Thursday, May 3, 2012

Supermemo or Anki?

We live in a very critical and divisive world. We are divided and angered by the most insignificant preferences, be they computers, game consoles, shoes, stickers, what TV shows you watch, the list never ends. Granted not everybody plays into this, but in a media landscape that loves to judge, criticize and point out the flaws in others (Reality TV being one big contributor to this, I imagine), it has become much more acceptable to be angry about things that you don't need to be angry about. The anonymity of the internet doesn't help, either.

With the above in mind, at times, the same kind of pointless rivalry can exist within the world of flashcard systems.

There are many different flashcard systems out there, but two of the bigger ones you will likely see (Especially if you are using it for language learning) are Anki and Supermemo. There are many more (Mnemosyne, Skritter, etc.), but Anki and Supermemo seem to jump out as being the most popular.

Here is a quick list of pros and cons that readily come to mind for Supermemo

-More features
-Most advanced spaced repetition algorithm*
-More data about your memory than you can shake a stick at
-Incremental Reading
-Sleep tracker integration
-Flexible flashcard creation (Multiple images, sounds, etc.), made to encompass more than just languages

(* By "advanced" I mean that Supermemo 15.0 has been in development for a longer period of time than all other SRS programs out there. Put simply, it has the longest track record development-wise).

-Ugly compared to the simpler UI we have become accustomed to with modern technology
-Most of the features are lost to most users due to poor explanation, lack of simpler tutorial or lack of interest on the part of the user
-Most of the data about one's memory is not cared about by "casual" users
-Difficulty handling non-English fonts (Although this seems to have changed in Supermemo 15, I can write in Hindi, Japanese and Chinese with no problems).
-Must back up manually

While I have not used Anki for any length of time (I'm already committed to using SM every day), these seem to be the pros and cons as I see them. Just keep in mind I don't know this program very well:

-Simple(r) to use
-Free of features that some users may consider pointless (Sleep tracking, task lists, etc.)
-Made with language learners in mind (Specifically Asian languages)
-No font problems
-Sync your data through the internet
-Using Supermemo algorithm on the backend (SM-2)

-Algorithm is older than newest SuperMemo algorithm (Right now the algorithm is SM-15)
-No Incremental Reading support
-Fewer features that some users have grown accustomed to (Sleep tracking, task lists, etc.)

Think of it this way: Supermemo is like an apple, and Anki is like a banana. Both offer nutrition. While one person might prefer one fruit over another, it is better to eat a piece of fruit than a candy bar. Regardless of which you choose, keep this in mind. The effective use of ANY kind of SRS flashcard program is better than ANYTHING the modern education system offers by way of information retention. While Supermemo might have a feature that Anki doesn't, or Anki has a simpler and eye-pleasing style, they can BOTH be effective tools for learning (Especially for languages).

My advice? If you want to learn languages, start with Anki (Or any of the other programs offered online). If you find that you enjoy using Anki and want to try out a more advanced flashcard system, give Supermemo a try. If you want to learn something other than a language (Law, medicine, etc.), start with Supermemo.


  1. Thanks a lot for your opinion, I really appreciate it. I enjoyed reading your blog. If you are going to write a book, I will be the first to buy :)

  2. A book would take a long time, and I want my ideas in the wild as soon as I can articulate them. Books don't seem to be like that.

    Also, if you (Or anyone else reading this) can think of something you want a post written about, please leave it in a comment.

  3. Hi Little Fish for a long time there are no posts in the super memo blo mainly because in some way I felt be trying super memo by using Ankydroid so much, I plan on using both systems on the future there are many thing only super memo can do, but for portability I'm currently using al lot of anky

  4. Have you seen - Petermemo flashcards ?