This workflow has been turned into the BibleDraft project. Visit that page for more info.
I have long had the desire to have quick access to the text of bible verses. Maybe I want to email it, text it, put it in Day One, or just have it for my immediate consumption. I've always felt that the Bible apps were too slow or had too many taps for that time when you just need to get the verse and move things forward.
So while on vacation this summer I took two of my favorite apps, Drafts and Pythonista and built a very simple Bible action. Drafts is perfect for this because when you open it up, it's ready to accept text. And I'd already modified a Python script for Editorial to take sermon notes with inline Bible verses. So I took those two tools and created a simple Drafts action to:
Take the draft, needs to be a Bible verse (call me Captain Obvious)
Send the reference to Pythonista
run a Python script entitled “quick ESV verse” and have Pythonista pull the reference text from the ESV Bible's API
Return the reference as bold markdown with the verses on the lines below it.
And that's all the action was designed to do. For the 3 people in the world who:
use the ESV translation
are dissatisfied with the speed of looking up verses in their current Bible app
Update 1: I realize that the way I tweaked the Drafts Action now requires Drafts 4. Some of you may still be running Drafts 3. If that’s the case let me know and I’ll update the script so it works on both versions
Previously, I had the workflow pop up an error if no text was selected. Last night I realized that popup would be better as input text box if no text was selected. So that’s the tweak I made and it really improves the workflow. That way you don’t have to type the verse and select it if you can anticipate that the pastor is going to reference another passage. You can download the updated workflow here.
As a quick follow-up to my previous post, it turns out that Logos for iPhone/iPad does have a URL scheme. No, not the type I was looking for with X-Callback support, but still, a URL scheme nonetheless. I thought I’d quick publish how I’m using it in case any other geeks are looking for a way to open Logos directly to a bible or book.
We have chosen Psalms as a passage of scripture for our two girls. As a part of my nightly routine with my daughters, I will read the Psalm with them. I could be a normal dad and pull out a physical bible or I could pull out my phone, which I invariably have with me everywhere I go. That means that if we’re somewhere and we just need to read something to keep her engaged, I have easy access to it.
I had been using the built in “favorites” feature to Logos for iOS but that was way too many steps. I was trying to think of ways to get to get to the Psalm. Should I put the text into a markdown file and launch that file from Launch Center Pro? Should I use LCP to launch directly to a website like Biblia.com that will have the passage? Neither of these options were great in my mind. Then after a few weeks, I remembered that Logos had URL links long before I got into this whole iOS automation thing.
One of the things I love about our new pastor at church is that he sends out an outline of his sermon on Fridays to all the small group leaders along with discussion questions. This is great because it’s allowed me to take much better notes on Sundays and to be focused on the content of what our pastor is saying, not just taking detailed notes. My main workflow for doing this has been to take the email or PDF of the sermon outline, copy it into Drafts, take my notes there, and then send it to Evernote with a custom action that puts it in my “Jesus” notebook, tags it with “Sermon Notes”, and adds the date stamp to the note title in my preferred format.
A Few Issues with Drafts
Taking my sermon notes in Drafts has been fine, but I’ve found myself fairly limited by the way Drafts is setup to work. Drafts was designed for, well, drafts. Type a quick note, send it to Evernote. Type a quick text and send it out. You get the picture. Longer-form writing isn’t in the app’s purview, and that’s what sermon notes have become for me.
The main issue I was having was getting text from the Bible apps into Drafts. I wanted it done with a URL scheme, but there aren’t any Bible apps that I’ve been able to find using the X-Callback-URL scheme. So I was
then opening a Bible app,
copying the text to the clipboard,
switching back to Drafts,
pasting the text as a new draft,
sending the text to TextTool for cleanup using a Drafts action, and
switching back to the sermon notes draft.
This workflow was eventually simplified somewhat by incorporating a Launch Center Pro action, but it was still way too cumbersome. So I was searching for a way to keep my mind more focused on the sermon than the technology for note-taking.
