One of the most important aspects of any Bible reading software is the notes feature, and Accordance is no different. This program allows you to create your own user notes which are attached to specific Bible verses. You can access these notes across any version of the Bible that you’re currently viewing. Since you can use this space for pretty much anything you want, the possibilities are endless.
In this post, I’ll show you how to create Accordance notes and walk you through nine tips to give you some inspiration. Here’s a quick disclaimer. I’ll be showing you how I personally use Accordance notes. I encourage you to use this post as a starting point to jump in, explore these features, and come up with your own note-taking system in Accordance.
Another disclaimer. If you use another Bible software, such as Logos, I’m sure many of these tips will apply to you as well. But I only use Accordance, so I can’t speak for the other programs.
Alright, with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s jump into this blog post.
Why Take Notes With Accordance
At this point you may be wondering if it’s even worth taking notes in Accordance. I think you already know what my response to that is going to be, since I’m the one who wrote this blog post. Yes, it’s definitely worth it. And I think you agree with me, at least partially, because you’re the one reading this post.
I personally think it’s a great idea to record all your Bible-related notes in Accordance, or your Bible software of choice. That’s right, all of them. At the very least, the vast majority of them. I don’t necessarily think you should do all your note-taking in Accordance, but it is where all your notes should end up. Let me try to explain.
The purpose of any note-taking system is to get ideas and concepts out of your brain so you can do something with it. Whether that’s process it, delegate it, schedule it, or archive it. Most scripture-related notes fall into the last category: archives. These are notes that you’re going to want to keep for future reference.
For my personal note-taking system, Notion is my go-to choice for archiving my thoughts and tasks. It’s my second brain. If I want to hold onto something that I know I’ll need later, I dump it into a Notion database. This is perfect for, say, recording what type of ink my printer takes. Next time I’m at the store and remember I need printer ink, I can easily look up the info I need when I need it.
But what about when it comes to scripture-related notes? If I take a note on Matthew 19:26 during a sermon, I’m probably not going to remember that note next time I need it. These types of notes don’t have the same type of cue as going to the store looking for printer ink.
If I take a note on Matthew 19:26, I want to be reminded of that note the next time I read Matthew 19:26. In other words, I need contextual cues when it comes to my Bible note-taking system.
Notion isn’t ideal for this style of note-taking, simply because it wasn’t designed specifically for Bible notes. (However, I have come up with a pretty cool Notion database that I use for contextual Bible note taking, which you can read about and use for yourself here.) Accordance, on the other hand, is the perfect tool for this.
When you take notes on a certain verse in Accordance, that note will always be there ready to reference. The next time you’re reading or studying that same verse, you will have your note handy with just the hover of a mouse. It’s simple, intuitive, and such a powerful way to store your notes.
Now that you know the why, let’s talk about the how.
How to Use Accordance User Notes
Before we jump into the nine tips I have for you, I’ll quickly show you how to use User Notes in Accordance. There’s really not much to it. They’re simple to create and use. But before you start taking notes, you need to create a new User Notes file.
You can create a new file a number of ways. The easiest way is to click the “User Notes” button in the toolbar, then click “New Notes File…”. If you don’t have the “User Notes” button on your toolbar, you can access this menu in “File > User Files > New User Notes.” You can create as many notes files as you like. I like to have a few different notes files. Some people may like to keep everything in one notes file. It’s really up to you and how you prefer to work.
Creating a New Note
Once you have a User Notes file, you can start creating your notes. When you have a verse selected in a text, simply press Command + U (if you’re using a Mac; I’m not sure what the Windows shortcuts are). If you forget the keyboard shortcut, you can also right-click any verse and click “Edit User Note.” From here, you can type up your note and format it any way you like.
In addition to text, you can add images, links, resources, scripture references, and more. To add an image, simply click the “Insert Image” button and upload your image. To add a link, click the “Link” button. From here, you can add a link to a website, a scripture reference, or a resource.
