Anki

This guide assumes you already want to begin using a Spaced Repetition System (SRS) to retain knowledge and assist in learning. "But how do I begin?" or "What does this terminology mean?" This guide will cover the basics of setting up Anki, as well as some common terminology and use cases.

Download Anki

Download and install Anki.

When installed it should look like this:

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Importing a Deck

Visit the Anki Shared Decks page to see decks people have created and shared. Find a deck you want to try, using the categories to help, or just by searching by name.

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You can download and import these decks into your Anki, then change the decks however you want. If the author makes a change to the original deck yours will not change, but you can usually re-download the updated version and apply the changes without impacting your study progress.

Let’s take this deck on the NATO Phonetic Alphabet as our example.

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Download^ the deck, and open the .apkg package. It will open Anki, saying it has imported. Like this:

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Study

Now you have a deck of flashcards, and can begin studying! Simply click on a deck, and click the Study Now button.

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Studying new cards

You’ll be shown the front of a card in the deck.

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Hit Show Answer to view the back of the card, with the answer. Remember your goal is to recall the information on the back of the card before looking.

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You are given three choices when learning new cards: Again, Good, and Easy. The time above these options states how long it will be until you see this card again. For new cards this is called the “Learning Step”. Selecting Good will push the review 10mins away, Easy 4days, and Again 1min.

If you know the and you found the question easy, then select Easy, and Anki will make sure to schedule this card further in the future from now on. If you were just correct select Good, and if you were wrong select Again. These options help Anki better tune specific cards to ask for review at the optimum time for learning.

Cards are also shown in a random order by default, so you do not simply recall the order.

Studying learned cards

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You will get four choices when reviewing learned cards: Again, Hard, Good, and Easy. The last two act the same as for learning new cards, Again is slightly differently, and Hard is only an option for learned cards.

When you select Again for a card you had previously learned, that means the card has lapsed. You once knew it, and no longer do. It will go from being a “learned” card to a “(re)learning” card. Anki will show this card more frequently in the future.

Select Hard when you knew the answer, but it was very difficult to recall (perhaps you initially thought of a wrong answer). The card will get only a slightly longer delay than the last period.

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E.g. 1d -> 3d -> 8d -> 20d -> 50d.


Browse Cards

The card Browser can be found by clicking Browse in the main window of Anki.

If you can’t see the sidebar, then in the hit Go -> Sidebar to bring it up.

The sidebar on the left allows quick access to common search terms. Various search terms as described below are listed, along with all deck names and tag names. Clicking on an item will search for it.

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You can browse cards by specific decks, sub-decks, tags, or even save search terms.

Due Dates

Each card has a Due column, with either a date or a number. Cards with Dates have been seen before, and the date is when they are next due to be reviewed. Cards with numbers are Unseen, and the number indicated their order for learning; lower cards first. If you wish to change the order of new cards, select any you wish, right click, and select Reposition. If you wish to move new cards to the end of the new card queue, or reschedule seen cards within a specific date range, then instead select the Reschedule option.

Notes vs Cards

Clicking a Card in the Browser will show you the Note which created the card below it. Notes are a grouping of fields which make up some related knowledge. Anki then takes a Note and uses it to generate Card(s), which can be changed in any way.

A Note is in blue below.

Three cards generated by that Note are in red.

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This note is taken and converted into those three cards, which can look like:

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Each of these cards uses part of the Note to create different types of questions and answers. Some of them also contain an audio file on the back side of the card, which will automatically play.

You can add any new Fields to the Note in the Fields button, as well as the templates to generate any of your cards in the Cards button, above the Note.


Stats

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Stats can be found by clicking Stats in the main window of Anki. These stats report on how many reviews you have in the future, how many cards you have studied, how long you spent reviewing them, how often you answered each option, how much of the deck is know, and more!

Card Types

As shown in the stats above, cards have different states:

  • Unseen: never seen
  • Learning: currently learning
  • Young: learned recently
  • Mature: learned a long time ago, considered ‘known’
  • Suspended: See #Suspending and Leeches
  • Buried. See #Burying

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AnkiWeb Syncing

Make an account on AnkiWeb, then verify your email. After that click Sync in the main window of Anki, in the top bar at the right, and sign in. You will be asked if you want to Upload or Download from AnkiWeb; if this is your first time then select Upload.

