08 June 2011

RFE: Synchronization Tools

I've been using both Pocket e-Sword and e-Sword for Bible Study. I'd like to have a tool that synchronizes e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword data.
  • Bible Reading Plans
  • Markup
  • Prayer Requests List
  • Scripture Memory Verse
  • Study Notes
  • Verse Lists


    The Non-Technical issue is if Rick will approve the creation of, and distribution of a tool that synchronizes e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword content/resources. All of these formats are "closed". Currently, they can only be created from within Pocket e-Sword.(In theory, this also holds true for e-Sword.) No publicly available tools can be utilized to create these resources for Pocket e-Sword.

Technical Issues
e-Sword can utilize the Orthodox Canon. Pocket e-Sword is limited to the Catholic Canon. For most users, the differences will not be an issue. For the rest, the differences might be enough to preclude using Pocket e-Sword.

Bible Reading Plans
In theory, the Bible Reading Plans for both e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword are limited to the Protestant Canon. In practice, some users have created Bible Reading Plans that include the Anagignoskomena for e-Sword. These might not be synchronizable with Pocket e-Sword.

Markup 
Pocket e-Sword offers highlighting by verse only. The colour palette offers 9 colours, and "delete highlighting". This highlighting is version agnostic.
e-Sword offers both underlining (thin line, thick line, wavy line, dashed line, no underlining) and highlighting. The initial palette offers six choices.  An expanded palette of 48 colours is available.  Users can create a custom palette of up to sixteen colours.  Users can either highlight, or underline anything from a single character, to the entire chapter.  This markup is resource specific.

Prayer Requests List
I don't know how many times I've been asked to add somebody to my prayer list, and done so, on my PDA.  However , that list doesn't get transferred to my Linux Box. I haven't found any functional differences between e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword, in how they handle Prayer Requests. [I need to point out that e-Sword allows for multiple Prayer Request Lists. Pocket e-Sword only allows for one Prayer Request List.]


Scripture Memory Verse
Pocket e-Sword appears to restrict verses to the Protestant Canon. My test might have been a simple "bad" abbreviation, to cause an endless chain of error messages. (I used 1 Mac 1:1, rather than 1Ma 1:1.) Other than that, I'm not aware of any technical issues in synchronizing between e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword.

Study Notes
If Pocket e-Sword can display the specific verse, a user can add a note for that verse. However, user created Bibles that include content from the Anagignoskomena tend to have issues. (Not surprising, since Pocket e-Sword doesn't officially support the Anagignoskomena.) Those issues may hamper synchronization between e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword.

Rather than synchronizing, or attempting to synchronize the study notes, create/merge a commentary file that contains updated entries from both the e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword study not files. Doing this would also simplify the distribution of one's study notes. (Users are free to create their own notes about one's commentary --- two or more instances of e-Sword can be run at the same time.)

Verse Lists 
Pocket e-Sword doesn't allow for the creation of a permanent verse list. Under some circumstances, it appears that the verse list is not deleted when Pocket e-Sword is closed. (I haven't spent much time in to determining when I lose my verse list, and when I don't. Soft resets will delete the existing verse list. Not closing Pocket e-Sword between study sessions will retain the verse list.)

This issue might make synchronized verse lists technically infeasible.

Resource Creation Issues
As a general rule, these resource types are usually created by an individual for their personal use.  The rest of this post covers why users might want to be able to create these resources from content that they did not create.

Bible Reading Plans
e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword enable one to create a Bible Reading Plan for the Protestant Canon only. No provision is made for the Anagignoskomena.

A function that e-Sword does not include, is the ability to track the number of times one has read a specific Bible Reading Plan. A Bible reading Plan that includes reading the book n  times, is useful for instances such as New_Christian_Bible_Reading_Plan.brp, ( http://e-sword-users.org/users/node/426 for e-Sword 8.x, http://e-sword-users.org/users/node/3026 for e-Sword 9.x ) where the same books are read three or four times, in the first six months.

For new users, the lack of preconfigured Bible Reading Plans _might_ be an issue.  (Findex claims that over 200 preconfigured Bible Reading Plans are included in Quickverse 2010, up from 125 plus in previous versions.) Perhaps some of the 5 000 + different BRPs that can be created from within e-Sword can be distributed as user created resources.

