Coding techniques

NVivo provides a number of ways to code your files. You can define your node structure first and then code at the existing nodes or you can create and code at nodes as you work through your files.

Drag and drop coding

This method is easiest when Detail View is displayed on the right side of your screen. Customize the workspace

  1. Display your nodes in List View.
  2. Open a file or node in Detail View.
  3. Select the content you want to code.
  4. Drag the selected content to List View and do one of the following:
    • Drop it on an existing node.
    • Code to a new node by dropping content in the List View below your nodes.
  5. In the New Node dialog box, type a name and description for the node then click OK.

Right-click coding

  1. Open a file or node in Detail View.
  2. Select the content you want to code.
  3. Right-click to display the shortcut menu and choose one of the coding options:
    • Code at new or existing nodes.
    • Code to Recent Nodes to access a list of up to 9 of your most recent nodes or cases.
    • Code In Vivo to make a node from the selected text.

Using the Quick Coding bar

The Quick Coding bar provides a fast way to code or uncode. It is displayed, by default, at the bottom of Detail View when you are working with files and nodes. If you can't see the Quick Coding bar, you can display it—on the menu bar, in the View group, click Quick Coding, and then select Docked.

With the Quick Coding bar, you can:

Components of the Quick Coding toolbar.

a Select the location for the node, case or relationship. Alternatively, you can select Nickname.

b Type or select a node or case. As you type, NVivo searches for any results that match or contain the characters you have typed. Create a new node in the selected location by typing a unique name. The options available here are different when quick coding to relationships.

c Code or uncode at the selected node. You can also press ENTER to code at the current node. A confirmation message displays briefly in the status bar to indicate that coding is successful.

d Make a node from selected text (code In Vivo)

e Hide the Quick Coding bar.


  • The currently selected node or case displays on the Quick Coding bar.
  • The Code At list includes cases, nodes and descendant nodes in the current location, as well as nodes and cases you have recently coded at.
  • You can use the keyboard to move to the Quick coding bar—press CTRL+Q to position the insertion point in the Code At box.
  • You can undock the Quick Coding bar so that it floats over the workspace—then you can move it to any location in the NVivo window. Customize the workspace

Code entire files to a code

You can code entire files to nodes or cases. This can be useful if you want to code everything in the file to a particular theme node, or if the file contains the responses of an individual and you want to code it all at their case node.

  1. Select the file in List View. Press and hold CTRL to select multiple files.
  2. On the Home tab, in the Coding group, click Code.
  3. Select an existing node or click New Node to create and code to a new node. Press and hold CTRL to select multiple items.
  4. Click OK.

When you code entire files, the number of coding references created varies depending on file type—for documents, the entire content is coded to a single reference, whereas for audio files, the media and transcript are coded to separate references.

Make a node from selected text (In Vivo code)

'In Vivo' coding uses selected text as the node name (up to 256 characters). You might want to use this technique to stay as close as possible to research participants' own words—some common examples are vernacular or jargon.

  1. Select the text content you want to code.
  2. On the menu bar, in the Coding group, click Code In Vivo.

You can edit the node name later in the Node Properties—select the node in List View, then on the Home tab, in the Item group, click Properties.

Using nicknames to speed up coding

When you edit a node's properties you can give it a nickname (for example, ag for agriculture or sustn for sustainable). Nodes with nicknames are available for fast selection on the Quick Coding bar. It is a good idea to reserve nicknames for a small number of nodes that you use frequently.

  1. Select the content you want to code.
  2. In the Quick Coding bar, select Nickname from the In list.
  3. In the Code At box, enter the nickname. As you type, NVivo suggests existing nicknames that you can choose from.
  4. Click the Code at current nodes button on the right.

Turn on or off code whole words

By default, when you code a few letters of a word, NVivo codes the whole word. If you want to select and code individual letters, you can turn off the code whole words option.

  1. Click the File tab, and then click Options.
  2. On the General tab under Coding, clear the Code whole words check box.