Home > Uncategorized > Qualitative Analysis software for Mac – a brief look

Qualitative Analysis software for Mac – a brief look

EDIT: Since writing this post, I’ve opted for a browser-based tool called Dedoose. I’ve written a bit more about it here.

This has turned out to be a much shorter search than expected. I’ve been looking for qualitative data analysis software that runs on Mac OS X, and have found a disappointing short list of applications.

What I want:

  • Runs natively on OS X, without requiring dual-booting into Windows, or virtual machine software
  • Flexibility in tagging text (interview transcripts and field notes) according to themes that will emerge during analysis
  • Visualisation of tagged data (coding stripes, etc)
  • Search functions (boolean searches, proximity searches, negative cases, comparing to demographic data, etc)
  • Intuitive, user-friendly interface

Optional things I’d like to see:

  • Ability to handle audio, video and image data
  • Software I can buy outright, in order to access my data in future

What I’ve found:

  • hyperRESEARCH is the main piece of analysis software that will run on a Mac. I’m going to download a trial version next week. It’s about $200USD to purchase, so I’ll only buy it if I know that it’s going to work for me. It seems to be the main contender for an NVivo-like tool,
  • TAMS Analyser is a Text Analysis Markup System (not to be confused with the Technology Acceptance Model, which I’ve been reading about recently…). It’s free, which is good for students. The review on MacResearchSW describes it as a powerful and full-featured analysis tool, but comments that it has a non-intuitive interface with a steep learning curve. Some users on Academics Anon (semi-public LJ group  – many entries won’t be visible unless you join the LJ community) have expressed frustration at the interface. In particular, displaying all tags in the text can make documents unreadable when multiple overlapping tags are used.
  • Coding Analysis Toolkit (CAT) is a web-based toolkit, designed to allow analysis of text data that’s either been pre-coded using ATLAS.ti, or using the built-in coding module. Relatively basic features, and the web-based approach has some drawbacks (reliance on web access and server uptime) as well as positives (access via any platform using a web browser).

The CAQDAS network provides information about a range of software designed to assist with qualitative data analysis. Unfortunately, they don’t currently have reviews for very many packages – just NVivo 8, ATLAS.ti 6, Digital Replay Systems (DRS) and MAXqda 2007. None of these currently work on a Mac.

Thomas Koenig has an excellent CAQDAS Comparison, ordered by software function. Most available software is designed by researchers, and not by interface designers – so virtually all the available options will feel a lot like you’re using an old version of Windows. I can’t find a date anywhere on the page, though, and the inclusion of NVivo 2 suggests that it might be a bit dated.

People at work are all suggesting NVivo. Support is readily available via the Qualitative Inquiry Group community, other people in the office already use it on their ALTC project, and it does all the things I’m looking for.

However, I’ll either have to run it on my clunky old work PC (preventing me from doing any data analysis from home), or I’ll need to buy and install a copy of windows on my Macbook. My options there are dual-booting via BootCamp, or running it in a virtual machine window like Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion.

It’s also expensive. I can purchase 12-month Student licenses for $129AUD per year, or buy a copy outright for $780AUD (or $850AUD, including an upgrade to NVivo 9 when it’s released next month). The first option prevents me from readily accessing my data in future, and the second option costs a small fortune, from the perspective of a full-time student.

I’m still searching, but I suspect that I’ll end up using NVivo. It’s certainly not ideal (expensive, and means I’ll also have to buy a copy of Windows), but it seems to have the best combination of search features and user support (both local and online). If anyone can suggest alternatives, I’d love to hear them.

  1. Tim
    September 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Nice round-up. I ended up opting for Windows & NVIVO on my Mac, although I was able to get the purchase price of NVIVO (12 month student licence) incorporated into my research budget which made this option a lot more attractive. Worth checking if your school will do the same.

    For Windows, the IT dept may be able to do a deal.

    • September 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm

      I think I’ll end up doing the same. I’m still yet to locate a living, breathing human in this part of the world who has used hyperRESEARCH, and having a local research community that uses NVivo makes it a hard one to pass up.

      What was the name of the writing software you mentioned on Tuesday? I had completely forgotten the title by the time I got back online again.

    • irenelo
      October 19, 2011 at 6:02 pm

      Hi Tim, is the Windows specific to a Mac or can I purchase any Windows OS? I thought the latter since we need parallel anyway. Also, after 12mos, does that mean you can’t manipulate (or add) to your data but still can open it?


  2. James
    March 27, 2011 at 4:28 am

    Would like to hear an update about this. I am currently looking for a CAQDAS solution on Mac. I don’t want to go the windows way and spend so much on Nvivo 9. What did you do?

    • March 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      Unfortunately, the two most common options I’ve come across have both been PC software (Atlas.TI or NVivo), run on a Mac via virtual machine software.

