Notes and Cards: The Difference in Anki


anki note typesLet’s say you want to remember the capital city and the language of all European countries. This is easy in Anki. You just creating cards in Anki with every fact you’d like to remember. For example, like so:

Q: What is the capital of the Netherlands?
A: Amsterdam

Q: What language is spoken in the Netherlands?
A: Dutch

Q: What country is Amsterdam the capital of?
A: The Netherlands

Q: What language is spoken in Amsterdam?
A: Dutch

Q: What is the country where people speak Dutch?
A: The Netherlands

So far, so good. But when you want to create the exact same type of questions for France, you can see this is becoming repetitive. Instead of creating a crapload of cards, you can decide to use notes instead. Because it will save you a ton of work.

Notes and Fields

In Anki a card is a question+answer pair. It’s based on the paper flashcard with a question on the one side and the answer on the other. Obviously, because Anki is software it’s not restricted to the two sides of a paper flashcard, so in theory you could create as many sides as you want.

Getting Started With Anki

A note is all the different pieces of information about one ‘thing’. A field is a specific bit of information. So we’d have a note for ‘countries’, while ‘language’ would be one of the fields. And based on the information in the notes, Anki creates cards. You are then shown these cards. For example, we can make a note about The Netherlands that contains fields with the country name, the capital city and the language.

Country: The Netherlands
Capital: Amsterdam
Language: Dutch

And we can do the exact same thing for France, Germany and so forth. Now you can tell Anki to create cards with pieces of information from these notes. If you update your notes in the future, Anki will update your cards automatically. Flashcards are the cards that are presented to you. The notes are the underling pieces of information.

In conclusion:

Country: The Netherlands
Capital: Amsterdam
Language: Dutch

Card templates:
Q: What is the capital of {{country}}?
A: {{capital}}

      Q: What language do they speak in {{country}}
A: {{language}}

Cards you’ll be shown:
Q: What is the capital of The Netherlands?
A: Amsterdam

     Q: What language do they speak in The Netherlands?
A: Dutch

Standard Note Types in Anki

There are four stardard note types that come with Anki: Basic, Basic (and reversed card), Basic (optional reversed card) and Cloze.

Basic: This note type has two fields, one Front and One back. The text you place on the Front will appear on the front of the card, and the text you enter in Back will appear on the back of the card. This note type will create one card.

Basic (and reversed card): This note type works like Basic, and also has two fields (Front and Back). But when you select this note type, Anki will create two cards. One card will put the text you enter in Front at the front, and Back at the back. But then it will create a second card with Back at the front and Front at the back.

Basic (optional reversed card): This note type is just like the previous one. But the second card (the Back-Front card) is optional. There is a third field in this note type, “Add Reverse”. Anki will only create a reverse card if you enter text in this field.

Cloze: You can select text and choose cloze deletion when you use this note type. It will turn any piece of text into a cloze. You just select the text you want to hide when the card is shown, press the little […] at the top and click add. For example, “The colour of the sky is {{c1::blue}}” wil create the following card: “The colour of the sky is [..]”. The correct full sentence shows up when you press ‘answer’. You can delete different parts of the text, Anki will create a separate card for each cloze deletion.

Adding a New Note Type

First of all, start up Anki on your desktop and click on add. You’ll see the note type at the top, the default will be ‘Basic’. Click on that and choose manage.

You’ll now get a new menu with all the different note types you have at this moment.

So let’s create our own note type, specifically for our geography cards. Click on ‘add’, then on the note type, click on manage and then on ‘add’ again.

adding new note to anki

We’ll start with a basic note type and add fields to that. Click on ‘add: Basic’ and OK. Next, you’ll get a window asking you to name your new note type. Maybe we can call it “LearnTheWorld”, because why not. Just type in the name and click on OK.

It will now be in your note type list.

Learn the World note type

Great! You’ve created a new note type. Let’s edit it.

Go back to the window where you were adding a new card, and click on the note types again. Your new note type, LearnTheWorld, is now one of the options. Since we want to edit this note type, select this one. You next step is to click on ‘fields’ and manage the fields for this note type. Remember, fields are the bits of information in a note.

I used ‘rename’ and ‘add’ to set up my new note type.

Managing fields in Anki

Because we want Anki to create cards based on these fields, we need to edit our card templates as well. Close the ‘Fields’ window, and then click on ‘Cards’.

Cards in Anki

On the left you can edit the card, while at the right you can see a preview. Because we called our fields ‘CountryName’, ‘Capital’ and ‘Language’, you can add these fields to your card. Just write {{CountryName}} where you want the country’s name to show up.

There is a drop-down menu called ‘More’ at the bottom. If you click here there’s an option to rename your card.

Card Templates in Anki

Finally, let’s put some information into our notes! I added The Netherlands, Germany and Ireland with their capital cities and languages.

Time to Study

cards based on notes

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