What can SuperMemo be used for?

SuperMemo may be used to learn languages, sciences, medicine, etc. The learned knowledge must be represented in the question-answer form. SuperMemo minimizes time necessary for learning, allows you to learn with speed that almost does not change with the size of the learned material and nearly eliminates the problem of forgetting. When compared with traditional methods, SuperMemo accelerates the process of learning 10-50 times by means of spaced repetition.

The most important things to know:

  • SuperMemo makes it easy to keep 95% of the learned material in memory. It practically eliminates the problem of forgetting!
  • SuperMemo has received many awards, was positively reviewed in popular press in a number of countries, and is highly praised by its users (in 1999 their number has passed one million mark).
  • Apart from spaced repetition, SuperMemo uses a number of technologies that assist you in building rock-solid knowledge related to your professional field or personal life.
  • SuperMemo is based on scientific research on memory and learning. This new learning technology was developed in Poland in the years 1982-2000.

We believe that SuperMemo can change your life (esp. if you are a person with strong self-improvement inclinations).

SuperMemo CE and SuperMemo SP

SuperMemo CE works fine on both Handheld PC (with keyboard) and Pocket PC (without keyboard). SuperMemo SP is version on smartphone devices. The program allow importing databases from PCs, so you can prepare your own database on your PC (e.g. in SuperMemo for Windows) and then transfer it to PPC/SP. The keyboard is not needed in learning process, it is used only to edit or create new databases directly on PPC/SP. Apart from being compact and cheap, SuperMemo CE/SP is also very simple!
You can download a trial version of SuperMemo CE/SP and freeware databases for SuperMemo CE/SP.

In order to learn fast, and first of all, not to forget what you have already learned, you must make repetitions of knowledge. It was proved by scientists working in the field of psychophysiology that everything that we learn, unless repeated in any form, will sooner or later be forgotten.

SuperMemo method of time-optimized learning makes use of the fact that the key to effective learning is in proper timing of repetitions. What we want to achieve in optimization of learning is the maximum effect with as few repetitions as possible. The SuperMemo method, which is the subject of this guide, is based on finding the optimum spacing of repetitions, and thus reducing learning time to the absolute minimum.

Learn proceeds in three stages:

  • Repeating items scheduled for the current day (REPETITION).
  • MEMORIZING new items. Before you start this stage you will be asked Do you want to learn new material?
  • Repeating items that caused recall problems in stages 1-2 (FINAL DRILL).

Here is the best algorithm for using SuperMemo (tried successfully by thousands of users in several dozen countries of the world):

  1. Choose the daily working time from 5 to 45 minutes. Unless you are an experienced SuperMemo user, do not choose the working time longer than 45 minutes!
  2. In the course of your ordinary daily activities collect items that you want to remember (facts, figures, rules, vocabulary, names, phones, etc.). For examples, see sample databases.
  3. If To repeat in your database(s) is different from zero, repeat outstanding items until To repeat equals zero (use Learn).
  4. If you have got some time left for work with SuperMemo, and if Pending in your database(s) is different from zero, memorize new items until Pending equals zero or until your time is out (whichever comes first).
  5. If you have got some time left for work with SuperMemo, add new items collected in Step 2 (use Add new). If your time is limited, select only the most important items. Keep unused items for later use. Continue appending new items until your time is out.


The key to effective learning is in minimizing the number of repetitions necessary to retain knowledge in your memory. SuperMemo minimizes time needed for learning by approximating optimal intervals that should separate individual repetitions. Knowledge memorized with SuperMemo must be split into smallest possible pieces called items. Using SuperMemo, you must not forget that the quality of learning will depend on the selection of the material and the way it is split into individual items.

SuperMemo CE/SP Help

SMemoCE/SP screen
SMemoCE/SP basics
Your first collection
Navigation buttons
Collection files

The remainder of the screen is divided into five parts:

  1. Question field, which displays the current question (this field can be used to edit the question).
  2. Answer field, which displays the current answer (this field is blank at times when the learner is supposed to recall the answer during a repetition cycle).
  3. Statistics field, which contains the following data:
    • Collection name - name of the collection in use.
    • Total number of items in the collection.
    • Memorized - number of memorized items in the collection.
    • Pending - number of pending items in the pending queue.
    • To repeat - number of items to repeat and to drill (equivalent of Outstanding in SuperMemo for Windows). For example, if there are 48+5 items to repeat, you still have 48 outstanding items to repeat on the present day. 5 of the outstanding items repeated earlier scored a grade below good (4), and will have to be repeated again in the final drill. In other words there are at least 48+5=53 repetitions to be made on the present day.
  4. Item statistics field with item parameters which characterize the currently displayed item:
    • Number - number of the currently displayed item.
    • Last rep. - date of a previous repetition of the current item.
    • Status - status of the current item.
    • Interval - interval between the last and the next repetition.
    • Next rep. - date of the next repetition.
    • (x) - number of repetitions which indicates that the displayed item has been repeated x times since it has been introduced into the collection or since it has last been reset.
  5. Below the Answer window there is some place for miscellaneous button sets (Quick buttons). When there is no collection opened, there are up to three buttons with recent collection names. So you can quickly open a recently used collection.

