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Contents : Overviews
Using various text components in SuperMemo

Text is the primary form of knowledge representation in SuperMemo. Lots of your time will be spent on processing texts (esp. in incremental reading). This is why your decisions about choosing appropriate text components are important.

Plain text components have traditionally been the most often used text components in earlier versions of SuperMemo. These consume little space and can be searched at high speeds with SuperMemo low-level search procedures. With the advent of incremental reading; however, HTML components have become the default text components in SuperMemo. HTML and rich text components provide many formatting options; however, they consume more disk space. To save space, use Classic template (and its derivatives) instead of HTML-based templates (see: Using templates). Optimally, you should use HTML or rich text components with incremental reading and use classic plain text templates on items that have been completed (i.e. formulated in their final shape). SuperMemo automatically removes rich text formatting from texts used in plain text components when you run File : Repair collection. This practice helps you keep your collections compact and fast.

The table below summarizes pros and cons of various text components in SuperMemo:

    Type Advantages Disadvantages Typical use
    HTML component

    This component is used by templates such as Item, Article, Item Picture, etc.

    1. richest formatting
    2. full incremental reading support
    3. full HTML and JavaScript support
    4. images can be inserted in the text
    5. Unicode support
    6. search possible
    7. search&replace possible
    8. phonetic transcription possible


    1. Internet Explorer 6.0 or later required
    2. all texts kept in separate files (this slows down copying large collections)
    3. cannot modify font via templates
    4. text filters cannot be used
    5. may produce mshtml.dll errors in older installations
    6. Unicode font mapping produces unreadable registry references in some languages (e.g. Russian, Arabic, etc.)
    1. default text format
    2. incremental reading
    3. richly formatted files with scripts and multimedia
    4. whole websites
    5. files that can be displayed in Internet Explorer (e.g. XLS, PDF, DOC, RTF, GIF, etc.; see FAQ below)


    Plain text component 
    (simple text component)

    This component is used by the Classic template

    1. small size
    2. speed
    3. font modifiable via templates
    4. can be made transparent
    5. search possible
    6. search&replace possible (including Apply filter)
    7. automatic translation and phonetic transcription
    1. no rich formatting
    2. unsuitable for incremental reading
    3. only 256-character set fonts supported
    1. simple question-answer items (e.g. created with Remember Cloze)
    2. transparent labels
    Rich text (RTF) component 

    This component is used in templates such as Rich text, RTF items, etc.

    1. rich formatting possible (e.g. many fonts in one text component)
    2. incremental reading supported
    3. search possible
    4. search&replace possible (including Apply filter)
    5. phonetic transcription possible
    1. large size of files
    2. slow processing of longer texts
    3. cannot modify font with templates
    4. cannot interlace pictures and other multimedia
    1. incremental reading
    2. rich formatting in the absence of Internet Explorer
    Spelling component
    1. used for spelling tests
    2. small size
    3. speed
    4. font modifiable via templates
    5. search possible
    6. search&replace possible
    1. useless beyond spelling tests 
    1. spelling exercises
    OLE component
    1. using proprietary formats (e.g. MS Word format)
    2. using mind-maps
    1. very large size of files
    2. files can only be edited if the proprietary editor is installed
    3. words do not enter the lexicon 
    4. search not possible
    5. search&replace not possible
    6. translation and phonetic transcription not available
    7. may be unstable if there are problems with OLE server communication
    8. cannot modify font via templates
    1. imported files
    2. spreadsheets
    3. text interlaced with images
    Sound component
    1. sound can be associated with the text
    2. search possible
    3. search&replace possible (including Apply filter)
    4. font modifiable via templates
    5. phonetic transcription and translation supported
    1. very slow
    2. cannot be made transparent
    3. provide no advantages over plain text if no sound associated
    1. pronunciation exercises
    2. learning material narration
    Image component
    1. can represent most complex formatting needed for mathematical or chemical formulas
    1. large size of files
    2. words do not enter the lexicon 
    3. search not possible
    4. search&replace not possible
    5. translation and phonetic transcription not available
    6. cannot modify font via templates
    1. complex formulas that are hard to represent in HTML or OLE

Frequently Asked Questions

Use plain text components in templates if you want to customize the font
Templates can affect formatting

Pictures cannot be pasted to rich text components

Rich texts in SuperMemo behave like WordPad

It is possible to use Acrobat Reader files with SuperMemo
There is no PDF support in development plans but ... 
You can learn from PDF files with SuperMemo

Rich text components need to be printed separately

RTF components do not support OLE

Pictures cannot be pasted to rich text components
(MSmith, Nov 1, 2000)

Why can I not paste pictures into the rich text component?
You need to use HTML components instead. SuperMemo uses Microsoft's Rich Edit 1.0 control that does not support pictures (except via OLE)

