Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

iPhone BibleReader support discussions

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Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby Benn » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:59 pm

One feature often requested in BibleReader is the ability to add custom reading plans. With a little work this is already possible using unofficial means, no jailbreaking necessary. The following guide is for all iOS devices, using Windows or Mac OS.

The first and hardest step is to build your reading plan file. BibleReader reading plans are XML files, so if you’ve had any experience with them or even HTML you’ll understand the format instantly. If you haven’t had any experience with this style of code, it is fairly self explanatory, but you may need to Google a basic tutorial. Here’s my one line tutorial:

Code: Select all
<otDoNotChangeThis title="ChangeThis">Change This</DoNotChangeThis>


Create a new file in your text editor of choice and save it using a name in this format: readingtemplate_YourPlanName.xml. All you need to change is YourPlanName. I’m not sure exactly what characters are allowed, but probably safest to only use alphanumeric characters and avoid spaces.

Next, add this code to the start of your file:

Code: Select all
<otReadingTemplate selectionType="injective" textSource="ASV">
    <otTemplateHeader>
      <otTemplateTitle>Daily Reading: A Random Example</otTemplateTitle>
      <otTemplateAbbrTitle>Dev-Random</otTemplateAbbrTitle>
      <otTemplateAuthor>Bennet McLean</otTemplateAuthor>
      <otTemplateSource>Bennet McLean</otTemplateSource>
      <otTemplateCopyright>Compiled by Benn, quite randomly, 1.0, 5/1/11.</otTemplateCopyright>
      <otTemplateSourceContact>email@address.com</otTemplateSourceContact>
      <otTemplateCreated>January 5th, 2011</otTemplateCreated>
      <otTemplateRevision>1</otTemplateRevision>
      <otDailyReadingEngineVersion>1</otDailyReadingEngineVersion>
      <otTemplateCreateCode>100</otTemplateCreateCode>
      <otTemplateDescription>Use this reading schedule to blindly guide your reading and study of God's Word.

This schedule offers a reading plan that moves through the Bible completely at random. You’ll have no idea just how much you need to read each day in order to read through the Old and New Testaments in one year.
      </otTemplateDescription>
   </otTemplateHeader>
   <otReadingBinGroup>
      <otReadingBin title=“Random Daily Readings">


Customise this code, putting the name of your plan in the otTemplateTitle tags and an abbreviated title in otTemplateAbbrTitle. otTemplateTitle, otTemplateAuthor, otTemplateCopyright and otTemplateDescription are visible from within BibleReader. The rest only need to be changed if you plan to share your Reading Plan file, so others will know if they have your latest revision and can contact you about corrections.

Don’t change otDailyReadingEngineVersion or otTemplateCreateCode (not sure what the create codes are or what they mean, but 100 is used by the default reading plans).

You’ll notice that the ASV (American Standard Version) is referred to on the first line of code. Generally you wont need to change this as BibleReader will just use whatever Bible you have open. My guess is that this might be to let the app know that this reading plan uses the Protestant Bible books and spelling. If you were creating a reading plan involving apocrypha or maybe even non-Bible resources you’d change this to a matching resource. Let me know if you try this and this ends up being the case or not.

Lastly, change the otReadingBin title. I don’t think this shows up anywhere, but this is going to take a bit of work so you may as well be a completist!

Next comes your actual readings, repeatedly add this code to your file, once for each period of reading:

Code: Select all
         <otReadingSelection title="Day 1">
            <otReadingRange begin="Gen 11:1" end="Gen 11:4" />
         </otReadingSelection>


The title on the first line needs to be changed for each entry, in this example you’d obviously name them Day 2, Day 3 and so on. Alternatively you might like to use another system such as morning and evening readings. If you are using the plain days it might be faster to write your reading plan over the top of a copy of one of the default files, this will save you numbering up to 365. So read this rest of this guide to find out how to access these files before you actually start writing your entries!

The otReadingRange line obviously shows the reading range for that entry, fill in the begining verse and the ending verse. You can be less specific with the end if it is the last verse of the chapter. Instead of the verse number you can just ff. For example, to finish Genesis chapter 12 you’d have end="Gen 12:ff" (you can also drop the colon if you wish). Alternatively, if your end verse is the last verse of the chapter you began in you can skip everything and just have end="ff".

