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Anki: Best Practice

Anki is a popular open-source implementation of spaced repetition, which is a timing protocol for flashcard software that turns the act of committing something to long-term memory into a conscious decision. The following are some principles I follow to create effective notes and efficiently manage the software:

  • Don’t use tags, plugins or the statistics functionality: These only serve to distract the user or force some additional time investment in order to learn and/or derive additional value. I see all of these as net-negative functions if the goal is efficient memory retention. The only exception is potentially that of the image occlusion plugin, which should be used only after very careful consideration of the need for image-based cards.
  • Prefer the use of sub-decks over tagging: This allows the user to study the content of all decks at once while also providing a quick snapshot of card distribution at the home screen
  • Add shortcut/hotkeys to cards: Allows me to rapidly learn the hotkeys for Anki, reducing the time it takes to add and edit cards.
  • Custom note type for commands: This note type allows for a ‘language’ field which means instead of writing a card which says “What is the command for the delta symbol in LaTeX?”, the card has a box at the top-left with LaTex, and the cards simply says “delta”—I immediately recognise that this note type requires a command so the time to write and read the card is reduced.