Exploring the Pauker flash card tool

Tux Tutor

© Andrey Ospishchev, 123RF

© Andrey Ospishchev, 123RF

Article from Issue 108/2009

Get ready for your next exam with the Pauker flash card system.

If you are learning a foreign language, extending your vocabulary is always going to be hard work, but you can simplify the task with the use of flash cards – or the Pauker flash card program. Its structure emulates traditional flash cards as closely as possible. But Pauker won't let you cheat, and its statistics, show you where you need more work.

The program trains your ultrashort-, short-, and long-term memory, and it avoids the tendency to collect an unmanageable number of flash cards that you need to work your way through when you come to revise. In fact, the only factor limiting the size of your electronic flash card stack and the number cards in it is the size of your disk.

The Pauker flash card tool is a Java application and thus requires a functional Java Runtime Environment. To download the Pauker program package, which weighs in at 7.5MB, go to the project homepage [1]. Saving the package in a directory of your choice completes the installation. The following command launches Pauker:

$ java -jar /path/to/Pauker/pauker-1.8.jar

If you prefer a GUI-based approach, use your distribution's built-in tools to create a program launcher. On Ubuntu, you would select System | Settings | Main Menu | New Entry, for example.

Getting Started

When launched, the program comes up with a spartan window. Lessons from a collection of prebuilt exercises are available for you to download [2], or you can create your own lesson if you don't find anything to your liking in the repository. To do so, click Add new cards. In the dialog that then appears, you can label the new card and set some basic parameters (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Reduced to the max: the Pauker input dialog.

The toolbar lets you specify whether you will be reading from left to right (for European languages) or from right to left (for Arabic and Hebrew). Additionally, you can define the layout options. The bar below this lets you set the size, style, and attributes for card labeling. Note that you need to set the fonts for the front and rear sides of the cards separately.

The Repeating method lets you specify whether you are simply reminded of cards you have reviewed (Repeat by remembering) or whether you switch batches by entering the term you are looking for via the keyboard (Repeat by typing). To avoid multiple identical entries in the dictionary, an area at the bottom of the input window shows similar cards.

If you are thinking of creating multiple cards at the same time, you can check the Keep dialog open box at the bottom of the window. Doing so tells Pauker to show you an empty input window after you enter a term and click the OK button.


After entering a full lesson, it is a good idea to save it by clicking the floppy disk icon in the top toolbar. Then you can move on to the revision phase by clicking the Learn new cards button on the left side of the program window. The program runs through the cards first, which gives you time to memorize them before the program quizzes you on them. Pauker has a real-time bar chart that shows you how many cards you have identified correctly. If the default time for learning the terms seems to be too short, you can change the interval with Extra | Configure … | Times.

If you make a mistake, you can decide whether Pauker should add the card to the stack of completed cards or put it back on the unlearned stack (Figure 2). This function is useful if the wrong answer was simply a typo. The bar charts at the top of the program window change color to reflect your learning progress: A green bar shows you the terms you have learned correctly, a blue bar points to the cards you put back on the stack or to cards that have expired, and a red bar warns you of the cards you have not yet learned.

Figure 2: Pauker gives you useful statistics in real time to accompany the lesson.

If you want to repeat a stack, despite having learned all the cards, simply click one of the bars. This tells Pauker to open up a dialog at the bottom of the window with a variety of sorting and mixing functions. Your selection determines whether you repeat individual cards or the whole stack. After resetting the stack, you are again given time to memorize the terms, followed by two rounds of input and memorizing. This method lets you refresh in your mind older lessons at any time.

Even if you have not completed a lesson, it makes sense to mix the cards; the human brain remembers the order after a couple of rounds and orients itself on this order. Also, it is a good idea to flip the question side of the card stack for an enhanced learning effect – especially when learning foreign languages. However, you can only do this with a whole stack. In the menu click File | Flip card sides and then confirm by clicking Flip card sides again. Now the software will prompt you with what used to be the reverse side of the cards.

Just as easily, you can add to existing lessons: Start by opening the lesson in question – the selection dialog shows you a table with your learning statistics for each existing lesson to make your choice easier. After selecting the lesson you want to add to, click Add new cards in the main menu to open the input window.

If you don't repeat a lesson within a certain time, your brain will tend to forget the terms you have not used, which is why Pauker stores an expiry date for each term. When this date is reached, you need to relearn the cards on the basis of the familiar pattern. This guarantees a maximum learning effect. Each time you run through a batch of cards, Pauker redefines the expiry date.


Whereas many other programs frighten off potential users with convoluted controls and alien methods, reviewing with Pauker is fun from the start. The program does not distract you with multimedia gimmicks or disappoint because of a lack of functionality. In fact, Pauker is designed for maximum learning progress with a fast GUI and best of class stability.

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