How does NarraFirma compare to a spreadsheet?

Everything you can do in NarraFirma you can do in a spreadsheet. It just takes longer. On the other hand, a spreadsheet is much more flexible. As software designed specifically to support participatory narrative inquiry, NarraFirma has certain built-in assumptions about what you want to do with it. So does a spreadsheet, of course, but the assumptions behind the design of spreadsheets are very broad, so you can use them more flexibly.

If you look at NarraFirma, and it looks like it will help you do what you want to do, start by using it on a small project and see how it works for you. If you look at NarraFirma and it does not seem to match what you want to do, a spreadsheet might be better.

Or you can use both. I often supplement my use of NarraFirma with the judicious use of spreadsheets for custom comparisons and graphs, as I need them.

Do I need software to do participatory narrative inquiry?

Absolutely not. You can do every element of PNI, from start to finish, with or without using software of any kind. What software can do for you — NarraFirma or any software — is to (a) help you get through tedious tasks more quickly and (b) help you keep track of things you might otherwise forget.

How does NarraFirma compare to SenseMaker?

When I first created SenseMaker, in 2004, I had been working in the field of organizational and community narrative for about five years. From 2004 to 2009 I kept improving the software while using it to do projects. So I used to know everything there was to know about SenseMaker. It was my baby.

But I have no idea what SenseMaker is like today. I have not seen it since 2009. For all I know, it could be nothing like the software I researched, designed, built, used, and improved back then. I’ve heard that it hasn’t changed that much, but I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say. I can’t compare NarraFirma to SenseMaker as it is today.

I can, however, compare NarraFirma to SenseMaker as I left it in 2009. When I created NarraFirma, I had not five but sixteen years of experience working in the field of organizational and community narrative. And, in my surely biased opinion, the software shows the difference. I have continued to improve NarraFirma since 2016, and I hope to keep improving it in the future. Everything I make continues to change as I continue to learn. That ‘s how I think things work best.