ATLAS.ti is one of the most powerful tools for qualitative research. See below for a few of the most important features of the software.
ATLAS.ti offers state-of-the art multimedia processing. Frame-level and wave previews make coding audio and video material a joy; images can be fully coded in every detail and segments can even be moved and re-sized.
Audio and Video documents
When you add a video document to a project, preview images are created. Next to the preview images you see the audio wave form. By right-clicking on the video preview you can set a number of display options in the context menu.
Sliders appear when you move the mouse pointer over the full preview and let you select just the section of the video that you want to see in the margin area:
Display of Audio files
Audio files are displayed in a similar manner. Instead of the video image, you see a white background displaying the file name and the audio wave form. You can zoom in on the audio wave as needed:
You can open up to four documents side-by-side in the ATLAS.ti HU editor. This opens up fantastic possibilities for comparative work and makes work faster and more efficient all around.
Work on Multiple Documents At The Same Time
Documents can be dragged from the navigation pane or the P-Docs Manager onto the region button to open them.
HU editor with two document regions
Work on all open documents in their own margin-areas. All features and tools are available, so you can code, link, and annotate all as you would with a singe document.
You can switch the margin area off if you simply want to compare documents. To change the position of the documents, drag & drop them into the desired region:
Moving documents between regions
Linking Across Documents
The multi-document view makes it easy to link sections across various documents. Simply drag and drop a quotation between regions (1) to create what is called a hyperlink (3) in ATLAS.ti. The relation between the two data segments can be labeled (2), e.g. using a relation like supports, explains, contracts or discusses. You can chose amongst a number of predefined lables or create your own.
Double-click on a hyperlink and a window pops up providing information on the linked quotation. Or use the short-cut Ctrl + double-click to immediately jump to the linked quotation. If the document containing the linked quotation is not currently loaded, it is loaded into the neighboring region and you can view the linked segments side-by-side.
ATLAS.ti 7 is a powerful analytical tool. Its individual analysis options are centrally organized and designed for maximum efficiency, accuracy, and performance. Cloud views provide very quick, accurate, and yet intuitive analytical access to your data material. The query tool, ccooccurence explorer and the codes-PD-table allow in-depth analysis.
Cloud Views for Codes and Documents
The list of codes can be displayed in various cloud views. You can display the cloud based on number of code usage or on number of linkages to other codes. The order can be arranged alphabetically or by frequency.
Document cloud views can present the entire textual database or can be used for single documents. Below is an example that compares cloud views of four newspaper articles reporting on the Pussy Riot verdict.
The Query Tool
Use the Query Tool to retrieve quotations using their associated codes. The simplest retrieval of this kind using the Code Manager is “search for quotations with codes.” Double-click on a code to retrieve all its quotations. This may be regarded as a query even if it is a simple one. The Query Tool can be used to create and process more complex queries that include combinations of codes.
A query is a search expression built from operands (codes and code families) and operators (e.g. NOT, AND, OR, etc.) that define the conditions a quotation must meet to be retrieved (e.g., all quotations coded with both codes A and B).
By selecting codes or code families and operators, a query can be built incrementally, instantaneously evaluated and displayed as a list of quotations. This incremental building of complex search queries gives you an exploratory approach for even the most complex queries.
The Query Tool has the following main components:
 The operator toolbar offering 14 different operators (Boolean, semantic and proximity operators)
[2 and 3] The list of code-families andcodes that can be used in queries.
 The term-stack pane in the upper right displays the stack of all expressions entered in the current query.
 The current query is displayed in the feedback pane.
 A result of a query in the query tool is always a list of quotations. These are displayed in the results list. From there you can also access the quotations in context or create an output via the output (printer) button.
Via the Scope button, code queries can be combined with variables. For example, you can ask questions like “Give me all quotations coded with positive attitude towards candidate XY from female respondents between the ages of 18 and 29."
The Cooccurrence Explorer allows you to see codes that co-occur across all or just some selected primary documents. The result is a cross-tabulation of codes. It is often meaningful to apply filters for certain codes and documents in order to concentrate on a more specific set of concepts. The side panels in the code and document manager allow you to quickly prepare the kind of filters you need in order to produce the kind of tables you want.
