R Michael Broyde / I confess: I like davening from the siddur on my Blackberry Bold. It has a backlit screen, the words are clear and I like scrolling more than turning pages. My Blackberry also has a chumash that automatically opens to this week’s parsha and a Shulchan Aruch that I sometimes learn from during those occasional slow moments in davening (like when they are rolling the Torah). But, lurking in the back of my mind is the idea that my e-siddur ought to be doing much more for me, and it is time to build a better mousetrap. Indeed, my Blackberry has already been programmed in its calendar function to tell me every day a lot of davening information, including the Hebrew date, whether we say tachanun today, when is sunrise and sunset, what is the Torah reading, as well as what is today’s daf. What is needed is an e-siddur that takes advantage of that information. I would like my e-siddur to do at least six things and I can project a few more into the future.

Building A Better Siddur

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Building a Better Siddur: An E-Siddur for the Twenty-First Century

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde

Rabbi Michael J. Broyde is a Law Professor at Emory University, was the Founding Rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta and is a Dayan in the Beth Din of America

I confess: I like davening from the siddur on my Blackberry Bold. It has a backlit screen, the words are clear and I like scrolling more than turning pages. My Blackberry also has a chumash that automatically opens to this week’s parsha and a Shulchan Aruch that I sometimes learn from during those occasional slow moments in davening (like when they are rolling the Torah). But, lurking in the back of my mind is the idea that my e-siddur ought to be doing much more for me, and it is time to build a better mousetrap.

Indeed, my Blackberry has already been programmed in its calendar function to tell me every day a lot of davening information, including the Hebrew date, whether we say tachanun today, when is sunrise and sunset, what is the Torah reading, as well as what is today’s daf. What is needed is an e-siddur that takes advantage of that information. I would like my e-siddur to do at least six things and I can project a few more into the future.

  1. I want my e-siddur to know where I am and what time it is, and thus what I am davening. If it is 7:30 a.m. in Atlanta, GA then my e-siddur ought to know that I am davening shacharit and when I press the siddur icon, open to shacharit. It ought to tell me what is the earliest time for talit and tefillin when I am close to that time and the same for mincha when I am approaching that deadline. When I open my e-siddur at 2:30 pm to daven, it should automatically open to mincha as that is the only prayer for that time. Candle lighting times would be nice too on Friday.
  2. I want my e-siddur to formulate the proper davening, given what date and time it is. If it is 7:30 am on December 26, 2011 in Atlanta, GA, it is shacharit for Rosh Chodesh and Channuka, and my e-siddur ought to automatically insert ya’ale v’yavo and al hanisim into shemona esrei, and when I scroll down after Shemona Esrei, Hallel ought to be the next prayer on the agenda. Tachanun ought to be skipped automatically.
  3. I want the right Torah reading to come up on Mondays and Thursdays (and Rosh Chodesh and fast days too). When a haftarah is said on a fast day at mincha, that should be after Torah reading. My Blackberry calendar knows these things and so does the computer display board in my shul. My e-siddur should also.
  4. I want to be able to program it up front with my minhagim. I daven Religious Zionist ashkenaz and I want my siddur instructions in my native language, English. Someone else might daven Charedi Yeshiva Sefard with Yiddish instructions and someone else Edot Hamizrach with Hebrew instructions; Chacun à son goût. In addition, a variety of different minhagim have developed for zemanei hayom. I should be able to tell it mine among a list of many programmable default options. My e-siddur should adopt to my minhagim.
  5. I should be able to program my e-siddur to skip tefillot that are optional and that I do not say and insert those that I do say. Some skip korbanot (not me; I say them every day) and others skip vidui (I do skip it) and some say the six “zachor” passages every day (not me) and some add a prayer for parnassa at the end of davening (I try to). Yet others sit for a few minutes and say Tehillim, either on a monthly, weekly, or daily cycle (not me now, but I used to). Let me personalize my e-siddur.
  6. I would like the option to automatically disable email notifications and incoming phone calls when the siddur is open and in use – sometimes, all of us really just want to turn off the outside world when our siddur is open.

Let me add that of course it needs all the bells and whistles of any text based application, such as variable text sizes to accommodate the visually struggling and backlight adjustments for various lighting conditions. A function that tells me the proper direction for tefilla — maybe with both a Rhumb line option and compass direction option (to include both views among the achronim, a subject of a forthcoming article) — would be nice too. So too, while I confess that I am not a Daf Yomi learner (maybe I should be, but that is a topic for a different post) it would be nice if my e-siddur would have a tzurat hadaf for the day’s daf readily available on it.

