[sword-devel] Pathway, SIL, GoBible and CrossWire

Greg Hellings greg.hellings at gmail.com
Wed Oct 19 11:29:27 MST 2011

Some time ago David pointed out the SIL Pathway project, which is a
plugin for the Paratext. Paratext is a popular scripture translation
editor which is available from the United Bible Societes
(http://paratext.ubs-translations.org/) and is popularly used within
Wycliffe Bible Translators. Paratext, from what I understand, natively
operates in USFM for saving and editing files. Pathway is an FOSS
plugin (http://code.google.com/p/pathway/) that SIL has developed for
use with Paratext and FieldWorks which will facilitate digital
publishing of works out of Paratext and into various media. It is
mainly developed to help streamline the process of export and
encourage the translators to consider things like copyright, licensing
and DRM. It supports export at present to GoBible, PDF, E-Book (epub),
Logos and Open Document Text (OpenOffice/LibreOffice). For the GoBible
export, Pathway will actually create the entire .jar file ready for
directly loading onto a cell phone.

David had expressed surprise at why there was not method to export to
a SWORD module but there was a method for GoBible export.  I was down
at the Wycliffe/SIL center in Dallas yesterday for the finale of their
biennial Bible Translation conference. While there I had a chance to
sit in on a talk being given about the uses of Pathway, its purposes
and its aid to the WBT community. Afterwards I got to speak with Greg
Trihus, who is the lead of that project about the absence of SWORD
export.  His comments were quite illuminating.

The real thrust of the Pathway project is getting the scriptures into
an electronic form that is useful for distribution on mobile devices
or for print.  As such they support GoBible for low-end machines,
E-Book and Logos for smart phones, ODT for to-print media and PDF to
cover all of the above.  Several people in the discussion asked about
getting the scriptures into a form where they could directly enter a
scripture reference rather than having to scroll through an ebook or
PDF on a smartphone (the Logos option supports that, but involves
several more steps for the content author who needs to pass the file
through the hands of several people at SIL and then on to Logos so the
work can be hosted in the official Logos content system). Greg told me
that he had considered the Android mobile options - since many of the
target people with smart phones would be Android users - but when he
had tested AndBible it had been woefully slow and had even crashed
when opening longer passages like Psalms 119. Therefore he had avoided
putting his own human resources onto developing a SWORD format
exporter and was not advertising that through the Pathway project. He
did leave me with a few action points which he would love to see:

1) Since Pathway is open source, he would welcome anyone from our
community who wanted to develop a Paratext/Fieldworks -> SWORD
converter. The export is done through an XHTML/CSS pathway, and they
are supporting any form of output, not just scriptures. This would
include commentaries, dictionaries and general papers/books. Pathway
is written in C#, so if there are any C# developers around looking for
something to do, this would be a highly desired project which wouldn't
be another "Just write a front-end in my language because I want to"
contribution to both world-wide scripture distribution and CrossWire.

2) Improve the quality of AndBible (JSword based?) and/or Bishop
(Troy's proof-of-concept frontend based on the SWORD library with Java
bindings). There is a round-about way that SIL can publish these
scriptures to the YouVersion application framework, but YouVersion
does not incorporate any linkages with Dictionaries. Greg expressed a
strong desire to see SWORD formats supported due to our ability to
closely integrate a text with a lexicon/dictionary - a sister text
which almost all WBT translation projects will develop in parallel
with their scripture translation. Those of us over in the BibleTime
world are also hoping to eventually support mobile versions of
BibleTime, but the time frame for those is definitely long term since
it would involve a major refactoring effort on BT to separate the
backend code from the GUI portions before any work could begin on a
mobile UI based on Qt.

3) Help with the C# bindings for SWORD. I know some people have talked
about them in the past, but I don't know what state they might be in.
Since Pathway is written in C#, it would be a great help to anyone
writing a SWORD export path if they could access the engine bindings
directly through C# rather than having to dump to a file and somehow
invoke a copy of the utilities.  The people who are interested in
using Pathway are incredibly illiterate when it comes to technology -
most of them weren't even able to identify the differences between a
smart phone and a "feature phone". So any export would need to write
out an entire module, ready to be uploaded directly to a hosting
location (or possibly a single ZIP archive which could be emailed to a
technical member of SIL by the translator for hosting). Our SWIG
bindings are OK and already in use for Python and Perl, and SWIG
supports C#, so hopefully getting them working would not be a huge
burden for someone. As the current pumpkin holder for SWIG I am
willing to work with anyone who wants to tackle adding C# to the set.
I don't work in C# at all, so I can't touch that myself.

Greg's final comment was along the lines of, "There is desire and need
for SWORD support in Pathway, but no one is asking for it because they
don't realize they need and desire it." That sentiment is in line with
the (extensive) questions I heard after the presentation. I have
passed on to him information about PocketSword, because they do also
want to support the iOS platform and he was not aware of PocketSword's
presence there. I would encourage anyone with fingers in these areas
or a desire to help on any of these action points to take them up
(including putting them on a list of available projects on the wiki,
David, if there is such a page?). SIL did not overlook us because they
don't want to support us or because they are unaware of us - there
were just some technical challenges.


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