MindDate Software



Flashcard Organizer




User Manual

V 1.0





















MindDate Software

About this Document

What is Stackz?

The Stackz flashcard visualization concept helps to keep the overview over a large amount of words to be learned by representing your current proficiency state with one intuitive view using piles of colored flashcards. The cards are distributed according to the 'mastery level' and colored according to the 'date of the last mastery' - they become darker over time. This system allows distinguishing easy cards from difficult ones immediately, and simultaneously seeing which cards must be refreshed because they have not been reviewed for a long time.

Integrated dictionaries for Japanese and Chinese simplify the process of generating new wordlists from scratch, or automatically from web pages. The dictionaries are also directly available for looking up information during the process of learning words of any of these languages.

Stackz supports any other Unicode language of the Widows operating system as well. The constantly growing online wordlist archive currently contains over 200 wordlists for Japanese, Chinese, Korean or Thai.

A Pocket PC version of Stackz is also available, bringing the Stackz flashcard system to virtually any place. The wordlist files can be directly downloaded to the Pocket PC, which guarantees seamless synchronization of the learning status between the platforms.

What’s new in version 7.1?

Stackz 7.0 is a major upgrade from earlier releases. It features a completely new user interface with new icons and dockable windows. A new tool called Retention Manager was introduced to simplify the handling of the most frequent tasks.

Stackz 7.1 is a maintenance release with enhanced contol in the Learn Dialog (automatic replacing of removed entries can be disabled), an improved Repeat Advisor ColorMode (the refresh interval in the rightmoust column doubles on each consecutive success) and some other small fixes.

