FAQ: Collection authoring with SuperMemo 2000

You can keep different font for questions and for answers
You can change the position of the question window
Rich text components do not store fonts
There is an important difference between items and topics
You can change the font in a number of items at once

You can quickly change items into topics
You can learn English in your own language (e.g. Japanese)
You can center texts in text components
Pictures can serve as answers
You can turn off component focus switching on mouse move

Knowledge tree is like a family tree
You can underline important words
If Add New does not create needed components, you can redefine the template

You can import text files as questions and answers
You can display structural formulas in chemistry
You can add mathematical formulas
You can quickly duplicate elements
You can copy components via the ClipBox
Creating a hyperlink is simple
Keep only one collection!
Copy collection can be used to take your learning material for a vacation

If you have many collections, you can merge them in one
Categories help you organize material in groups
To use a category template you need to select the category
You can add sounds to your items
Delete texts from a template before saving it
After choosing a category, last added element is displayed
Components are displayed in the same order they were added to an element
Use Apply Template in the browser to globally replace one template with another
You can delete all occurrences of 'zzzz'
Secondary storage is used to tell SuperMemo where your CD-ROM is
You can add new phonetic transcription entries
You can see the number of the current element
In question-and-answer import you need to use plain text files

You can only move single elements between branches or transfer a selected number of adjacent children

SuperMemo cannot decide when to reset the learning parameters of an element

See also: Advanced Authoring FAQ


You can keep different font for questions and for answers
(Eryk Horloza, Poland, June 3, 1997)
Question:
How can I keep different fonts for the question and the answer component in SuperMemo?
Answer:
The fastest way is:

  1. Add a new item with Ctrl+A
  2. Apply Classic template (Ctrl+Shift+M, type Classic and press Enter) (you need at least Middle level for this to work)
  3. On the pop-up menu of the question component choose Text : New font (or Links : Font if you have already defined the font)
  4. Select the appropriate question font
  5. Select the answer font in the same way
  6. On the element pop-up menu choose Template : Save as default (or simple press Ctrl+Alt+s)
  7. Choose Ctrl+A again to see if your new template has been applied correctly

Now your new template with new fonts will be used each time you add a new item


You can change the position of the question window
Question:
How can I change the position of the question field on the screen?
Answer:
Alt-click the question twice. It will become draggable. Alternatively, you can choose Dragging mode on the question's pop-up menu or on the element pop-up menu (in the latter case, all components will become draggable). If you want to change this position globally (i.e. in all elements in your collection), you should use templates. See: Using templates


There is an important difference between items and topics
(Jim Ivy, USA, June 4, 1997)
Question:
What is the difference between a topic and an item?
Answer:
Topics are used to present knowledge or learn by reading (e.g. articles on the reading list). Items are used to test knowledge by means of repetitions (very often they have the question-and-answer structure). See also: Topics vs. items


You can quickly change items into topics
(Piotr Wysocki, Poland, May 14, 1997)
Question:
How can I change an item to a topic and vice versa without using branch operations in the contents window?
Answer:
Press Ctrl+Shift+P and select the type in Element type
(on Item/Topic tab). See also: Topics vs. items


You can learn English in your own language (e.g. Japanese)
(Tomoki Takahashi, Japan, Feb 6, 1999)
Question:
I would like to learn English with questions asked in Japanese. How can I do it?
Answer:
You have to (1) create your own template with the Japanese font in the plain-text question field (you can use Text : New Font to change the question font in the classic template), (2) save the template with Template : Save as default. Do not use rich text components in your template as these do store a font setting!
After this, each time you choose Add new (or press Ctrl+A), your questions will be generated in Japanese and answers will retain standard look (you can also swap English with Japanese by using Edit : Swap components).
Although you cannot change the writing direction in SuperMemo text components (from yokogaki to tategaki), you can include texts via OLE from Japanese Word or Ichi Taro word processors. These programs use either Microsoft IME or ATOK utilities to input Japanese text. Microsoft IME is part of Japanese Windows. ATOK is part of the Ichi Taro word processor (Justy System) but can be installed as a separate unit. With ATOK you can change from the English to the Japanese input mode. It is fully compatible with SuperMemo: 1) You type the pronunciation of a word from the keyboard, 2) press Space, and 3) select the appropriate kanji(s) from the list showing those matching the input sounds combination. Ganbatte ne


You can center texts in text components
(Jake White, USA, May 14, 1997)
Question:
I learn Romanian vocabulary. How can I center the word in the question component?
Answer:

  • if you are using rich text component: click the text and click the center alignment on the Format toolbar
  • if you are using plain text components: check Text : Alignment : Center on the question component pop-up menu (available with right-click)

Pictures can serve as answers
(Bonnie Smithson, USA, Feb 24, 1998)
Question:
How do I put pictures into the answer part?
Answer:

After adding an image component to your item, check Answer on the image component pop-up menu


Knowledge tree is like a family tree
(John Gibney, Australia, Sep 1, 1998)
Question:
What is the difference between children and descendants in the knowledge tree?
Answer:
Children of a given element are those elements that are shown when you click the plus sign to the left of the element. They are all connected with the parent element and are shifted one level to the right. The descendants of a given element are all children of all children of all children, etc. If you take an analogy with a family, the descendants of an individual include children, grand children, grand grand children and so on. For more see: Creating the knowledge tree


You can underline important words
(David K. Harris, Peking University, Oct 23, 1998)
Question:
I would like to underline important words in my elements, but have not yet figured out how to change the font of individual words within components
Answer:
You should use RTF components instead of plain text components. In an RTF component, select the text to underline and click the underline icon on the Edit toolbar (or Ctrl+U). If you want all your elements to use RTF components instead of text components, save your RTF components as a default template for your currently used category. Read more: Using templates


You can import text files as questions and answers
(Jeremy Sherman, USA, Oct 12, 1998)
Question:
I am using Filemaker Plus to create a more comprehensive database for quotes, my ideas, etc. of which only a select number of items are the kind I would want to commit to memory. I have not found any reference in the help menu to ways to import a number of elements and test items directly into SuperMemo. Can you suggest a format for importation? I do see the section on Import Q&A but I don't see how to format the fields
Answer:
For File : Tools : Import : Q&A text, it is enough you create a text file in the following format:

q: <text of the question>
a: <text of the answer>

q: <text of the question>
a: <text of the answer>, etc. etc.

For example:

q: What is the name of the Polish king dynasty that ended with Casimir III?
a: Piast dynasty

q: Which Polish king dynasty did Casimir the Great belong to?
a: Piast dynasty, etc. etc.


You can display structural formulas in chemistry
(Charles Maggio, USA, July 7, 1997)
Question:
I use ChemDraw to create structured formulas of organic substances. How can I paste them to an image component?
Answer:
You can use your ChemDraw formulas and formulas generated with other applications as long as they support OLE 2.0. Do not use the image component here, use the OLE component. This will make it easier to edit your formulas once you decide to change them


You can add mathematical formulas
(Gabor Schmera, USA, Dec 13, 1997)
Question:
I would like to add mathematical formulas to my items. What is the best way? I have equations ready with MS Word 97.
Answer:
Use OLE component to display files generated with other applications (if they support OLE 2.0)


You can quickly duplicate elements
(Ryszard Kosowicz, Krakow, Poland, May 16, 1997)
Question:
How can I quickly copy the text of an item to another item without using clipboard twice (for question and for answer)?
Answer:
Use Duplicate on the element pop-up menu (or press Ctrl+Alt+D on the copied element)


You can copy components via the ClipBox
(Doug Edmunds, USA, Nov 4, 1997)
Question:
How do I paste the contents of a Component ClipBox on a new element?
Answer:
Drag it onto an empty area in the element window


Creating a hyperlink is simple
(David Mckenzie, New Zealand, Apr 8, 1998)
Question:
How to make a hyperlink?
Answer:

Choose Link : Hyperlink on the component pop-up menu and click the element that is to be hyperlinked in the contents window


Keep only one collection!
(David Mckenzie, New Zealand, Apr 8, 1998)
Question:
Is there any point in keeping collections separate?
Answer:

No. Once you master contents categories and templates, there is no point. You gain global search, global registries, global repetitions, global optimization, etc. This would not be advisable back in SuperMemo 7 as item difficulty measure (E-factor) was dependent on the average difficulty of items in the collection. Presently, the item difficulty measure (A-Factor, or absolute difficulty factor) is absolute and does not depend on the context in which an item is placed (see: Algorithm SM-8). Only the length of the first interval will significantly be affected by the average difficulty of items in the collection. However, this shall not bear dramatically on the speed of learning. Especially that variable forgetting index for individual items makes it possible to set different first intervals for whole contents categories or branches of the knowledge tree


If you have many collections, you can merge them in one
(Peter Rasmussen, Denmark, May 20, 1999)
Question:
I created a couple of collections and would like to put them all into one. How can I do it?
Answer:
In each collection go to the root node in the contents window and select Tools : Transfer branch from the pop-up menu (right-click). Always select the same collection as the target of the transfer. Please note that unregistered objects do not get transferred (e.g. script images, global background image, global default font, etc.). You will have to set those manually and resolve possible conflicts (e.g. you can use only one global background image but you can set images individually for all elements if necessary)


Categories help you organize material in groups
Question:
What is the purpose of the category registry (Search : Categories)?
Answer:
SuperMemo introduces the concept of a category to help you keep items related to different subjects in different branches of the knowledge tree (contents window). It also makes it possible to give different item groups different appearance (e.g. size of text components, screen layout, font, color, and many more). Read more: Using categories