Let me add that there are all sorts of other interesting features that one could add to such an e-siddur app once it becomes integrated into the general structure of Orthodox life. Consider for example a “context aware automatic alert” which integrates a person’s general schedule with davening times along the lines of an SIRI alert which notes that “you have a 90 minute meeting starting at 4:30 today with sunset at 5:15 – you should daven mincha early today” or “you had better leave early for shacharit today. Heavier than expected traffic is being reported,” each of which requires the integration of the siddur app with other common smart phone or tablet features or applications. More sophisticated additional features, such as hyperlinks to sources or essays could well take the place of notes found in the current printed siddurim. So too, the ability to add one’s own annotations would be of value, from names of cholim at the proper place to perhaps even a davener’s own insights and comments.

I would gladly pay for my daily e-siddur if it is well done (and I suspect that I am not the only one who gladly pay), and more generally such a siddur could be an anchor product for an overall Orthodox religious lifestyle mobile app. It would help people manage their schedule, shop for kosher food, answer simple questions of data driven halacha and provide reminders common to all Orthodox life. Monetization is possible through ads placed by suppliers of kosher food (maybe only when the GPS function notes you are in a supermarket), sefarim stores, local kosher restaurants, maybe even charities soliciting donations.[1]

Prayer is a central ritual to the Orthodox community and technological enhancements to the prayer experience through a nicer and better laid out siddur has been ongoing for centuries. We have always recognized that the esthetics of prayer can enhance the experience of praying; the Jewish community has always sought out the best siddur. An e-siddur can create a prayer environment much more esthetically pleasing than any printed prayer book ever can be, if only because it can give you the right prayers in the right order every day, with instructions tailored to its owner’s current location and customs, while changing every day with the changes of the Jewish calendar.

May all of our prayers be answered.


[1] As my close friend and chavrusa of more than 30 years, Steven Weiner of SRI (the inventors of Apples new SIRI function) joked while reading an earlier version of this, one could just see the following conversation taking place twenty years hence “SIRI, I forgot to say ya’ale v’yavo – what should I do?” “Sorry I can’t tell you that – kol isha is not permitted in shul.”

About Michael Broyde

66 comments

  1. Sadly the options for my BB pale when I use the Rusty Brick siddur on my iTouch.

  2. I was also going to mention the Rusty Brick siddur for the I-Phone. It has many of the features that Rabbi Broyde mentions, including inserting the correct addition text and torah readings for special days, zmanim, a compass for mizrach, a Jewish calendar, a minyan locator, options for nusach ashkenaz, sefard, or ari, the ability to insert names of specific people in refaenu, an option to add pesukim corresponding to your name in elokai nitzor, and a tefilin mirror. While it does not automatically launch the correct tefilah for the time for day, it does make unavailable any tefilah for which it is inappropriate to use a i-siddur for the day (e.g. if you are using the i-siddur to daven maariv after shabbat, the shacharit and mincha options are not available, not because it is only time for maariv, but because the shacharit and mincha davenings for that day were on Shabbat).

  3. Calling on RustyBrick to update their app to Rav Broyde’s suggestions. And to make it Android compatible.

  4. Just for fun, the siddur app should crowd source via GPS to see if you can get a minyan together while, say, vacationing somewhere.

  5. When palm pilots first came out I thought of having a siddur that automatically adjusts to each day but then realized that a lot of hilchos tefillah we learn by reading the instructions in the siddur and if the device would tell us what to daven automatically we’d forget when we say different things.
    Anybody agree?

  6. I would strongly recommend the iSiddur for iPhone from Rusty Brick. It
    – automatically loads the right tefillos for the day,
    – loads zmanim by location (and can be adjusted for other cities, key for a traveler),
    – adjusts for your set nusach and minhagim (both tefilah and zmanim),
    – integrates GoDaven for finding a minyan,
    – has adjustable text sizes and handy little things like
    – a mizrach/yerushalayim/har-habayis directional indicator (depending on your location it will adjust) and
    – it even has a tefillin mirror that uses the front facing camera.

  7. abba's rantings

    one of my favorite iphone apps is the rusty brick siddur. it happens to address already most of r. broyde’s wants.

