Linux offers great educational software and many excellent tools to aid students of all grades and ages in learning and practising a variety of topics, often interactively. The “Learn with Linux” series of articles offers an introduction to a variety of educational apps and software.
Flash cards are a powerful, yet often overlooked, tool that can help you memorise just about anything. A common use is learning vocabulary, but it can be used with young learners or learners with special needs with considerable ease and success.
Flashcards do not need to be cut out of paper or cardboard to be effective. The following software offers a sustainable alternative you can use on your Linux system to use flashcards for whatever purpose you like.
jMemorize is a Java-based flashcard application developed by Riad Djemili. It is a simple tool that will allow you to create categories and put cards in them, creating these on the fly. To get jMemorize, download it from its sourceforge page.
You can start it with the
java -jar command.
Unfortunately, the online user manual is no longer available, but the usage of jMemorize should be straightforward enough. The user interface is quite straightforward.
Adding cards is a breeze; you can format the text or even add image attachments.
After you’ve created your cards, you can start testing yourself with the press of a button,
and follow your progress on visual bar charts.
Simple as it is, jMemorize is a powerful tool that you can use on any OS (it being a Java application) to memorize almost anything.
Another Java application, Pauker, offers some extra functionality over just showing you flashcards. For starters, Pauker uses the Leitner system to show you cards and make you learn their contents, using a combination of ultra short-term, short-term and long-term memory timings.
Paukner can be installed with the webstart application. This does have issues, however, as the signature has likely expired, as it’s an old, unmaintained project, and there are no guarantees that it will install correctly.
It is probably best to just download Pauker and run it manually. The latest version is 19 beta 3, which can be accessed from here. (It has been in beta stage since 2010; it is likely an abandoned project, yet still functional.)
You can then start it with
Pauker’s interface is a bit less contemporary than that of jMemorize, while its functionality is very similar.
Adding cards is equally easy, although there does not seem to be an option to include images. A nice feature is a highlighting of similar cards.
You can also decide whether you just want to visually confirm having learned a card or want to test yourself by typing in the answer.
The true difference comes with timing. At test time, Pauker will warn if you try to hurry and the memory goals are not yet reached. It also uses an audible alarm in certain cases (most disruptive).
When memorizing time is over,
the real test will start, will be scored, and will be represented in visual bar-garph similarly to jMemorize.
If Java is not your thing, or you want more flexibility, Anki is an excellent tool for advanced flashcard making. Anki can be downloaded from its website. They offer DEB packages for Debian- (and thus Ubuntu-) based systems.
will get you the latest Debian build, but the site offers Anki for many more platforms as well.
You can then install it with
When you first start Anki, it might not look like a lot,
but when you start adding cards, you will discover its true power. The basic functionality is similar to what we’ve seen above.
But Anki does not only offer different card types;
it will also allow you to completely edit the card template.
You can even attach images or audio recordings.
If you do not care to create your own cards, Anki places shared stacks a button click away.
The website this takes you to offers apkg files in many categories which you can easily import to Anki after downloading.
The learning process is simple. You are presented with a question:
Then reveal the answer,
and rate your own response.
Image attachments, that can be placed anywhere, really do enhance the learning experience.
The test goes on until all the cards have been marked either “Good” or “Easy.” In the end, Anki will tell you not to overdo studying.
To follow your progress, Anki offers great and detailed statistics.
Far the most advanced of the three, Anki offers superb flexibility, plenty of pre-built lessons and a great overall experience for learning.
Flashcards are powerful tools to train your memory. Beyond polishing vocabulary, flashcards can be used as a great visual aide or a way of testing your knowledge of facts in any way you like. Linux, as always, offers a great environment for learning with useful and free tools that can make your learning experience simpler and more enjoyable.