As an example, below we look at one of the questions posed in the sample project. The aim is to find out how parents and non-parents respond to the question of "why or why not to have children." In order to reduce the full set of codes, a code group (called code family in ATLAS.ti) was prepared so that it only contains the two attribute codes (#fam: has children and #fam: no children) plus all codes related to “reasons for having children” and “reasons for not having children”. This family is then set as filter.
In the code-cooccurence table the next step is to select the attribute codes as columns and all content codes as rows.
Selecting row and column codes
This results in the following table, providing a quick overview of where the differences are.
By clicking on the cells, you can access the qualitative data content behind it.
The Codes-Primary-Documents Table
The Codes-PD-Table can provide an overview of code frequencies by documents, or can show code frequencies by document groups, code group frequencies by document, or document group.
An example below is based on a sample data set. It is a comparison of statements about the positive or negative effect of parenting across different groups. For this purpose of this exercise, two code families have been created. They group all codes that mark statements into positive and negative effects of parenting. These are selected in the upper section. They are then displayed as rows in the table.
The various groups for comparison are selected in the lower section of the tool.
Setting options for the Codes-Primary-Documents-Table
In the Excel table below, they are shown in the columns:
The query tool allows to create document families based on the results of a code query. Thus, the next step is to go back to the query tool, enter a new query and save the results in the form of new document groups. That way you can iteratively run your next comparison using the Codes-PD-Table.
Thus, all ATLAS.ti's analysis tools can be used in complimentary combinations for different purposes.
ATLAS.ti 7 is a highly visually-oriented tool. This includes everything from user interface (laid out to maximize convenience and screen real estate) to various Object Managers to the intelligent layout of Network Views. Everything is equally intuitive and efficient.
Interface and Previews
A powerful navigation pane can be opened on the left-hand side of the editor when needed:
Accessing the navigation pane
It can be used to access and search all object types from one place. This includes primary documents, codes, coded segments, memos and network views.
For primary document and network views, the view can be set to show preview images. The ability to see previews of your documents at any step makes your work much faster.
This option is also available in the Primary Document and Network View Manager:
In addition to the views in the navigation pane, more information is provided for each document and network view. You can chose to display size - thumbnail image, large, extra large, jumbo and Godzilla (512x512).
Visualizations In Object Managers
The object managers do not just list objects. They also help you gain a quick visual overview in various ways. The primary document manager displayed below shows the list of documents on the right-hand side and the list of document groups (i.e. families) in the side panel on the left-hand side.
The frequency bars show how many data segments have been coded in each document. When you select a document you immediately see which family it belongs to (highlighted family icon below).
The same display options are available in the Code and Memo Manager.
If you select an object group - which can be a document, code or memo family - the selected family icon changes its look and the background color turns pale yellow. Below, the document family “Gender: female” is set as the global filter in the above example and so the list on the right-hand side only displays the documents of female respondents:
The network view helps represent complex information by showing it in an intuitively accessible graphic means. This more closely resembles the way human memories and thoughts are structured. Cognitive "load" in handling complex relationships is reduced with the aid of spatial representation techniques. ATLAS.ti uses networks to help represent and explore conceptual structures. Networks add a heuristic "right brain" approach to qualitative analysis.
The user can manipulate and display almost all objects within an ATLAS.ti project as nodes in a network view. This includes quotations, codes, code families, memos, memo families, other network views, primary documents (PDs), and PD families.
Links are created either implicitly (i.e. when coding a quotation, the quotation is "linked" to a code) or explicitly by the user. Code-quotation associations also form a network that can be displayed like any other:
Examples of directed and non-directed links
The links between two codes and the links between two quotations can be named. In addition, you can select whether a link should be directed or non-directed.
Along with using networks for general “mind mapping" and the visual design of theoretical models, network views also serve as a powerful analytical tool. Using networks for retrieval purposes is a well-known technique in information retrieval.
Finally, network views can be exported as graphic files and inserted into other applications. Or you can simply copy and paste them directly into MS Word and PowerPoint files.
Print with Margin
The Print with Margin options shows the coded document as you see it on screen. It is available for all text documents, PDF and image files.