To use a category template you need to select the category
(Vidar Garlie, Norway, Mar 18, 1999)
Question:
When I go to the contents window, select a category branch and click Ctrl+A, the template of this category is not used! Can you help?
Answer:
To use a category template, you have to first choose the category in the category combo box on the Tools toolbar. Selecting branches in the contents window does not affect the current category selection


You can add sounds to your items
(Ron Uebel, Feb 7, 2001)
Question:
I just need to know how to paste a wav or audio file as an item. And when I paste it into an item at the top, I want to add text as an answer at the bottom

Answer:
Try the following:

  1. Add a new item (e.g. Ctrl+A
  2. Create an audio component by using the Compose toolbar
  3. Use Ctrl+Q to import an audio file (unless the file is already in the sound registry)
  4. Right click on the sound component and choose Play at from the menu to change the behavior of the sound component
  5. Create a text component by using the Compose toolbar
  6. Type in the text in the text component
  7. Right click on the text component and check Answer on the menu

Delete texts from a template before saving it
(Brian DeMio, USA, Jan 10, 1999)
Question:
I changed the template for the questions so that I have a purple background and yellow fonts. Everything is fine with that part.
After I entered in an element (question and answer) I hit Ctrl+A to put in a new one. The question from the previous element keeps popping up in the new elements where you are supposed to input answers. How can I fix this?
Answer:
Please make sure that when you save your template there are no texts in text components. You can accomplish that by choosing Save as template rather than Save with objects on the element pop-up menu


After choosing a category, last added element is displayed
(Marcin Piekarniak, Poland, Dec 2, 1997)
Question:
Why after choosing a contents category the last item in the category is displayed; not first?
Answer:
When you add new items you want to know which one was added last. You can easily navigate to the root by using the parent button on the navigation toolbar (or press Ctrl+Alt+Up)


Components are displayed in the same order they were added to an element
(Volker Goretzki, Germany, Feb 22, 1998)
Question:
Which rules does the overlapping of components follow?
Answer:

Components are displayed in the order in which they were added to the element. To change this order use Component order on the element window pop-up menu


You can delete all occurrences of 'zzzz'
(Volker Goretzki, Germany, May 6, 1997)
Question:
I would like to remove all occurrences of a string 'zzzz' from a collection. What is the simplest way?
Answer:
(1) Choose Search : Text, (2) choose Find and replace on the menu, e.g. by pressing Ctrl+R, (3) type in 'zzzz' in Find what field, (4) leave Replace with empty, and (5) choose Replace All


Secondary storage is used to tell SuperMemo where your CD-ROM is
(Artur Osadowski, Poland, Sep 5, 1998)
Question:
Does the setting of Access Mode in Tools : Options : Data access affect the accessibility of sounds on CD-ROM?
Answer:
No. To make sure SuperMemo correctly reads sounds from CD-ROM, you only have to provide the correct path in Tools : Options : Data access : Secondary storage


You can add new phonetic transcription entries
(Dusko Ivanisevic, New Zealand, Oct 1, 1998)
Question:
How can I add phonetic transcription to some words?
Answer:
Press Ctrl+Alt+P and type in the word and its transcription. If the transcription dialog does not appear, you have not chosen phonetic transcription in Options. In such a case do the following:

  1. Choose Tools : Options : Language : Phonetic transcription
  2. Select ready-made transcription file or type in a name for new phonetic transcription registry (in the latter case, you will be building phonetic transcription registry from scratch)
  3. If necessary, choose Font on the left to select phonetic transcription font (e.g. IPA font available from Advanced English)
  4. Once a given word appears on the screen, press Alt+Y to transliterate all texts (or use on-mouse-move transliteration)

Note that SuperMemo Library includes IPA phonetic transcription of English (including the IPA font) with 72,000 transcriptions


You can see the number of the current element
(Doug Edmunds, USA, Nov 4, 1997)
Question:
What is the fastest way of checking the number of the currently displayed element?
Answer:
press Ctrl+G (or look at the caption of the element data window)


In question-and-answer import you need to use plain text files
(C. Martin, Germany, May 23, 2001)

Question:
I create an RTF file with multiple choice text items. When I import this with File : Tools : Import : Q&A Text nothing gets imported
Answer:
You need to use a plain text file format (i.e. not an RTF file). For example, save your file via a NotePad rather than via MS Word


Rich text components do not store fonts
(Christoph Lichtenberger, Germany, Tue, Apr 24, 2001 0:18)

Question:
It seems that applying or even imposing a template never changes the fonts of an element's text fields
Answer:
This is true for rich text templates. Rich texts have the font encoded in the text file. If you want to impose a font on your elements, use a template in which plain text components are used instead (e.g. Classic template). Plain text components keep a fixed font association. The font you use in the template will then be visible in your elements