To have non-consecutive ranges of verses simply add more copies of the otReadingRange line within the otReadingSelection tags. For example:

Code: Select all
         <otReadingSelection title="Day 2">
            <otReadingRange begin="Prov 18:1" end="Prov 19:4" />
            <otReadingRange begin="Mat 7:1" end="ff" />
            <otReadingRange begin="Jude 1:4" end="Jude 1:7" />
         </otReadingSelection>


Note that I’ve alternated between three and four letter abbreviations for book names. I’ve recently been coding my own online Bible site and am now well aware of how complicated Bible abbreviation can get and the problems it can cause! You will need to be a little aware of this when writing your own reading plan files. When working with two and three letter abbreviations there are a few collisions between the books, an example is Jud 1. Some may read this as Judges, others Jude. Two letter abbreviations are worse, is Hb 2 Hebrews? Or Habbakuk? I did a survey of existing online Bibles and apps, and they regularly disagreed. BibleReader accepts many name options, to avoid issues in your files see this list of options: http://www.olivetree.com/cgi-bin/EnglishBible.htm?help=abbreviations. BibleReader resolves Jud to Jude and wisely doesn’t accept Hb.

Now finish your file with these lines:

Code: Select all
      </otReadingBin>
   </otReadingBinGroup>
</otReadingTemplate>


Now you just need to get your file onto your iOS device. Until Olive Tree add an official way to add them you will need to download another application. Go to http://www.macroplant.com/iphoneexplorer/ and download the free app, iPhone Explorer. This app allows you to look in certain areas of your iOS device’s file system and view, copy and paste the content. If you don’t have a jailbroken device then the extent of this is limited, you couldn’t add your own SMS ringtones, but you can add reading plans to BibleReader!

Install and launch iPhone Explorer on your computer and plug in your iOS device. You will be able to see your device in the app, click on it, select the App folder and then find BibleReader. This may take a little time if you have a lot of apps on your device as the list wont appear to be in any order (it is, but is based off the random folder names iOS uses for your apps, luckily iPhone Explorer doesn’t show you their real names as you’d be completely lost!).

Within the BibleReader folder there are four folders, one which is named Documents, and two files. To add your finished reading plan, find the file within your computer’s file explorer (Finder on Mac, Windows Explorer on Windows), then drag that file into the Documents folder in iPhone Explorer. Now unplug your iOS device, and close BibleReader. If you don’t have iOS4 then all you need to do is leave BibleReader (if it was even open in the first place). If you do it is a little more fiddly. Leave BibleReader if you had it open, then double-tap the Home button, find BibleReader in the opened dock, hold down on it till it enters wiggle mode and then tap the close button.

Now open up BibleReader again and you’ll find your reading plan!

To get copies of BibleReader’s default reading plans you need to look somewhere else, they aren’t in the Documents folder. One of the other four folders is called BibleReader.app. Within that is readingtemplate_Chronological.xml, readingtemplate_DailyReading.xml and readingtemplate_MCheyneDaily.xml. Select them and drag them to your computer. You may wonder why your custom plan is put in another folder, it is actually possible (though quite fiddly) to put them in the same folder as the default plans, but as soon as you upgrade your copy of BibleReader you’d lose your plan, everything outside of the Documents folder gets replaced when upgrading.

I’ve written this fairly fast, so if you run into issues or I simply stopped writing in a recognisable language for part of this then post here, I’ll be subscribed to this thread. If you’d like to know if a particular mod is possible through iPhone Explorer ask away too (before BR5 I had customised the UI of BibleReader on my iPad, subtler buttons and a flatter interface, and I even have resources like the Life Application Study Bible notes in BR5, I don’t think Olive Tree sells it through their store).

So there you go! Happy daily reading!
Benn
 
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby robert » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:34 pm

Benn,

I had been searching (uselessly) all over my computer for the default reading plans to see if I could modify them. I didn't even know it was possible to explore the iphone itself. Thanks for pointing out iphone explorer.

Your guide is excellently written. You've provided very clear, thorough, and humorous instructions. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with us.

-robert
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby chriscoleman » Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:01 pm

Oh the things you can do with the right tools. I'm somehow surprised that Apple allows apps like this to work at all, never mind just protecting some stuff.


I've confirmed that this works fine for creating new plans. I did a quick one on my Macbook Pro using only this file tool and a simple text editor, following your instructions (I've never looked at the XML before because it wasn't my project). Worked as expected when I ran BibleReader.


I would, however, suggest waiting to test Daily Reading plans for BR5 until after the next update (5.0.1) comes out, they were a little unstable in the first cut of 5.0.
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby ocaptain » Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:37 pm

This was great! Thanks so much...

I was into day 46 of my reading so I took file '1' and made a '1a' and deleted the first 45 entries. Worked great.

Does anyone know if reading plans sync across devices? For example, if I add the plan to my iPhone and read for 10 days, then if I pick up my iPad will it be waiting for me at day eleven?

Thanks again!

-Anthony
-Anthony Navarro
The WordPress Dojo
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby rxmom03 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:51 am

I'm having problems and don't really know enough to know what is wrong ;-) I downloaded the XML file for the "genre" daily Bible reading plan (it's on another thread, "Shared User Created Reader Plans"). When I saved it I had the choice of either "web page" or "web page, XML only" (I picked the XML only option). I did change the name of the file, but everything else looked right. When I opened iPhone Explorer, I couldn't pull it over the the Documents file, but if I opened the Documents file I could pull it over. A message popped up saying it was copying the file, and it did show up. But now I can't find it in my BR5 app on my iPhone. What did I do wrong? Thanks!

