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Contents : Support
Frequently asked questions about SuperMemo

Question groups:

Memory, learning, mnemonic techniques, etc.
SuperMemo 99  

How to formulate knowledge?
Student Library FAQ
MegaMix CD-ROMs
Advanced English CD-ROMs
SuperMemo for Palm Pilot
SuperMemo for Windows CE
Easy English CD-ROMs
(in Polish)
Other questions
(Linux, Unix, Dos, PalmPilot) (Linux, Unix, Dos, PalmPilot) (Linux, Unix, Dos, PalmPilot)

Recently added questions


(L.G., Brazil, Oct 6, 2000)
Why can I not transfer SM99 collections back to SM8? Do you try to follow Microsoft practices of forcing people into upgrades?
Not at all! The reasons are purely technical. New features are often not supported by old versions and cannot be transferred. For similar reasons you cannot transfer Windows applications back to DOS. Partial transfer can be made by exporting collections as text. However, even this format has undergone change and many features will be lost on the way. For example, SM8 does not support long texts, rich texts, HTML, OLE, 32-bit options and many more. Most of all, one-way upgrades are optional! The only time in the history of SuperMemo where users were indeed forced to take action was in January 2000 when the y2k bug kicked in (not actually affecting the learning process). Naturally, those y2k-compliant upgrades were provided free

Can SuperMemo help remember things that are not stored in SuperMemo?
Yes. To a limited degree. There are three ways in which this is or may be happening: 

  1. knowledge which is closely associated with facts and rules you keep in SuperMemo will often be reinforced even if it is not actually stored in the program. For example, if you memorize a few items about John D. Rockefeller without including his photograph and later see his face on TV, it may happen that you will indefinitely be able to recognize his face. You will notice that Rockefeller's face will subconsciously be brought to your imagination at each repetition related to his life 
  2. SuperMemo will enhance your mnemonic skills and help you improve your short-term memory. This is the case not only with SuperMemo but also with all other forms of learning 
  3. Similarly, learning is likely to have a positive trophic effect on your brain tissue. This should also enhance your general intellectual performance. The scope of this effect is difficult to quantify but it has been proved in a number of experiments that rodents bred in enriched environment grow more neurons, learn faster and live longer

(Siow Yew Nam, Singapore, Oct 10, 1999)
I have created an element that I want to use as a template. How can I make it the default template?
To use the current element as the default template in the current category, use Template : Save as default on the element pop-up menu or simply press Ctrl+Alt+s

(M.R.W., Poland, March 24, 2000)
SuperMemo does not seem to provide enough support for those who cannot afford to spend their time daily on regular repetitions. The daily regimen may discourage a large number of potential users. Sometimes one would like to double the effort. On other occasions, one might not feel like working with the program at all. For example, I could never convince my father to use SuperMemo. When he comes back from work, he is often too tired to watch TV, let alone make repetitions. Do you plan to include special tools that would make it possible to learn only on weekends or exclude certain days of the week?

Weekly calendar of repetitions is in consideration; however, this option adds complexity without actually providing much learning benefit. It may actually appear harmful:

  1. daily repetition regimen comes from the properties of human memory, not from the design of SuperMemo. All delays in making repetitions are unwelcome and should be discouraged
  2. we have documented dozens of cases in which users regularly abused Tools : Mercy and ultimately concluded that SuperMemo does not work! Those users blamed SuperMemo, not their own lack of regularity! We have even removed an infamous tool from SuperMemo 7 called Wipe that made it possible to reduce workload by removing the most difficult items. This tool, despite warnings, have ruined the learning process of many users who used it as the shortest way to spending less time on repetitions
  3. most of users who prefer SuperMemo for Palm Pilot as opposed to SuperMemo for Windows list its simplicity as an advantage second only to portability. Despite its high satisfaction ratings, the main complaint about SuperMemo for Windows is its complexity and featuritis (i.e. too many features)
  4. there is a very simple way towards freeing the user from the daily regimen of repetitions: hiding the statistics. With statistics hidden, the student can delay repetitions without the sense of guilt. He or she can also triple the workload on good days. However, experiments show that in such cases, users add much more learning material that they are able to repeat. This results in significant repetition delays, and a dramatic increase in forgetting. Consequently, the learning process becomes similar to traditional learning, learning results unimpressive and a drop-out rate very high
  5. users who are truly unable to spend their time on learning on certain days are encouraged to stick to a well-balanced Repetition ceiling and regularly run Mercy with Randomize selected among mercy criteria (repetition ceiling should be used here to determine the daily number of repetitions as long as the rescheduling goes over days rather than weeks)

(Mariusz Zmuda, Poland, March 22, 2000)
I sleep seven hours per day and wake up with an alarm clock. I read that using the alarm clock may negatively affect learning. Is it true?
There is a significant body of evidence that the best results in learning you will achieve when having your sleep out. Many individuals need eight or more hours of sleep. It is difficult to predict how damaging the alarm clock can be in your case. It will mostly depend on how much sleep your body actually needs. See: Good sleep, good learning, good life

(Glenn Fraser, Japan, March 16, 2000)
When I choose Add new I cannot edit the texts! Until recently, I was able to work without problems. What might be happening?
You must have saved an empty element as the default template (e.g. by pressing Alt+Ctrl+s upon deleting all components). The simplest solution is:

  1. go to any of the correctly looking elements
  2. choose Template : Save as default (Alt+Ctrl+s). This will save the element as the default template
  3. choose Add new (Ctrl+A). This will add a new element with the same looks as the saved element
  4. delete texts, sound or images saved in Step 2
  5. choose Template : Save as default again (Alt+Ctrl+s). This will save the template with the right looks but without any content