Visual learning


Visual learning: Picture processing and incremental picture learning in SuperMemo

A picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures have a great mnemonic power and should be used profusely to illustrate your learning material. SuperMemo features picture operations that should make your work with pictures yet easier and their use more efficient in learning.

Adding pictures to SuperMemo

To add pictures to SuperMemo, paste them from the clipboard, import them from your hard disk, or import them directly from the Internet. There is no upper limit on the size of a collection in SuperMemo. If your disk is large enough and if you know how to backup collections greater than the size of a DVD, there is no need to worry about sizes when importing numerous pictures.

Paste a picture from the clipboard

To paste a picture to SuperMemo, copy it first to the clipboard. In SuperMemo, go to the element that you want illustrated with the picture. Make sure you are in the presentation mode (e.g. press Esc a few times if you are not sure). Press Shift+Insert or Ctrl+V. All components of the current element will be shifted to the left to make space for the picture. A new image component will be created. Your picture will be added to the image registry and connected with the image component.

If your template has a picture equivalent, you will be asked if the picture template should be used. The picture template should have the same name as the currently applied template with the suffix Picture or P. For example, if the applied template is called Physics, and you want picture templates to be suggested automatically for elements with the Physics template, name the picture template Physics Picture or PhysicsP.

SuperMemo: Pasting four pictures of a naked mole rat into a single element

In this example, several pictures of a naked mole rat have been pasted to the presented element. After economizing space for the first picture, SuperMemo will tile the remaining pictures in the available area on the right of the element window (or in the relevant picture area if a custom-made picture template is applied when pasting). Note that you can accomplish the same effect with Import web pages if you select Page of images.

Import picture(s) from your hard disk

A single picture

If your picture resides on the hard disk:

  1. right-click over the image component you want to import the picture to,
  2. choose Import file, and
  3. choose the picture from the disk.

A picture folder

If you want to import an entire album of pictures stored in a specific folder on your hard disk, use File : Import : Files and folders, and choose the folder to import. All files (including non-picture files) will be imported to separate elements that will form a tree structure in the contents window analogous to the structure of imported folders (i.e. the selected folder and its subfolders (if any)). Note that you can automatically delete imported pictures from the import folder. Use this option with caution. To accelerate the import, there is no undo for import delete.

Import pictures from the net

  • Import from the web: If you find some pictures on the net, open them in the Internet Explorer, and use Shift+Ctrl+A to import them to SuperMemo. See Import web pages for details. Download progress for large pictures is displayed on the status bar.

    The import template is determined as follows:
  1. Default topic template for the current category is used if it contains at least one text component (for picture descriptions) and one image component (for the picture)
  2. Predefined Article Picture template is used if it still exists (you can redefine this template or save your own template under this name as long as it contains the required text and image components)
  3. In all other cases, template-less element is created with text and image components as required by the import procedure
SuperMemo: Importing Halle Berry's pictures directly from the web

In the picture above, 17 Halle Berry's pictures are found in opened Internet Explorer tabs/windows and selected for import as Page of images. Note that when pictures are imported from the web in this mode they get automatically tiled.

  • Import from articles in SuperMemo: Once you import an article from the net, all its pictures will still reside on the web. If you would like to make sure you do not lose those pictures (e.g. when the article is pulled off), or if you want the pictures to show up in all extracts and clozes produced in Incremental reading, use Ctrl+F8 (Download images on the HTML component menu).
SuperMemo: Download images dialog box that makes it possible for you to get images embedded in local pages imported from the net and put them to the image registry (in the picture: The Year 2008 in Photographs from

In the picture above, three images from the article The year 2008 in photographs (part 1 of 3) (previously imported to SuperMemo) are selected for import (i.e. localizing into the image registry and illustrating the article). The currently selected picture on the list is called "Tropical Storm Hanna is seen in Gonaives, Haiti on September 3, 2008". This picture is previewed on the right. SuperMemo displays its original name, size and the original web addres. Note that you can change the name of the picture. The new name will be used to locate the picture in the image registry. Once the selected pictures get inserted in the element, they will be used to illustrate all extracts and cloze deletions produced from this article in the process of incremental reading.

If you want your picture to be part of the answer (i.e. not visible at the question time), mark it with Answer on the image component menu.

