Weft QDA is (or was) an easy-to-use, free and open-source tool for the analysis of textual data such as interview transcripts, fieldnotes and other documents. An excerpt from my MSc dissertation explains the thinking behind the software in more detail.
The software isn’t being maintained or updated, but the most recent version is available. This version includes some standard CAQDAS features: (Follow the links to see screenshots)
- Import plain-text documents from text files or PDF
- Character-level coding using categories organised in a tree structure
- Retrieval of coded text and ‘coding-on’
- Simple coding statistics
- Fast free-text search
- Combine coding and searches using boolean queries AND, OR, AND NOT
- ‘Code Review’ to evaluate coding patterns across multiple documents
- Export to HTML and CSV formats
Using Weft QDA
The currrent version is 1.0.1, which was released in April 2006. IMPORTANT: this software is offered without any warranty or support. Some people may still find it useful, but it is probably not for major projects like a PhD thesis. Version 1.0.1 contains bugs that can occasion the loss of data in your analysis, or make the project file unreadable. If you use Weft QDA in earnest, you should regularly make a back-up of your project (the .qdp file).
Weft QDA 1.0.1 was developed for Windows XP, but may work on newer versions. Windows users should download this installer which contains everything you need to use Weft:
weft-qda-install.exe [2.66MB - version 1.0.1 - 26/04/2006]
Save the installer somewhere on your hard disk, then double-click the saved icon to run the installer. Follow the on-screen instructions.
Using 1.0.1 on Linux
Unfortunately, Weft QDA 1.0.1 depends on such old versions of system libraries (e.g. GTK) that it is very difficult or impossible to run Weft QDA 1.0.1 on a modern Linux distro. The source package for 1.0.1 is here, for interest:
weft_qda.tar.gz [874KB - version 1.0.1 - 26/04/2006]
C Lejeune offers further information on Weft QDA on (Debian) Linux, including using WINE, which is likely to be the best way to run Weft QDA on Linux today. The Weft QDA manual has historic information on the installation options and prerequisites
Getting started and getting help
The Weft QDA Manual is the best place to start learning how to use the software. This manual is also available as a PDF for printing or on-screen viewing. Documentation in a variety of formats is included in the downloadable packages for off-line browsing.
There is also a spanish translation of the manual, courtesy of M. Cecilia Martínez.
For help with installing or using the software, there is a mailing list for Weft QDA users; the archives are also online. The mailing list is largely inactive at present (2013) but there are many subscribers. Please don’t email me directly with requests for help using Weft QDA; I’m afraid I won’t reply.
History and Future
Weft QDA was originally written out of curiosity whilst completing a Masters in Social Research Methods at the University of Surrey in 2004. I was annoyed by over-priced and over-complex commercial CAQDAS. The software was tidied up and documented, and then first released in 2005.
Development / Abandonment
I did a lot of work towards a version 2.0 of Weft QDA, and got as far as a basic alpha release. Version 2.0 was going to add support for multilingual text, photos, audio and video documents, along with other new features and interface improvements, and was going to work well on OS X and modern Linux distros. However, I haven’t done any serious development on Weft QDA since early 2009, and it’s unlikely I’ll resume at any time soon. I’m just interested in thinking about and doing other things at the moment.
The project is orphaned, but the version 1.0 and latest version 2.0 source code remains available in the Weft QDA Subversion repository. Weft QDA is written in the Ruby programming language, using WxRuby for the user interface and SQLite for the file storage. There are also lists of user-submitted bugs and feature requests
Thank you to those who’ve tried the application, and especially to all those who’ve tried it and responded with their suggestions, views and kind words of thanks. Thanks to Rubyforge, who have for a long time hosted the project, including providing the downloads. Thanks also to the other open-source projects upon which it depended.
A few QDA Links
- TextAnalysis.info - Extensive listing and discussion of textual analysis applications, from Harald Klein
- CAQDAS Networking Project Training, advice and information about CAQDAS from a research centre the University of Surrey, UK
- Online QDA archive of Methods research project at Loughborough University