For experienced users the inability to construct Bible Reading Plans such as New_Christian_Bible_Reading_Plan.brp from within e-Sword and/or Pocket is an inconvenience.   On the flipside, how many specialized Bible Reading Plans are there?   Lectionary and Daily Office readings should be Devotional resources, not BRPs.

Because the process of creating a Bible Reading Plan manually is error prone, a tool that imports the readings, and verifies that they are "correct", would be useful.   ( "Correct" here means refers to an actual passage in the Bible. )

Markup
A  few years ago I stumbled across The Rainbow Bible (Not legally distributable as an e-Sword resource) . http://www.standardpub.com/bibles/main.html should link to a page that describes this Bible. I  later on a stumbled across a Bible that used highlighting to demarcate the different documents defined by The Documentary Hypothesis (Not currently available as an e-Sword resource). My guess is that I've come across less than a dozen books or documents, that could be distributed with markup.ovl as a one component, if they were converted to e-Sword format.

The only other situation in which distribution of markup.ovl makes sense, is if one is creating a replicate of a personal bible,  and wants to include the highlighting, underlining, and sidelining that the individual did, instead of only the written notes. Written notes are usually best distributed as a commentary resource.

Prayer Requests List
When Rick added this component, I doubt he had Praying_The_Psalms.prl (Not currently available as an e-Sword resource)  as a potential resource. OTOH, its flexibility does enable one to construct rosary.prl (Not currently available as an e-Sword resource) so that the appropriate prayers each day are made --- regardless of whether the 15 or 20 decade version is used.

A tool that enable the creation of this resource type would be used by very few people.  Seriously, how many times does one see a list of people, etc to pray for?   I usually get additions one at a time. On the flip side, such a tool might be useful for the church secretary, to enable the church to email the current prayer list, as an e-Sword resource, to every member of the congregation. It also would be useful to those who convert breviaries, and similar material into the appropriate e-Sword resource.
 
Scripture Memory Verse
There are hundreds, if not thousands of lists of verses to memorize out there.  Navigator's  Topical Memory System (Not legally available as an e-Sword resource)  is probably the best known commercially distributed list.  The Roman Road ( roman_road.mem http://e-sword-users.org/users/node/73 for e-Sword 8.x) is probably best known one that is freely available.

A tool that imports a list of verses would remove some of the drudgery involved in creating these resources from within e-Sword. It also could parse the verse references, altering them to an abbreviation that e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword recognize.

Study Notes
If Pocket e-Sword can display the specific verse, a user can add a note for that verse. However, user created Bibles that include content from the Anagignoskomena tend to have issues. (Not surprising, since Pocket e-Sword doesn't officially support the Anagignoskomena.) Those issues may hamper synchronization between e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword.

Rather than synchronizing, or attempting to synchronize the study notes, create/merge a commentary file that contains updated entries from both the e-Sword and Pocket e-Sword study not files. Doing this would also simplify the distribution of one's study notes. (Users are free to create their own notes about one's commentary --- two or more instances of e-Sword can be run at the same time.)

Verse Lists  
A list of verses, without any context, is meaningless.  The filename is the only way to ascribe a meaning to the resource.  And yet, even with that limitation, they can be useful. Red_Letter.lst (Not currently available as an e-Sword resource) indicates which verses are the Words of Jesus.

The Documentary Hypothesis Collection (Not publicly distributed as an e-Sword resource)  is probably unique, in both scope, and number of resources it contains.  It too, is a victim of "meaningless filenames", that reduce the utility and functionality of the specific resource.

Most lists are best constructed as either dictionaries ( For example Endtime Prophecy topical verse lists http://www.endtimeprophecy.net/EPN-1/GroupPages/grupvrs1.html) or Harmony resources.  For example, The_Documentary_Hypothesis.har  (Not publicly available for e-Sword.) I'm not convinced that there are enough verse lists out there, that would be functionally usable, and created, to justify the creation of a tool to import them into e-Sword. On the flip side, a tool could automatically validate the verses, to ensure that they theoretically exist.  (For example, 1 Daniel 3:95. )

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This was originally posted on my blog at e-Sword-users.org on 20091117.  This was before Rick announced that development on Pocket e-Sword had ceased.
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