Tiling pictures

If you are not happy with the way your pictures are tiled, you can rearrange the components and re-tile your pictures. To rearrange components, set them in the dragging mode first. You can switch a component to the dragging mode with Alt+click (click twice until the component becomes gray and draggable). You can switch all the components to the dragging mode with Alt+click over an empty element area, over the navigation toolbar, or over the bottom bar of the Element window. Once in the dragging mode, components can be moved around with the mouse.

To tile components, set the to-be-tiled components in the dragging mode, and choose Components : Tile components (Shift+Alt+T) on the Element menu. Component tiling assistance will help you arrange the components into the optimum set of rows and columns. Components will be tiled into the rectangle determined by the topmost, bottommost, rightmost and leftmost edges of all the components selected for tiling. Positions of all other components are not taken into consideration. Note that once you change either Rows or Columns you need to press Enter in order to recalculate the other parameter and to update the preview grid.

To choose components to tile, you can also press Ctrl+E to set all components in the editing mode, and return non-tile components to the presentation mode with double or triple Alt+click. Finally, you can just check or uncheck the components on the list displayed right before they are to be tiled.

SuperMemo: Tiling Didier Drogba pictures with component tiling assistance

In the picture above, 17 Didier Drogba's pictures are being tiled with the assistance of the Tile arrangement tool. You can use this tool to easily determine in how many rows and columns you want to arrange the pictures available in the current element.

Zooming, slicing, trimming, and cropping pictures

Very often, you only need a small portion of a picture to take part in learning. For example, when learning political geography, you might import a huge map of Africa to SuperMemo. However, for individual items, you might want to limit the displayed portion of the picture to a single country with its direct neighbors.

SuperMemo: The unzoomed picture of the African political map used to illustrate elements related to Africa

In the picture above, you can see an element related to the assassination of the President Habyarimana extracted from the article about the history of Rwanda originally imported from Wikipedia. The element is illustrated with the political map of Africa on the right (the map is neither zoomed nor trimmed; just stretched proportionally within the image component).

SuperMemo: The picture of the African political map zoomed in on Rwanda to illustrate to an item about the assassination of the President Habyarimana in 1994

In the picture above, you can see a cloze deletion produced from the History of Rwanda article. In this element, however, the African political map is zoomed in on Rwanda (and the neighboring nations). The original picture is zoomed in without cropping the original picture file. Zoomed pictures are marked with a border, which is colored bright lime in zoom&trim mode and red in the display mode. If you do not crop the picture, it will remain unchanged (whether zoomed or unzoomed) in all elements that use it (including other extracts from the History of Rwanda article).

To display only a small portion of a picture in a given element, enter the zoom&trim mode by Alt+clicking the picture. You can now use several operations to zoom in onto the interesting portion of the picture:

  • Zoom: click the middle mouse button to zoom in on an interesting portion of the picture
  • Unzoom: Shift+click the middle button to unzoom
  • Move: Shift+drag the zoomed picture to adjust the displayed area
  • Trim: Ctrl+swipe unwanted edges of the picture:
    1. press Ctrl,
    2. point to the edge that is to be cut out,
    3. press down the mouse, and
    4. move it in the direction of the area that is to be cut.
  • Select: drag and select to mark the area that is to be displayed in the picture:
    1. point to one corner of the desired area,
    2. press down the left mouse button,
    3. drag the selection marquee to select a portion of the picture, and
    4. release the mouse button to slice the picture.

Once you zoom in onto the interesting area, press Esc to quit the zoom&trim mode. You will be given the following options:

SuperMemo: The list of options presented upon quitting the zoom&trim mode
  • Leave the picture zoomed/trimmed without changing the file. This will display the selected portion of the picture in the current element without changing the original picture file that might be used elsewhere in its entirety or with other portions zoomed onto. This is the default option. When you revisit the element, it will still be marked with a zoom border. However, the lime-colored border of the zoom&trim mode will be replaced with a red border, which indicates a zoomed picture in the display mode.
  • Permanently cut/crop the zoomed/trimmed image file. This will replace the original picture file with a smaller picture representing the zoomed-in area).
  • Unzoom/undo. This will cancel the changes introduced in the zoom&trim mode.
  • Cancel. This does nothing (i.e. you will stay in the zoom&trim mode)

If you leave the element without terminating the zoom&trim mode, the picture will remained zoomed, and the original picture file will remain unchanged (i.e. as if you chose the default option when terminating the zoom&trim mode with Esc).

