The MAXQDA user interface is a highly functional and feature-rich work environment that makes qualitative data analysis easier, faster, and better. The four-window layout is intuitive, and the tools are always close-to-hand. However, there are features of the user interface that can shift the experience from “great” to “awesome” depending on the underlying work infrastructure.
Like many readers of this blog, I have sat at an airport, or on a plane, in a train, or even on a boat, hunched over my lightweight laptop to work on MAXQDA projects. The 35 cm screen on my laptop PC works just fine to read transcripts or other documents in the “Document Browser”, or to drag and drop codes. Even generating phrase clouds with MAXDictio, or using the Mixed Methods tools works just fine, although it sometimes feels a little cramped when I am wedged between other passengers in a budget plane seat, and I am trying to use the touchpad to drag a code onto a selected text segment.
It’s when I get home that I can really get going because I put the “Undock Window” feature to work and stretch out my literal and figurative elbows. I have access to a 54 cm screen to my right, and a 105 cm screen to my left. Yes, I said 105 cm. It was originally a flat-screen TV and the first time I fired up MAXQDA on the large screen, I realized the potential of having more space. I now typically place MAXQDA on the TV screen, undock the “Retrieved Segments” window on the 54 cm monitor, and then use my laptop for pop-up screens, menus, and other administrative activities.
To undock one of MAXQDA’s four main windows, click the “undock” symbol in the Toolbar at the top of the window or right-click a document and select “Open Document in Second Document Browser” from the Document’s context menu that appears.
Using MAXQDA’s undock feature and spreading MAXQDA across three screens in this way goes beyond simply having a bigger document browser (which is very useful) – it also frees up mental space. I find that being able to focus on the Code System and Document Browser on a giant screen makes it easier for me to reflect, conceptualize, and synthesize those thoughts into analytical action. For example, in Figure 1, I am using the Memo Manager on the small screen, with the main MAXQDA GUI on the big screen.
Figure 1 Memo Manager vs Main Screen
As I click through the Memo Manager, the “Document System” and “Document Browser” stay in synch and show me the context and my coding in a way that is uncrowded and easier to conceptualize. MAXQDA’s automatic syncing makes work far more efficient and intuitive and reduces wasted effort usually spent scrolling around to find associated text. Likewise, in Figure 2, I am using the Lexical Search (small monitor), and can keep track of Retrieved Segments (54 cm screen, right), and the main GUI still on the 105 cm screen.
Figure 2 Main GUI + Lexical Search + Retrieved Segments
However, where the larger screen real estate becomes truly liberating is with the highly visual tools in MAXQDA – MAXDictio, Creative Coding, and MAXMaps, for example. Being able to see a Word Cloud on a large screen is a very different experience. I can get mental and visual distance, see a larger vista that makes it easier to notice patterns and connections than on the cramped environment of the laptop.
Figure 3 MAXMaps
MAXQDA has a very rich feature set, and the Undock window and window synchronization features enable the GUI to be spread over multiple monitors in a way that enhances the work environment and yields a far better user experience. Large flat-screen monitors can be used in this way to provide the researcher with a far more natural palette.
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