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Anki makes remembering things (words) easy.
We can remember them anywhere by using Anki easily... If you have a smartphone or a personal computer. I think this is a kind of Anki's advantages.

But all learning methods have disadvantages.

So I have a question. What are Anki's disadvantages?

  • It's never worked on any operating system that I've tried it on. Plus, it requires you to sit in front of a screen. I know this is a common trait of many of today's language methods but I've never liked it. – SAH Feb 19 '17 at 13:43
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    Anki's advantages compared to what? Compared to other digital spaced repetition systems? Compared to paper-based repetition systems? Compared to learning without a spaced repetition system? (The last question would actually be about the advantage of spaced repetition over other forms of learning.) – user800 Jul 6 '17 at 13:41
  • @SAH - I love Anki. I use it on my smartphone (Ankidroid), painless install. I agree that using it on PC is sub-optimal. – Peter M. Dec 28 '17 at 20:36
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A google search will reveal a lot of negative opinions about Anki. To summarize some of them:

  • A very common complaint about Anki is that it assumes, and effectively requires, daily use of the software. As described in Language Hackers And “Polyglots” Are Full Of Shit:

    A ... severe problem is that you must use the program every day, or else your reviews build up to such a level that it may take you hours to catch up. If you go on a one-week vacation, you will come back to a mountain of cards that will take you half a day to complete.

    I also complained about this problem in my own blog post about Anki shortcomings, Where Anki falls short:

    If, due to circumstances (such as vacation, or laziness), I fail to study for a few days, I end up with a huge back log of review cards.

  • Another common complaint is Anki's rigidity. Languages aren't clean and tidy, but Anki assumes, and effectively requires, a "clean and tidy" data set. As described in I Quit: 2+ Years of Anki and the (Near) Impossibility of Learning Languages:

    Take the word 소수 (so-su) as an example. It has many meanings, among them: a minority, a decimal, and a prime number. These different meanings cannot be distinguished by looking at the word. Only context can tell us what the meaning is.

    The author of that article describes several alternatives he tried, but found them all wanting.

  • Anki has no way of tying related cards. It does provide the option of burying cards generated from the same note when you study one, but doesn't provide any way of tying related notes together. Again from my blog post:

    [Anki] will bury the reverse card which asks me to translate “cat” to “gato,” [but] I may have another card translating “gatito” to “kitten”, and this should be buried as well.

  • A further complaint of mine, with regard to burying cards:

    Once cards are sufficiently mature (with a delay of months), burying a related card for just a day is not sufficient. If I get a review card about some especially obscure word after a 6 month delay, I don’t want to see the reverse card the next day. These reviews ought to be staggered. Perhaps by as much as 3 months (or half the review time).

  • Finally, Anki's UI sucks. I think I can say this is an objective truth, but perhaps somebody likes it. I almost gave up on Anki before I even started using it, because I couldn't figure out how to create cards and card templates. After a couple months, I gave it another go, and was successful. But I would be amazed if Anki's non-intuitive UI doesn't drive away a huge number of potential users.

Some people, such as the authors of Language Hackers And “Polyglots” Are Full Of Shit and I Quit: 2+ Years of Anki and the (Near) Impossibility of Learning Languages, seem to be of the opinion that these problems are fundamental to Spaced Repetition Software as a tool for language learning.

Personally, I take a different approach, that SRS can still be a valuable tool for language learning, but that these drawbacks are specific to the implementation (of Anki, as well as SuperMemo upon which Anki is essentially based). As such, I'm currently working on my own SRS software to address some of these deficits.

