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Tag: flashcard

Moved from Mnemosyne to FlashcardDB

When I was studying Spanish last year, I had to choose a flashcard program to memorize new words. At the time, I couldn’t find any on-line program that just did the job and did it well. In a comment on my blog post from last year, however, I was pointed by Jeff to his amazing FlashcardDB.

The program I ended up with last year was Mnemosyne. Mnemosyne is not based on your regular Leitner system, but rather on a concept where, after each card, you have to indicate yourself how well you have remembered it. I found that, in the end, having to tell the system in which box to put the card instead of just saying if my answer was right or wrong was taking me more effort than the actual recollection of the information. Also, as someone who rarely remains at one place for very long, a desktop program just isn’t as practical for me as an online program.

With Mnemosyne, I had to constantly remind myself of a complicated grading system.

Now to FlashcardDB. The site is pretty social, which means that you can study (and sometimes even edit) card sets made by other users. When you sign up, you can also create card sets yourself. Card sets can be tagged and you can study these tags instead of individual card sets if you wish. If you already have cards somewhere else, import is easy as well.

The user interface is very slick, especially for such a new program. Thoughtful usage of AJAX means that you’re never distracted by page reloads when this would interrupt your flow of thought. Simple key bindings making studying an easier affair than in most desktop programs. The right arrow is used to show the answer, the up arrow (thumbs up) to mark the answer as correct, the down arrow (thumbs down) to mark the answer incorrect and the left arrow to go back to the previous card. Also the interface for adding cards is very pleasant. It’s just a matter of filling in the front of the card, pressing Tab, filling in the back of the card, pressing Tab, then Enter and on the next card.

Before going on to the conclusion, I want to add that also the Leitner system is very well implemented in FlashcardDB, including pretty diagrams to make it instantly clear to everyone how the system works. Now for my conclusion: My advice if you ever need to make flashcards yourself is that you really should take a look at FlashcardDB before looking at anything else.

Finally, the following Ruby code is a quick hack I used to convert Mnemosyne’s XML export to CSV data which can be imported by FlashcardDB:

require 'rexml/document'
require 'csv'
xmldoc =$stdin)
CSV::Writer.generate($stdout) do |csv|
  xmldoc.each_element('//item') do |el|
    csv << [  el.elements[1,'Q'].text, el.elements[1,'A'].text  ]

Making flash cards on-line

I’m learning Spanish from a Dutch method called Eso sí. Approaching chapter 10, I noticed that I would benefit from first learning the words introduced in each chapter before starting on the chapter’s text and exercises. From doing some exercises on Spanish learning websites (especially, I noticed that flash cards can be a great help.

When I used to be behind a Linux terminal, there would always be an abundance of open source flash card software only one apt-get or emerge away. But, I’m behind a Windows terminal, so I thought I’d better try my luck with some on-line tool to make flash cards.

I first came by The Amazing Flash Card Machine. I registered an account and created a few cards.

I didn’t find the process of adding cards in the Flash Card Machine very quick or supple, so I went to the next tool, FlashcardExchange. Registering an account again was pretty straight-forward, except the the confirmation mail took ages to arrive, which made me click the resend confirmation link (which was very well presented) twice and even change my registration email address before I noticed all four mail had finally arrived when I returned to my desk after a few hours.

I created two card sets using their clean GUI. About that GUI: although clean, it takes a few too many steps to create a new card set or to start studying a card set: - step 1 - step 2 - step 3 - step 4 - step 5

They have the option to add the contents of multiple card sets to a single Leitner card file, but you then need to pay a one-time fee of $19.95. I’ve considered hashing out the 20 dollars, because the site has a clean design and offers good import/export features (a must if I’m going to shell out money for any service). However, with a GUI that gets in the way of adding cards, I’m going to keep the money where it is.

When I looked a little further, I noticed a pretty cool flashcard wiki anyone can edit, but again, no Leitner card files.

In the end I returned to open source desktop software again. Amazingly some of it supports Windows because the software is written in Java or because the developers feel my pain. Now, next time, I still have to choose between three fine applications.

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