Introduction to SuperMemo 2002

Colm de Bhuinn (b. 1989), Caoimhe de Bhuinn (b. 1992), Summer 2002, Ireland

This article was submitted by 13-year-old Colm and 10-year-old Caoimhe from Ireland. It is intended to illustrate that using SuperMemo 2002 isn't as difficult as it seems. As long as the initial obstacles and frustrations are overcome, the adventure with knowledge can begin The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things - Plato

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction

  2. First Steps

  3. ABC Collection

  4. Incremental Reading

  5. Contents Window

  6. Templates


SuperMemo is an authoring software that will help you remember by repeatedly quizzing you on the material that you collect for learning. In authoring software, you are the author. The SuperMemo method of learning may be new to you so we would like to help you get started.

On the first appearance, SuperMemo may look intimidating, the interface unfriendly, creating the impression that it would take too long to learn. Let us assure you, SuperMemo is not difficult to learn. SuperMemo is, yes, a different approach to learning and therefore you will have to bear this in mind. SuperMemo is an established and integral part of our daily learning, it has helped us immeasurably. We can learn more material in a shorter time. But please allow time to develop the skills that are pertinent to you. Our learning collections consist of material that we have authored ourselves and material from the SuperMemo Library.

This article is intended for the beginner bearing in mind that you may also perhaps be new to computing. It is obviously beyond the scope of this page to give a detailed discussion but we trust it will be of some benefit to you. Dr. Len Budney is another SuperMemo user who has written several articles relating to his experiences using SuperMemo.

First Steps


In Windows Explorer, select C: or the appropriate letter name for your hard drive. On the main toolbar select File : New : Folder. Name this folder SuperMemo. You can now download the SuperMemo exe file directly into this folder (e.g. sm2002zip.exe), or if you have the file already downloaded, copy it into this folder for unpacking.

To unpack sm2002zip.exe file, double click the file with the left mouse button or on the right click pop-up menu select Open. If you have WinZip or a similar program, from the right click pop-up menu select 

WinZip > Extract to here.

After extracting, the folders in the SuperMemo directory are bin and systems. If you download the Help for SuperMemo 2002 (5.4MB), put it also in the bin folder. The systems folder is where your collections with learning material are stored.

Please note: Nowhere else on your system are there any SuperMemo files. All files and folders related to SuperMemo are stored in the SuperMemo directory.

Unlock Password:

If you have received your password via e-mail you can now unlock the program. If you have not yet received your password you can obtain it from the SuperMemo company (write to SuperMemo World).

You can install your password by going to the main menu File : Installation : Input password (Shift+Ctrl+I)

enter password registered


There are four levels of functionality in SuperMemo: Beginner, Basic, Middle and Professional. For several reasons we suggest you set up SuperMemo in the professional level:

By default, SuperMemo starts in the beginner level. To see the different levels go to the main menu and select File : Level or using the keyboard, cycle through the different levels with Ctrl+Alt+F12.


Layout is really about the resolution of your monitor and your very own preferences. You can experiment to find a layout that suits you best. But bear in mind, that you can change your layout any time. Here is the layout that we currently use. We have been using this layout for a long time now:


Let us begin to set this layout assuming that you are in the professional level. The first thing to do is to dock the toolbars window. On the main menu select: Window : Dock (Ctrl+Alt+F11). It is possible to dock individual toolbars from the main menu (Windows : Toolbars).

You will notice with our layout that the toolbars are not entirely visible (to save screen space). To bring the toolbars to the front click on an empty area on the main toolbar. To hide them click on the element window. You can include individual toolbars as part of your layout. Simply drag them to your chosen location and save the layout (Ctrl+Shift+F5). An example of this would be the Read toolbar for incremental reading.

The status bar will dock at the bottom of the element window as in the layout figure above. From the main menu you can choose Window : Status bar to show and hide the status bar. The status bar provides you with information on the status of your collection and repetitions as in the following example:

Status bar

The first two numbers on the left tell you that 4145 is the number of the learnt elements (i.e. pieces of knowledge) whilst 5734 is the total number of elements to learn in the collection. Therefore, the difference between the two numbers is the amount of the material yet to be learnt (so called pending material).

The next numbers provide you with the data about your today's repetitions. 11 is the number of outstanding repetitions (i.e. repetitions remaining for today). The final number (94) is the total number of repetitions for today. In other words, you still have 11 repetitions of the original 94. 

Use the resize handles if necessary to size your chosen layout to fit the screen. When you are satisfied with your choice of layout you can save it as follows: Window : Layout : Save as default (Shift+Ctrl+F5). Enter a title for your layout and click OK. If your layout goes AWOL, you can bring it back by simply pressing Ctrl+F5. Or from the main menu: Window : Layout : Layout manager : Apply.

ABC Collection

SuperMemo 2002 comes with a collection called ABC.kno. This collection will give you a basic understanding of the workings of SuperMemo. All you have to do is click Learn on the bottom of the element window to begin.

Elements in SuperMemo can be of two basic types: topics or items.

An example of a topic would be an article or article extract in incremental reading. Topics do not require any grading, merely click on the button Next repetition or press Enter on the keyboard.

