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Using e-mail in SuperMemo

E-mail grows to be the primary communication tool in business, science and technology. SuperMemo includes a few simple options that help you (1) incorporate e-mail communication into your learning process as well as to (2) incorporate learning into your e-mail communication. 

Important! To fully use e-mail functionality in SuperMemo you will need MS Outlook 2000 or later. At the very minimum, MAPI compatible mail would be needed for sending mail. For example, with Outlook Express you will be able to send mail from SuperMemo, but you will not be able to use the wholesale import of mail in incremental reading.

Here are the most important uses of e-mail in SuperMemo:

  1. Sending learning data to others: If you encounter valuable information in incremental reading, you can send it to your colleagues,  friends, partners or family with a single click
  2. Importing e-mail to your learning process: Incremental reading appears to be a very powerful tool for prioritizing and processing e-mail. As a result, you may decide that instead of using your mail software, it is more convenient to use SuperMemo to read and respond to your e-mail. Users of MS Outlook can now import mail to SuperMemo with a keystroke
  3. Using incremental reading to process e-mail: Using incremental reading you can prioritize and process your mail. You may also incorporated snippets of mail in your learning process. In other words, your mail may not only prompt action, but may also be used as a learning tool to keep your memory up-to-date with things you care about 

Sending learning data to others

  1. To send a given item or topic via e-mail, click the e-mail button on the element toolbar. Element texts will be sent in the e-mail body, while formatted texts, pictures, and other files will be sent as attachments. You could also send texts without attachments by using E-mail : Texts or E-mail : Q&A on the element menu
  2. To send a selected fragment of an article via e-mail, right-click over the selection (to open the component menu) and choose Reading : E-mail. Alternatively, you can also click the mail icon on the Read toolbar

Importing incoming mail to SuperMemo

  1. You can import the content of your Inbox (or any other Outlook mail folder) by choosing Edit : Import mail on the main menu (Shift+F4). Choose Import All to import all mail to SuperMemo and move it to an archive folder in MS Outlook (see the picture below). E-mail attachments will be imported as separate components of the appropriate type. Binary components will be used to import attachments in formats that are not supported by SuperMemo (e.g. PDF, URL, ZIP, MSG, EML, MMP, XLS, DOC, MPA, etc.)
  2. If you do not use MS Outlook for processing mail, you can manually import most valuable or inspirational pieces e-mail. To paste a piece of e-mail for incremental reading, select the text to be pasted in the e-mail body, copy this text to the clipboard and press Ctrl+Alt+E in SuperMemo. If you want to respond to the original sender while incrementally reading his or her e-mail, paste the e-mail along with its header information (date, return address, subject, etc.). For example, in Outlook Express, click Forward and select the whole text of the message. Ctrl+Alt+E will automatically convert your e-mail to plain text (to save space, remove read-only attributes, etc.). It will also format the header for you, if your default topic template is based on the HTML component. If you want to retain some formatting, select the text and re-paste the formatted fragment

Using incremental reading to process mail

You can process e-mail incrementally in SuperMemo in a process analogous to incremental reading. Here are the pros and the cons:


  1. recall of important facts: if you learn new things from e-mail sent by others, you can easily introduce the most valuable pieces into the learning process (via standard Remember extract). Those pieces will be reviewed as other pieces of knowledge in SuperMemo. If you decide to respond to a given inspirational fragment, the sender address will automatically be used when you click the e-mail button on the Read toolbar
  2. prioritization: if you get more e-mail material than you are able to process, you can use incremental reading for prioritizing mail and its fragments. One of the greatest strengths of incremental reading is its unique system for efficiently determining the priority of the reading material. Remember to politely inform everyone about this rationalization system. Otherwise you may easily be accused of acting as an e-mail black hole
  3. handling overflow: you can use Postpone and other rescheduling tools to resolve the excessive inflow of information without damage to your selected priority criteria. If you work in a team, it is a great idea to delegate some of your work; however, not all work can be delegated. Additionally, if you delegate, you do not learn from e-mail that you delegate. To answer the latter problem, you can choose a solution in the middle: delegate e-mail jobs and process inflowing pieces stochastically by means of incremental reading


  1. splintering e-mail: some people dislike splintered responses. They prefer to have their e-mail analyzed as a whole and responded to as a whole. As an act of kindness, try to remember people's preferences and do not use incremental e-mail processing on those who do not like it
  2. incremental approach is not transitive: incremental e-mail processing shows the greatest power for longer pieces of mail, article forwards, etc. For very short e-mail messages, incremental e-mail processing delivers less value per unit time. Because incremental mail processing leads to short communication bursts, it undermines its own power when used at both ends of the communication channel