You can turn off component focus switching on mouse move
(Adam, Australia, Tue, May 01, 2001 3:06)
Question:
My Sound component kept disappearing under the question field. I had to move the latter to be able to relocate the former. When I tried to remove the Sound component by using a menu, it kept losing focus and some other element was being selected for deletion
Answer:
You can turn off focus switching with the mouse by unchecking Activate edited components on mouse move in Tools : Options : Mouse


If Add New does not create needed components, you can redefine the template
(noam-at, Israel, Aug 04, 2001)
Question:
When I click Add New, I get a new item, but SuperMemo doesn't create two editing fields for the question and answer. Instead, I see the gray screen of SuperMemo without any fields
Answer:
Add New
uses the default template to create new items. If you delete all components (e.g. question and answer fields) from the default template, Add New will add new elements that look empty. If you want to restore your question and answer components, you need to redefine the template. If you are not very fluent with templates, locate an element in your collection that looks ok and choose Template : Save as template on the element pop-up menu. This will save the look of the selected element in the default template. Add New will then replicate this look


SuperMemo cannot decide when to reset the learning parameters of an element
(Eric Chen, Japan, Fri, Jun 22, 2001 3:06)
Question:
If I use Ctrl+Shift+S to swap components without making a duplicate, what would happen to the historical data of the element (assuming that I have done drills on that element for a while)? Does it get reset as well?
Answer:
No. If you decide to swap components, you should reset the learning process manually (e.g. with Ctrl+R or Ctrl+M). SuperMemo never attempts at guessing if you have done enough editing to justify relearning the element. Consequently, all learning decisions (e.g. Forget, Remember, Postpone, etc.) are up to you


You can only move single elements between branches or transfer a selected number of adjacent children (#6134)
(Mark Yang, Saturday, August 25, 2001 12:33 AM)
Question:
How to move more than one elements from one branch to another? It does not allow me to do multiple selections
Answer:
Content tree does not allow of multiple selections. You can either drag and drop individual elements or transfer adjacent children with Transfer partly. Please read about Drag&Drop in Contents


You can change the font in a number of items at once (#5696)
(Walter G. Mayfield, Jr., Friday, July 06, 2001 4:23 PM)
Question:
Is there a way to apply a font to large batches of items at once?
Answer:
This is possible in the following circumstances: 

  1. all the items must use the same template or be able to receive the same template (i.e. be "compatible" with a given template structure) 
  2. the components in question must be plain text components (i.e. not rich text components) 

In such cases you can: 

  1. Redefine the template used by these items (e.g. by simply changing the template font) 
  2. Re-apply a new template (with the desired font). For example, read about browser operations (Process all)
  3. Redefine the font used the the currently applied template (e.g. with Edit Font on the component menu or by editing font in the font registry)

Copy collection can be used to take your learning material for a vacation (#6195)
(Terje A. Tonsberg, Tue, Aug 28, 2001 20:10)
Question:
I have tried to copy my collection using File : Copy collection and Quick backup. In both cases I was unable to use the copied collection and got the following message when trying to open the collection: SuperMemo has just displayed the following error: "Cannot find optimization file E:\ABC (2001-08-04 06-07-07)\info\sm8opt.dat"
Answer:
You are using correct options. This error should not typically occur. Some of possible causes for such a message, all rather unlikely, could be:

  • lack of hard disk space 
  • hard disk integrity problems 
  • stability problems in Windows 
  • locked file permissions 
  • corrupt image of SuperMemo in memory, etc. 

Please see why you are opening default ABC collection instead of your own collection (e.g. German.kno). Restart your computer and try to copy to different locations or under different collection names. Try to run File : Repair collection on the collection you are trying to copy. If this problem persists, please try to provide as much details about this situation as possible and send it to bugs(AT)supermemo(.)com. Note also that the said backup was made on Aug 4 (i.e. 24 days before sending your inquiry)


Use Apply Template in the browser to globally replace one template with another (#6469)
(Nick Jones, Sep 02, 2001)
Question:
I created a temporary template with the map of Mesopotamia to apply it to all my items related to this subject. How can I now delete this template without affecting these items. I will not need the template in the future
Answer:
You would need to impose and detach this template in all items that use it. However, if you have a similar template that could be used instead (e.g. question + answer + picture template without the map), you could do the following: 

  • select the Mesopotamia template in the template registry 
  • choose Ctrl+B to open all elements using this template in the browser (only 500 references can be tracked this way)
  • use Template : Apply template on the browser operations menu 
  • choose the replacement template (e.g. Picture)
  • delete the Mesopotamia template in the template registry. For security, check if its user list is zero (Use=0 at the bottom of the template registry window)

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