Table of Content

About this Document_ 3

What is Stackz?. 3

What’s new in version 7.1?. 3

Table of Content_ 4

1.  Conceptual Background_ 7

1.1.    The Stackz Color Concept.. 7

1.2.    The Study Process. 8

1.2.1. The Learn Process. 8

1.2.2. The Test Process. 9

1.2.3. The Role of the Computer in the Study Process. 10

1.3.    Study Set.. 11

1.4.    Retention Manager.. 11

1.4.1. Purpose. 11

1.4.2. The Study Tasks. 12

1.4.3. Expanding the Retention Manager Dialog. 13

1.5.    Representing Card Characteristics with Colors. 15

1.6.    Handling Different Skills. 15

1.7.    Using Handheld devices. 16

1.8.    Studying with Stackz: Best Practices. 16

2.  The Stackz Computer Representation_ 18

2.1.    The Data Visualization.. 18

2.1.1. The Lessons. 18

2.1.2. The Stacks. 19

2.1.3. Working with Lessons and stacks. 19

2.2.    The Study Dialogs. 20

2.2.1. The Test Dialog. 20

2.2.2. The Learn Dialog. 23

2.2.3. The Match Dialog. 26

2.3.    The Stack Edit Dialog.. 27

2.3.1. Introduction. 27

2.3.2. Adding new entries manually. 29

2.3.3. Adding new entries automatically. 30

3.  ColorModes_ 31

3.1.    The different ColorModes. 31

3.2.    The ColorBand.. 31

3.3.    Masking Cards. 31

3.4.    Details of the ColorModes. 31

3.4.1. ColorMode 1: RepeatAdvisor. 32

3.4.2. ColorMode 2: RefreshDate. 32

3.4.3. ColorMode 3: SuccessRatio. 33

3.4.4. ColorMode 4: FailureCount 33

3.4.5. ColorMode 5: SuccessCount 34

3.4.6. ColorMode 6: DefinedOrder. 34

4.  Skills_ 35

4.1.    What is a "Skill" in Stackz?. 35

4.2.    Skill Setup. 37

5.  Importing and exporting lists_ 38

5.1.    Exporting Lists. 38

5.2.    Importing Lists. 38

5.3.    AutoImport Lesson(s) 39

5.4.    List Import Wizard.. 39

5.4.1. Function. 39

5.4.2. Tutorial 40

6.  Stackz Options_ 45

6.1.    Languages. 45

6.2.    General Options. 46

7.  File options_ 47

7.1.    Entries. 47

7.2.    Promotion System... 48

7.3.    ColorModes Options. 49

7.4.    Skills Options. 51

7.5.    Test Dialog Options. 52

7.6.    Learn Dialog Options. 53

7.7.    Match Dialog Options. 54

8.  Languages_ 55

9.  Entering Text_ 56

9.1.    Asian Language Input.. 56

9.2.    Other edit control specific issues. 57

Appendix I   The Menus_ 58

I.A     File.. 58

I.B     Options. 58

I.C     Tools. 58

I.D     Wordlists. 58

I.E     Dictionaries. 58

I.F     Window... 59

I.G     Help. 59

Appendix II The Context Menus_ 60

II.A   Stack Context Menu.. 60

II.B   Stack Edit Context Menu.. 60

Appendix III    The Toolbars_ 61

III.A File.. 61

III.B Edit.. 61

III.C Actions. 61

III.D Stackz Language.. 61

III.E  Wordlist Content.. 61

III.F  Wordlist Structure.. 62

III.G Dictionaries (dictionary edition only) 62

III.H GUI Themes. 62

Appendix IV    Index_ 63

Appendix V Figures_ 65


1.   Conceptual Background

1.1.           The Stackz Color Concept

Stackz helps to control large set of items that must be learned. To get an immediate overview over all the included material, the observed entries are classified according to two fundamental aspects:


Fig. 1: The Stackz Concept

The Mastering Level is a widely used technique in the traditional flashcard approach (Sebastian Leitner system) where paper flashcards are moved up and down the levels in the box. The Stackz visualization system goes one step further by also showing additional information of the cards using colors.

The colors can show which cards have not been repeated for a long time or other relevant characteristics. This aspect is crucial to keep the overview over the content if the amount of entries is considerable, or if there are long breaks between the learning sessions.

This integrated representation uncovers the entire proficiency state at a glance. After detecting one's weak spots, reducing them is immediate: Unknown cards (left side) must be learned in any way, and thereafter be promoted to higher levels with the integrated Test Dialog. Mastered but old cards (right side, dark color[1]) must be refreshed with the Test Dialog.

1.2.          The Study Process

How can a computer help in the learning process? After all, learning is hard brain work which can’t be delegated to a machine. The distinction between learn and test is crucial to understand how the computer can be used to improve learning efficiency.

1.2.1.           The Learn Process 

The term “learn” refers to the process of assimilating information in the brain. Information is passing from immediate memory to working memory, and finally entering long term memory. Learning requires a fresh mind; best results are achieved with short and frequent learning sessions covering the critical items.

Learning is hard work that can’t be delegated to a computer – but the computer can identify the critical items.

Stackz supports this process by easily identifying the cards that are not yet mastered (i.e. must be learned), and offering tools to start working on the said content: Learn Dialog, Match Dialog, or even print as list or paper flashcards.

Stackz intends to track the proficiency state, which is only indirectly linked to the learning process itself. For that reason, the Stackz tools do not aim to track the learning effort, and the offered tools try to avoid altering the proficiency state.

Learning is recommended to take place in as many different situations as possible (class, reading, listening to tapes, watching TV, conversation etc). One very efficient way is using a mobile device with one of our mobile products (Pocket PC or Palm OS), which allows to automatically filling short learning sessions with the most relevant content (i.e. the currently unknown words) into one’s daily life anytime, anyplace.

1.2.2.          The Test Process

The cards are classified by testing, an activity that differs a lot from learning. A positive test moves the card to a higher proficiency level, and a negative test has the opposite effect[2]. The card also changes color according to its characteristics after the test.

Testing itself does not improve proficiency. It merely assesses the proficiency state, which is a prerequisite for efficient learning.

Testing is used to assess the proficiency state of the entries. Because it obviously does not make sense to base the proficiency state assessment on short time memory, new words should not be tested (i.e. assessed) directly after learning them. Re-testing the same words quickly should be avoided too.

