Choosing between Transana Basic and Transana Professional


A recent support question:

I am a PhD student looking for an alternative to NVivo or Atlas.ti.  In an upcoming project I will analyze a huge amount of (approximately 500 clips) of youtube videos and was wondering, which version of Transana I need – also taking into consideration that I barely have funding for technical devices (e.g. software…) at the moment.

Your main choice is between the Basic version (US$150, US$75 for current students) and the Professional version (US$350). I recognize the Professional is significantly more expensive, but I believe it provides excellent value for that additional money.

Both the Basic and Professional versions of Transana will allow you to organize and analyze your data set of 500 or so YouTube videos. They both offer the ability to make analytic selections from your video files, and to categorize and code these selections. That’s the main power of your analysis, and Transana will allow you to do that better than Nvivo or Atlas ti would. Given your data set, Transana is the right choice.

But let me talk a little about what you can do in the Professional version that you can’t do in the Basic version to help you make your decision about which Transana version to buy.

With the Professional version, you can create multiple transcripts for each video and open them, linked to the video, at the same time. What I do when appropriate is create a “verbatim” transcript for a video to capture what is said and create a separate “visual” transcript to capture what is presented visually. This can be extremely helpful in bringing the visual layer of your data files into your analytic process. Showing both transcripts simultaneously allows you to see the interplay between the visual and the verbal. You probably won’t need to do this for all 500 of your videos, but I would bet you’ll find a significant subset where this sort of approach is essential. (See the Dempster & Woods and the Woods & Dempster articles linked at for more information.)

With the Professional version, you can take screen shots from your videos to create Snapshots. This allows you to capture important visual content from the videos and bring that into your analysis. You can code these Snapshots with Coding Shapes to emphasize particular important analytic insights you have about the visual aspects of your data. You can put these captured and coded still images into your dissertation and articles you write to illustrate visual points far more easily than you can include video clips. See the Analyzing Still Images screencast at for more information.

The Professional version also includes the capacity for including text data. You’ve talked about 500 YouTube videos and haven’t mentioned any text, but this feature is still important for an analysis the size of yours. The reason is that, even if you don’t have any text data, you can create and edit these Documents within the Professional version of Transana. Now, both Basic and Profession Transana allow you to create and review analytic memos using the Notes feature, but having editable Documents allows you to take your analytic writing to the next level.

Start with bringing in important articles for your literature review. You can code the literature, and maintain a database of important quotes from the things you’ve been reading within Transana.

I would encourage you to create a Document where you carefully record the source information for each of the video files you capture, including a link to the source. You should also include information about how you located and selected the videos you chose and discuss any instances where you chose not to include some videos in your data set.

I would encourage you to create a Research Journal to document your analytic journey as a whole. Such a document can be incredibly valuable during the final write-up, as well as allowing an important level of transparency with, say, your dissertation committee, which can be vital to establishing the trustworthiness of your analysis. Dropping links to critical Clips, Snapshots, and Notes can help you keep a record of critical data that has led to you to critical insights.

Finally, you can begin writing up your results in one or more Documents within Transana. Here again, hyperlinks to critical Clips, Snapshots, and Notes can assist the writing process by keeping you close to your source data even during writing up. The links won’t persist when you export your chapter(s) for final editing in your word processor, but are very powerful during the drafting process. See the Research Journals and Hyperlinks screencast at for more information.

As you can tell, I am firmly convinced that the Professional version is worth the additional expense when it comes to the depth of analysis required for a dissertation or other professional analysis. There are additional important features, but to my mind, these are the most critical in your case.