      The software of choice tends to depend on how much support your institution has for a given program. I know people up in QUT who all seem to use Atlas, whereas all the CAQDAS people at RMIT seem to be using NVivo. Apart from being able to get help when things go wrong, the institution will typically have a bulk license for their chosen software… so annual subscriptions to NVivo are about $100 here.

      I went with NVivo in the end. It doesn’t run natively in OS X, but it seems to be a much more powerful tool than the Mac-only options.

  3. Jimmy
    April 30, 2011 at 5:11 am

    I did the parallels, Windows 7, NVivo 9 thing, it’s clunky and irritating to see my beautiful mac desktop invaded by windows. I just downloaded the trial hyperresearch and will give it a try, although it will only deal with .txt files, no .doc, .pdf, regarding text, but converting those kinds of docs is something that I’ll try and live with for a while. So far, the hyperresearch trial interface is boring, not very colorful and doesn’t really compare to the NVivo interface, but I’d rather a little dullness and be able to operate in a native OS X program.

  4. Rebecca Wheeler
    May 27, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I’ve been trying the Atlas.ti using VMWare Fusion and it has crashed twice (the most recent was a week ago and they still can’t figure out what the problem is). To be fair, the first crash also happened on a windows netbook I have (but hate using). All I have is text to code and would love any feedback about the hyperRESEARCH and TAMA analyser programs – especially if you are used to the Atlas way of coding…these Atlas problems have seriously set me back in my dissertation work!!

  5. Cecilia Gomez
    June 19, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I am also pondering about whether to buy Parallels or just go with Hyperresearch for my MAC. Has anybody decided to work with Hyperresearch or has tried it and desisted from working with it? Thank you very much for any comments!

  6. Ahmad
    June 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    How about MAXQDA? Has anyone here tried it? I have viewed their video tutorial and the program seem user-friendly and intuitive. I will be only analyzing text (interviews).

  7. Carroll Graham
    July 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    A number of people I know are fans of MAXQDA, even though you need to run it on Windows or in a virtual Windows environment on a Mac. They claim it to be very user friendly, with a very low learning curve, but just as powerful (if not more so) than NVivo. I’m still reluctant to sully my Mac with Windows, and am a little peeved that the developers of MAXQDA haven’t developed a Mac version. Oh well 😦 As I need to be starting my data analysis in the next few weeks, I can’t wait, hoping that “MAXQDA for Mac” will become a reality…

  8. Cecilia Gomez
    July 24, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Hi, I have bought Hyperresearch to analyze surveys and interviews, it works on my MAC, and so far, so good…
    Good luck!!!!

  9. Nick Jorgensen
    August 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    I’ve been using TAMS on my Mac for a few months now, and despite its somewhat counter-intuitive interfact it’s not bad. The price is right, and I found it easier to jump into than Atlas.ti (which I have on my Windows machine). It might not be ideal for very large projects with large numbers of interviews or documents, but for what I’m doing it seems to be working. And it’s free, which rocks. I definitely recommend spending some quality time with the manual and examples, though — that will save you considerable frustration later on.

  10. irenelo
    October 19, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Hi Cecilia Gomez — any more news on Hyperresearch on your Mac? I’m still dilly-dallying about purchasing parallels and Windows on top of NVivo to use it on my mac.

    • October 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      Hi Irene.

      I ended up abandoning the plan of using Parallels or VMware Fusion (too complicated and expensive), and went with Dedoose for my project – I wrote a bit about it here.

      I still use NVivo occasionally (research assistant work at the uni – my desktop PC has access to the software), but decided to use software that ran natively on a Mac for my PhD.

  11. November 11, 2011 at 5:39 am

    You could also take a look at Discovertext, http://www.discovertext.com

    It is completely web-based, but has cool features like imports from twitter, Facebook and YouTube comments, as well as from conventional text and data sources.


  12. Zach Lym
    December 20, 2011 at 10:58 am

    +1 on DiscoverText

  13. December 29, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    If you’re willing to pay, I’d recomment Transana, which runs on mac. I myself am looking for a free solution, as I do not have a budget for such programmes…

  14. February 4, 2012 at 4:23 am

    Thanks for this post, a very helpful conversation for me — a education researcher with a mac — I’ll be checking out DiscoverText and Dedoose.

  15. Ahmad
    February 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I have been using MAXQDA with Parallels Desktop 7 for the past two months and I am very happy with my decision.

  16. Mike
    March 3, 2012 at 5:28 am

    Leximancer is a text analyze tool that runs on Mac. It is not free, but it automatically creates a coding dictionary and analyzes text for concepts, themes, and sentiment. There is an academic-focused portal here with resources http://www.textinsight.net.