  8. Ploney Almoney

    Finally! Some real scholarship on this blog!

  9. What is Religious Zionist ashkenaz? How does it differ from Neturei Karta Ashkenaz? Do you just mean the inclusion of tefillah lishlom hamedinah?

  10. A Better Way to Build It

    Rabbi Broyde,

    You are talking about public-domain texts that could be continually improved, plus have simple but useful functions added to them and then be made available to the public.

    And yet you write:

    “I would gladly pay for my daily e-siddur if it is well done (and I suspect that I am not the only one who gladly pay)”

    I find that highly disappointing. Not because you are willing to pay for a mitzvah (that is wonderful), and not that a truly unique product should not be paid for (it should), but because there are far better ways to make these things public forever without resorting to the old-style commercial model.

    I invite all readers of this blog to look at two websites. The first is called “The Open Siddur Project” and that is a place where people could easily contribute all of the texts and functions that Rabbi Broyde talks about. You don’t need a commercial company to do this sort of thing as long as you have members of the public who are willing to work on it together. And since that project belongs to the public under an open license, it can be continually improved and adapted to new needs forever. Computer programmers and editors of basic Jewish texts work together at The Open Siddur Project for the good of the public. The website is here:

    http://opensiddur.org/

    The second project is about the entire Torah library. Why should the public pay to see the typed text of the Shulchan Arukh on their telephone, when the text is in the public domain anyway? Wouldn’t it be better for the Torah public to work together and make it all available for people to use and continually improve as they please, at a website like Hebrew Wikisource? See here:

    http://he.wikisource.org

    Rabbi Broyde, let’s shift our conceptions about how Torah literature should be developed in the internet age!

  11. I thought that a nice added bonus would be a nusach randomizer. Keeps you on your toes!

  12. “What is Religious Zionist ashkenaz? How does it differ from Neturei Karta Ashkenaz? Do you just mean the inclusion of tefillah lishlom hamedinah?”

    It means Siddur Rinat Yisroel, which is slightly different.

  13. ” we learn by reading the instructions in the siddur and if the device would tell us what to daven automatically we’d forget when we say different things.
    Anybody agree?”

    Definitely agree. It would make people dependent on the smartphone, like people are dependent on siddurim today. But is that a real problem?

  14. Let me add that there are all sorts of other interesting features that one could add to such an e-siddur app once it becomes integrated into the general structure of Orthodox life.

    Why just Orthodox life? Did you know that other Jewish movements davven, too? Or do we just not care about them?

  15. Shachar Ha'amim

    Makor Rishon’s Shabbat section for last Shabbat had a review, by the supplement editor Yoav Sorek, of two new RZ siddurim (the Hebrew only Koren siddur and the “Aylaych Tefilati” siddur) as well as a new Charedi Siddur based on Rav Chaim Kanievski’s teachings/rulings.
    http://musaf-shabbat.com/2012/01/21/%d7%a1%d7%99%d7%93%d7%95%d7%a8-%d7%98%d7%95%d7%a8%d7%91%d7%95-%d7%99%d7%95%d7%90%d7%91-%d7%a9%d7%95%d7%a8%d7%a7/

    I support Sorek’s call that the editing and composition of the siddur should not end with the RZ “standard” additional components that have been added and should rather be dynamic – as it was historically.

    While he comments about how the Koren siddur felt a “need” to anchor many things in halachic literature, what strikes me about these source comments is just how (realtively) late most things we say were “added” to the prayer book (I’d also love to see what was “deleted” over the generations)

    I agree with his assessment that serious consideration needs to be given to revisions in the prayers of despair of the forsaken situation of the Jewish people. The Monday and Thursday addional prayers in tachanun (also late additions as it is) ae in need of a serious re-write.

  16. Thank you for the wonderfull work you do.
    Where can I find a tefila program for my BlackBerry ?
    Be well.
    Patrick

  17. Michael Rogovin

    Supplementing the above comments, I would suggest that my friend and teacher Rabbi Broyde dump his his crackberry (they are going to go out of business soon anyway) and get an iPhone, where he can get the iSiddur from Rusty Brick. 🙂

    As to free vs. paid, both are fine and I love free software as much as anyone, but the cost is not for the texts, which are public domain, but the effort to edit them to make sure there are no errors, to assure conformance with one’s nusach, and correct vowelization (esp. if like Koren, you are distinguishing shvas and kametz katan. Also the effort to program all of the features noted. These take time and I see nothing wrong in people being compensated for their professional efforts.