A faster way to add scripture references is just to type the reference in the body of the note and click “Auto Link.” For instance, if you type “John 3:16” and click “Auto Link,” that text will automatically link to John 3:16 in your default search version.
Viewing a Note
There are a couple of different ways to view the notes you’e recorded. The easiest way is to hover your mouse of the User Notes icon on the right side of a Bible verse. When you do this, your user note will show up in the inspector. If you click the User Notes icon, the notes will open up in the same pane. With your notes open, they will automatically pop up for whatever verse you have selected. If you click inside your User Notes pane and start typing, you will automatically enter “Edit” mode, allowing you to add or edit your user notes for your current verse.
You can also open your User Notes in a separate tab by clicking on the “User Notes” icon in the toolbar. If you don’t have the “User Notes” button in the toolbar, you can click “File > New Tab > User Notes.” This will open your User Notes files just like any other resources. You can scroll through them or use the Table of Contents to the left to navigate your notes. You can also use a Tab Tie to connect the tab to your text tab. With a tab tie, your user notes will scroll automatically as you scroll through the biblical text.
That’s a very basic walkthrough of Accordance’s User Notes feature. They are super flexible so you can use them in whatever way fits your workflow. Throughout the rest of this post, I’ll walk you through how I have used Accordance’s User Notes feature. Again, these are just some tips to get your creativity pumping! Feel free to adopt these tips into your own workflow or adapt them to fit your own needs. Without further ado, let’s jump into it!
User Notes With Highlights
Highlights are similar to User Notes, in that you can have multiple highlight files for different sorts of highlights. For instance, I have a “Synoptic Gospels” highlight file, where I highlight common and unique materials between the Gospels. I also have a specific color code for my daily Bible reading, so I have a separate highlight file for that.
But there’s an important difference between highlights and user notes. Highlights, for the most part, only appear in single versions. For instance, if I highlight a word or phrase in the ESV, it won’t show up in the NIV. The exception to this is if you highlight an entire verse. It will show up across versions, but you still have to have that highlight file selected. If you’re in another highlight file, it won’t show up.
With user notes, however, it doesn’t matter which file is active or which version you’re in. Your notes will always show up.
From time to time, I will highlight a word or phrase in a particular version, but I want to be reminded of that highlight anytime, even if I’m in another version or another highlight file. In that case, I’ll just make a quick note in my user notes: “Check highlight in the ESV.” This way I can leverage the strengths of the user notes to make my user highlights more functional for the way I like to work.
I don’t do this every time I make a highlight, otherwise I’d have way too many notes! But this feature comes in handy every once in a while when a verse or phrase really stands out to me.
Sync With Mobile
If you’re using Accordance on your computer, you can access pretty much your entire library and all of your modules from your phone using the Accordance mobile application, available for both Android and iPhone. Yes, that includes your user modules, such as your highlights and your notes.
This really expands your note-taking abilities, since you don’t have to be sitting at home at your computer to take notes or view your notes. You can be anywhere in the world when inspiration hits.
Maybe you’re having coffee with a friend when they say something interesting about a particular verse that you want to remember for later. Or maybe you’re sitting in church listening to a sermon. All you have to do is pull out your phone or even your tablet and jot down a quick note. Then the next time you’re using Accordance and come across that particular verse, no matter which device your using, your note will be there for your reference.
I mentioned this briefly in the previous section, but taking sermon notes is a great way to make the most out of your Accordance user note experience. You can either create a whole new user file specifically for sermon notes (this is what I do!) or keep them in the same user notes file as all your other notes. Since you can take notes on your phone or tablet, you can take sermon notes in real time while you’re sitting in church. But my process is a bit more complex. Let me give it to you in a nutshell.
First, I take all my sermon notes with a notebook and pen the old fashioned way. I like to keep a Bullet Journal, so I keep all my sermon notes in a BuJo collection. I’ll make sure to write out every scripture reference mentioned by my pastor. I’ll typically draw a box around the reference and underline them so that they stand out. I’ll also try to outline my pastor’s train of thought.
