Christian Software

Discussion in 'Computers & Website Forum' started by Don, Dec 9, 2002.

  1. Don

    Don
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    I'm flabbergasted.

    Why is it that *real* study programs (like Parsons Technology, etc.) cost an arm and a leg?

    (not talking about stuff like e-sword, Online Bible, Theopholos, etc., but the commercial stuff)

    Why is it that church management software starts out at around $179? And that's for a hokey program; a good one will cost in excess of $500.

    I'm not understanding why the software industry can come up with games that require the most current processor and high-end graphics card and charge less than $50 for them, but Christian software requires a second mortgage....
     
  2. Baptist Believer

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    They'll sell more of the game software than "Christian" software.

    Also, much of the serious study software includes reference works and the software manufacturer has to pay royalties to the publishers/authors of the reference works to include them in electronic form. My older printer copy of my Brown, Driver and Briggs cost me $55, my Hebrew text was about $35, my Greek language aids are another $120 or so... You can see how it adds up.
     
  3. Don

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    And yet, most of our Christian brethren can't afford that.

    My church needs management software for up to 100 families (we're still at the 30-50 family stage); yet the management programs that are available are prohibitively costly.

    Looks like I'm going to have to dig out an old Microsoft Professional 95 CD, and work something up in Access.

    And there's so much free reference stuff on the web that a simple web-based application using all the reference stuff doesn't seem unreasonable.

    Why does it seem that when it comes to Christian items like reference books and software, we have to pay out the nose? Why shouldn't those things be made freely available to all seeking, studying Christians?

    I may get back into programming yet....

    [ December 10, 2002, 04:11 PM: Message edited by: Don ]
     
  4. Don

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    In fact, I'll make that offer now:

    My plan is to create a Microsoft Access database for church membership.

    Using the "switchboard" function in Access, a main menu will be created with the following functions:

    Add member
    Delete member
    See all members
    Monthly birthdays
    Monthly anniversaries

    Additional links:
    A button that will activate Microsoft Word and take you directly to your weekly church bulletin
    A button that will activate Microsoft Excel and take you directly to your weekly prayer list
    A button that will activate Microsoft Excel for church bank accounts

    I haven't thought this one through yet: whether to use Access or Excel to track tithes and giving

    If you have Access and/or Microsoft Word/Excel/Professional/etc., but in a different version than 95, and you're interested in me building you a version of what I'm working on, let me know. I'll see if I can scarf a similar version and modify it to work with what you have.

    --------------------------------------------------

    I'll also start exploring a web-based (read: Internet Explorer browser) bible program with search functions and access to as many free resources as I can "hook" into it.

    The first project I've already pretty much worked out in my head, and should have it done by the end of January. The second one will be a little harder; I'll figure out a production schedule and work from there.

    Seems like an Microsoft Access version should be able to be constructed for those that would prefer to use that....

    -------------------------------------------------

    Reason I'm posting this? Public accountability. Now that I've proclaimed it in front of a huge amount of people, I need to follow through. Also, any suggestions/comments are greatly appreciated.

    There's a company called "Arachnoid" that gives its program "Arachnophilia" away as "Careware." Careware is publicized as this: Instead of paying for the software, do something nice for someone. Perhaps the concept I'm thinking of could be considered "BlessingWare"; instead of paying for it, use the software to be a blessing to someone. You decide, or let God lead you, how to be that blessing.

    Let the free Christian software revolution begin....
     
  5. Baptist Believer

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    It's a limited market and the people who do the work deserve to be compensated for their effort. Their children deserve to eat and they deserve to be able to work only one exhausting job.
     
  6. BrianT

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    I'm a programmer, and I've been kicking around the idea of a similar app for a while now, to help out smaller churches. Your plans sound great, but the only drawback is that it sounds like to use the software you are creating, they need to have Access, Word and Excel. If they don't have those, the price of those three things are higher than buying a pro church management software package in the first place. I could probably whip something up in a few weeks that does most of what you describe, without the user needing other software. Let me know if you want some help, etc. [​IMG]

    Brian
     
  7. Don

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    Immediate reaction: Having access to MS Office Pro 95, the church I'm going to do this for will be fine.

    HOWEVER, let's discuss modules and fitting it all together. All the programming I do any more seems to be HTML. Access is quick and dirty and easy; that's why, when it's available, I usually resort to it.

    Need to do a requirements study on the church donation/financial segment...the rest seems pretty simple. Database for member management; word processing ability to create prayer lists, bulletins, et al....
     
  8. Don

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    For comprehensive search and study tools on the web, I highly suggest Blue Letter Bible. One of the best online resources I've found over the years.

    I've been examining e-Sword, Online Bible, and Theopholos (I can't spell that last one correctly); seems like these are pretty decent freeware bible study programs. The only thing that might be an improvement on them is making them for people like me: basically stupid and needing an easier interface.
     
  9. Don

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    Just found a church management software program that's doing what I proposed to do here: Use MS Access. And they're charging $150 for it....
     
  10. jcrowe

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    This is a great topic! About a year ago I though of doing this. I would like to echo the idea about avioding microsoft access & commercial products in general.

    What I would like to suggest is usinging open office (www.openoffice.org). It is free and runs on several differant platforms (mac, windows, linux & bsd). If propietary software is kept out of the software then I am pretty sure that I could come up with some resources and people who would be willing to work on this project. If anyone is interested in this maybe we could start an official project.

    I have dealt with some of the expensive church management packages, and they leave alot to be desired. I am confident that a group of determined people with a common goal could make something that would exceed expectations and help people & churchs to be better stewards.

