Building the knowledge tree
- 1 Introducing the knowledge tree
- 2 Building the tree
- 3 Modifying the tree using drag&drop operations
- 4 Status icons: pending, memorized and dismissed
- 5 Keyboard shortcuts
- 6 Tree Glossary: what are roots, branches, children, and siblings
- 7 FAQ
- 8 Video
- 9 Further reading
Introducing the knowledge tree
Knowledge tree is NOT essential for your success in learning!
The structure of the tree does not affect the learning process! Many beginners believe that a good structure of the tree will help them prioritize their learning; however, you should NOT begin your adventure with SuperMemo from studying the tree, unless you have mastered the ABC!
Being exposed to a mixture of material belonging to different subjects will only make learning more fun (variety is the spice of life). Despite a widespread myth, mixed up learning can improve your retention (exceptions are discussed elsewhere at SuperMemo Website). Mixed up review of different subjects is the norm, not an exception in SuperMemo!
However, once you master the basics of SuperMemo, you can occasionally benefit from the knowledge tree by keeping various learning subjects separate. At times, it may help you handle a single subject as a whole (e.g. review a single subject before an exam, postpone a subject of lower priority, etc.).
Why isn't knowledge tree a priority?
Knowledge tree helps you keep order in your collection and process portions of material relating to different subjects. However, it does not reflect the structure of knowledge that you keep in your mind. The structure of knowledge that you remember is built gradually via semantic links between elements. You do not have to build those links in SuperMemo in any other way than by composing new items and topics and understanding the meaning of inter-related concepts that you learn. In simple terms, you build the map of knowledge in your mind, not in SuperMemo! SuperMemo carries only tiny granules of knowledge and connections between pieces of knowledge. Those granules and connections help you effectively refresh the structure of knowledge that you want to store in your mind.
Building the tree
Important! To understand this text you need to understand the tree terminology. It is quite intuitive as it refers to roots, branches and leaves. However, if you have any problems, see: Tree Glossary. Alternatively, hover the mouse over the green-colored glossary item, and its meaning will be displayed in a pop-up box next to it.
There are two basic methods of building the knowledge tree:
- Using the contents window. You can use operations such as Add, Insert or Delete to build the tree directly in the Contents window
- Using concept groups. If you want to add a large number of similarly looking items to a single branch, you will rather want to use concepts. Concepts automatically use templates to make sure that your elements are filled out with components of a desired look, number, size, etc.
When you choose Add new in the element window, new items are added to a single location determined by the current concept group (i.e. not by the current selection in the Contents window). Advanced users will always prefer using concept groups to save learning time. Usually you add all your material to a To Do branch. Then you assign only the most important portions of knowledge to separate concept groups.
Building the tree in the window
In the element window, if you see an element whose location in the knowledge tree is not satisfactory, you can quickly move it to a new location with Edit : Move on the element menu (Shift+Ctrl+V). Simply find the desired location in the knowledge tree and click Accept at the bottom of the Contents window (or press Enter).
- If you choose Add, a new child will be added to the currently selected element (click Add several times to see how this option works)
- If you choose Insert, you will add a new sibling. The new sibling will be inserted in the place of the currently selected element. The selected element will move one position down (press Ins a few times to see how this option works). You cannot insert a new element in the place of the tree root
- If you choose Delete, you will delete the currently selected branch (i.e. the selected element and all its descendants). You cannot delete the tree root
Once you add an element or a few elements, you can modify their titles. To do so, select the element by clicking and click it gently again. You can also press Alt+T to conveniently edit the title in the element window. If you fill out elements with texts (e.g. by typing questions and answers), SuperMemo will automatically generate titles for you.
When building the tree with Add and Insert, the type of elements added is determined by Topics/Items setting on the button panel (bottom of the Contents window). If you select Items, you will add simple question-and-answer items. If you chose Topics, you will add article-type elements that can be filled with text.
Building the tree using concepts
Concept groups are portions of the knowledge tree that use the same look of elements. These elements usually belong to a single subject. For example, you can define a concept group called Biology and keep there all items related to biology.
If you select a given concept group on the navigation bar, each time you click Add new (or press Alt+A), you will add a new item to that concept group. For more details see: Using concepts.
Modifying the tree using drag&drop operations
- To drag a branch, click it with the mouse, hold down the left mouse button, move the mouse to another branch (still holding the mouse button) and release the left button once you are over the target branch. The dragged branch will be moved to the target branch. During drag&drop operations, SuperMemo will highlight the drop point (i.e. the place in the tree where the dragged branch will be inserted).
- If you would like a given element to be a child of another element in the knowledge tree, left-click it and without releasing the mouse button drag it onto the target element. Once the target element gets highlighted (as if selected), release the left button so that the dragged element becomes the last child of the target element.
- If, on another occasion, you want to move another element ahead of the element in the tree, left-click it again and without releasing the mouse drag the element to the level of the target element (i.e. the element you want the dragged element to be moved ahead of). Note that you need to point your mouse slightly to the left or right of the target element so that it does not get selected but a navy horizontal line showing you where the dragged element will be moved to is displayed. Once the navy horizontal line shows on top of the target element, release the mouse button to move the dragged element to a desired location. You can also select more than one branch for dragging to a new location.