    Finally, What I find disappointing is the quality of hebrew type, both letters and vowel placement. We need for Koren to find a way to bring their high standards to ebooks and iPhone/iPad, initially as ePubs and better yet as dynamic publications such as what R. Broyde described and Rusty Brick has done. Now THAT would be a huge advance for siddurim and sefarim, and definitely worth the money.

  18. How about links to the BB apps R Broyde mentions, such as chumash, shulchan aruch and Jewish calendar?

  19. Well, as for typed Torah texts, someone (or several someones, given the nature of copyrights) had to pay people to type in the Shulchan Aruch and nosei keilim. It’s a lot of work to type and edit all that material (and the Bar-Ilan stuff is pretty well edited). Information should be free, but someone has to pay all those typists and editors and techies who created, maintain and improve the product. The phone book isn’t free either, you pay for it through your phone bills.

    And, before Rusty Brick, there was a Palm siddur that added insertions on the right days. My wife had it. I had a freebie from Lubavitch; I can make the adjustments between NAri and NA on the fly. Good for the “nusach switch…keep you on your toes” idea.

  20. A Better Way to Build It

    “As to free vs. paid, both are fine and I love free software as much as anyone, but the cost is not for the texts, which are public domain, but the effort to edit them to make sure there are no errors, to assure conformance with one’s nusach, and correct vowelization (esp. if like Koren, you are distinguishing shvas and kametz katan. Also the effort to program all of the features noted. These take time and I see nothing wrong in people being compensated for their professional efforts.”

    The point is that exactly the kind of editorial work and other improvements that you describe can be easily be done by the public itself in Open projects! That is exactly what The Open Siddur Project and Hebrew Wikisource do.

    Think about how Jewish philanthropists currently donate money in order to subsidize Torah publishing projects, which are then sold for a fee under copyright, or distributed free but with restrictions on future use. Imagine if those same philanthropists would instead pay for editing under free and open licenses, and thus make the improved material that they have donated available to the public to use freely forever!

    Secondly, you yourself note that when the company goes out of business or the tech-tool goes out of style, the apps you have invested in are lost too. But if they were Open Content and Open Source, then they would never be lost to the public.

    People really need to start thinking about how they want the future digital Torah library to look: Proprietary or Open Content? Private or public?

  21. A Better Way to Build It

    “Information should be free, but someone has to pay all those typists and editors and techies who created, maintain and improve the product.”

    A typical twofold misunderstanding.

    1. Projects can be created, maintained, and improved in public, open environments just as well or better than in proprietary ones. The work you described can be done just as well or better through public collaboration.

    2. There is no contradiction between being paid and Open Content. The philanthropic funds needed to publish a single volume of the proprietary Schottenstein Talmud could probably put most of Torah literature online in a basic edition for free.

  22. Michael Feldstein

    I remember how happy I was years ago when a publishing company finally had the good sense to place Barchi Nafshi after Shacharis instead of only in Shabbos mincha, so that I didn’t have to flip around and find it every Rosh Chodesh. Rabbi Broyde’s ideas take e-technology for the siddur to an entirely new level. It’s all doable and programmable; the real question is how widely it would be accepted, and how long it will take until we will hear about certain rabbis who rule that it’s assur to daven from such an e-siddur.

  23. Yehoshua Friedman

    Michael Feldstein: “It’s all doable and programmable; the real question is how widely it would be accepted, and how long it will take until we will hear about certain rabbis who rule that it’s assur to daven from such an e-siddur.”

    Do you have to be a nudnik? The issur hasn’t been invented yet and now you are suggesting the idea. Wanna bet that people just won’t go by that rav if he really does such a thing — and on what basis, anyway? Give us all a break.

  24. I wrote a siddur simular to your requirements for my Nokia N900. The basis of the siddur were texts to what I added something that I called “conditional markup”. The idea was to mark a section as …, and then that section would only show up if the summer flag was set. The application would calculate all the flags and then the appropriate text would be shown. What is nice about this method is that there is a clear separation between the software and the text.

    Unfortunately I never finished the project. But if someone is interested I’d be happy to put my efforts on github so someone can pick it up.

    [email protected]

  25. Michael Feldstein

    Michael Feldstein: “It’s all doable and programmable; the real question is how widely it would be accepted, and how long it will take until we will hear about certain rabbis who rule that it’s assur to daven from such an e-siddur.”

    Do you have to be a nudnik? The issur hasn’t been invented yet and now you are suggesting the idea. Wanna bet that people just won’t go by that rav if he really does such a thing — and on what basis, anyway? Give us all a break.
    ——————————–
    I guess I should have put one of those smiley things after my sarcastic statement. 🙂

    And those who know me will tell you that I’m really not a nudnik.

    However, the truth is that I was only half-joking…unfortunately, given the environment that seems to encourage bans on just about everything, I would not be totally shocked to hear about a rabbi who will come out with a statemnt saying that it’s assur to daven from an e-siddur. Whether people would follow that psak is anyone’s guess…I guess it would depend on who the rabbi was and on what basis he is making the ruling.

  26. A Better Way to Build It

    “I wrote a siddur simular to your requirements for my Nokia N900…

    Unfortunately I never finished the project. But if someone is interested I’d be happy to put my efforts on github so someone can pick it up.”

    That is amazing! It would be great if you could license it open source and invite the general community to develop it further.

  27. Having an interest in seeing this kind of open content and open source project succeed, let me offer my free help to advise anyone interested in how to see this project succeed. I’m currently involved in the Open Source movement and spend my days pouring over the details of these Open Source licenses and related communal behaviors.

  28. FWIW: I use the Ivri Application on my Android phone, and have always wondered why it includes shabbat, shalosh regalim and HHD tefilot. As much as I’m addicted to my phone, I can’t imagine davening from it on yom tov! So I imagine text/nussach customization and calendar integration would be a nice enhancement to an e-siddur. I’d love it to read the text out loud too, like my Android Tefilat Haderech app does, but I can imagine that would be cheating — maybe you can blog about the halachot of listening vs. reading certain tefilot 🙂

  29. R Broyde-WADR, what Siddur do you like davening from on Shabbos?

  30. You just need an iPhone…

  31. Michael Feldstein: “And those who know me will tell you that I’m really not a nudnik. However, the truth is that I was only half-joking…unfortunately, given the environment that seems to encourage bans on just about everything, I would not be totally shocked to hear about a rabbi who will come out with a statemnt saying that it’s assur to daven from an e-siddur. Whether people would follow that psak is anyone’s guess…I guess it would depend on who the rabbi was and on what basis he is making the ruling.”

    At the risk of having the distinction of being the nudnik who contributes to this discussion, I wish to bring attention to the halachic article in Tehumin 30 (5770), pp. 413-417, written by R. Dr. Avraham Lifshitz, the current director of the Religious Education Department of the Israel Ministry of Education, on davening from an e-siddur (Tefila mi-Tokh Siddur Elektroni). R. Lifshitz presents various factors to conclude that it is prohibited to daven out of an e-siddur and bases his position, inter alia, on the rulings of Ritva, Rabenu Yona and the BaH. It should also be noted that one of the editors of Tehumin and the director of the Zomet Institute, R. Yisrael Rozen, felt compelled to write an addendum to R. Lifshitz’s article expressing his disagreement with R. Lifshitz’s conclusion and asserting that the issur advanced by R. Lifshitz constitutes a gezeira that hitherto was never established.
    [email protected]

  32. E Fink wrote:

    “You just need an iPhone”

    At the risk of reignitng the discussion re the halachic isssues re texting and the use of technology such as an I phone , etc on Shabbos, perhaps the same should be prohibited IMO at least on the rabbinic level as a Kli Shemelachto Lissur ( based on the majority of the contents and usage of an I Phone) and/or a Muktzeh Machmas Chisaron Kis.

  33. “A typical twofold misunderstanding.”

    Devotee of Eric “Snark” Raymond, are we?

    “1. Projects can be created, maintained, and improved in public, open environments just as well or better than in proprietary ones. The work you described can be done just as well or better through public collaboration.”

    Maybe so, but not in this case, and not generally.

    – The best products are still coming from commercial operations – Bar Ilan, DBS.

    – You don’t get customer support without a commercial operation. While this is fine for professional developers working on these open projects in their spare time, it’s not so good when the audience is general users.

    – You’re dependent on developers’ interest – if they lose interested, they’ll drift away from a project, and all their expertise goes with them.

    – If the user base continues but developers lose interest, who’s going to continue to support the product?