    Jason
     
  11. Don

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    Brian, Jason, y'all have me quite intrigued.

    My challenge right now is time. I have exactly one month to come up with something for the church that I currently attend. After that, I'm preparing to move, and won't have time to deal with it. Unfortunately, I'm also in the middle of updating/upgrading the web site I run, so I'm pressed for time; that's why I'm initially going with the MS Access option.

    OpenOffice sounds like a serious idea. I actually downloaded it the other night. The only thing I didn't see was a database system (kind of like StarOffice when it first came out; you had to download an add-on database program, which, in my be-it-ever-so-humble opinion, stunk). Jason, do you know of any database add-ons for OpenOffice, or did I just overlook the program?

    Brian, what would you be programming in?

    [ December 17, 2002, 03:55 PM: Message edited by: Don ]
     
  12. jcrowe

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    As of right now open office doesn't have a built-in database. It looks like they are planning to use MySQL when it reaches version 4. The only thing that I have found is a paper on using mysql through a JDBC driver.

    If MySQL was used, it could have a web interface as well as or in place of a traditional gui interface. I am a php programmer so I like web interfaces that use mysql. [​IMG]

    I have a few questions about using access for a begining phase. It may allow us get a prototype up and running. Any additional ideas anyone?

    I could offer the use of my FreeBSD server if it would help.
     
  13. JamesJ

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    Hi All,

    I've used QuickVerse Membership Plus 6, but it cost $200.00. Are you thinking about doing an app that would be freely distributed for anyone to use? OpenSource maybe?

    I'm a C/C++ programmer by trade, embedded industrial communications code mostly, but can write VC++ and VB apps.

    I'd be willing to throw in my lot will y'all.
    I'll be away from home over the holidays but can start after the 1st.
     
  14. BrianT

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    I am also a C/C++ programmer by trade. And for fun, I do more C/C++ in my spare time. [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I'd be interested in helping out where I could, but I'm stretched a little thin right now. I could spare a few hours a week, I guess. [​IMG] I'm content to let others scope out the requirements, choose the implementation, etc. [​IMG] OpenOffice looks like a possibility. We could even write something from scratch. [​IMG]
     
  15. InHim2002

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    why not create it as a web application?

    that way there would be no need for the client to have anything installed to make it work (aside from a browser) - you would just need a server to put the application on - you would also avoid the headache of client support.

    You could junk all the opening up of word and excel and open them up as formatted pages in a browser with the option to download to those packages or as formatted text.

    The application development would also be 100x quicker. You could also run the backend on mysql with php scripting on linux - so there would be no cost aside from the web server and bandwidth which you could charge a minimal annual fee for.
     
  16. jcrowe

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    Okay. It sounds like we may have ourselves a project. [​IMG]

    What are some features that we want?
    </font>
    • Track Visitors</font>
    • Track Members</font>
    • backup (that works)</font>
    • Sunday School tracking</font>
    • Visitaion listing/tracking</font>
    Also, can we all agree on using the GPL for the software license?
    As for gui or web based, what are some ideas?

    Jason
     
  17. Don

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    GPL is fine.

    Web interface is an excellent idea; however, let's remember that in most cases, we're going to be dealing with smaller churches that don't really do internet access, much less be able to afford even a minimal fee for access.

    Generic requirements (adding to the above list):

    Tithes and offerings
    Ability to manage different church accounts (building fund, missions fund, youth fund, etc.)
    Church brochures, bulletins, prayer lists, pastor letters, etc.

    Similar to Microsoft Works, but more user-friendly and workable. In a nutshell, here are the three over-arching requirements:

    Database (for member/visitor tracking--could be a spreadsheet, but database is much easier to build queries with)
    Financial Management
    Word Processing

    Any additions to those three basic requirements? Any need for graphics presentations? Image manipulation? etc.?

    Once the over-arching requirements are defined, then we can start working on the specific requirements for each area.
     
  18. jcrowe

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    I suggest that if we do use a web interface, then we do it in a way that doesn't require internet access. There are several packages out there that install php/apache/mysql for any version of microsoft windows. This would keep the requirements down to having a working computer. Internet access would not be an issue.
     
  19. JamesJ

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    New info...

    Check out "InfoCentral", an open source church membership information web-based app.

    You can find it HERE
     
  20. InHim2002

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    ack - that is going to add the same client support overhead as a client application would - IMO we should focus on building a web app and assume that if a church is sufficently techno-literate to want a system like this they will, at least, have an internet connection.

    I suppose I am saying that we need to define exactly what type of market we are catering for - because any sort of application is going to have to be built around a basic minimum standard - what are those going to be? - then we can define the technology that we want to use.

    I suggest that we build for windows 98 + with an internet connection - although if we did it as a client app we could build for win98 + with some flavour of office....

    I prefer the web approach because:

    a) it is less of an overhead to upgrade/bug fix
    b) it is thin client and we avoid the 'why doesn't this work on my pc' issues that always crop up
    c) it is much more extensible than a traditional client side application

    also we should have a think about the likely demand for the product that we build, average ability of our average user etc - if we need to charge for it (and we will) what would be the maximum that we should charge? assuming that everyone here gives their time for free what are the basic costs?

    btw - I would prefer to write this in ASP, and I have some server space going very cheap to host - this approach would, obviously, be different from the linux/php/mysql route (it would be nt/asp/access but I think it will deliver a better result (but i am biased [​IMG] )

    this is fun!
     

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