Symphony Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Symphony?
Symphony is a software tool designed to assist with the analysis of text. It is useful primarily in any situation where it is important to understand the opinions of a group of people, or where it is important to identify the underlying themes from multiple text sources.
Who uses Symphony?
Most Symphony users are either management consultants or HR practitioners.
How does Symphony make me more productive?
The Symphony user interface is designed to optimize your productivity. If you've tried to organize text by themes in Word or Excel, you know that the challenge grows exponentially with the amout of data. Symphony's user interface is designed to keep to a minimum the number of gestures necessary, and to scale with project size. Here's a few examples:
  • Highlight some text in a comment then drag the highlight to another code. This splits the comment into two, and the new comment keeps all the attributes (identify of the respondent, tags, etc.) of the orginal.
  • Maintain the organization of your codes using drag/drop.
  • Use Symphony's Cluster Analysis view or Word Group view to make coding decisions on multiple comments at a time.
  • Highlight some text in a comment and have Symphony show you a list of comments and their coding, ranked by how similar they are to the highlight.
And when it comes to producing reports, Symphony handles on your behalf most of the work you would have to do in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
What report options are included with Symphony?
Symphony produces output directly to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Two predefined Word reports are available: the Feedback Report, and Theme Consistency Report. These reports use a Word template that you can modify, so you can include your organization's branding as well as any project-specific boiler plate in the reports.
In addition, Symphony has query capabilities that enable you to produce data-sets that can be exported and used as you see fit.
Does Symphony have charting capabilities?
Yes. Symphony's Statistics view lets you define queries that produce the data to drive a wide range of charts. By default, Symphony outputs charts to an Excel spreadsheet located in the same directory as your project. You can modify they chart type and other settings in Excel; Symphony will use those settings.
What data can Symphony analyze?
Symphony can analyze any text. What you get is dependent on the nature of the data and what you are looking for. You can for example take the entire text of a book or collection of documents and have Symphony find every phrase that appears more than a certain number of times. If you are analyzing interview notes where the interviewees provide highly-personalized answers to your questions -- that is, the frequency of identifiable patterns is low -- Symphony will probably have less success with it. But Symphony still provides the environment that enables you to easily organize and report on them.
How is Symphony licensed?
Symphony Desktop licenses are either per-user or per-enterprise, and span either a month or a year. Annual licenses are eligible for a substantial renewal discount if they are renewed prior to expiration.
Symphony Web is free Symphony Desktop users. If you don't have a Symphony Desktop license, you can pay as you go in accordance with the size and type of your project.
Are upgrades included with Symphony?
Yes. All Symphony updates are included as long as your license is active and in good standing. 
Is support included?
Absolutely. We understand that our software gets most of its use after data has been collected. We are sensitive to the fact that data collection tends not to be completed as scheduled, and deadlines start to close in. To ensure that we can contribute as much as possible to our clients' success, we treat every request for support as if our success depended on its immediate resolution.
What help is available as I use Symphony?
Symphony includes an Interactive Assistant. This tool is like a help file on steroids. Press function key F1 to bring up help like you would with most any software. From there you can choose from various context-related topics. In some cases, those topics will include options to have Symphony walk you through the steps to perform the task you are interested. In addition, pressing function key F2 brings up an interactive assistant. When you move your mouse over a component on the screen, a description of what it is for and links to additional information is usually available.
Does Symphony code the text for me?
There are a few different answers to this, and what applies is largely dependent on your data.
  • Symphony includes a Code Suggestion Component. As you code your text, Symphony analyzes it, so as your coding progresses Symphony begins suggesting how text should be coded, based on what you have coded so far.
  • Symphony includes a Cluster Analysis feature, which goes through your project and -- depending on your settings -- will either create clusters centered on certain comments, or will create clusters centered on the codes from your project or from another project you specify. This is all very similar to the Code Suggestion Component, on steroids.
  • If you are importing data from Word or Excel, Symphony can take advantage information from your document that suggests an initial coding structure. In the case of Excel, any columns or cells that are specified as codes will be imported and the related comments coded accordingly. In the case of Word, Symphony can take advantage of the structure of your document as defined by the Word styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) you use.
How is Symphony data stored?
Each Symphony project is stored in a file with an extension of ".ca". The data is in an XML document, which is compressed and encrypted. Optionally, individual projects can be password-protected. We have no backdoor, so if you password-protect a file and forget the password, you are on your own!
How do  I get data into Symphony?
Most Symphony users import data either from Word documents or Excel spreadsheets. In either case, imported comments can be pre-coded as mentioned above. You can also type comments directly into Symphony or paste text from your computer's clipboard.
I have a capability model that I align my data against. How can I leverage this with Symphony?
There are two general approaches you can use. The first is to base your project on a "model" project that contains a code for each capability you are measuring, and a value tag attached to each code. After you've coded the comments, you can go to Statistics view and run queries that will give you a measure of how closely the comments fit the model. The second approach is to create tags that have the range of values you want to give to comments, then attach the tags to the individual comments. After the tags are attached, you can go to Statistics view and generate a query that gives you the measures you are interested in.
Can I share my projects with other Symphony users?
Yes. You can simply email the .ca file to them. Note that you should not make any changes to the file until you get back an updated one from them. This of course forces you to work serially. If you need a more robust collaboration solution, please consider the Symphony Synchronization Server. This is available both as a service provided by us, or as a software solution installed on one of your organization's servers.
Does Symphony include a spell checker?
Yes. You choose between a variety of English dialects, plus French, German, Spanish, and Italian.
Does Symphony have an auto-save feature?
Yes. This is available under Tools/Configuration. You specify the interval in seconds that you want Symphony to save your project. This is a background save, so you can continue to work uninterrupted.
Is there an undo?
Yes, you can reverse any changes that have been made since the last save. Auto-saves occur every 10 minutes by default.
Can I transcribe my notes using voice recognition?
Yes. Symphony has been tested with Dragon Naturally Speaking and requires no additional training or preparations. In addition, we have plans to release command scripts for common functions.
Does Symphony have quantitative features?
Symphony includes a feature called "Statistics View", where you can define queries that include various aggregates. For example you can get a count of respondents by code, or by any combination of demographics by code. You can get the same kinds of results as you can from an Excel pivot table.
Why does Symphony find words in my project that aren't there?
This is due to Symphony's "normalization" of words through synonyms and word stems. Using normalized words, Symphony is able to find similarities between comments even when the respondents use different vocabularies. For example, "supervisor", "supervisors", "manager", and "boss" are all recognized by Symphony as being either identical or close to identical. When you view comments that are filtered on a particular word, all of the forms of the word as well as its synonyms will be highlighted.
Can I code the same comment to more than one code?
Yes. Symphony has settings that either limit or allow comments to be coded to more than one code. This can be set as a global default and can also be set on a code-by-code basis.
If I have a code in my interview guide and it doesn't exist yet in my project, will Symphony create it, or do I need to create it first?
Symphony will create it for you. When processing interview documents, Symphony keeps track of its current position in your coding structure. If Symphony does not find a code that corresponds with where it is in your document, the code is created. The bottom line is that Symphony makes sure that a code with the same name exists at the appropriate code level.
Is a volume discount available?
Enterprise licensing options are available. Please contact us for more information.
Does Symphony run on a Mac?
For Symphony Desktop, you need PC emulator software. A list of products is available at Some Symphony users with Macs use Microsoft's Virtual PC product. For our web-based version of Symphony, any modern browser (i.e. supports HTML5 and CSS3) will work.