An item is where you quiz yourself with specific questions and answers on the relevant subject matter. You can use multimedia to author these items, images, sounds, video et cetera. One of the fastest means to create items is to use so called Cloze deletion

With items, you must grade yourself using the grading buttons: 


You can do so as follows:

Bright indicates that the question was answered excellently without hesitation. Good: you answered the question correctly. Pass is when you remember the answer with effort. You use Fail when you fail to answer correctly. A completely wrong or no answer is graded with a Bad or even Null. With the passage of practice and time, you will formulate your own interpretation of these grading buttons. All the questions graded Pass, Fail, Bad, and Null enter the final drill (i.e. final memory refreshing before the end of learning).

After you learn the ABC.kno collection, you have the choice to continue authoring your own material in this collection, or you may prefer to start a completely new collection. To create a new collection go to the main menu and choose File : New collection. In the File name field type the name of the new collection and click on the Open button or simply press Enter. The name of the collection can be a specific subject, e.g. Science, English or even your own name, e.g. Colm or Caoimhe.

Authoring your own collections will require a little practice so we suggest you read Learning Decalog. Another article worth reading at this particular time would be 20 rules of formulating knowledge.

Incremental Reading

Incremental reading is a major new technology that allows you to read a vast amount of material in your limited time. Before we discovered incremental reading, a text book and a pen were very important. We had to highlight important passages to remember or even write out whole sentences and phrases. We are sure that you know this scenario only too well!

With incremental reading you can electronically do all this and more! Articles can be imported using many methods, for example, with a scanner. But for the quickest method and for the widest choice of material there is nothing to beat the Internet. With SuperMemo 2002 you can import whole web pages, images can stay on a remote server saving you disk space and time. They can also proliferate and illustrate all elements that you create from a single article. You can extract words, phrases, paragraphs et cetera to allow for deeper scrutiny of the material. Then you secure the extracts by formulating cloze deletions (sentences with gaps to fill). Cloze deletions are very easy to remember with SuperMemo.

Incremental reading is now the main thrust of our studies. One point to bear in mind -- be patient, and you will be well rewarded. Learning is equivalent to a marathon, time and effort is required. No child was born with a doctorate or Nobel prize in her hand!

Contents Window

Opening the contents window is equivalent to opening a book on the table of contents. The difference here is that you are the author, you arrange the table of contents. Placing your knowledge i.e. items, topics and tasks into their respective branches and categories (i.e. branches of elements group by their appearance and priority).

A category is the equivalent to a subject area of learning, science, languages, sport, whatever. So, if you only want to study law in SuperMemo, one category will suffice. But if you learn more, you could create separate categories: Law, Computer Science, English et cetera. After a period of time, SuperMemo will become your very own large e-book of knowledge.

To access the contents window click Contents on the element toolbar, or press the keyboard shortcut Alt+C. A sample view of a knowledge tree within the contents window:

Contents window

The tree starts with the root: "Welcome to SuperMemo". To briefly explain this, the branches, "How does SuperMemo work?" and "Repetitions" are children of the parent root and also siblings. "How does SuperMemo work?" does not have any children. The branch "Repetitions" has children who in turn have children and so it can go on for many levels.

This is the meaning of the icons in the knowledge tree:

Pending topic
Pending topic - A topic that has not yet entered the learning process (e.g. article that we want to read later)
Learnt topic
Learnt topic - A topic that is in the learning (e.g. article that we are reading)
Dismissed topic
Dismissed topic - A topic which has been dismissed (removed, taken out) from the learning (e.g. article that has been read and completely processed)
Pending item
Pending item - An item that is not in the learning (e.g. question that we have not learnt yet)  
Learnt item
Learnt item - An item that is in the learning process (e.g. question that we already memorized)
Dismissed item
Dismissed item- An item which has been dismissed from the learning (e.g. question which we do not want to remember but want to keep it in the archive) 


Templates is a subject that appears to cause a lot of confusion among users of SuperMemo (see here), this need not be the case. To view the template registry go to the main menu Search : Templates. Within the template registry are predefined templates that come as part of your SuperMemo. For example, in SuperMemo 2002 the default template is HTML. Therefore, if you imported this article as a web page into your learning (e.g. with Ctrl+Alt+N), the HTML topic template would be the default template.

You can of course create your own templates to suit your own particular tastes. To create your own templates, you will have to use components (e.g. pictures, sounds) within an empty element window. To do this, use Edit : Add components or undock the Compose toolbar from the toolbars window. You can save your desired template from the element menu (right mouse click, pop-up menu): Template : Save template.

To see that playing with templates and multimedia objects is fun, see this free collection: Spanish Alphabet for Kids.

It is helpful to assign your template to a category. This will ensure that every time you press Ctrl+Shift+A your category template will be used. This is not intended to imply that when you assign a template to a category that you must rigidly stick with this template for every child in the category. It is still possible to assign individual elements to have individual templates.

The registries is where all objects (templates, texts, sounds, images, videos et cetera) are stored. This is to say, a sound file will be in the sound registry, an image file will be in the image registry and so on. The registries can be viewed from the main menu Search. It is therefore to the registry you will go when you wish to use a particular object, if it is already stored in the registry. This can be done by using the component menu (right mouse click over a component) Links : Registry member. This way, for example, you can reuse the same picture in many elements.

You can learn more about SuperMemo by reading this file. You can also simply start working with the program. However, please remember to periodically backup your collection!


We would like to thank our father for the assistance and encouragement he has given us in authoring this page. He provides the stimulus and nourishment to a world full of colorful learning. Learning that we both love and cherish.