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SuperMemo: Step-by-step guide See also: 

If you would like to learn to use SuperMemo 2002 for Windows in a step-by-step manner without missing any important function, we have compiled for you the following learning sequence that seems to be close to the optimum in an average case. It may take a month to master all skills listed below.

  1. Order and download: You can order and download SuperMemo 2002 in 6 minutes using an ordinary modem and a credit card. If you have any technical problems on the way, please review order&download FAQ or write to shop(AT)supermemo(.)com

  2. Install: You can install SuperMemo in seconds by running the downloaded file (a self-extractable archive). SuperMemo does not install any files to non-SuperMemo folders and will not pollute your computer with unwanted DLLs! To uninstall, simply delete SuperMemo folder. If you are new to MS Windows, you can follow these step-by-step installation instructions for beginners

  3. ABC in 3 minutes: 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 even 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+F12), the rest of this step-by-step guide can be considered optional


  4. Help: you can read help pages relevant to a given context by pressing F1

    If you do not have a permanent connection to the Internet, you can install the help file on your hard disk. Benefits and advantages of locally installed help are listed below:



    To determine where SuperMemo looks for help files, press Ctrl+Alt+O (for Options), choose SuperMemo tab, and select the option under Help system (e.g. choose Internet help to always use on-line help or Microsoft Help to always use the CHM file installed locally on your hard disk)

  5. Choose the right difficulty: you can explore SuperMemo in stages by using the difficulty levels available from 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 be needed to use many other 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 difficulty 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 in the beginner level even though Tools : Workload appears only on the middle level menu

  6. Safety of your knowledge -- Backup! Knowledge you store in SuperMemo might belong to your most precious data on your hard disk! After all it cost you months or years of editing and repetitions. You must continue your repetitions indefinitely to make sure you do not forget what you have learned. This is why backup skills are so important!

    The fastest way to backup your collection is to use Shift+F12 (File : Tools : Quick backup). You should make a copy on a different hard disk every few days and on other media every month or so. You will quickly notice that floppy diskettes are not enough to store all your knowledge. It is then highly recommended you use some other high-capacity storage device (e.g. CDR recorder). Read more: Safety of your knowledge


  7. Check the integrity of data regularly: to be sure that your files have not been damaged by a virus or other software and/or hardware problems, use File : Repair collection (Ctrl+F12) from time to time (e.g. once per months)

  8. Hints&Tips: you will find the list of most useful short tips for using SuperMemo here:  SuperMemo Hints&Tips

  9. One body of knowledge: it is recommended that you keep all your knowledge in one collection (you can create new collections with File : New). Here are the benefits of one body of knowledge:
    1. you do not have to open a number of collections each day to make repetitions (you can still learn only selected branches if you wish so)
    2. you can keep one global learning process and one set of statistics (branch statistics tools are also available; for example Count : Burden will tell you how much time you need to spend on a given branch) 
    3. repetitions of mixed-up material are more entertaining and ... boost creativity! You will be amazed how this affects your ability to come up with new ideas and unexpectedly associate facts relating to completely different subjects
    4. you will eliminate a very frequent problem: neglecting some collections at the cost of others. The only rational way of controlling the flow of knowledge and the right proportions between branches is to use the tools provided by SuperMemo. Neglect and procrastination do not belong to these tools. Multiple collections make it easier for you to fail your own resolutions

    If you have already created a couple of collections, you can merge them by using File : Merge collection. Open the collection that is to be merged with your main body of knowledge, choose Merge collection, and point to the collection that keeps your primary learning material 

  10. Processing knowledge: you should remember that all elements introduced into your learning process require endless attention in reference to their applicability, formulation, importance, logic, etc. When an element comes up for a repetition, you should make a quick and nearly instinctive assessment of the following:
    1. Do I really need this element?
    2. Do I really need to know it now? Or can I learn it later?
    3. Is this item difficult to remember? If so, why?
    4. Is it factually correct?
    5. Is it as simple and clear as it could be?

    Here are some typical actions you will take depending on the answer to the above questions (some shortcuts may not work at lower difficulty levels) :

    1. editing an element. In case of questions and answer, you will use keys such as Q, A, or E to enter a desired text field and edit it. In more complex items you will use Ctrl+T to circle between components, or Alt+click to switch a component between editing and dragging modes
    2. forgetting an element. If you think the element is too difficult or not important enough, you can postpone learning it. For this purpose, press Ctrl+R to remove it from the learning process. This will put it at the end of the pending queue
    3. rescheduling the element. If you know the element well or for some other reason want to manually increase (or decrease) the length of the inter-repetition interval, press Ctrl+J to select the date of the next repetition. Alternatively, you can choose Ctrl+Alt+R, which will force a repetition even for elements that are currently in mid-interval (i.e. not yet scheduled for review)
    4. dismissing an element. If you are sure you are not likely to need the element in the future, but you would like to keep it in your collection for reference or archival purposes, press Ctrl+D. Dismissed elements are removed from the learning process and from the pending queue
    5. deleting the item or an article. The key Del is very useful in cleaning your collection from garbage that results from your desire to know more than your memory can hold. You can also use Done with Ctrl+Shift+Enter to delete the content of an element without deleting its children

    This advanced article can help you better understand knowledge flow, processing, and management: Flow of knowledge in SuperMemo 


  11. Searching your collection: to quickly locate elements in your collection you are most likely to use the following three methods:
    1. Press Ctrl+F or choose the button Search to search for a given string in the entire collection. Use this option also for AND-search, OR-search, etc.
    2. Choose Search : Find word and double-click the word you are looking for. All elements using this word will be displayed in the browser (if you have turned off Tools : Options : Data access : Compile lexicon on-the-fly, recently added words may not appear in the lexicon) 
    3. Incremental AND-Search:
      1. Press Ctrl+S to search for the first phrase (start with the less frequent phrase in AND-search)
      2. Continue with Ctrl+S and further phrases to limit the selection in the text registry
      3. Press Ctrl+Shift+B to put all elements that use selected strings in a browser