Use plain text components in templates if you want to customize the font
(Adam, Australia, Wed, May 23, 2001 4:32)
HTML and rich text format field does not seem to remember a custom font name when in a custom template. I am trying to create a default template. There are just two standard RTF fields, but I am using different fonts: Arial, Rockwell, etc. When I save a new template as default, and create a new element, the fonts always show up as MS Sans Serif
It is enough you use plain text components instead of rich text components (RTF fields). Rich text and HTML components do not have fonts associated as these are encoded inside the formatted RTF and HTML text files

It is possible to use Acrobat Reader files with SuperMemo
(Mala Kaur, Tuesday, July 24, 2001 6:03 AM)
I wanted to import PDF files to SuperMemo for reading and copying certain items for further analysis. I initially tried to use Insert as an OLE object but I found OLE mechanisms unstable
Another approach is to use the HTML component. Use Insert HTML link : HTML file (on the HTML component menu) and link to the PDF file. Using this option the PDF file is not immediately visible as only files of type *.txt,*.htm, *.rtf are listed. To see the PDF files on your drive type in *.pdf in the file name field and they become visible in the File window. Naturally, you need to have Acrobat Reader installed to view the file in SuperMemo. The same method works for Excel files, Word files, etc. However, you might made your life simpler if you just pasted your PDF text into HTML component

Rich texts in SuperMemo behave like WordPad
(Walter G. Mayfield, Jr., Thursday, July 12, 2001 4:02 AM)
For some reason my text bullets are clock faces, is there a way to change this to regular bullets through the text registry?
Rich text components in SuperMemo are based on Windows Rich Edit control. This implies that their behavior should mirror that of Windows WordPad. Bullet customization must be happening outside SuperMemo. You can use Edit : Edit file on the component menu (F9) to edit your texts in your default word processor (e.g. WordPad or MS Word). You can also use Edit : View source (F12) to edit low-level rtf code (only for advanced users!)

Rich text components need to be printed separately
(Ronn, Tuesday, August 28, 2001 4:26 AM)
I have been trying to print out the questions and answer element. I click on print and all I get is a blank sheet of paper
Rich text components do not get printed along the element content. You can work around this problem in the following ways: 

1. Using Text : Print on the rich text component pop-up menu (right click) 

2. Copying questions and answers via clipboard (e.g. Ctrl+C

3. Using plain text components instead of rich text components (e.g. apply Classic template

All this trouble results from a bug in Delphi VCL library (SuperMemo development tool) that fails to print RTF texts on form printouts

There is no PDF support in development plans
(Jens, supermemo Quito, 20.04.02)
Many documents these days, especially relevant to scientists, are PDF documents, and SM2002 does not deal with those
SuperMemo will strive at maximum integration with the Internet content. Ultimately, the content should be defined as XML. PDF format is proprietary and would add complexity to the program. In addition it is burdened with the publishing industry point of view (fixed "page look"), and it does not separate content from style. SuperMemo will support non-HTML/XML formats and components (e.g. RTF, Script, OLE, etc.) as long as there are collections that make use of these components, and as long as there are learning functions that cannot be expressed otherwise (e.g. Mind Manager mindmaps). Otherwise, the target is a uniform format for SuperMemo along the Internet standards. For that reasons, the PDF format will not be supported

You can learn from PDF files with SuperMemo
(Bob Welzel, Thursday, August 22, 2002 2:33 PM)
I would like to use incremental reading, however, a large proportion of the learning material I would like to know is in PDF files. SuperMemo does not support this format. What do you advise?
You could choose between the following two solutions:

  1. You could convert original PDF files to HTML documents, which can be later easily imported to SuperMemo. E.g. if your PDF files are available on-line, you could visit the Adobe PDF Conversion by Simple Form page.
  2. You could read your PDF files in Acrobat Reader, select only the most important pieces with the Text Select Tool, copy them to the clipboard, and paste them to SuperMemo as individual articles

Templates can affect formatting
(CMaggio99, Friday, May 10, 2002 12:04 AM)
Could I have changed a template setting that would have changed the way HTML files are displayed? When I import HTML files either through Shift+F8 or through Import file the file formatting is lost and so are the pictures
Yes. This would happen if your template used an RTF component instead of an HTML component. RTF cannot display HTML formatting or pictures. Most likely, you will need to restore the default topic template in your default category to any HTML topic template (e.g. predefined "Article")

RTF components do not support OLE
(Michael Smith, Canada, Tue, May 28, 2002 0:25)
Could I have an OLE object inside the RTF answer window (e.g. mathematical formula)?
No. RTF components do not support OLE. You could try using OLE component for the same purpose. For example, create a new MS Word document within the OLE component and paste the OLE formula. Important: Turn off Scaled on the element menu to improve performance of OLE components