Picture processing options

You can quickly access picture processing options with Shift+Ctrl+F8. With this keyboard shortcut you will be able to quickly choose one of the following:

SuperMemo: Picture processing options available by pressing Shift+Ctrl+F8 (Image : Process from the image component menu)
  • Zoom - enter the zoom&trim mode (you can enter this mode even faster with Alt+click over the image)
  • Unzoom - unzoom the zoomed picture, i.e. show the entire original picture
  • Extract (Alt+X) - extract portion of a picture into a new element. This work as follows: duplicate the element, clone the image, and enter the trim&zoom mode for pictures. This will, in essence, produce an extract in the same way as you produce a text extract in incremental reading. Once you finish selecting or trimming the extract, press Esc, and choose Permanently cut/crop the zoomed/trimmed image file. If you do not want the original picture to be marked with extract boundaries, respond with No to Replace picture with a JPG image? After executing Extract, you will have two elements: the original picture with extract boundaries marked (or unchanged, if you do not want to modify the picture), and the new element with a new picture, which is a portion of the original picture (see: example)
  • Crop - delete invisible portions of the picture from the original file (i.e. reduce its size to the visible portion of the zoomed picture). This will affect all elements that use this picture
  • Clone - create a copy of a picture in the image registry (this way, cropping a picture or marking it with extracted portions will not affect other elements that use the same picture in the collection)
  • Compress - reduce the size of the picture by choosing a new size; compression will produce a file that is no greater than the size you choose. In most cases, you can compress a 2-5 MB picture to 200-500 kB without noticing the difference in quality
  • Scale - reduce the size of the picture by reducing its quality, increasing compression, reducing its dimensions, trimming its edges, etc.

Extracting pictures from larger pictures

Picture extracts are analogous to text extracts in Incremental reading. They can also be executed with the same shortcut Alt+X. Note that Alt+X will work as a picture extract if (1) no text is selected, and (2) there is a picture available in the element.

When you press Alt+X on a picture, the element will be duplicated (as is the case with text extracts), the picture will be cloned (i.e. a duplicate of its original will be created), and you will enter the zoom&trim mode described above. Once you zoom onto a portion of the picture, press Esc to crop the extract and return to the original element (from which the extract has been made). SuperMemo will ask you: Replace picture with a JPG image?

SuperMemo: The choice given to the user whether to mark the extracted portion with a bright yellow-red rectangle in the original picture

If you choose Yes, the original big picture will be marked with a bright yellow-red extract rectangle (marking the area that has been extracted). If extract rectangles overlap, you may wish to answer No to make sure the extracts themselves do not get obscured by previous extract borders; however, in such cases you will need to remember which portions of the picture have already been extracted. This means that you will rather need to do all your extracts one after another (i.e. while you keep your progress fresh in memory).


This large picture of Freiburg panorama is too large to view details in SuperMemo. You can therefore extract all interesting portions for independent review. After producing an extract, yellow-red border can indicate which portions of the picture have already been processed:

SuperMemo: The original picture of the Freiburg panorama (too large to view its details) from which 4 picture extracts (marked with bright yellow-red rectangles) have been produced

Individual extracts are small enough to view details without zooming:

SuperMemo: The 2nd extract produced from the original picture of the Freiburg panorama (now small enough to view its details)

Instead of extracting portions of the panorama, you might as well zoom in. However, if you extract only a tiny portion of pictures from a very large image, extracts will consume less disk space (portions of the picture you are not interested in, will be discarded).



You may need to reconfigure your mouse for zooming

From: Miko
Country: Poland
Sent: Sat, Apr 04, 2009, 06:32:05
Subject: Middle button does not zoom


This help topic says that if I middle-click a picture I will be able to zoom in on its parts. My mouse is Logitech MX-1000 Cordless Laser Mouse that features the middle button yet it does not seem to work as described.


Please check your mouse settings and reconfigure them if necessary. It often happens, especially with more advanced mouse models, that manufacturers assign various non-standard tasks to extra buttons of their pointing devices.

In this particular example, in order to reconfigure the middle button do the following:

  1. Double-click the Logitech SetPoint software icon in the notification area (colloquially known as the system tray) to open it
  2. In the My Mouse tab, click the Mouse Button Settings subtab
  3. If you have several pointing devices, select the device you want to customize from the Select Mouse drop down list
  4. In the Select Button list, highlight Middle Button
  5. Select Other in the Select Task list (the Select Function button will appear to the right)
  6. Click the Select Function button to open the Select Other Task dialog box
  7. In the dialog box, select Middle Button from the Select Task drop down list, and press OK to close the box
  8. Press OK to save the new task assignment