Accordance started life as a Mac application primarily directed towards scholars, especially in the original languages. Over the years it has broadened to become a full-fledged software platform for Mac OS, Windows and mobile (Android coming soon). A mid-sized company, Accordance is increasingly the closest competitor to Logos.
What’s it like on my computer?
Accordance’s philosophy is to keep the text and search central. On opening, you’re presented with a single search bar. Type in a reference and you’ll go to the Scripture passage; type in a word or phrase and Accordance searches the Bible for you. Either way it can tell the difference and does what you want. It’s about as simple as you can ask.
Another impressive search function is called “flex search.” Search for the word “run” under this mode and you’ll also get “runner,” “running” and even “ran.” A similar “fuzzy search” will find “let this cup pass from me” if you forgot and typed “may this cup pass from me.” Accordance allows you to make basically every type of advanced search you can think of (including all boolean and even things like Granville Sharp).
If you open another biblical text or commentary it automatically opens in parallel and tracks with your text. Open the info pane and Accordance will dynamically show you every book that comments on that verse. Just click the book to open to that spot. If you use Greek and Hebrew, buying a grammatically tagged text is critical. Add a few lexicons and you quickly have a very powerful research tool. In terms of major commentary and theology resources, the Accordance library is huge and consistently stays up to date. Accordance also has powerful atlas and timeline resources.
The library window also makes using Accordance very clear and simple with an automatically organized list of the books you own. Of course you can search or customize as you wish or open them to the passage you’re looking at.
Accordance is also the most flexible of the Bible programs, allowing you to easily customize your layouts, typography and even keyboard shortcuts. This versatility makes it very usable for everyone from academics to casual readers.
A final advantage of Accordance is speed. Even complex searches are lightning fast. Opening the program takes three seconds and large searches spanning across multiple resources are almost instantenous. You’ll find that there’s no waiting—the software works as quickly as you do.
What’s it like on my phone (or tablet)?
Accordance also has a powerful mobile app. Since all of your modules and resources are in the cloud they can be downloaded as needed. As you should expect, notes and highlights made on the app are synced automatically to your computer. Advanced searches are especially easy and powerful on Accordance—no other mobile app is as capable. As with the desktop app, mobile Accordance is impressively fast, with no detectable lag time—something that can’t be said for the other major mobile apps. You can also split the screen between a text and commentary (both scroll together).
Several things could be slight improvements. It would be nice to also have the option of a page flip mode and to have a true full screen (something like the free ESV app for iOS). Navigating between texts or tools can be a little counterintuitive initially and has a bit of a learning curve. But this is largely made up for by the most flexible typographical options of any mobile app as well as a very usable interface—once you get used to it.
What’s it cost?
Finally, Accordance pricing tends to be higher than Olive Tree but cheaper than its nearest competitor, Logos. A functional library for Bible reading starts at $60 and a good set of tools for research at $400. The mobile app is free.
But Accordance primarily intends for you to build your library yourself, buying only the resources you’ll actually use. If you later buy a package, everything you own is simply deducted. The real key to building a library at minimal cost is to be patient. Throughout the year you’ll see discounts of 20-30% on major resources and occasionally even as high as 50%. Sign up for their email list and plan to save your budget for when the best specials appear. If you do it right you can build a high quality library at a minimal cost.
Cons: Some competitors have specific modules that Accordance lacks (showing, for instance, Hebrew parallelism or discourse analysis). I haven’t found any gaps that limit my own work, but Accordance will have to work to keep up. Accordance could also use a graphic sprucing up here and there (timeline, atlas, iOS app) and an improved interface in the mobile app.
Positives: It’s fast but powerful. It’s simple to use and keeps you focused on the text and search rather than pulled into various rabbit trails. It’s also very competitively priced if you keep an eye on the annual sales cycle.
My Accordance wishlist: An improved mobile app with full screen and page flip and improvements on importing a new user tool. Though it doesn’t affect me, I would love to see more free resources included in the free Accordance trial so that users can see how powerful it is (note Olive Tree).
Notes For Advanced Users:
If you aren’t already a user of Bible software, the next few paragraphs will probably be confusing. Feel free to skip them.
Accordance falls somewhere between Bibleworks and Logos. Like Bibleworks, Accordance is more focused on the text and research than a plethora of other books (though any mainstream exegetical resource and most major theological works are available). And yet the interface and usability are far superior to Bibleworks. On the other side, Logos has the most expansive library and more “oh wow” features. Some of these are eye candy that I’m quite happy to live without. But not all—some are genuinely useful. Accordance is a lot more focused, though and doesn’t distract you with a lot of unnecessary media. Depending on how you plan to use them, either platform may be a better fit for your needs.
If you’re a big fan of Bibleworks you probably disagree with my comment that Accordance is the closest Logos competitor. I’ve chosen not to review Bibleworks because I have yet to see a major feature that can’t be done in Accordance or Logos and more importantly, because it is not cross-platform. You can’t use Bibleworks on Mac (except through an emulator) or even more importantly, on mobile. Eventually this will probably spell the end of Bibleworks.
Accordance also has excellent import features. You can import your own Bible texts (this is how I now prepare and preach in Tagalog) or make your own user tools, all of which are then fully searchable with Scripture references automatically recognized.
Be sure to pay attention to Accordance verse lists and Accordance services (on Mac). This is a great way to quickly gather biblical data on a topic and insert it into a writing project. You might search for “=Spirit” (cap sensitive) but decide that you disagree with your translation on the capitalization in a few places. Accordance lets you quickly pull those out of the list. You could then go on to add other terms (“paraclete”) until you’ve developed a list of all the verses you want. Accordance will then easily copy them all as nicely formatted references to paste into your project.
Just as powerful, Accordance services lets you go the other way—select a reference anywhere in any other app and automatically view or paste the entire verse. Again, this is very powerful for writing projects or even for quick reference when reading resources outside of Accordance.
Accordance 12 has added the ability to drop blocks of text or notes from any resource into a “stack.” You can accumulate these pieces until you’re ready to assemble them into a paper. This is a feature that could potentially be powerful though I have not yet fully explored it.