1.2.3.        The Role of the Computer in the Study Process

As introduced above, the Learn and Test processes complement each other. The computer is used differently in both processes, according to its strengths:

Computers are good at laborious, repetitive and memory intensive tasks; humans are good at creative, inter-personal and tasks requiring broad knowledge, common sense and judgment.

The computer builds its proficiency representation based on the test results. It then uses its strengths to quickly sort and visualize the proficiency state. Several aspects can be examined in order to find one’s weak spots.

However, the computer does not decide what actions need to be taken to improve the situation. The user is in a much better position to decide on his next steps, based not only on the proficiency state indicated by the system, but also on additional information like available time, required grade in the next test, estimation what content is more important, and many other things. After all, the student should decide himself where he wants to put his effort in. Merely satisfying the computer’s requests leads to a too passive student behavior. In any case, the visual representation of the proficiency state is a very important motivation to learn the words!

Fig 2: Visualization of the Proficiency State

1.3.           Study Set

The Stackz study processes work on a subset (the “study set”) of the entries in the currently active Stackz Document. All selected entries (i.e. the entries of the selected stacks) except the masked ones (cf. 3.3) are included in the study set.

Since the entries are processed in the order defined by the current ColorMode (cf. 3), the ColorMode has an important impact on the usage of the study set.

1.4.             Retention Manager

1.4.1.        Purpose

Stackz is a very flexible tool. Its basic elements can be combined in many ways, allowing determining the study set in many different ways. This flexibility introduces the drawback that new users may find it confusing to choose the best elements for their individual learning task, and experienced users may find it inconvenient to repeatedly manipulate the elements manually.

The Retention Manager lowers the entrance barrier into the Stackz system by automating the definition a study set for three frequent tasks and presenting an easy way to launch a study tool.

Fig 3: Retention Manager – collapsed state

The Learning Task buttons on the left side prepare the study set in the active document, which will include the number of entries shown parenthesis. The buttons on the right side allow launching the desired tool to work on the prepared study set.

1.4.2.       The Study Tasks

The three study tasks are described in detail below.

1) Introduce New Cards

This learning task concentrates on entries that have never been positively tested before. This button switches to the SuccessCount ColorMode and masks all cards that have been positively tested before (i.e. the non-grey ones).

If the student has never been exposed to these entries, the most appropriate study tool is the Learn Dialog or also the Match Dialog. If the entries may be known by the student (e.g. content introduced at school) the Test Dialog can be used as well for an initial classification.

2) Examine Expired Cards

As memory research indicates, the optimal delay until a card is presented again depends on its difficulty for the student (“spaced repetition”). Stackz handles this requirement with a special ColorMode called “RepeatAdvisor”, which highlights all expired cards with an orange color for easy identification (c.f. 3.4.1).

Therefore, the learning task “Examine Expired Cards” switches to the RepeatAdvisor ColorMode and masks all non-orange (i.e. non-expired) cards.

The ideal study tool for this learning task is the Test Dialog. The Learn Dialog may be appropriate if the expired cards are likely to be forgotten so that they must be learned again.

3) Bulk Refresh Cards

This Learning Tasks refreshes all cards that have been declared as known previously. It switches to the RefreshDate ColorMode and masks all cards that have never been known.

The typical study tool for this learning task is the Test Dialog.

1.4.3.        Expanding the Retention Manager Dialog

The Retention Manager Dialog can be switched to an expanded mode with the button in its bottom right corner (cf. Fig 4). In this mode the internals of the automatically selected study set become visible, including a graphical representation of the number of included cards of a certain characteristic (color) above a ColorBand with masking sliders.

The masking sliders of the Retention Manager ColorBand work in the same way as the masking sliders of the main ColorBand on the upper edge of the active Stackz Document. Moving a slider in either of the ColorBands also moves the slider in the other ColorBand, and the masked entries are displayed with a light color in the Stackz document.

Only the ColorBand in the extended mode of the Retention Manager directly shows the amount of entries that correspond to a certain position on the ColorBand.