  12. Statistics of your learning process: you will understand your memory better if you learn to interpret the statistics of the learning process:
  13. Position and size of windows: you will want to arrange individual windows in SuperMemo to your best liking. Your favorite layout will depend on your screen resolution, font used in SuperMemo and your chosen size of the element window. To save the current layout, press Ctrl+Shift+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 statistics windows (e.g. by pressing F5). If you would like to view the ancestor path of the current element, you could also save the ancestor path window by opening it first with Alt+P. If you open, move and 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)

  14. Principles of success in learning: 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

  15. Make your knowledge easy to remember: read 20 rules of formulating knowledge in learning to review most important principles that will make sure you will remember with minimum effort

  16. Reading: if you learn from electronic sources (e.g. the Internet), you can save lots of time by using reading options that will automate and speed up creating new items:
  17. Adding pictures, sound and video: 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 will need to switch to the middle or professional level with File : Level). 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)

  18. Improving the look of your items: 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:
    1. Element menu which can be opened by a right click over an empty element area or over the element toolbar. Some exemplary functions of the element menu:
      • Color changes the color of the element
      • Edit : Title (usually executed by pressing Alt+T) makes it possible to edit the title of the element
      • Background : Import file imports a picture file to be used as the background in the element
      • Delete components deletes all components from an element (e.g. question and answer)
    2. Component menu which can be opened by a right click over a selected component. Some exemplary functions of the component menu that may or may not appear on the menu depending on the context:
      • Color changes the color of the component
      • Import file makes it possible to show a given file inside the component (e.g. picture, HTML file, etc.)
      • Link font associates the component with a font previously stored in the font registry
      • Delete component removes the component 

    You can use Alt+click over a component to switch it to the editing mode. This will make it possible to resize the component, edit texts, etc. If you Alt+click the component again, it will switch to the dragging mode in which you will also be able to move it to another location in the element area. Press Esc to switch the components back to the presentation mode

  19. Automating changes to the looks: 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 so-called templates to be able to reuse a given component arrangement. The most important things to know about templates:

    For more information about templates see: Using templates

  20. Building knowledge tree: 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 in learning. However, a good structure can make it easier to locate portions of materials for review.

  21. Organizing knowledge into categories: you can give items belonging to different branches of the knowledge tree different looks and 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 Ctrl+Shift+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 

  22. Which text components are for you? 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). These 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 seven different SuperMemo components to represent text. To understand pros and cons of using various text components see: Text components used in SuperMemo

  23. Too many repetitions! All users of SuperMemo get to the point when they cannot keep up with repetitions. This can result from an increase in other obligations or simply due to over-zealousness. In case you are late and your Outstanding parameter in the statistics window shows a number 0+0+x (which indicates that only items in the final drill are remaining in the repetitions queue), you can execute Learn : Cut drills. This may reduce chances of recall of items from the final drill in the next repetition; however, Cut drills should generally not harm the learning process in the long run.

    If you do not manage to execute your repetitions for a given day, you can use Learn : Postpone : Postpone all.

    Once you arrive at backlogs that cannot be resolved with the above methods, you may be forced to use Tools : Mercy (Ctrl+Y). Mercy makes it possible to evenly spread outstanding repetitions in a selected period of time

  24. Items you hate: even with a great deal of experience and perfect understanding of knowledge structuring, you will always 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. 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 your 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, re-memorize with a long interval (this will often break unhealthy memory connections that make you slip) or, in most desperate cases, delete the item. Anything with above 20 memory lapses makes a good candidate for deleting -- this knowledge may simply not be worth the cost in your time. To find out which options can help you hunt for leeches see: Leeches in SuperMemo

  25. The power of browsers and subsets: for managing and reviewing large collections, you will find browsers indispensable. Browsers are available from the View submenu. Most of all, browsers will let you work with subsets of elements in your collection. Here are some ways browser can help you in learning:

    To read more about browsers and subsets see:

  26. How much do you remember? To help you decide how much you remember and how much work you have to put in different branches of knowledge, SuperMemo introduces the concept of the forgetting index. See: Using the forgetting index 

  27. Distributing your own learning material among others: if you would like others to use your learning material, you can follow these steps:
    1. remove from your collection comments and elements that are specific to your own needs (you can use the comments registry or comment filters to keep your own comments in continually developed collection)
    2. remove your learning process from the collection by running: File : Tools : Reset collection
    3. if necessary, sort your collection by ordinals (numbers that can be used to determine the sequence of learning), by difficulty or by the sequence of elements in the knowledge tree (at the end of Reset collection SuperMemo will ask you if you would like to sort the collection by ordinals or by the knowledge tree hierarchy)
    4. you can redistribute your collection free or commercially without anybody's permission. You can also write to if you would like to publish your material in SuperMemo Library. You can even redistribute your collections with SuperMemo as long as your collection is unregistered (for more details see: Registering SuperMemo)

  28. Keyboard shortcuts: if you prefer keyboard over the mouse, you will find the keyboard shortcut table useful

  29. Understanding SuperMemo: to fully explore the power of SuperMemo, you will probably need to become acquainted with the way it works. Here are the most important subjects you would need to analyze to reach that goal:
  30. See FAQs for more answers to questions about SuperMemo. If you run into trouble, use SuperMemo Troubleshooter

If you still have questions unanswered, please do not hesitate to write. We also welcome your comments about the clarity of this texts 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!