Mary
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby robert » Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:25 am

Subject: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

rxmom03 wrote:I'm having problems and don't really know enough to know what is wrong ;-) I downloaded the XML file for the "genre" daily Bible reading plan (it's on another thread, "Shared User Created Reader Plans"). When I saved it I had the choice of either "web page" or "web page, XML only" (I picked the XML only option). I did change the name of the file, but everything else looked right. When I opened iPhone Explorer, I couldn't pull it over the the Documents file, but if I opened the Documents file I could pull it over. A message popped up saying it was copying the file, and it did show up. But now I can't find it in my BR5 app on my iPhone. What did I do wrong? Thanks!

Mary


Mary,

I checked the download link with firefox (worked great) and safari. Safari tried to save the file as "readingtemplate_Genres.xml.ychat.xml" as opposed to the correct "readingtemplate_Genres.xml". I'm not sure why it wanted to add the extra text to the end. If your browser did something similar, I suspect that would cause Reader not to recognize the file.

In order to preserve the proper file names and coding, I've zipped all the reading plans that I've put together up to this point into one file. Try downloading this zip file and doing an install from the file contained therein.

Once you've opened iPhone Explorer, drag-and-drop the reading plan you want installed into either of the highlighted folders below. By the way, iPhone Explorer will only allow you to drag one file at a time.

Image
Image
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby robert » Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:27 am

oops! ... forgot to link the zip file I mentioned above. Since I can't edit my posts, here's the file.
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby rxmom03 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:25 am

OK, the images didn't come over, so I don't know which folders you want me to try--but none of them work anyway :( When I open the Bible Reader on iPhone Explorer I get 4 folders--Bible Reader.app, Documents, Library and tmp plus 2 extra files--iTunesArtwork and iTunesMetaData.plist. I can't drag the xml file to the Documents folder (or any other folder there) but it will install on the same page (level?) as the other folders. And if I open the Documents folder, then I can drag the file over to it. In either case it does copy the file over, but then I can't find it on my BR5 on my iPhone. It would be in the Library, right? Maybe I am just looking at the wrong spot :? And the name would be whatever the file name is, right? Genres (if I don't change the name)? Thanks for helping--sometimes I feel I know just enough to be dangerous (and delete everything!!).

Mary
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby robert » Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:38 am

ok...sounds like you are looking in the wrong place. The reading plans are not in your library; they are in "my stuff". You access them by tapping on the suitcase icon to the left of the settings icon (A*). Once there, choose "Reading Plans".

I've re-upped the pictures to show the installation directories in iPhone Explorer.
Image
Image
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby rxmom03 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:54 am

Well, duh :roll: It always helps to know where to look! I now have this loaded, thanks for your help.

Mary
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby Realrawr » Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:06 pm

ocaptain wrote:This was great! Thanks so much...

I was into day 46 of my reading so I took file '1' and made a '1a' and deleted the first 45 entries. Worked great.

Does anyone know if reading plans sync across devices? For example, if I add the plan to my iPhone and read for 10 days, then if I pick up my iPad will it be waiting for me at day eleven?

Thanks again!

-Anthony


Hi Anthony -

currently, BibleReader doesn't sync reading plans - but with the new capabilities we've built into Olive Tree Sync, we're hoping to extend that to reading plans / book locations etc...

Joe C.
OT Tech Support
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www.OliveTree.com
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby ocaptain » Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:56 pm

Thanks, Joe!

On a related note, I know there have been multiple posts about BibleReader's stability... I quite frequently experience crashes when entering the Reading Plan function. I haven't tried any reading plan outside this one, so I don't know if people using the built-in plans are experiencing stability issues. Once I even had to completely restart the iPad to do my day's plan. Other crashes frequently occur when resizing the split window or accessing inked resources while going through a reading plan.

I'm sure a lot of these will be ironed out in later releases... keep up the great work!

-Anthony
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby dtrotzjr » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:10 pm

The reading plan crashes will be fixed in the next update.
David Trotz
Senior Software Engineer
Olive Tree Bible Software
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Re: Unofficial Guide to Custom Reading Plans

Postby flutegirl » Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:00 pm

Thanks for this!

However, I'm obviously doing something wrong, as once I move the reading plan over to my iPad and try to start a reading plan, BR just sits there with the "Creating Plan" spinning wheel.

I've double checked my XML file, and I don't see any obvious problems (missing close tags, missing quotes, etc), and even tried limiting it to only 7 days worth to see if that would work, but no matter what I do, it doesn't actually create the reading plan on the iPad so I can't use the custom plan I created.

Any suggestions on what I may be doing wrong to cause the plan to not be usable?
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