Fig 4: Retention Manager – expanded state

Fig. 5: Study Set "Introduce New Cards"

Fig. 6: Study Set "Examine Expired Cards"

Fig. 7: Study Set "Bulk Refresh Cards"

1.5.              Representing Card Characteristics with Colors

It’s in the nature of the human brain to forget things that are rarely used. Even items that used to be known well can be forgotten after a certain time. This is most relevant for all content that is not naturally refreshed in everyday situations, such as vocabulary of a foreign language, or even more importantly the writing characters of a foreign writing system. Quickly reviewing the content is often enough to bring the memory back.

The following Color Modes can be used to identify the cards of a particular characteristic and then review the content.


Represented Characteristic

Date of the last successful test

Recommendation to refresh (depends on date and difficulty)

Percentage of Successes

Number of Failures

Number of Successes

Sequence of the Words

Please refer to chapter 3 for more details about the different ColorModes.

1.6.             Handling Different Skills

Stackz does not ask the student to actively enter data when testing the proficiency. Instead, it displays one attribute after the other and lets the student decide whether he would have known the correct answer.

Stackz can be navigated with one hand, leaving one hand free for practice writing. This pen and paper approach is especially useful when training a foreign writing system because any other way would not improve the natural writing skill.

The needed attributes and their sequence depend on the trained skill. Any given attribute sequence corresponds to a specific skill. To train the Japanese Speaking Skill for instance, the attributes “English” and “Japanese Pronunciation”(i.e. Hiragana) are needed, but not the Japanese Characters (Kanji). These are needed when training the writing system – as first attribute when training reading, as last attribute when training the writing skill.

The skills are defined in the Stackz document. Any of the defined skills can be selected anytime. The selected skill is used with all subsequent study actions.

Please refer to chapter 4 for more details about the different Skills.

1.7.           Using Handheld devices

Part of the Stackz vision is the support for frequent but short learning sessions using handheld devices, including the synchronization of the test results back to the desktop application. Currently Pocket PC and Palm OS are supported mobile platforms.

Synchronizing lists between Stackz and PocketStackz is as simple as synchronizing a file between the PC and the Pocket PC, exactly in the same way an Excel file is synchronized between Excel and Pocket Excel. In the case of Palm OS, the file must be converted to the Palm pdb format before downloading.

1.8.          Studying with Stackz: Best Practices

Stackz is a very flexible tool that can be used in many ways. Instead of imposing a learning process on you, it allows you to take the control over your learning actions. Here is a list of recommendations about how to use Stackz most efficiently.

1) Use “Test” and “Learn” wisely: Learn Often, Test Regularly

Learning is best done in short but frequent units. The Pocket PC version of Stackz (PocketStackz) is the perfect tool to integrate such quick learning sessions into your daily life. Any other method without Computer is fine as well, e.g. paper flashcards of the hard words printed with Stackz, or any other method. Testing the words means assessing your proficiency, which is not necessary to be done often for the well known words.

2)    “Test” before you “Learn”

The test process is assessing your proficiency. In order to avoid too optimistic test results this should not be done directly after learning the words to be tested. If you want to work on a certain lesson and you intend to use both Test and Learn Dialog, start with the Test Dialog. This gets you a realistic picture of your proficiency, and the Learn Dialog can then be efficiently used to work on the failed ones.

3)    Avoid consecutive test sessions with the same words.

Testing corresponds to a proficiency assessment, which should not be based on short time memory. After testing, the failed words must be learned, and not tested again.

4)    Combine Stackz with other methods.

Stackz separates the words you know from the words you just don't know, and from the ones in between. It also shows you when it's time to go through the list with known words again. To keep this source of information up to date, testing must be done regularly with Stackz.  But learning can be done in thousands of other ways - by reading and understanding through context, by writing and making errors and getting it explained, by listening and getting exposed to the expressions in new contexts, by speaking and doing errors, followed by discussions explaining the issues, and so on. All these activities help to retain the learned issues, and increase the chance that the next Stackz testing session will be successful. Stackz adds the systematic part, making sure that 100% of the words on your list is treated. But learning them may be more efficient in the real world than with Stackz.