Then later, usually the same day, I’ll pick up my notebook and review the sermon. If there was one main passage the sermon was based on, I’ll create a new note on the first verse of that passage in Accordance. In this note, I’ll basically copy my handwritten notes into Accordance, but I’ll also try to clean them up a bit and make them more understandable. Then I’ll go create notes for any other verses mentioned in the sermon. These secondary notes, I may put a sentence or two about their significance in the context of the sermon. But most of the time I’ll simply say “See notes on Matt 5:1” to point back to the main note of the sermon.
This process may seem a bit time-consuming, but it’s a great way for me to revisit sermons for deeper reflection. Again, everyone’s brain works differently. This process may not work for you. But I hope you’re able to take elements of this and create your own sermon note-taking system with Accordance.
When I’m doing research in a particular book of the Bible or passage of scripture, I’m often jumping back and forth between many different resources, both within Accordance and elsewhere across the web. Sometimes I’m using physical books from my own library. The result is typically dozens of tabs, windows, and open books scattered across my desk. It’s hard for me to keep everything straight.
Luckily Accordance was built with this kind of scatter-brained scholarship in mind. They have several resources to help you keep all your research organized. If I’m working on a longer term project or a paper, I’ll typically use stacks to help me organize all my material. But that’s a topic for another day.
Sometimes I’m simply reading scripture, which inspires a question, which leads me down a huge rabbit hole. When this happens, I like to keep user notes to keep myself organized and to record these trains of thought. Who knows, maybe those rabbit holes will actually come in handy someday!
Anytime you come across a piece of content that you want to save for later, it’s super easy to do so in Accordance’s user notes. If the resource is in your Accordance library, you can simply create a link to it right there. So if you read something interesting about Acts 7 in one of your commentaries, you can link directly to that interesting resource in your user notes. That way any time you read Acts 7 after that, you’ll always remember that particular resource and have it available for instance referencing.
But the resource doesn’t have to be in Accordance for you to save it to your user notes. One of my favorite tricks is to take a picture of a page in my book and upload that picture directly into my user note. So if I find something interesting about Acts 7 in a physical book, I’ll always have that note with me. Even if I’m reading Acts 7 from my cell phone during a sermon. See how these are all starting to connect?
My first year of grad school, I made the mistake of taking most of my notes right within my Bible software, which was Bibleworks at the time. (Luckily when I switched over to Accordance, I was able to easily export my notes so that I didn’t lose anything.) However, studying for tests was a pain.
I would definitely recommend using Accordance for taking class notes, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking those notes directly into Accordance in real time. Instead, I would encourage you to follow a system similar to the system I mentioned in the “Sermon Notes” section.
My second year of grad school, I decided to use Evernote for all my note-taking (before Notion swept me off my feet). At the end of every day, I would go through all my notes from Evernote and input any scripture notes right into Bibleworks. This way all my notes are recorded chronologically for easy review. But at the same time, my notes were also placed into Bibleworks so that I would come across them contextually anytime I was studying that particular text.
Again, it takes a little bit of extra time, but that time is totally worth it. Not only do you have all those notes available contextually for pretty much the rest of your life, but you also have the opportunity to review all your lectures, solidifying that information even more.
Record Life Events
Often times as I go through certain seasons of life, there are scriptures that speak to me in different ways than they have before. I like to record these times in my prayer journals, so that I always have record of what God was teaching me through his scriptures at particular times in my life. However, it would be a good idea to also record those notes here in Accordance.
I’ll admit I often use Accordance for academic purposes. I don’t necessarily enjoy using a computer for my personal devotional reading. However, I also understand that there’s not much of a difference between reading scripture in an academic setting and reading scripture in a devotional setting. Every time we approach scripture, we should be doing so with a growth mindset, understanding that the Spirit is shaping us into God’s people through his written word.
That said, it’s beneficial for me to be reminded of how God has used particular scriptures during certain times in my life. It’s always a great reminder that I’m not just studying an ancient text. I’m also studying the living and active word of God revealed through an ancient text.
