Learn with Linux: Flashcards

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.

java -jar jMemorize*.jar

Unfortunately, the online user manual is no longer available, but the usage of jMemorize should be straightforward enough. The user interface is quite straightforward.

flashcards-jmemo-main

Adding cards is a breeze; you can format the text or even add image attachments.

flashcards-jmemo-addcard

After you’ve created your cards, you can start testing yourself with the press of a button,

flashcards-jmemo-learn

and follow your progress on visual bar charts.

flashcards-jmemo-progress

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.

flashcards-pauker-sandbox

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

java -jar pauker-1.9Beta3.jar

Pauker’s interface is a bit less contemporary than that of jMemorize, while its functionality is very similar.

flashcards-pauker-main

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.

flashcards-pauker-addcard

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.

flashcards-pauker-method

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).

flashcards-pauker-hurry

When memorizing time is over,

flashcards-pauker-test

the real test will start, will be scored, and will be represented in visual bar-garph similarly to jMemorize.

flashcards-pauker-test2

Pauker has extensive documentation available and also offers plenty of preconfigured lessons in the areas of Math, geography, Chemistry and Languages, available as a separate download.

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.

wget http://ankisrs.net/download/mirror/anki-2.0.32.deb

will get you the latest Debian build, but the site offers Anki for many more platforms as well.

You can then install it with

sudo dpkgi -i anki-2.0.32.deb

When you first start Anki, it might not look like a lot,

flashcards-anki-main

but when you start adding cards, you will discover its true power. The basic functionality is similar to what we’ve seen above.

flashcards-anki-addcard

But Anki does not only offer different card types;

flashcards-anki-cardtype

it will also allow you to completely edit the card template.

flashcards-anki-cardtemplate

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.

flashcards-anki-shared

The website this takes you to offers apkg files in many categories which you can easily import to Anki after downloading.

flashcards-anki-import

The learning process is simple. You are presented with a question:

flashcards-anki-question

Then reveal the answer,

flashcards-anki-answer

and rate your own response.

flashcards-anki-rate

Image attachments, that can be placed anywhere, really do enhance the learning experience.

flashcards-anki-answer-image

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.

flashcards-anki-overdo

To follow your progress, Anki offers great and detailed statistics.

flashcards-anki-summary

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.