PocketTorah is here

Apr 15, 2012   //   by russel   //   Blog  //  21 Comments

Last year with the generous support of the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund we began development of PocketTorah, a mobile application and website, with the goal of providing anyone the ability to learn the weekly Torah and Haftarah portion anywhere, at any time, on any mobile device or computer for free.

We released our Trope training app a few weeks ago, but today, after 150 hours of coding, 31.7 hours of recorded audio, three pre-alpha releases, and more all-nighters than we’d like to admit we’re happy to announce that the completed version of the app can be downloaded for free at the Apple Store (for iOS devices) & Google Play (for Android devices). In addition to the versions created for iPad, iPhone, iPod & Android devices, we’ve also released a web version of the application that can be viewed in Apple Safari or Google Chrome on any desktop or laptop computer. This means that in addition to being in your pocket, PocketTorah can be used in classrooms on interactive whiteboards, or any other computer or device that’s capable of running the web browser.

The full application includes:

  • The entire text of the Torah and Haftarah in Hebrew and translation.
  • On Demand Audio- With a simple click or touch of any Hebrew verse, the corresponding Hebrew with proper trope is chanted, while the corresponding text is highlighted.
  • Tikkun View โ€“ With simple swipe of the finger users can choose whether they want to see the Hebrew as vowelized, text or as it appears in the Torah with crowns and without vowels.
  • A Commentary Module that contains various commentaries from JTS, HUC, the OU, Torah.org and others.

But that’s not all. Today, we’re not only releasing the completed app for free, we’re also releasing all of the creative content. The audio files and their corresponding meta-data are being released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, and the source code for the project will be released under the GNU GPL3. This means that anyone can take these files remix, tweak, and build upon them so long you credit us and license your new creations under the same identical terms. This will give coders, artists, educators, and others the opportunity to take our work and build upon it, rather than having to simply start from scratch if they want to achieve something similar.

Weโ€™re doing this because we care about Jewish learning. But we also hope that a side effect of creating a tool that gives Jews the ability to interact with their sacred texts, will simultaneously demonstrate the viability open source Jewish software development.

Our hope for PocketTorah is that it will be used in a variety of ways by a diverse set of populations. We hope that independent minyanim, Hillels and congregations will use it as a tool to expand the number of Torah readers in their ranks. We hope bar and bat mitzvah students will use it to help perfect their synagogue skills as they approach adulthood. But most importantly, we hope Jews who would have never before thought of reading from our sacred texts will be empowered and inspired to do so.

So if you have an iOS or Android device, download the apps, if not, play with it in your web browser here. And please let us know what you think, if you find any bugs, or if you use our creative content in any interesting ways.

21 Comments

  • It looks amazing. I’ve only just started to play around with it, but I think it truly has enormous potential. Thanks for all of your work!

    And maybe, someday you’ll add the Megillot and the holiday portions….. Because that would be truly, truly incredible.

  • Google Play is claiming the app is incompatible with my SAMSUNG-SGH-I927. Any idea why?

    • Yeah, look for a blog post explaining more detail sometime tonight or tomorrow. The short version is that Hebrew looks awful on Android phones not running the latest OS.

  • Great App! We gave it to one of our dyslexic students to help her with reading chumash.
    Would be great if there was also a perek breakdown and not just an aliyah breakdown.
    Thanks!

  • It looks great in Chrome browser, though I can’t seem to switch between pointed and unpointed, but I haven’t installed the app, only looked at it in the browser.

    However, what I’d really like to do is have it on my phone but when I go to the Google Play store it tells me that I can’t install it for my version of Android. It doesn’t state however which version of Android is supported. Please advise. I am running Android 2.3.5.

    Thanks for the work you’ve done so far and I hope to be able to use it properly soon,
    Laura

    • Hey Laura,

      To switch between pointed and unpointed just drag your mouse horizontally from right to left (like you were swiping with your finger on a touch screen) — future versions should have a button, but we wanted to get it up and running quick.

      • Thanks Russel. Got the swipe working now in Chrome but it requires a right click as I swipe. It’s great though!

        As one who’s across the “pond” it would be brilliant to have the option to choose between American and English trop, but I realise that’s a “nice to have” and certainly won’t be top of your priority list if it’s on it at all!!!!

        Great stuff. Keep up the good work and thank you.

        Laura

        • Hey Laura,

          The source code is available for anyone to roll their own version of the app. All thats needed for a ‘brit’ version is someone to leyn the 37 or so hours of audio, and another person to go through and identify where each word starts and stops for the karaoke function… If you have a rich benefactor who’s willing to underwrite it, we’ll see what we can do ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • I listened to some of Parshat Terumah, Torah and Haftorah. Who is chanting, a man or a woman?

  • Fantastic project, thank you so much! Two mods that would be nice to have (and I’m mentioning these here not because I think you have infinite time and resources, but because this seems the place for such discussion in case others want to extend the app):

    – ability to switch between chants/chanters, maybe “record your own chant”?

    – ability to add/delete commentary sites (I suspect that one’s pretty straightforward)

    What a great gift to learners everywhere!

    • Hey Susannah,

      – We’ve flirted with the switching of chants/chanters. The challenge is how to bundle all the audio, but still not keep the thing too ginormous. As it is the iOS App is 400+MB.

      – Adding/Deleting Commentaries is on our shortlist of features to add. We were frankly more concerned about the text and chanting in the first version out the door though. Hopefully it’s coming soonish.

  • Claims to not be compatible w my Android

  • Wow. Thank You!

  • Wonderful project! I tried listening to the Haftarah for parshat Vayera but the audio doesn’t match the printed text.

    • We’ll take a look at it James. Was this on iOS, droid, or the web?

  • Is there any way to slow down the speed as we try to learn it?

    Todah — this is wonderful!

    • Hey Sandra,

      Not at this time, although we may offer that functionality in s future version.

  • Can you please tell me where to find the haftorah for the 1st day of Rosha HaShana (Shmuel 1:1)?

    • Hi Shmuel,

      We have not yet added the special haftarot. We hope to in a future version.

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