    – Bug fixing isn’t sexy. But if you pay people to do it, they’ll do it. How long do bugs sit around on, e.g., Bugzilla? I’ve reported bugs there, they take years to respond. Regular companies may at times take years to fix something, but we generally respond and help the customer try to a) narrow down the problem, and b) find a workaround.

    When I think of all the projects that I’ve never done because it never gets to “one of these days”, while I do lots of projects at work, I can generalize from the personal to say “there are probably lots of open projects that never get started, completed, maintained, because there’s no gain in it aside from personal satisfaction.”

    I’ve tried a couple of times to organize a smallish “open” trancription/translation project among the readers of Avodah. As part of Aishdas, you’d think they’d be interested in activities to further their active engagement in Torah. I got less than a minyan of volunteers out of 200+ readers, making the chunks to be worked on, too big for any of us to bother with.

    Experience has taught me not to trust to “open” projects. And if one person wrote a product, and spent six months or a year on it, he deserves to be paid for his work.

  34. Steve: No one is proposing using a phone as a siddur on Shabbos

  35. Abba's Rantings

    “unfortunately, given the environment that seems to encourage bans on just about everything, I would not be totally shocked to hear about a rabbi who will come out with a statemnt saying that it’s assur to daven from an e-siddur.”

    wasn’t there a post or a comment a few months back that one rav said not to daven from a phone because of maris ayin?

  36. Reminds me of this old post. link

  37. Dov Grobgeld: That definitely sounds interesting. I wonder how hard it would be to reimplement it in Qt, so it’ll be able to run on N9 with Harmattan or Nemo Mobile (your implementation uses GTK I guess). If data and UI are well separated, it should be doable.

  38. Actually, RIM is considering shipping Qt port on their OS too, so Qt based sidur will be quite portable (Android has Qt port already as well).

  39. It would be nice if my Blackberry could be programmed to answer “amen” at the appropriate times went I am unable to daven with a minyan.

  40. Hirhurim Reader

    I use the Tefilon app for Android phones. It can be downloaded for free. It has many of the features that you mentioned.

  41. Hirhurim Reader

    Sorry – Tfilon.

  42. When benching from the Rusty Brick siddur in the evening on Rosh Chodesh, it asks if I began the meal before or after sunset, and inserts yaaleh v’yavo accordingly. This only happens within a certain time period after sunset, after which it assumes the meal began after sunset. Thus the siddur is already integrated with the zmanim calculations.

    Regarding prohibitions of using an electronic device as a siddur- many years ago, while davening from my Palm, someone came over to me and very sarcastically asked me if I had a lot of kavanah during davening. I realized that the person simply didn’t realize that my Palm was functioning as a siddur, and just turned it to show him the screen, so he could see the siddur. He apologized, and seemed quite intrigued with my electronic siddur, If it happened today, I would assume that his objection was that using the device for davening was a Maris Ayin issue and I would respond “Who are you to criticize me- you were reading a ‘book’ during davening!

  43. Michael Feldstein

    At the risk of having the distinction of being the nudnik who contributes to this discussion, I wish to bring attention to the halachic article in Tehumin 30 (5770), pp. 413-417, written by R. Dr. Avraham Lifshitz, the current director of the Religious Education Department of the Israel Ministry of Education, on davening from an e-siddur (Tefila mi-Tokh Siddur Elektroni). R. Lifshitz presents various factors to conclude that it is prohibited to daven out of an e-siddur and bases his position, inter alia, on the rulings of Ritva, Rabenu Yona and the BaH.
    ————————————

    Told you I was only half joking 🙂

    And I’m glad I’m not the only nudnik. Join the club, David!

  44. I wonder how printed sforim were ever permitted, when they never existed before printing press was invented, and isn’t in moris ayin to use them, when there is such a huge amount of different books printed? Yet, printing press was welcomed, and used for good cause of sforim printing almost right away when it appeared and helped tremendously to circulate important sforim like Shulchan Oruch. Someone I guess would have prefered that they just forever have stuck with the klaf.

  45. abba's rantings

    SHMERL:

    “isn’t it moris ayin to use them, when there is such a huge amount of different books printed?”

    you can usually tell when someone davening from a siddur vs. reading a book.

    “Yet, printing press was welcomed”

    more than that, it was considered meleches kodesh.
    btw, compare with the muslim world where printing was rejected. in north africa and the ottoman empire hebrew books were the first printed and they preceded arabic books by centuries.

