The Song Manager software started life in the 1990’s as a simple tool to allow songs to be created that would display in multiple formats from a single source document. This came about because the wife of the software designer had visual difficulties that meant she could not read small print text. Quickly frustrated with having to produce multiple documents for the same song the concept of a single source document with multiple output formats was born.
To cope with this scenario the Song Viewer software was created. The original song files were hand coded in XML format and the output style was hardcoded in the software – this was sufficient to meet the initial needs at that stage. Quickly the first version of the Song Editor was created which allowed for very basic editing and insertion of chords. At this time digital projection was very new and expensive so the Song Viewer supported four output formats, including a special format for outputting onto OHP transparency sheets which were widely in use in churches at the time:
- Normal Words
- Words with Chords
- Large Print Words
- Large Print Words for OHP (Overhead projector)
The software coped well, but still relied on copies being printed and filed after use. As a worship leader himself the software designer found that the amount of time spent preparing song sheets for the band was considerable, especially when having to search through 3 or 4 folders to find the right words. Then of course there was collecting them all at the end of a session and putting them in a pile to be re-inserted in the folders. Typically the pile of paper would grow to several inches before the songs we eventually sorted and re-inserted (a time conduming process). Eventually he resorted to printing the songs fresh every week (yes more paper, but less time needed) and then throwing them away at the end, though at the end the paper was being recycled!
The frustrations of endless printing of songs and song lists, and the subsequent waste gave rise to the idea of a paperless system which would do away with all the wasted paper. To fulfill the requirements the networked system of song leader and follower was born, quickly followed by variants such as the song slave, song list and presenter follower modules. Once the initial version was stable a presenter module was then generated completing the ensemble.
The design of the software modules evolved through weekly use at Oakwood Church, Taunton where the software was tested on a weekly basis and continues to be used by the whole worship team not only in a Sunday service but in housegroups and other meetings. Several new features were added as a result of input from the team, and many more good ideas are still to be incorporated.
The end result of this process is that in 2014 we have a product that we can be proud to present to churches and bands as something that will truly help them in the process of preparing and coordinating music and songs.