OSIS, XSFM, XSEM, and Typewriters

Obsolete Typewriter

When was the last time you used a typewriter? I treasured my typewriter 45 years ago, but I don’t miss it, now. There are much better ways to write. In the same way, different ways of encoding Bible translations into computer files keep evolving. Holding the eternal Word of God in something so ephemeral as a computer file is a little strange, really. But, it actually works pretty well, as long as the files are updated with new formats, new media, and operating with new computers as time marches steadily onward.

Now, I’m going to get a bit technical, so the three or so of you who care about Scripture encoding formats can read on. The rest can just know that I keep updating file formats to keep preserving the same Bibles in the face of constantly changing technology.

Yesterday, I encountered yet one more problem in converting Bibles from their normal source format (USFM, USX, or USFX) into OSIS. That was a little thing, but in a sense, it was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I checked the logs, and very few copies of Bible translations have been downloaded from eBible.org in OSIS format, lately. Honestly, OSIS was never designed to be easy to convert to and from USFM. I guess the designers thought everyone would start over with the new format and leave the old ones behind. Predictably, it didn’t happen that way. The vast majority of Bible translators and Bible translation agencies, as well as the Digital Bible Library, have since standardized on USFM and USX. These are two formats that can be freely converted back and forth without losing information. However, it has always been complicated to convert between USFM or USX and OSIS. It is either a painstaking manual process, or an automated process that makes several compromises. Some formatting and noncanonical data gets lost in the process. Because of that, I just stopped supporting OSIS as a Scripture interchange formats for developers. In the unlikely event you still need OSIS Scripture files for something, I still have them and you can ask for them, and if I can’t talk you into using something better, I’ll probably send you some.