Create Your Own Cross-References
Accordance comes with several sets of comprehensive cross-references, showing you the relationships between scriptures. This is always a treasure trove of information, since using scripture to interpret scripture is an incredible tool for Bible study. But many times as I’m reading and studying scripture, the Spirit will bring other scriptures to my mind that weren’t recorded as cross-references. When this happens, I always like to record this cross reference myself, because I never know when I’ll need to make that connection again, either personally, for a research paper, or for sermon prep.
Accordance makes it really nice and easy to create custom cross-references, since you can auto link any scripture within that user note. For instance, if I type “Psalm 119:20” in my user note and click the “Auto Link” icon, that scripture reference will become a hyperlink. Later, as I’m reviewing that note, that cross reference will be available to me.
Many times I’ll also include a brief note about why that particular cross-reference stuck out to me, because I know in two weeks’ time I’ll have no idea what train of thought led me to connecting those two verses.
Write Your Own Translation
This is a fun one. I love translating scripture. I have several different notebooks with various scribblings from different parts of the Bible that I’ve translated. I rarely ever pick up an entire book of the Bible to translate anymore, although I’d love to get back into that kind of translation. These days, with no Greek class to hold me accountable, I typically hop around from book to book and passage to passage.
I like to do translation work with a pen and notebook. I just work better that way. So as you can imagine, my various scraps of translations are anything but cohesive and orderly. That’s where Accordance’s user notes swoops in to save the day.
I have a separate user notes file called “My Translation.” This is where I dump all of my translations anytime I’m done working with a particular verse or passage. That way no matter what order I work through the text, I’ll always have my translations available and in the right order.
Who knows, maybe I’ll have the entire New Testament translated some day. I mean, nothing will be cohesive. Everything will be written in a different style. I won’t translate words very consistently and 80% of it will probably be inaccurate, since it’s not being graded by my old grad school profs. But hey, if the Septuagint can do it, so can I!
Get Out Of The “Verse” Mindset
I’ve said a lot of great things about Accordance’s user notes so far, but I do want to leave you with one limitation. The way Accordance’s user notes are set up, each note has to be attached to a particular verse of the Bible. This definitely has its limitations, because those chapter and verse numbers obviously weren’t a part of the original text. Sometimes a note relates to multiple verses, or maybe even an entire chapter.
So my last piece of advice is this: don’t fall into the Bible verse rut! Don’t isolate yourself to single verses. When you approach Bible study or Bible note-taking, always try to wrap your mind around the paragraph and the surrounding paragraphs, not the individual verses.
When it comes to Accordance user notes, sometimes that means I’m copying and pasting the same note across three or four verses.
I already told you I used to use Bibleworks. Accordance is a much prettier, smoother, and easier program. But Bibleworks definitely had its strengths. One clever feature of Bibleworks’s notes was the ability to take notes on either the individual verse or the full chapter. This was a great way to separate my detailed, up-close-and-personal notes from my wide, more generalized notes.
Since this feature isn’t available in Accordance, I typically use the first verse in a chapter to take chapter-wide notes. And I use the first chapter in a book to take book-wide notes. (You can imagine how crowded the notes section gets on the first verse of the first chapter of a book!) This is still a feature I’m waiting on Accordance to improve, but until then this little workaround definitely gets the job done.
I’m always looking for new tips and tricks when it comes to note-taking systems. Like, always. The reason I wrote this blog post is because I’ve Googled “Accordance note-taking tips” so many times to no avail. If you, like me, are searching for new tips in your scripture note-taking journey, I hope this post helped you out. If it did, please pay it forward by leaving your own helpful tips in the comments below. If it didn’t help, well… I’m sorry. Why are you still reading this?
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram! (@heytylermartin) I rarely post, but if you read this whole article that means we probably have a thing or two in common. I’d love to have deep 280-character conversations about the intersection of Bible study and productivity.