  • While I agree that Anki's UI sucks: this is direct result of situation that (free) Anki is good enough to be used instead of more expensive proprietary programs. If users contributed to development financially, I suspect that product would improve. Somehow we started to expect other people spend their own time for free to deliver something of value for us for free. I found Anki excellent value for the price. – Peter M. Jan 2 '18 at 19:53
  • Also, it is NOT a problem if you skip and are lazy even for few weeks: Anki uses new timer from when you used Anki last time. So lapsed 2 months and you still recall word correctly after 3 months, next test is scheduled at 6 months or something. And words you recall after single repeat you can schedule for longer next interval (as "easy"). Just stop complaining and work through the backlog :-) – Peter M. Jan 2 '18 at 19:57
  • I am looking forward for your better improved SRS tool. I am also programmer/developer, QA by trade and UI designer, so I am open to help you in any way I can. – Peter M. Jan 2 '18 at 19:59
  • @Flimzy In your opinion, which SRS is better than Anki for creating your own simple cards? – AML Jul 10 '18 at 13:26
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One disadvantage is the lack of official, curated decks. You either have to use community-created decks (and therefore trust their creators not to have made any errors), or make an effort of creating your own.

As a side note, the latter can be an advantage in a way, as creating a deck, even if it's just retyping a wordlist from a coursebook, can in itself be a good way or reinforcing the vocab.

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    I would point out that the "official" development team of Anki is one person (Damien Elmes), who can hardly be expected to create official, professional quality decks for Anki as well as actively develop it. The other perspective is that, since Anki is open-source, the community is the official development team, and thus the community-created decks are the best you can reasonably expect. – Hatchet Feb 11 '17 at 15:30
  • If creating your own decks is part of the learning experience (this is a simplified version of what Gabriel Wyner says), then having no "official" deck (whatever that would mean) is actually an advantage. – user800 Jul 6 '17 at 13:43
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    IOW: are you complaining that nobody is willing to invest time to create custom decks to your exact specifications? Community created shared decks are exactly that: you get what you paid for. And there ARE paid decks - just free decks are good enough that it is hard to make living by creating curated decks, so nobody tries it. – Peter M. Jan 2 '18 at 20:04
  • @PeterMasiar, I'm not complaining, I'm listing a disadvantage. I am aware of why that is so and I do not "blame" the developer of Anki or the community for this situation. However, it is a disadvantage in comparison with some other spaced repetition systems, which is precisely what the question was about. – user2876 Jan 4 '18 at 7:49
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The criticism about the learning philosophy has already been covered here; I'd like to add some things about the UI I've encountered. Some of the points refer to advanced issues that only affect users who use HTML/CSS/Javascript extensively. I've written this post because the UI has already been mentioned, but there is something more to say about it.

  • There are no context menus. This gives the UI quite a stone-age feel.
  • Subdecks can't be moved to top-level.
  • Sometimes, depending on what you've done, the list of cards or the menu inside the cards browser window is not updated. Example: After the deletion of a deck, it's still appearing in the cards browser. You have to close and reopen the card browser window to see changes taking effect.
  • During a review, when I try to correct something wrong in my card, Anki often crashes. Might be something with my system, I don't know.
  • If you are creating HTML-based cards, the editor often inserts junk code, especially when you change something outside the HTML editor or when you copy and paste a lot. I often have to clean up the code manually or via search and replace. This might not be the fault of the software, if the editor is provided by Anki's technical Qt base. Still it's a bit annoying.
  • When you are writing Javascipt code, the repercussions are always shown inside a preview that you can't switch off. If you make a mistake, for example an infinite loop, you have to close Anki. After a restart Anki will revert the code to the previous state, still it would be better if I could deactivate the preview for a moment.

I still use Anki for the lack of alternatives when you want to use cards that are very individually designed with the help of CSS and Javascript.

  • Out of curiosity: why do you write JavaScript code that runs inside Anki? (Or did I misunderstand your last bullet point?) – user800 Jul 6 '17 at 20:16
  • I mainly use it for a link after each meaning to show or hide three example sentences (so far I've been using Anki only for learning vocabulary). Since I sometimes have a couple of meanings on a flashcard, this keeps the look of the cards tidy. I also use it to show three random English weird words on the top left of the flashcards. It's just for fun, but the usage for showing or hiding the example sentences is something essential for me. – mondegreen dispenser Jul 6 '17 at 21:02

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