So, for those of you who aren't in my immediate vicinity or who aren't on Google Talk all the time, this might well be your first exposure to my latest project. I'm calling it PyScriptures. Py because I wrote it all in Python. Scriptures because it is a program that provides the entire LDS standard works (as far as the actual scriptures are concerned, anyway).
I have been working on this sort of program for a very long time. My first attempt was way back in probably 2001, using PHP. I wanted to have a way to easily read the scriptures on my computer without requiring an Internet connection. To go along with this, I wanted to be able to highlight text, mark verses, and easily navigate the scriptures. Obviously, I never quite got it right--that's why I'm still working on new versions all the time.
After a while, I learned that I would be getting a nifty Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 as a graduation present. It's a Linux-based PDA (one of the first, actually), and it's still pretty powerful considering that it's 6 years old now. Anyway, once I got that little gadget, I wanted to get the scriptures on there, too. I didn't have any of the MarkMyScriptures software that other PDA users enjoyed, because of the different operating system. Not to mention how cheap I am (I hate buying software). I ended up porting my PHP/MySQL version of the scriptures to my PDA and using it that way for a little while, but that proved to be very inefficient. The project went on hold for a while, during my time as a missionary in Romania.
When I returned home from my mission, I picked up the scriptures project again. I think my next stab was a Swing-based Java application. It worked well enough, but it never really got too far beyond, "Oh look! The scriptures!"
It was also during the time I was working on the Java version that I realized that the database I was relying upon for my scriptures was incomplete. I'm not sure what the extent of the missing information was, but I remember specifically looking up Doctrine & Covenants 77 only to find questions with no answers. The database was also not very "normalized" but that's more of a nerdy topic, so I will spare you the details. I attempted to contact the bloke in responsible for maintaining that database to let him know of the problems, but it seems like he died or something. Absolutely no response from him, and no activity on his website for two years.
After discovering the lack of complete scripture in that database, I made a promise to myself that I would make my own version of the database so I wouldn't have to stumble upon more incomplete or inaccurate scriptures. This became a reality early in May, as I wrote a program (in Python) that actually downloaded (I call it "harvesting") all of the scriptures directly from the Church's website. It took quite a bit of time to perfect, but as far as I can tell, it works great now. It puts all of the scriptures in a nice, normalized database. So far I know it works with SQLite and MySQL, but it should work just dandy with others as well.
Once I had that fresh database, I began working on a graphical interface for the scriptures. I had been tinkering with something called wxPython for a little while, but I'd never really built anything useful with it. I could never get used to laying things out after using the amazing GUI builder in NetBeans.
This past weekend I've been hacking nearly non-stop to get a nice, functional interface for my scripture program. I'm very satisfied with it, and I have to admit that it performs far better than any previous iteration of this project. There's still a lot to be done to make it work the way I want it to, but here's a brief list of features in this version 0.2a release:
- Cross-Platform Compatible: This program works exactly the same on Windows, Linux, and Mac. I've tested it on Windows XP, Vista, Ubuntu Linux, Slackware Linux, and MacOS X (leopard) and have only found minor differences that don't really matter anyway. The program itself does work though.
- Fast: Python does a good job at working quickly, even with my crummy code. It boasts incredible speed when retrieving and rendering the entire canon of scripture.
- Simple searching: You can type in a word, part of a word, or a whole phrase, and it will find any and all matches (case-insensitively) in the entire standard works.
- Quick Jump: Know the exact reference to the scripture you want? Type it in and you're immediately taken to that verse. I never understood why other programs don't have this feature. My implementation is not perfect, but it sure as heck didn't take much to get it where it is.
- Adjustable font sizes: You can easily adjust the size of the scripture text (within reasonable limits). That way you can make it easier to read if you're not sitting right in front of your computer.
- Easy navigation: You can quickly and easily jump to the next or previous chapter or book. I realize that this might not be very useful to a lot of people, but I love this sort of functionality.
- Random verse: Click one button to jump to some random verse anywhere in the scriptures. This is mostly a database deal, and it seems to prefer the Old Testament in my experience. Maybe that's just because the Old Testament probably has more verses than the rest of the volumes put together?
- Good memory: Prefer to have your window maximized? Don't like seeing the toolbar? The program will remember things like that, as well as the size and position of the window on your screen (if it's not maximized) and what verse you had selected immediately before closing down the program.
- Keyboard shortcuts: For those of us who hate to use mice, there are keyboard shortcuts to do most things in the program.
There's still more fun stuff to come, but I had to get something out the door. I spent most of today just trying to get the program to behave well on other platforms (mostly Windows), because I develop on Linux. If you're interested in trying out what I have now, feel free to download whatever suits you best:
Windows Installer (32-bit) (9.0MB)
Debian Linux (including Ubuntu) (2.9MB)
Launch pyscriptures after installing and it should work.
MacOS X (11.3MB)
Man... Gotta love the size differences.
This program requires Python 2.4+, pysqlite2 (or sqlite3 if you have Python 2.5), and wxPython 2.8+. These may be different, but that's what I used to develop with, so I know it works with them. The Windows installer should include everything you need to get started, as should the Mac installer.
Note: The .dmg is very, very shabby right now. I plan on making it prettier as time goes on, but this _is_ an alpha release, after all. You can't expect too much.
I should stop here. Enjoy!