Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Six key changes I'd like in NVivo 10.

Written for QSR International and NVivo 9 users on Apple Macs and NVivo 10's software developers.

Unlike most NVivo 9 users, I run my 62-bit version on Windows 7 via Parallels in Mac OS X Lion. I did not go the PC-only route that's optimal for NVivo, as I also use a Mac in media tutoring and didn't want to buy two desktops! In my context some of the issues described below may have local origins, but I hope that most are global and can be addressed by QSR International's developers in the future:

1. Provide feedback on NVivo's start-up progress during slow starts
Even though the files I use are relatively small, NVivo's stand-alone version has an erratic starting speed and can be slow to start. When this happens, users have no indication that there's a problem and what may be causing it: athough I initially thought this may be attributed to relatively slow entry-level broadband speed affecting the software authentication process, since moving my desktop to optimal broadband speeds in a UCT office, the problem still persisted. I suspect this may now be attributed to accessing files over a PC network using a standalone version of the software.... It would help me if NVivo included a progress tracker. I would also have no problem with NVivo's developers using this tracker to aggregate information on problems experienced in my local configuration, so that they could use this information for making future versions more reliable.

2. Stop a user opening the same file several times at once
When NVivo is slow to open, I sometimes click on the same file several times to check it's opening. The result is that when NVivo does open fully, there are several windows showing the same file :( ! Since this has no end-user benefit and could cause problems, NVivo's developers should aim to prevent this from happening in future versions.

3. Give better feedback to users on video conversions and sizing correction
There are several restrictions on the file size and format types that NVivo can import as internal or external source and the import process could be better designed to help researchers meet these criteria. For example, this could include linking users to online guidance when they attempt to import files that are in the wrong format, or too large. Based on my experiences with video imports, this would be particularly beneficial to researchers using NVivo for the first time; many do not have expertise in file formats and sizes and addressing their limitations would improve the NVivo software experience.

4. Provide feedback on failed video imports
Even after meeting NVivo's file format and sizing criteria, there can still be problems with accessing files on external devices. For example, I'm using a Drobo S drive. After converting its drives to ones that both my Mac and PC can access, it was still difficult to view these videos in NVivo 9. It would be useful if I could view feedback on failed imports and the potential causes: I'm sure other users would agree.

5. Allow the user to set a custom auto-save time
A fair amount of data can be lost if one's computer goes down between NVivo's default auto-save time that set to 15 minutes and cannot currently be changed in the stand-alone version of the software. I think users should be given control of their auto-saving time; whilst being notified of the benefits and hazards of their potential choices.

6. Better integration on the Apple Mac platform
Using NVivo on Mac can be problematic, particularly because it may require complicated troubleshooting: issues may originate or result from interactions between Mac OS X, Parallels, NVivo 9 and the usual suspect, Windows 7. In addition, some of the keyboard shortcuts available to PC-users are difficult or impossible to access on a Mac; for example, there is no "insert" shortcut on Mac for inserting comments as a Mac keyboard does not offer the PC button it requires. There are also challenges with the shift to the Mac OS Graphic User Interface versus s PC's Windows; for example, using Ctrl + Shift + Up keys on a Mac to move a note up one, shifts the notes view to the top of the page, which is irritating if one has created a lengthly annotation for a screengrab and then needs to scroll back to where one was. Even if the number of NVivo 9 users on Mac is marginal, I'm sure they would appreciate NVivo 10's developers addressing issues like these...

So, that's my wishlist for changes; here's hoping my PhD research does not finish before they are implemented :) ! As an NVivo user, what are your thoughts on changes you'd like to see? Please add them to the "comment" box below, ta!

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