    It can be expensive if your school does not have a license, but so is NVIVO and Parallels, which I always had trouble getting to work well on my older Mac. And, at some point, your time is worth something if you are paying tuition like me…

  17. April 29, 2012 at 5:34 am

    any software for the french language?

  18. supersambo
    May 17, 2012 at 12:44 am

    there is an R library called RQDA. The good thing about it is that its free, open source and since its R it runs on all operating systems. It is using a SQLite Database which may be interesting for collaborative work.
    I can’t say much about it. Just installed it and tried a few things. I think its not as sophisticated as MAXQDA and has no fancy user interface as other software but since its open source everyone is invited to improve it 🙂

    Maybe qualitative researchers are not so familiar with R, but RQDA has a User interface and for normal stuff the user doesn’t hardly have to write code.

    So maybe someone wants to check it out


  19. supersambo
    May 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Another Software i just discovered is called TAMS Analyzer and seems to be a good alternative.

    opensource as well!

  20. James
    June 12, 2012 at 6:14 am

    I am using QDA Miner with Parallels and it works fine :

    It’s fast and easy to use. Has anyone compared QDA Miner to MaxQDA ?

  21. Monica
    August 8, 2012 at 8:35 am

    I have been trying to use Dedoose, but not luck. Not sure if it is the internet connection, or the program itself, but it keeps crashing….

    • September 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      I just posted an inquiry for the Mac-version on FB wall of the Atlas.ti.

      Go there, comment and dig!

  22. Ottilia
    November 21, 2012 at 4:08 am

    I’m using QDA Miner for years and it’s working perfectly.QDA Miner will run on a Mac OS using virtual machine solution or Boot Camp, and on Linux computers using CrossOver or Wine.

  23. November 30, 2012 at 4:30 am

    I use Windows Bootcamp + ATLAS.ti on my Mac. Never come accross crash problems. Works wonderfully… so far… I hope forever.

  24. January 16, 2013 at 1:51 am

    I absolutely an thankful for all the grueling labor you’ve put into keeping this website around for all of us. I absolutely hope this stays online for a good long time.

  25. March 13, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Congratulation Ben. Very good and useful entry.

  26. Carmel Daher
    May 13, 2013 at 1:48 am

    Thank you for this comments stream, it was very helpful and influential, I just purchased HyperRESEARCH/HyperTRANSCRIBE (HyperBUNDLE package) after trying out the free trial version. It has cost me approx AU$280 (student discount), including 20% VAT Tax which I was required to pay because I have ordered it from within the EU. There are free online training webinars and other online resources to assist in learning how to use the program (much like NVivo has) and I will be using those in the near future. So far, the software seems very straight-forward and easy to use. I have a copy of NVivo, but my main reason for purchasing HyperBUNDLE was because it runs natively on my Mac and I want to avoid technical issues since I am working on my PhD.

  27. rickla
    October 12, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    A bit late to the party, but people may be interested to hear that a Mac version of NVivo is scheduled to come out in 2014. I don’t know much about the respective merits of the various available products, but one thing in NVivo’s favour is that the company seems to have a stronger presence in more countries than some of its competitors. Just last week, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar at which the president of the company and a salesperson/trainer who really knew her stuff spoke. It seems that they’re happy to give free training online, too, which could make a big difference to busy students having technical problems.

  28. Elizabeth
    November 2, 2013 at 11:36 am

    I am desperate for the Mac NVivo and was extremely disappointed they pushed back their release date. In the meantime, I am running NVivo 9 on my Mac with Parallels installed and I echo the dismay of the other users on this forum. However, after paying for Nvivo, parallels, and Windows 7 I cannot get my word docs to open. I used the word pad option and it changed all my files to gibberish. Do I also need to buy Microsoft Word for windows and install that as well? I appreciate any help here.

  29. Js
    September 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Nvivo for Mac is a huge, slow and clunky Windows app copied to Mac, that is to say, a disappointing flop.

  30. November 4, 2014 at 4:09 am

    We’ve just released some new qualitative research software, that has the same interface and compatible files across Windows and Mac (unlike Nvivo). There’s a one month free trial if anyone wants to give it a try…

  31. manu
    January 25, 2016 at 12:50 am

    thx for the overview, was still useful although its a bit dated now.
    i also kept searching for (cheap) solutions and ended up using an online tool.
    (i wrote my finding and motivation in my blogpost http://coffee-coding.com/qda-software-for-osx/ in case anyone is also looking for a free solution for osx)

  32. David
    September 27, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Hi, the link of you blog is broken. Is there any chance you can post about qda online for mac?

  33. March 11, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    Hi again, sorry the domain changed, the (updated) post about my experience with free qda software for macOS is now here: http://autcoding.com/qda-software-for-osx/

  1. August 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm
  2. October 19, 2012 at 12:25 am
  3. January 22, 2013 at 7:45 am

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