SuperMemo CE/SP basics

The main function of SuperMemo is to supervise the process of learning pairs of questions and answers. Such pairs are later called items. Collections of items are stored in computer files and are called collections. In order to work with a SuperMemo collection you must first open it with File : Open. After you do it, you can see some of the items of your collection using the option Learn. Choose Learn and respond with Yes  to Do you want to memorize new items?  Look at the question field. The first question of the currently used collection should appear there. Try to answer the question. Now, the computer expects you to input the quality of your answer expressed in a 0-5 grade point scale. Press any number key in the range from 0 to 5, or tap one of the grade buttons located just below question and answer fields.

The grade point scale is:

  • 5 - bright - excellent response; correct answer given without hesitation
  • 4 - good - correct response given after some consideration
  • 3 - pass - response recalled with difficulty, perhaps slightly incorrect (e.g. 5 billion in response to a question on the size of the human population which will be 6 billion in 1999)
  • 2 - fail - incorrect response which makes you say: I knew it!
  • 1 - bad - wrong response in the situation when the correct one still seemed somewhat familiar
  • 0 - null - complete blackout; you even do not recall ever knowing the answer

You should remember that:

  • in SuperMemo, you are unlikely to need grades 0 or 1
  • if you guess the correct answer your grade must be less than 3

Your work with SuperMemo will consist in such simple repetitions as described above, i.e. attempts to answer questions stored in the collection. You can learn the material stored in commercial or shareware collections, or you can create your own collections that will suit exactly your needs. See the next paragraph for more details on creating a customized collection. To quit repetitions now, choose Cancel learning. To save the currently open collection choose File : Close

Your first collection

To create your own collection with items concerning exactly the sort of knowledge you want to learn follow the steps presented below:

  1. Run SuperMemo
  2. Choose the option New on the File menu (e.g. by pressing Ctrl+N)
  3. Input the name of your collection

This way, your first collection has been created, i.e. all its disk files have been filled up with all necessary data.

Switch SuperMemo CE to editing mode by clicking the button Edit. At this moment, your collection is ready to accept its first item (a question-answer par).

To add new items to the collection, choose the menu option Item : Add new  (e.g. by pressing Ctrl+A). The cursor will appear in the question field. This indicates that the computer is ready to accept a new item. You can write your first question now. Having finished, press Esc or just click the answer field. Now, the cursor has moved to the answer field, and you may type in the answer. You may press Esc when you have finished. At this moment, your first item has been stored in your collection files. You can input more items to have some learning material for later use. To save the currently open collection choose File : Close



On the File menu there are options used in manipulating whole collections such as: New..., Open... and Close. The function Reset... clears collection's learning process (after Reset  a collection looks like new; like nobody has learned with it).


First core XML implementation for inter-platform learning data exchange (check the documentation of other SuperMemos to see which versions can exchange data via XML). Databases can be imported and exported through the text file in the form of:

  • Q&A files which contain Question and Answer text (also in HTML format)
  • XML files which contain full information about items and their learning process
XML file exchange makes it possible to continue the learning process on various platforms (e.g. Palm, Desktop Windows, etc.). In Windows CE, Q&A and XML files should be located in "My documents" folder.

However you send files between Handheld, Pocket, Palm or PC computers (IRDA, Bluetooth or simply USB cable) you do not need any additional synchronization or conversion software.
Merging databases is possible outside SuperMemo for Pocket PC by merging Q&A files or XML files. This way you can combine a few collections in one.


When collection is opened you can quickly switch between the editing and learning modes using the Mode menu.

Question and answer texts can be displayed as HTML or in the raw Edit mode. You can change fonts in HTML mode only on Pocket PC 2003 (and newer).

    As you can see in the picture, the HTML tag <a href> allows you to set up a hypertext link to a local multimedia file. When the user clicks on the link, multimedia starts a new task. However, if <img src> tag is used, the image (bmp, gif, jpg) will show up in the Question or Answer field.