Incremental e-mail processing tips

  1. Create a separate collection for e-mail processing (unless you plan to combine e-mail work with standard repetitions)
  2. Import mail to your e-mail collection with Shift+F4
  3. Differentiate between e-mail that must be processed and e-mail that you want to but do not have to process. Introduce mail into the review process with an interval inversely proportional to message priority. Use the default interval of one day for messages that must be processed immediately. Try to process your one-interval mail daily. Use Ctrl+J to increase the interval of less important pieces. You may work on the assumption that you fully process shortest-interval pieces and stochastically pick longer-interval pieces for processing. You can use View : Outstanding browser to sort mail by interval, to postpone a subset of mail, or reshuffle mail for random review
  4. Each day, sort the review material from shortest to longest intervals by means of Sort : By interval and Tools : Save repetitions in View : Outstanding
  5. Instead of using Mercy for handling overflow, consider using Postpone on the outstanding material. Choose View : Outstanding and click the Postpone icon (or press Ctrl+Alt+P). The assumption is that the longer the interval, the lower the priority of a given e-mail or its fragment. Consequently, intervals will increase the least on the most important pieces of e-mail. For example, if you choose to postpone by a factor of 1.2 (i.e. 20% increase in intervals), all pieces of e-mail with intervals of 7 days or less will be rescheduled for the next day (i.e. tomorrow)
  6. You can delay individual pieces of mail with Ctrl+J
  7. SuperMemo picks the earliest [mailto: tag from your e-mail text as the default response addressee. If you would like to send pieces of an article to a selected person, put this tag with the address anywhere in the text. For example: []. You can also specify multiple recipients by separating their names with a semicolon 
  8. In the e-mail review process (initiated with Learn), do as follows:


Incremental e-mail review is subject to the same laws as standard topic review
You can sort e-mail review by interval

You can delay a review or repetition by choosing Execute repetition
Change [mailto:] field to change the default e-mail address

You can creatively expand on a task by introducing it to incremental reading

You can delay a review or repetition by choosing Execute repetition
How can I postpone one element only instead of the whole branch or all outstanding pieces of e-mail in incremental review process?
You can choose Learning : Execute repetition on the element menu (Ctrl+Shift+R) and manually choose the date of the next review

Incremental e-mail review is subject to the same laws as standard topic review
After introducing an e-mail into an incremental review process, I tried to process e-mails with Learn. However, SuperMemo told me there is no more material to process
SuperMemo will not let you schedule a review with an interval less than one day. Consequently, if you import an e-mail today, the earliest incremental review will come tomorrow. To accelerate the review process you can: (1) review e-mail immediately upon importing, (2) locate it without the assistance of the review process (e.g. with Search or in the contents window) or (3) use Mercy to schedule tomorrow's reviews for today (check Consider future repetitions and select Gathering period of two days)

You can sort e-mail review by interval
How can I sort items from low to high intervals in incremental e-mail processing?
You can sort your repetitions by the length of the interval using the following method: 

  1. choose View : Outstanding
  2. click Interval twice at the top of the browser window (to sort from the lowest to the highest intervals) 
  3. choose Tools : Save repetitions (on the browser menu

You can use this method in e-mail processing in the same was as in the learning process

You can creatively expand on a task by introducing it to incremental reading
(TPS, Aug 07, 2001)
When should tasks be kept both on the tasklist and in incremental reading?
Tasks may be kept in incremental review if you need to access them by priority via the tasklist but still want to work with them using incremental reading techniques. This happens, for example, if you have an idea, and you want to implement it according to its priority on the tasklist, but you still want to creatively expand it in the incremental reading process. This could, for example, be a business plan, points for an article, element of a new design, etc.

Change [mailto:] field to change the default e-mail address
(P.M., Saturday, September 22, 2001 1:22 PM)
I imported an e-mail to incremental reading. In the meantime the return address has changed. How can I make sure SuperMemo does not keep using the old address by default?
Paste the new address in place of the old one in the [mailto: ] field. You can use short names (e.g. [mailto:john]) if you have the name in your Address Book. Unfortunately, you will have to paste the address to all splinter fragments generated in incremental reading. You could use Ctrl+S followed by Ctrl+R to search and replace texts in your collection