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Old Method of Memorizing Things with New Tools

April 23, 2008

Using flashcards is an old yet useful way to memorize things like names or places and to foreign words and phrases etc. To be frank, I never used flash cards. When I had my first PDA – SONY CLIÉ PEG-SJ20, I used SuperMemo on my PDA to learn Japanese phrases. The version for Palm OS I used is quite outdated, no support for Hi-res, color. It’s not really convenient since it couldn’t display Japanese characters. Since I bought Palm Tungsten E2 in 2005, I didn’t use SuperMemo much, partially because I didn’t need to practice Japanese.

SuperMemo for Palm Pilot has been updated to ver 2.0, but it has fewer features than its cousin SuperMemo for Pocket PC, which has supported sounds (wav & mp3) and animations (wmv) in HTML since ver 3.6 in 2006. You can try the free version of SuperMemo 98 (for Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0). The latest version SuperMemo 2006 ($45) has better UI, more functions and statistics analysis.

But SuperMemo is not the software I’d like to introduce here (I’m sorry that I didn’t get to the point earlier; it’s just my way of thinking, jumping between the topics 😛 ). There are two excellent free, open-source softwares, which are capable to display some basis statistical info on your learning process and to keep some record of your learning process for analysis: Mnemosyne Project and Anki.

The main features in Mnemosyne Project are

  • Support for Unicode
  • Support for pictures, sounds and html format
  • Support for math formulas via integration with LaTeX
  • Support for several import and export formats (text, XML, Supermemo, Memaid, …)
  • Can be run from a USB thumb drive

As for Anki

  • Support for Asian characters and Unicode
  • Support for sounds, pictures, and markup to text
  • Support equations via integration with LaTeX
  • Support several import formats (text, Mnemosyne)
  • Support for customizing the templates
  • Customizable scheduling of learning frequency
  • Online Synchronization and Mobile Access

Anki is specially useful for learning Japanese. Many of its features target at Japanese learners. For instance, it can automatically generate Hiragana when the user type in Kanji. Besides this, another main difference in features is the portable ability. Mnemosyne lets you run the program from a USB thumbdrive, while Anki allows you to synchronize your deck between multiple computers and even to study through a web browser. [Update: Now Anki can be run on various portable devices, not just a USB drive] You can access it via your cellphone if you like. Sounds great, but access it online from your cellular phone certainly not cheap. Unless the hone companies start to provide a plan with unlimited web access,

Both softwares have documentations for how-to. The author of Anki even provides five screencast tutorials: Introduction (where you can learn the idea of spaced repetition), Add new cards, Review, Editing and deleting, and Syncing. Mnemosyne is available for Windows only, while Anki is more Both softwares are platform-friendly (Windows, Mac & Linux).

Worth mention:

OpenCards is flashcard learning extension based on Impress. Creating your set of opencards is like the way you editing a presentation file in Impress or Powerpoint. It also supports memorization and scheduling algorithms to help your learning. But this tool doesn’t support categorization within the set. [Please also check with the comment below for categorization]

SugarMemo is a learning tool, especially for learning foreign languages, developed for Palm OS by a Chinese. Similar to the old SuperMemo for Palm, however SugarMemo can be integrated with dictionary search.

[Update on 11/11/2009]

Check also this review, “Six reasons why Anki beats Mnemosyne“. I’m going to try it. 😉

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2008 9:26 pm

    Couple of corrections based on my experience.

    Both Anki and Mnemosyne are developed in Python so they are cross platform by default.

    Mnemosyne offers packages for Windows and Linux – but there is no reason you couldn’t get it working under Mac.

    Mnemosyne has a 3 point view which is nice for learning kanji/Chinese characters (as does Anki).

    Anki seems to have some additional features for Japanese learners.

    If you use Debian Linux or Ubuntu packages are available for automatic download for Mnemosyne

  2. June 17, 2008 2:39 pm

    Just stumbled about your nice article. To make things more clear here’s a short note about categorization model of OpenCards:

    OpenCards supports (multi-)categorization on for flashcard files. The idea is that anything that is compiled into one file belongs to one category. IMHO this is sufficient in most cases.

    bg, holger


  1. Flashcard Learning Everywhere « Entangled

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