Manual coding techniques

NVivo has several ways to code manually. You can create a code structure first and code to this, or create codes as you work through your files, and code at the same time.

Drag and drop to the List View

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

  1. Display your codes or cases in the List View.
  2. Open the file to code in the Detail View.
  3. Select the content to code and drag it onto a code or case.
    •  to create a new code or case, drop the selection in the space beneath the codes then complete the New Code dialog box.

Drag and drop to the code panel

The code panel opens in the right-hand side of the Detail View for open documents (including memos, but not other file types). It shows all your codes (not including sentiments or relationships) and cases. Expand the list to view the codes or cases you want to code to, then drag content selections onto them to code to them.

You cannot create new codes or cases in the code panel.

Open the code panel from the Code menu in the Detail View toolbar.

Use the right-click menu

  1. Open a file in the 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 Selection to code to new or existing codes, sentiments, relationships or cases.
    • Code to Recent Codes to code to one from up to 9 recent codes or cases.
    • Code In Vivo to create a new code with the selected text as the code name.

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 codes. 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 code, case or relationship. Alternatively, you can select Nickname.

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

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

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

e Hide the Quick Coding bar.


  • The currently selected code or case displays on the Quick Coding bar.
  • The Code At list includes cases, codes and descendant codes in the current location, as well as codes and cases you have recently coded to.
  • 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 whole files

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

  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 code or click New Code to create and code to a new code. 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.

In Vivo coding

'In Vivo' coding uses selected text as the code name (up to 256 characters). You might want to use this technique to stay as close as possible to 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 code name later in the Code Properties—select the code in List View, then on the Home tab, in the Item group, click Properties.

Use nicknames to speed up coding

When you edit a code's properties you can give it a nickname (for example, ag for agriculture or sustn for sustainable). Codes 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 codes 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 to current codes 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.