Monday 11 June 2012

More changes I'd like to NVivo 9.

Written for NVivo 9's developers, QSR International, and their future NVivo users.

In 2011, I wrote Six key changes I'd like to see in NVivo 10. As NVivo 10's development nears completion, here's a further nine improvements for QSR International to consider implementing:

7. Provide a program execution status
It is useful for the user to know whether NVivo is initializing, running or shutting down. If the software seems to be unresponsive, seeing a status message, like: 'initializing', 'running', 'paused' or 'shutting down' would be helpful to the user and a better alternative than using Windows Task Manager to double-check.

8. Show closing down status messaging
Further, if NVivo is slow in closing, it would be useful to show how it is progressing. This is very important; if the user thinks that it has stalled, he or she may "force quit" the program when it prevents Windows shut down. As failing to close NVivo down properly can corrupt the project file, thereby costing the user much more time, the value of accurate status messaging (and even warning the user 'do not force quit') should not be underestimated.

9. Provide better communication when there are errors
Just as Microsoft impresses with problem messaging linked to solutions via its Solutions Centre, so too should NVivo consider linking its error messages to online help. For example when I was trying to fix an NVivo installation,  the message "Database component did not initialise" could have been made far more helpful by linking straight to an FAQ page with possible solutions.

Nvivo error message: 'Database component did not initialise' (10 April, 2012)
Given that NVivo users are qualitative researchers, it is unlikely that many of them have experience troubleshooting software. Providing us with more thorough and helpful error messaging will provide an improved user experience just where we experience most difficulty.

10. Report on third-party interference
I have noticed that NVivo's timebar may be paused (at 67%) for several minutes when an important Windows 7 process runs (such as deleting a backup snapshot, running a backup, et al.).

NVivo stalled at 67 percent progress (6 June 2012)
It would be helpful if the user could be shown that third-party software has interrupted NVivo, ideally in the software itself. Even a notification from Windows OS would be helpful.

11. Offer a back-up file option
Just as Apple's OS X Lion introduced Versions to protect users' files, so should NVivo consider adding a 'backup' option in addition to 'auto-save'. For users whose files became corrupted and had failed to create a back-up, this prompter could be very beneficial. 

12. Provide a video rewind shortcut
For researchers working with many video interviews, a rewind F button shortcut would be great. I recently started work on a PC laptop and simply having the F7 (play/pause) shortcut available is a real timesaver {after moving from Mac, where I did not have this option}.

13. Allow the user to set a volume limit
The user should be given an option that sets a limit to NVivo's volume. In working with listening to mobile phone videos of varied audio-quality through headphones, this would be useful to protect my hearing as I move from soft, low-quality files to very loud, high-quality ones and forget to change volume.

14. Offer a pseudonym generator
As qualitative research invariably involves the ethical requirement to protect the privacy of one's subjects, it would be a nifty value-add if NVivo added a pseudonym generator.

15. Provide an auto-save that does not auto-interrupt
I find auto-save very useful, and appreciate that this is probably an impossible request given the requirements of the 'save file' process, but it would be helpful if accepting the auto-save function did not automatically delete the incomplete timesheet entries a user was busy with. It would also be useful to be returned to the transcription block one was working on post auto-save, rather than being sent to the top by default. This can be irritating if working with a long interview and auto-save is set to be frequent.

I trust these ideas are constructive and helpful. Please let us know your thoughts in the comment box below, thanks.


  1. And here's suggestion number 16: after a video finishes playing, offer a 'replay' option which automatically resets the timer ribbon right to the video's start.

  2. Marcus Ogden, QSR International20 June 2012 at 14:04

    Hi Travis,

    NVivo 10 was released last week. I've added some comments to your previous post ( re: changes we've made that are related to your suggestions.

    Thanks for the new suggestions, and we'll take these into consideration for the ongoing development of NVivo.

  3. And my suggestion number 17 is to add a dialog box that automatically asks the user if he or she wants to save the file before NVivo closes. My reason for asking is that there is a 'Ctrl' shortcut that automatically closes NVivo, losing all work done since the last save. Since it is close to the Ctrl and C option its repeated, unintended activation can be very frustrating.


This blog is moderated due to problems experienced by a few readers who could not submit unmoderated comments. Please keep your comment length under 300 words; any longer and you will struggle to submit it. Ta, Travis.

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