Syncing to/between Mobile

Download the Anki app on your preferred mobile OS (Android or iOS). Sign in with your AnkiWeb account, and sync. You’ll have to select “Download from AnkiWeb” if you already have synced before on desktop. Whenever you review cards on mobile, try and remember to sync before you close the app, so you do not lose your progress on desktop.

Note: Yes the iOS app is about £24, whereas the Android app is free. This is because the iOS app is made by the Anki developer, and is the only way he funds the development of Anki. Whereas the Android app is open source on Github made by a third party. This means that it may not have all the of Anki iOS and Desktop, or may lag behind at times. You can find the manual for the Android version here.


Advanced Functionality Round-up

Here I’ll quickly touch on some more advanced functionality of Anki.

Card Intervals

As mentioned in #Study the period of a card is changed to be closer or further away when you select Easy or Hard (also for Again for learned cards). This is because these options change the card’s Ease Factor which starts at 250%. When you mark a card as correct, it’s new interval is calculated by the formula: Current Interval x Ease Factor x Deck Interval Modifier. Which is usually something like: 2d x 250% x 100% = 5d.

Current Interval is the current period of the card, how long since your last review of it.

Ease Factor is how easy the card is, the higher the % the easier it is. When you select Hard during a review, Anki first lowers the card’s Ease Factor by some % then calculates the next interval. Same with Easy, but it increases the Ease Factor. This change to the Ease Factor is permanent, and so it will affect all future reviews of this card, making them longer or shorter.

Deck Interval Modifier is set in the Deck options, and will simply change each card’s interval by its value. If you want to see every card in the deck more often then decrease it, and the opposite to see all cards less often.

Burying

Burying is done by Anki automatically, in an effort to not show Siblings (Cards which are generated from the same Note). This is because they will most likely share some information, and therefore impact of the later shown cards may be hurt by reviewing the first. Burying a card means to put it back on-top of the deck for tomorrow, essentially delaying the review.

Suspending and Leeches

Anki tracks how many times each card has lapsed (where it was learned, and then was forgotten). If the number of lapses gets above a threshold (default: 8 times) then Anki marks this card as a Leech. The default behaviour is to automatically tag the card with Leech and then Suspend the card, which means the card will never show up in a review again, until you un-suspend it.

You can also manually Suspend a card (or an entire note) through the options menu.

Extensions/Add-ons

Anki is open source, and has great support for Extensions, which you can view here.

To install an extension go into the Extension’s page and find the download code.

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Copy this code, then in the Anki main window click Tools -> Add-ons -> Get Add-ons type the code in the box, and hit OK. The Extension will install, and require a reboot of Anki to function.

Here are some extensions I can recommend:

  1. Night Mode
  2. True Retention
  3. Image Resizer
  4. Image Occlusion Enhanced

Profiles for Multiple Users

File -> Switch Profile

Profiles are intended to be used by different people, and each AnkiWeb account can only keep one profile in sync. For dividing up your own content, you should use separate decks rather than separate profiles, except when using extra profiles for experimenting with changes you don’t plan to sync to other devices.

Very useful for multiple people using the same computer, as you’ll each have your own account to sign into, and sync progress to.




Further reading

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Effective Learning: Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge by Dr Piotr Wozniak

An article which details 20 rules on how to organise your knowledge. Written by Dr Piotr Wozniak, who created SuperMemo, the first SRS application.


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How to Remember Anything Forever-ish by Nicky Case

An interactive web-comic which explains Spaced Repetition Systems, and their background. Very useful for explaining to someone who has never heard of it.


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Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It by Gabriel Wyner

A book about Language Learning using SRS, which contains many simple techniques for creating cards to get the optimum results from minimum effort.


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Anki User Manual

Documentation covering all functionality Anki has to offer. Also see the Anki Github Page if interested, as it’s all Open Source.