    “Someone I guess would have prefered that they just forever have stuck with the klaf.”

    well klaf is a different issue and isn’t synonymous with printing. paper (and other media) predate printing. now on the other hand scroll vs. codex . . .!

  46. A Better Way to Build It

    Jon Baker, I’m sorry you are so disappointed in open community efforts. But not a single reason you gave supports your position.

    There are a number of ways to derive income from open source projects, such as through advertising just like Rabbi Broyde suggests, or through the developer providing paid support. Plus philanthropy that is used towards Torah and Jewish culture can and should be directed in this direction rather than towards closed publishing projects.

    “Bug fixing isn’t sexy” – Have you ever tried to get Microsoft to fix a bug? Good luck!! I recently had a wonderful experience with HP, a ridiculous software bug that made a scanner/printer that cost hundreds of dollars essentially worthless to me. *Hundreds* of people complained online about that very same bug, but they never fixed it.

    On the contrary, bug fixing can actually be fun in an open source community project. Look what happens when you turn over an Office Suite to community control:
    http://blog.documentfoundation.org/2012/01/17/tdf-announces-the-second-bug-hunting-session-to-put-first-release-candidate-of-libreoffice-3-5-on-the-test-bench/

    I personally have had great satisfaction from the wonderful help I’ve received through Bugzilla and the numerous bugs that have been solved.

    Bar-Ilan and DBS are very fine programs, but the broader community can easily engage in the very same kind of work. The choice ultimately lies with people! Bar-Ilan, by the way, receives indirect public support: As an Israeli citizen I help pay for its development out of my own pocket, and yet to use it I have to pay hundreds of dollars. And even then I cannot use it with freedom, plus I have no vote regarding the way it is to be developed and expanded in the future. Wouldn’t public taxes and philanthropic money be better used for projects that are given back to the public?

    Once again, I urge all the readers of this blog who are not programmers but love learning Torah to think about the possibilities: Is there a classic sefer that you love? Are you willing to invest some time editing and formatting it, or translating it and annotating it, in order to create the “perfect” edition that you’ve always dreamed of? If so, then you can easily contribute your version to the public, making it available to be continually used and improved forever. And the time you spend, which is worth money, is a very effective way to invest ma`aser kesafim!

  47. Meir Weingarten

    I think someone asked for the URL of rusty brick, here is it – directly to their Jewish apps.

    the siddur is just incredible. it really does everything you can possible ask for.

    On a lighter note, back in the day of Palm Pilots, i saw someone davening from it.
    i turned to a friend and said ” look, it’s Rav Pa(l)m”

  48. Abba's Rantings

    “the siddur is just incredible. it really does everything you can possible ask for.”

    except for get the dagesh to appear neatly in the letters
    other than that it’s the best

  49. Thanks to the positive response I got here and by mail I finally got around to uploading my Siddur application to https://github.com/dov/MaemoSiddur . Even if you are not technically inclined you might appreciate the screenshot at: https://github.com/dov/MaemoSiddur/blob/master/MaemoSiddurScreenshot.png .

    [email protected]

  50. Many thanks to anonymous commenter “A Better Way to Build It.” The Open Siddur Project was founded to help folk build craft the tools they wish to use to engage in their tefillah. Thanks to the Internet, open source programming licenses (e.g., the GPL 3.0), free-culture content licenses (CC-BY-SA, CC0), and digitized Public Domain texts, we can innovate faster without forcing innovators to reinvent the wheel by recoding or retyping what has already been typed. For certain, this is an act of love, gmilut ḥasadim. Sharing is an act of love. Just as our ancestors shared their spiritual creativity and revelation with us, so we share it with each other and thereby create a more robust culture for disseminating our knowledge and creativity with our children and with the world.

    If you are a programmer and would like to get involved crafting our open source siddur application, please get in touch: http://opensiddur.org/contact/

    Looking forward to chatting and sharing code! 🙂

    (Gil Yehuda, Dov Grobgeld, and “A Better Way to Build It”)

  51. Thanks for uploading MaemoSidur. You kind of using HTML as XML there? I wonder if it could be easier just to make it in pure XML, separating all style information into something separate from the actual data.

