Anki is an open-source program whose leading developer is the incredibly talented Damien Elmes. At its core, Anki is a free flashcard program that utilizes a technique used in cognitive science called spaced repetition, where the desired information is spread out over time instead of studying multiple times in one session.
For me, the spaced repetition at the core of Anki's algorithm sets this program apart from other methods of memorization I have used over the years, like cramming, reading things repeatedly, writing things out on paper, mnemonics, and mind mapping.
There are so many potential use cases for this program. A brief list I came up with includes:
Anki users assign ratings after each flashcard is reviewed. The rating is based on the flashcards difficulty level and determines the time until Anki displays the card again. Anki's implementation of spaced repetition in software was pioneered by another flashcard program called SuperMemo.
Anki comes with four types of flashcards described below:
So far, cloze has been my favorite card type since the additional text helps clue me into the correct answer. However, if I really need to commit something to memory, I will opt instead for the basic card type since less text could potentially help spur my memory.
Anki is open-source and encourages third-party developers to create valuable add-ons. One of my favorite add-ons is the Image Occlusion Enhanced for Anki 2.1. This add-on allows Anki users to turn images into flashcards by hiding and revealing selected sections of the picture. The graphical user interface for this add-on is easy to use and full of valuable features.
Below are some additional features pulled from Anki's website.
Synchronization* Use the free AnkiWeb synchronization service to keep your cards in sync across multiple devices.
Flexibility From card layout to review timing, Anki has a wealth of options for you to customize.
Media-Rich Embed audio clips, images, videos, and scientific markup on your cards, with precise control over how it's shown.
Optimized Anki will handle decks of 100,000+ cards with no problems.
Fully Extensible There are a large number of add-ons available.
Open Source Because the code and storage format is open, your important data is safe.
*The Anki mobile application cost me $25. In my opinion, the cost is well worth it. The application is rich with helpful features that are well maintained. Heck, there isn't much you can't do with the mobile application that you can do with the desktop version.
Another beneficial feature is Anki's ability to share and download community decks. Community decks are an excellent option for Anki users interested in learning a particular subject but may not have the time to create their own deck.
Popular community deck categories include:
The Anki desktop version can be downloaded here. It is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The Anki mobile version for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch can be downloaded here.
The Anki mobile version for Android devices can be downloaded here.