If your database contains national characters (e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, etc.) you should use the Unicode mode. In this mode each character is always encoded with two bytes.


The View menu makes it possible to the size the Question and Answer panels, as well as the Statistics panels.


  • Undo - (Ctrl+Z) Undoes the last action
  • Cut - (Ctrl+X) Cuts the selection and moves it to the Clipboard
  • Copy - (Ctrl+C) Copies the selection and move it to the Clipboard
  • Paste - (Ctrl+V) Inserts the Clipboard contents at the insertion point

Context menu in questions and answers simplifies certain operations, e.g. copy and paste from Internet Explorer.


Most of options from the Item menu are active only in the editing mode. There you can Add new item, Delete item, swap the question with answer (Exg Q-A). You can change the item's status (Forget, Remember, or Dismiss). There are also options Find... and Go to... to locate items in a collection.


In Msc menu, there is an option called Fonts... It opens a window where you can choose a font for Question & Answer field. Second option Calendar.... opens a window which shows all days of the current month. Each day shows you numbers which tell you how many repetition are queued for a given day.

The trial version of SuperMemo CE/SP from allow of no more than 30 items. Follow the instructions listed at to register SuperMemo and convert it into a fully functional application.

To register SuperMemo CE/SP you must choose any Registration Name (e.g. your own name), read the Device ID and send both via e-mail. You will get a unique Unock Key via e-mail that will allow you to use SuperMemo on your device.

Toolbar (Handheld only)

Toolbar contains nine buttons. These are: New collection, Open collection, Learn mode, Edit mode, Add new item, Forget item, Remember item, Dismiss item and Calendar. They work exactly as menu functions with the same names.

Navigation buttons (Pocket PC & Smartphone)

In the front screen, the navigation buttons work as follows:

  • Push: 1st recently used database
  • Right: 2nd recently used database
  • Down: 3rd recently used database

In the mode screen, the navigation buttons work as follows:

  • Push: Learn
  • Right: Edit

The navigation buttons can be used in the edit mode as follows:

  • Left: back
  • Push, Right: forward
  • Down: 10 items back
  • Up: 10 items forward

In the learn mode, the navigation buttons work as follows:

  • The grade screen:
    • Push: Pass
    • Left: Good
    • Right: Fail
    • Up: Bright
    • Down: Bad
  • The show answer screen:
    • Push: Show answer
    • Right: Cancel
    • Down: Last item
  • The next repetition screen:
    • Push: Next repetition
    • Right: Cancel learning

Back key (Smartphone)

  • Learn, edit mode or grade, show answer, next repetition screen: back to the mode screen
  • Mode screen: back to the front screen (i.e. close the database)

Q&A file format

The Q&A file is a plain text file, which can be created in any text editor. Each item is defined with question body and answer body. Every question or answer can be defined on several lines. Each line begins with a tag (three character long). Question begins with "Q: ", answer with "A: ". Items are separated with one empty line. Here is an example file with three items:

Q: a wound
A: - n. damage to a part of your body, esp a cut
A: or a hole in your flesh

Q: to be bouncy
Q: (about a person or animals)
A: - adj. has a lot of energy and is very
A: enthusiastic

Q: a mop
Q: (a tool)
A: - n. a tool for washing floors which has a
A: sponge, many pieces of string or a cloth
A: attached to a handle

It is very important, that every tag consists of three caracters: letter, colon and SPACE.

This function is useful to exchange items from SuperMemo working on other platforms like DOS, UNIX, WINDOWS (desktop) etc. Note that you can simply add or modify items directly on your Pocket PC using SuperMemo CE.

Q&A export can now be made on a subset of items in a given range (from-to). Databases can be merged via Q&A imports (e.g. by importing items to the currently opened database).

HTML file format

Although the first XML implementation is very basic, it is sufficient to provide a basic communication channel between different SuperMemos.

Collection files

SuperMemo CE stores its collection in two files: *.sdb and *.sbi.
File *.sdb contains the main collection body such as question and answer texts (in compressed Unicode).

File *.sbi contains indexes to this collection and other miscellaneous information (learning process). If the *.sbi file is missing, SuperMemo CE will automatically create it. Thus File : Reset... simply works by deleting the current *.sbi file.

HTML styles can be optionally defined in *.css file.

Each database contain a configuration file with the extension *.cfg. This file contains:

  • Font names and sizes for the question field and the answer field
  • Character encoding
  • HTML or edit mode
  • Q/A size ratio
If you delete this file, you will still be able to use your database; however, you will lose some of the settings kept in the configuration file.