- If you drag between remote branches, you can open a second Contents window and drag between the two windows. It is easier to open the source branch in one window, and then open the target branch in the other. To open a second Contents window, click the blue Contents alignment icon on the contents toolbar
- You can select many branches for dragging by holding the Ctrl key down while clicking the branches that are to be moved
- You can always move a single element currently displayed in the element window with Shift+Ctrl+V (press Enter after selecting the new location in the knowledge tree)
Status icons: pending, memorized and dismissed
- L-plate icons indicate items
- T-plate icons indicate topics
- Lightbulb icons indicate concepts
- Green icons indicate topics in the review process (e.g. articles that take part in incremental reading)
- Blue icons indicate memorized items (e.g. question-answer items that take part in repetitions)
- Orange icons indicate concepts in the review process
- Sky blue icons indicate pending elements (i.e. elements awaiting memorization or review). Pending topics are indicated by sky-blue T-plate icons, while pending items are indicated by sky-blue L-plate icons
- Yellow icons indicate dismissed topics, items, or concepts. Those elements do not participate in repetitions. Dismissed items are indicated by yellow L-plate icons, dismissed topics are indicated by yellow T-plate icons, and dismissed concepts are indicated by yellow lightbulb icons
- Red icons indicate tasks
- memorized: elements marked with a blue L-plate , green T-plate , or icon have already been memorized and take part in the learning process
- pending: elements marked with a sky blue L-plate or sky blue T-plate are waiting for review in the pending queue. Once they are memorized, their icon will change to dark blue (for items) or green (for topics)
- dismissed: elements that do not take part in the learning process are marked yellow (e.g. ). Usually they serve as holders of other items or branches (e.g. Sciences or English in the picture) or they are kept only as reference or comment
The plus sign to the left of the element indicates that the element has children. You can see the children when you click the plus sign. The minus sign to the left of the element indicates that the element with children can be collapsed. When you click the minus sign, all children will disappear from view and the minus sign will be replaced with a plus sign
- Alt+C - show the Contents window and highlight the current element
- Alt+F10 - show the contents menu
- Ctrl+F4/Esc - hide the Contents window
- Alt+Ctrl+Enter - collapse the current branch. For example, if you have Sciences and Technology branch/element which is a child of the Sciences branch/element, and the former is currently selected, you can press Alt+Ctrl+Enter to collapse the Sciences branch.
- Up arrow - go to the previous element in the knowledge tree
- Down arrow - go the next element in the knowledge tree
- Ctrl+Up arrow - go to the parent of the current element
- Ctrl+Down arrow - go to the first child of the selected element. If the current element does not have a child, you will move to the next sibling element.
- Ctrl+Home - go to the root element in the knowledge tree
- Ctrl+End - go to the last element in the knowledge tree
- Ins - insert an element at the current selection
- Alt+D - duplicate the current element as its child
- Del - delete selected branch and all its descendants
- Shift+Ctrl+V - move the selected element (and all its descendants) to a new location within the tree. After you specify to the new location, press Enter to accept it.
- Shift+Ctrl+T - replicate the selected branch by transferring copies of its elements to another collection
- Ctrl+L - learn the selected branch
- Shift+Ctrl+L - review all elements belonging to the selected branch
- Ctrl+D - dismiss the selected element
- F11 - start a random test on the currently selected branch
- Shift+Enter - view the currently selected element in the element window
- Ctrl+Space - view the descendants of a given branch in the browser
- F3 - find the next expanded title containing a searched text
- Ctrl+F - search the current branch
- Shift+Ctrl+B - show statistics for the current branch
- Ctrl+K - create a new concept group with the root in the currently selected element
Tree Glossary: what are roots, branches, children, and siblings
There are eight visible branches growing from the root: Concepts, Sciences, English, Private, Other, New Imports, New collections, and TO DO. There are more branches under TO DO that are not visible in the picture. All branches growing from a given branch are called children. The branch Sciences has five children displayed in the picture:
- Business, Law and Economics
- Political and Social Sciences
- Science and Technology
- Medical Sciences
- Computer Science
All the branches listed above are their own siblings. For example, Medical Sciences is a sibling of Computer Science. On the other hand, Sciences is the parent of all its children (e.g. Business, Law and Economics).
Please note that the root, branches, children, leaves, etc. are all elements in SuperMemo. This means that you can view them in the element window and fill them out with components (such as texts, pictures, sounds, etc.). To view a given element in the element window, select it and choose View at the bottom of the Contents window (or press Shift+Enter)
Quick differentiation between memorized topics and items is valuable
The only exception are memorized elements, where:
This is because memorized elements are most important in the collection, and being able to quickly differentiate among memorized topics, memorized items, and memorized concepts by means of contrasting visual cues saves the student's time.
Pending elements lost on their importance with the arrival of SuperMemo 2000. Featuring improved handling of material overflow (e.g. Postpone), it also minimized the use of pending queue which was previously used as a means against repetition overload.
Finally, dismissed elements do not take part in the learning process at all. As such, their use is rather limited (they may hold outdated knowledge which you decided to keep in your collection for archival purposes, they may serve as parent nodes for other elements, etc.)
Drag and drop operations in building a knowledge tree: