This guide will help you learn SuperMemo 2008 step by step without missing any important function. Each step may take from a day to a week. Advanced techniques such as incremental reading may require months of practice. Do not rush! SuperMemo can quickly lead to confusion and disillusionment. Pick the next step to learn only after mastering all previous steps.
You can start using SuperMemo in 3 minutes. You only need to know two operations:
Many users never go beyond the above ABC and still benefit greatly from SuperMemo! It is recommended that you spend a week or so in this basic mode. Simple question-and-answer repetition is where 90% of the users get 90% of the benefit from SuperMemo! If you only remember to use Learn regularly and frequently back up your precious knowledge (e.g. with Shift+Ctrl+C), the rest of this guide can be considered optional. Warning! For the first 3-6 days, your learning schedule will be empty and you will have nothing to review! Use Add new in the meantime (Learn will keep showing Nothing more to learn)
You can explore SuperMemo in stages by using File : Level menu. By default SuperMemo starts at the Beginner level. After a day or two, you can move to the Basic level. The Middle level will later be needed to use many of the functions described in this guide. Once you fully understand the middle level, you can switch to the Professional level that should be the ultimate destination of users who want to explore the most advanced functions of SuperMemo.
If you find a description of the function in SuperMemo that is not available on a given level, you can increase the level to make the function appear among the options. Many shortcuts will work even if the function is not available on a given level. For example, you can view the calendar of repetitions by pressing Ctrl+W at the beginner level even though Tools : Workload appears only on the middle level menu
Knowledge you store in SuperMemo might belong to your most precious data on your hard disk! After all it has cost you months or years of editing, learning, and review. You must continue using Learn indefinitely to make sure you never forget what you have learned. This is why backup skills are so important! Use Shift+Ctrl+C to copy your learning material to a new location. You should make a copy on a different hard disk every few days and on other media every month or so. Read more: Safety of your knowledge
You can read help pages relevant to a given context in SuperMemo by pressing F1. If you do not have a broadband connection to the Internet, you can install the help file on your hard disk
If you learn from electronic sources (e.g. the Internet), you can benefit tremendously by mastering the technique called incremental reading. In incremental reading, you import articles from the Internet, and convert them to questions-and-answers with a couple of keystrokes. You can continue reading thousands of articles in parallel without getting lost. You can add thousands of items per year and still be able to recall 90-95%. It may take a few months of frustration before you reach proficiency in incremental reading; however, you will ultimately experience a seismic shift in your learning power. Invest a few hours in reading this article: incremental reading. In the long run, the return on investment will be astronomic
To be sure that your files have not been damaged by a virus, other software, or hardware problems, use File : Repair collection (Ctrl+F12) from time to time (e.g. once per month). Always backup your collection before using Repair collection
In the beginning you often dislike the size and positions of windows and dialogs in SuperMemo. You can change that. Your favorite layout will depend on your monitor's resolution, interface font used in SuperMemo, the size of the element window and your learning habits. To save the current layout, press Shift+Ctrl+F5 ( Window : Layout : Save as default). You can save more layouts and then choose between them by choosing an appropriate number on the Window menu. If you would like to include learning statistics in your layout, you might first open the statistics windows (e.g. by pressing F5). If you would like to preview the ancestor path of the current element, you could also open the ancestor path window with Ctrl+Shift+X. If you open, move and/or size many windows, you can always get back to your favorite layout by pressing Ctrl+F5 ( Window : Layout : Apply default layout). You can also add or delete layouts with Window : Layout : Layout manager (Ctrl+Alt+Y)
To quickly locate elements in your collection press Ctrl+F or choose the button Search on the element toolbar. Use this option also for AND-search, OR-search, etc.
Read 20 rules of formulating knowledge in learning to review most important principles that will make sure you will remember with minimum effort
With years passing by, you will develop healthy learning habits that will make sure your work with SuperMemo is both effective and enjoyable. You can save months of experimenting if you read Ten Commandments of a Highly Efficient User of SuperMemo
You should remember that all your learning material requires endless attention. You should review your elements for usefulness, correct formulation, logic, grammar, etc. When an element comes up for a repetition, you should make a quick and nearly instinctive assessment of the following:
Here are some typical actions you will take depending on the answer to the above questions (some keyboard shortcuts may not work at lower difficulty levels):
It is recommended that you keep all your knowledge in one collection (you can create new collections with File : New collection). Here are the benefits of one body of knowledge:
You will understand your memory better if you learn to interpret the statistics of the learning process:
You can easily add new texts, images, sounds and other components to your elements. New components are most conveniently added with Edit : Add components on the main menu. You can also drag components from the Compose toolbar available with Edit : Add components or Window : Toolbars : Compose. To drag a component click the appropriate button on the component toolbar (e.g. text button, image button, etc.) and then click twice on the empty area in the element window: (1) first at the place where you want to place the top-left corner of your component, and then (2) at the place for the bottom-right corner of the new component. Read about templates below to learn how to automate this process. The easiest way to add pictures to your elements is to paste them from clipboard (Ctrl+V or Shift+Ins). The easiest way to add texts is to paste them with Ctrl+Alt+N
You can easily change the attributes of elements and their components by using menus available with a right click. There are two menus you will need to become familiar with:
You do not need to change the look of elements over and over again. You do not need to create components again and again. It is enough you define a so-called template to be able to reuse a given component arrangement. The most important things to know about templates:
You can organize the structure of your knowledge in the contents window. Choose Contents at the top of the element window to switch to the contents window. To find out how to create the knowledge structure see: Creating the structure of the knowledge tree. Remember that the structure of your tree is not essential for learning! However, a good structure can make it easier to locate portions of materials for review
You can give items belonging to different branches of the knowledge tree a different look and a different priority. This way you will easily differentiate between items belonging to fields such as geography, biology, sociology, etc. You can move an item to a new category by opening Element parameters dialog box (e.g. with Shift+Ctrl+P) and choosing the category from the list (the Category list box). When you move an item to a category, you can choose if it should use that category's template to determine its look. Read: Using categories
You are most likely to use HTML text components in incremental reading (if you do not have the latest Internet Explorer, use rich text components instead). HTML components make text processing easy due to rich formatting. However, once your items assume their final shape, you might prefer to convert them to plain text components which are faster and consume less space. You can do it by selecting the Classic template as the default template in your target category (see: Using categories). You can use several different SuperMemo components to represent text. To understand pros and cons of using various text components see: Text components used in SuperMemo. See also: Fonts in SuperMemo
Even with a great deal of experience and perfect understanding of knowledge structure, you will meet items that by no means want to stick to your memory. Usually 60% of items will not even be forgotten once! However, there are always a few items that you might forget 10 times, or even 20 times. 5% of your items may cost you 80% of your learning time (and 99% of frustration). In most cases, the fault is with you, the items must simply be reformulated (see: 20 rules of formulating knowledge). However, some items just seem un-memorizable! Those do not indicate your memory is bad! They are a usual companion of every learning process, and you must roll out the heavy guns to deal with them. You will use whatever mnemonic technique comes to mind: add examples, illustrations, poke fun, make it indecent or shocking, create a mind-map, re-memorize with a longer interval (this will often break the unhealthy memory connection) or, in most desperate cases, delete the item altogether. Any items with above 20 memory lapses makes a good candidate for deleting. Such an item may simply not be worth the cost in your time. To find out which options can help you hunt for trouble-making items see: Leeches
For managing and reviewing large collections, you will find browsers indispensable. Browsers are available with the View menu. Most of all, browsers will let you work with subsets of elements in your collection. Here are some ways in which browsers can boost your learning:
To choose how much you want to remember and how much work you want to put in different branches of knowledge, SuperMemo introduces the concept of the forgetting index. See: Using the forgetting index
If you would like others to use your learning material, you can follow these steps:
Use search to find more about SuperMemo. See FAQs for more answers to questions about SuperMemo. If you still have questions unanswered, place them at SuperMemopedia. We also welcome your comments about the clarity of this text as well as the choice and the sequence of topics. We always welcome your questions! They help us improve the documentation and ultimately save support costs!