of time into iPhone’s BibleReader 4.09 which was partially released last week in the App Store. I say partially because of the way in which we post our application to the app store. Due to the limited search capabilities of the app store and because users looking for a specific resource such as the NIV or ESV Study Bible may miss the finer details of these resources in the BibleReader app we release bundled applications. These bundled applications are the same application but bundled with some specific resource such as the NIV. This makes it easier for the person who is looking for the NIV to learn that Olive Tree’s BibleReader has access to the NIV Bible. Thus we have several bundled applications including but not limited to the ESV, ESV Study Bible (a personal favorite), Amplified, NLT Study Bible (another great bundle) and so on. Each of these bundles is powered by the same underlying software just sold separately for the reasons I mentioned above.

This typically is not an issue but with our latest release things got a bit more complicated. This latest release includes a new way of purchasing resources from Olive Tree using an iPhone feature known as in-app purchasing. Due to the complexity of implementing the new system and the app approval process we decided to hold off on submitting the update for all our bundled apps and just submit the Amplified and a new BibleReader app known as BR Free (See BibleReader price change for more on that). The Amplified was our test case for the new purchasing system. Things went as well as we had hoped so we submitted the rest of our bundled apps shortly after receiving news that Apple had approved the Amplified Bible bundle.

This brings me to the reason I am writing this blog… I know many of you are anxious to get your hands on the latest release and I am excited to get it into your hands, and guess what its possible. If you are currently running one of our bundled resources all you need to do is get an Olive Tree account (if you don’t have one already) and from within the BibleReader 4.08 go to the Settings page and tap the “Olive Tree Account” item where you will find a place to enter your Olive Tree login info and a “Synchronize books” button which will sync your purchases from iTunes with the Olive Tree server. Once this step has been completed we will have an accounting of your purchases that you made with us, allowing us to allow you to re-download those titles into any of our iPhone BibleReaders including the new BR Free. Simply install BR Free onto your iPhone, go to the Library page, find the “My Account” tab. Note: You may be prompted to enter your iTunes password at this point; you can enter it but you will still need to perform the next step. Now tap the “Syncronize books with your Olive Tree account” where you will be prompted for your account information enter it and wait for the synchronization to happen, if it worked your purchased items will appear in a section labeled “Books in your Olive Tree account”. All your past purchases will show up in the reader and you can download them and start enjoying 4.09.

I must warn you however this BR Free does not allow for doing in app purchases as it is Apple’s policy that only paid apps can have in app purchasing. So you must either wait for the generic BibleReader app that is now $0.99 to be approved, or make purchases directly from OliveTree.com.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it really isn’t but if you need some incentive to try it allow me to whet your taste buds. BibleReader 4.09 includes:

  • Full screen support
  • Auto-rotation locking
  • New color options
  • Nicer looking note popups
  • A focus visual that subtly gives you a queue as to which window currently has focus.

Overall the app performs better, looks better and has quite a few new features. As I said at the start of this post, Stephen and I put a lot of time into this release and that is no understatement. We also had a great beta testing team help us iron out several of the kinks and bugs along the way. Many of our testers put in several hours per beta release to ensure that your experience was top notch, we all really owe them a debt of gratitude. :-)

If you still want to hold out and wait for your specific version of BibleReader to be approved, you can 😉 but be warned it may be another week before it is.
Yours In Christ,
David


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Notes Backup – update

After having such a successful day yesterday with Evernote I was anxious to get started fleshing out the details of our notes backup implementation. I spent most of the morning beefing up the login code for the Evernote servers. Making sure that we handle all errors without the app just crashing if it encounters one. Then I started looking into the right way to plug in notes backup into BibleReader. It took everything I had in me not to just start hacking away and writing code, but being that I am still a relatively new employee at Olive Tree I am still finding my way through our code base and understanding the structure of how notes are handled by our software. Being that we develop for more than one platform whatever I do needs to be easily plugged into those other ports at some point. We also want to implement a ‘pluggable’ system so that other backup methods can be used as well in the future. So, while I was hoping for a beta by the end of next week, it may be a little longer than that, but it will definitely be worth the wait, I promise. 😉

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Evernote – Bible Notes Preview

I spent the day having fun with the Evernote API and these are some screenshots showing notes I was able to send from our BibleReader application. Hoping to have a beta out next week.

Showing two notes uploaded from within the BibleReader app.

Showing more detail on a single note uploaded from BibleReader - note the tags are used to keep track of catagory, verse reference, and icon.

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