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CAQDAS Comparison

CAQDAS Comparison / Ergonomics

The ergonomics of a program might not be the most essential criterion for the choice of a program, but in some cases it may very well be one criterion.

There are at least three reasons, why you should seriously consider the intelligibility and user friendliness of software:

  1. Your learning curve of a program depends at least partially on the question of the intelligibility of its user interface. That kind of userfriendliness depends on the clarity of its menu structure, your familiarity with its overall structure and the intelligibility of its graphics. The former will depend on your familiarity with its graphical outlook, i.e. for most contemporary users the interface should resemble modern Windows programs, while the latter will depend on the choice of icons and their textual description.
  2. The biggest advantage of computer-assisted content analysis is its capability to handle bulk data. If you want to handle large amounts of data with some interpretive input by the analyst, then a fast handling of the interface is essential. Therefore, customizable keystroke commands would be desirable for efficient data handling.
  3. Finally, the easier intelligible a program is, the more likely it is that you will know all of its options, as most people do not tend to read through the manual.

Unfortunately, almost all contemporary CAQDAS do not behave like modern Windows programs, but their window design and handling is frequently oriented at outdated versions of Windows.

Except for N6, which features an archaic Windows 2 style interface, which pastes command lines into a window, all programs are highly mouse oriented, excluding less intuitive, but faster keystroke commands.

For Windows users, it might be at first confusing that HyperRESEARCH even in its Windows version behaves like an apple program, even emulating characteristic Apple sounds. HyperRESEARCH windows are also the most difficult to handle in Windows, because they again behave like Apple windows and open four main Windows windows instead of a variety of subwindows, as most indigenous Windows programs do.

ATLAS.ti, whose search window (shown below) contains buttons labeled with a single letter and whose default layout clutters its interface with a button, whose sole function is the production of a computer voice proclaiming "I hate computers" does certainly not deliver a groundbreaking interface with respect to ease of use. Thankfully, from Built 62 onwards, this button can be removed by checking the option "be serious" in the preferences menu.

ATLAS.ti Query Tool (68K)

The main menu of NVivo does not offer the familiar structure of drop down menus on, but instead offers a "Project Pad" (pictured below), which contains several buttons on several nested tabs.

NVivo project pad (76K)

MAXqda, QDA Miner and Qualrus follow the normal layout of Windows programs most closely. The latter two programs also offer the easiest window handling.

Icons Window
ATLAS.ti 5.0 Windows 95 cryptic non-standard (drop down menus), no shortcut keys very few, not customizable
E6 Windows 95
HyperRESEARCH 2.6 Mac-OS text menus only non-standard: several floating windows, non-standard shortcut keys: windows appear as if four differerent applications none
Kwalitan 5.09 Windows 3.11 next to verbal explanation, some menus not translated from Dutch Windows 3.11 behavior, no shortcut keys none
MAXqda 2 Windows 3.11 fairly intuitive, tooltip pop-ups Windows 3.11 behavior, no shortcut keys none
N6 Windows 2.0 upon DOS commands none n/a none
NVivo 2 non-standard, Windows 95 fairly intuitive none
QDA Miner 1.0.15 Windows 95 intuitive non-standard none
Qualrus Windows 95 mainly text buttons no shortcut keys very few; for text editing only
TAMS 2.50b5 Mac-OS
Non-CAQDAS benchmark programs
InfoRapid Search&Replace 3.1e Windows 3.11 none n/a n/a
Transana 1.22 X-Windows text menus only unwieldy none

  1. By "Window Handling," the navigation between the different functional windows, such as code book, case or text brwoser is meant.

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