My Issues With The Bible Apps Available On iOS.
Before moving on to how I solved my problem, let’s just discuss the state of Bible apps on iOS. On my Macs I use Logos Bible Software for all my bible study needs. I have primarily used their great iOS app as well for my mobile study, daily devotions, and for reference during sermons. However, the Logos app has this odd formatting issue. If you copy text and paste it into another app, it includes all sorts of weird formatting, specifically related to footnotes.
In the screenshots below you can see the footnotes in Logos for iOS are in superscript. Well, when those get copied in plain text and pasted, they get converted to regular text, sometimes with zero-character spaces between them as shown in the second screenshot.
So I was looking around for other iOS Bible apps and came across the ESV Bible app for iOS. Ironically, it was my wife (not a techie), who I noticed using the app, so I gave it a try. When it was formatted into plain text, the results were much nicer (screenshots below), and thus I was able to clean them up in TextTool with a simple wrap function.
This was fine, but it was still way too cumbersome for quickly getting Bible verses into my sermon notes, especially when the pastor was on a roll. I needed a tool that could help me when the pastor just starts listing off verses that support his point.
How Editorial Helped Me With Sermon Notes
I’ll be honest, I loved Editorial when it came out for about a month. Then iOS 7 happened. The app looked dated quickly and since iOS 7 broke TextExpander support, I essentially stopped using the app. But with the recent 1.1 update, I started using Editorial again quite a bit. So much so, that I started using it for my weekly sermon notes. It came to mind one Sunday, that if I could find a Bible app that supported the X-Callback-URL I could have my ultimate powerhouse for sermon note taking. So I pinged a few random people that I knew were into tech and Jesus on Twitter.
The ESV site even had some sample script in Python, which is great because I don’t know how to script or program, I’m just able to reverse-engineer code occasionally. So, I built two simple workflows to make Editorial harness the ESV Bible’s API, and help me stay focused on the sermons and not technology on Sundays.
The Workflows for Editorial
As I mentioned above, I don’t know how to code, I simple reverse engineered some workflows and the sample code from the ESV API. There’s a lot of work that could be done on these scripts, but for now, they do what I need them to do. If you’re handy with either Editorial or Python and want to give me some suggestions, I’m all ears.
Tonight we were out at MyBurger with some folks from small group. I was talking to a friend who is in law school. We were discussing how technology can help his future law practice, and he asked me if I knew of an app that you could create your own wiki to track what is currently known about a case or a particular issue. He said he wanted to use his Feedly RSS feeds to save a section of an article, jot a few notes, and then save it somewhere for later recall. I told him I had an idea using Mr. Reader, Drafts, and Evernote.
Well I got home and finally purchased Mr. Reader to see what it can do. It’s actually really cool. My favorite feature is that it uses curly brackets to accept any text or data from the post and then automatically encodes it for you. That’s such a help for URL scheme beginners like me. I quickly ran into a problem, though. When I’d try to make the title of an article a markdown link while sending to Drafts, I would end up with an error. Because Mr. Reader uses square brackets like [TITLE] to pull metadata out of the post, it was getting totally confused when it'd see a normal markdown link formatted [[TITLE]]([URL]). I searched and searched around on Macstories.net, macdrifter.com, and did a few google searches to figure out what to do but my searches didn't yield and helpful results.
Finally I thought of the old-school method: check the developers site. Sure enough, the developer had already addressed that issue on the site. The solution is really quite simple, and you can find more on the developer's site.
Tip: Markdown formatted links for Day One, Byword, etc.
It's a little bit tricky to create markdown links, because they also use the square brackets [ and ].
I am absolutely crazy about my nieces and nephews. While many of them can’t talk yet, the ones who can are an absolute riot. What better way to save some of their crazy kid quotes than in Day One with a great picture? Memories captured in a gorgeous format.
The app is on iOS and Mac and I use both religiously. You should too.