Output of a coded PDF document
Full Native PDF Support
ATLAS.ti's full-native PDF support lets you work with PDF files in their native layout, in just the way you have come expect. No ifs, ands, or buts.
ATLAS.ti treats your PDF documents exactly like Acrobat Reader. Work as smoothly and flexibly as you would in Acrobat, utilize bookmarks, tables of content, scrolling, and flexible page views. Code to your heart's delight - text, images, or anything else that is on the page, down to whatever level of detail you need. Annotate, comment, link, search and query, visualize your results - it's what computer-based data analysis was always meant to be.
Other QDA packages make you strip PDFs down to primitive text files. That is hardly an adequate way of working. Starting with ATLAS.ti 6, you have been able to keep your original PDFs untouched—layout, graphics, tables and all. That way your primary data always remains uncorrupted and complete.
Coding PDF documents
Working with PDFs in the manner allows you to move freely through your documents and code any section you like, regardless of whether it is text or graphics. Smooth scrolling, zooming, searching and auto-coding makes your work a breeze. Navigation tools and thumbnail images keep you “on track” every step of the way.
Consider the enormous possibilities:
- Work on Web pages saved to PDF. Securely maintain the original layout, graphics, and, most importantly, all the actual content at the time of visiting.
- Directly access a plethora of publicly available resources like research papers, business reports, conference proceedings, press releases, and much more. Now it's all at your fingertips - without conversion or additional steps of any kind.
- Last but not least, use output from practically ANY computer application as a primary document. By creating a PDF document (via a simple printer driver) you can now directly use material created in nearly any program, including PowerPoint, Open Office, ATLAS.ti itself as well as graphics, statistics, reporting, authoring, accounting and all sorts of business software as your primary documents.
The possibilities are truly endless and extremely exciting!
One of the most exciting software features – and one that is likely to change the way you work if you haven't used it yet – is ATLAS.ti's geo-coding support.
ATLAS.ti embeds Google Earth™ and makes its functionality available inside the program. This has immense benefits and opens up fantastic possibilities for your work.
Picture, if you will, the world as your ultimate primary document. Freely move around in it and mark any section that interests you. Then treat that segment exactly the way you would any other document in ATLAS.ti. Code it, comment it, and link it to other objects. Use direct hyperlinks from other primary documents for supporting your arguments and for purposes of evidence or illustration.
The geo-coding facility even creates screenshots from any Google Earth™ view and assigns them as graphical primary documents. This "snapshot" helps you save system resources and makes sure that your reference is secure against changes.
All features of Google Earth™ are available (including camera angle and height-over-ground). Additionally, the interaction between the two programs is truly bi-directional. This means that work done in ATLAS.ti can be directly introduced into Google Earth™. Comment on a marked location in ATLAS.ti, and your comment will be displayed in Google Earth™. Powerful stuff!
And that's still not all. Leverage the immense power of community as embodied by Google Earth™ layers and by the possibility to exchange and directly import Google Earth™'s KMZ files (complex community-created "overlays"). If it weren't so tacky we'd call it "QDA 2.0."
If your work is in or touches on fields like tourism, geography, urban planning, ethnology, cultural studies, sociology, health, action research, advertising and marketing - or even if you simply like to take and document trips - you are bound to profit from ATLAS.ti's unique geo-coding feature. Just like us, you will soon wonder how you used to go without this feature.
Imagine converting the results of a large online survey into a Hermeneutic Unit in ATLAS.ti with just a few mouse clicks. ATLAS.ti lets you do just that!
Here is a typical work flow:
- Create an online survey using, for example, Google Docs (a very convenient tool, although other frameworks are supported as well)
- Download and store the survey as an Excel table once your respondents have filled out the questionnaire
- Import the table into ATLAS.ti
- Voilà: Each row (= one respondent) becomes a primary document, and content is collected and created from the answers to open-ended questions. PD families are created from single and multiple-choice questions; quotations are created for each answer and coded with the respective question (you may use abbreviations). This accomplishes a lot of tedious pre-coding work in a few seconds.
Now you can get started with what really matters: Your analysis!I
It's that easy to work with survey data from nearly any source.