  52. I think that’s a great set of features and it’s been my dream to build a siddur like that. Maybe you can be my halakhic advisor. It’s certainly something I could build, at least up until “other interesting features” part. But I’m not really convinced someone will pay for it. More to the point, what you’re describing is a level or software quality that requires a team of software professionals paid competitive full-time salaries. And that’s a level of quality that capital markets are funding for certain apps, but generally based on projections of a user base that I think is several times larger than the world Jewish population. Anyhow, I’m one of the software professionals I’m referring to, and I’d love someone to prove me wrong, but I just don’t see enough competitive, full-time development roles for Jewish software. I sometimes get the feeling that people figure everything can be built by a solo developer (maybe even a teenager) in their spare time just on the prospect of selling it for $.99 in the App Store (and the software industry for some reason seems to encourage this myth) but that’s now how really popular things actually get built–Facebook may have bee started by Mark Zuckerberg in his dorm room but the immensely popular site he has today required creating a real company will full-time experienced employees.

  53. Im not sure if this was already said but numbers 2, 3, and 4 in your article are already incorporated in RustyBrick’s siddur app for the iPhone. I am not sure if he also makes one for the blackberry though.

  54. Just an FYI, the RustyBrick iPhone Siddur does everything mentioned in this list with the exception of turning off the calls (Apple won’t let us do that, but you can turn Airplane mode on before you daven, if you want.)

    Not only does it do all these features, it does a heck of a lot more.

    Surprised some people didn’t know that.

    See http://www.rustybrick.com/siddur there is a video demo.

  55. Shmerl, yes, I’m using some kind of html, but with an additional tag that I call <cond flags=”…”> that determine that a section is conditional. I just learned about the OpenSiddur project, and the efforts to to create a unified XML-like format for Jewish texts, and I’ll certainly check out that and either use that directly or by converting to my format.

  56. @Marc: Many open source projects succeeded without becoming some kind of company. I think OpenSiddur is a great effort, and if actual full sidur data will be developed for various nusachoys in that format, building some GUI on top of that shouldn’t be too hard for free software developers.

  57. I just had a look at the screenshots of the rustybrick siddur and realized that the nikud placement is really off. My siddur is doing much nicer text layout (through the use of OpenType tables within gtk). So not everything commercial is better than free alternatives. 😉
    [email protected]

  58. Dov

    I have the Rustybrick siddur – the text and nikud is absolutely fine – better than any other e-siddur I have used. As mentioned in post – the backlit screan makes it easier to read than a paper siddur in my opinion. The screenshots may have been wrong.

    Also it is a lot easier to use – many other e-sidurs destroy kavana by being difficult to navigate between sections.

  59. I based my judgement on the screenshots at http://www.rustybrick.com/iphone-siddur.php#screenshots where the nikkud is not placed aesthetically. Perhaps the screenshot doesn’t represent the current version. Look e.g. at the Dagesh in the Tav, which is too far to the left. If it doesn’t bother you, then so much the better for you.

  60. Qt hase done a decent job with font rendering. Final result really strongly depends on the front end libraries which your application or system uses.

  61. Shmerl,

    Yes, both Qt and Gtk support Opentype tables needed for high quality typesetting. Strangely enough, Apple, one of the authors of the Opentype format, does not support it properly on the iOS platform. Android appear to have partial support.

  62. Dov,

    I’ve long been frustrated by the layout of nekudot on Android – I haven’t seen any evidence of OpenTable support in any version of Android. Are you aware of some way to make it available? If so, every user of AndDaaven will thank you greatly! (What I’ve found works best as a practical matter is to use FreeSans or FreeSerif; they shift the nekudot over enough so that they often look correct even when the OpenTable is ignored.)

  63. @shmuelp: It’s possible to use FreeType on Android. See this:

    http://blog.beuc.net/posts/Cross-compile_FreeType_for_Android_ARM/

    Another option as was already mentioned here, is to use Qt, which is ported to Android (though it’s not yet officially supported):

    https://market.android.com/details?id=eu.licentia.necessitas.ministro&hl=en

  64. Of course the ultimate app would be instant messaging.

  65. I just came across this posting. Very good list of desired features for a siddur app. My company, ZigZag, Inc., has been working on Hebrew font technology for the display of full Unicode Hebrew on mobile devices. We currently use this technology in our products for BlackBerry and Android. We have created our own fonts, and use our own algorithms to lay out the text, nekudot and trop. You can see screenshots at our Hebrew in Hand website:
    http://www.hebrewinhand.com/screenshots.html

  66. Philip Schwartz

    Somebody Please build this App!!!!!!!!!

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