5)    Combine Stackz with PocketStackz or PalmStackz.

One method of learning words is using PocketStackz or PalmStackz, one of the mobile versions of Stackz. They both allow spending a few minutes updating the proficiency state or learning difficult words anytime, at any place.

2.    The Stackz Computer Representation

2.1.          The Data Visualization

The Stackz color concept is visualized on the computer screen as shown in the picture below.

Fig. 8: Stackz Data Visualization

2.1.1.        The Lessons

A lesson is represented by a horizontal graphical element with a name on the left side and five levels as a horizontal row of stacks. The height of a stack indicates the number of entries in the corresponding level, and the colors of the entries are set accordingly to the current ColorMode. This representation gives a quick overview over the proficiency state. The entries on the left side are unknown and the ones on the right side are known, and the dark entries are "bad" in the sense of the currently set ColorMode.

2.1.2.       The Stacks

The entries in a stack are sorted according to the current ColorMode. The dark entries (i.e. "bad" in the sense of the current ColorMode) are placed on top. This shows the order in which the cards will be processed: The study tools process the cards in the order of decreasing difficulty, by picking the cards from top of the stack.

Note: The file options allow configuring the study tools to process the cards in random order, ignoring the difficulty of a card. With this setting, the entries in the stacks are displayed as unsorted, as shown in the image below.

Fig. 9: Unsorted Stacks

2.1.3.        Working with Lessons and stacks

When a new lesson is initially attacked, all entries are still at the initial level, typically the neutral level. The Test Dialog can then be used to do a first separation of the words that are already known from the unknown ones. After that, the content of the color-stacks on the left side must be learned. The Learn Dialog is ideal for this purpose. There is a third dialog, called Match Dialog. It is a form of quiz that offers a different approach to the vocabulary content. All of these dialogs potentially declare a card as known (move to the right) or as unknown (move to the left).

A single stack can be selected by clicking with the left mouse button, and its context menu (right mouse button click) allows opening any of the tools dialogs (cf. appendix II.A).

Multiple stacks can be selected individually by holding the ctrl-key during the selection of stacks, or moving the mouse over the stacks with the left mouse pressed.

Entire rows and columns can be selected by clicking on the header of the row or the column, holding the ctrl-key allows the selection of multiple rows and columns. When opening any of the tools dialogs with multiple stacks selected, the entries of all selected stacks are treated.

Holding down the control key when a tool window is opened hides the Stackz main screen.

The  button allows to select the entire file and to open any tool dialog with one single menu command.

2.2.          The Study Dialogs

Stackz offers three study dialogs, which are described in this section.

2.2.1.          The Test Dialog

Fig. 10: Test Dialog

The Test Dialog is used in the Test Process: It assesses the proficiency of the entries by separating the known from the unknown ones.

·         Known entries are moved to the stack on the right and their color is changed to the color of "zero days since last positive test", i.e. the color of today.

·         Unknown entries are moved to the stack on the left and the color is not changed.  Test Dialog Controls

The Test Dialog is controlled with the following elements:

Toolbar Icon




Quick Help


Open Quick Help Window

Test Dialog options


Open the Options Dialog with the Test Dialog page.

Skill Selection


Open a popup menu to select a different Skill for testing.

Edit current entry


Edit the attributes of the current entry.



Undo last move: put the current card back to its original stack and bring the previously moved card back to the dialog by undoing all statistical records of the move. Unlimited undo levels.

Declare as known

Arrow right; NumPad 6

Moves the selected entry to the stack on the right.

Declare as unknown

Arrow left;
NumPad 4

Move the current entry one level to the left (Stackz mode) or to the leftmost column (Leitner mode).

Put selection back on stack

Arrow up; NumPad 8

Replace the selected entry with the next one. No change in the statistical records of the selected entry.

Step through attributes

Space; NumPad 5


Present next attribute according to the current skill. Using the Test Dialog

 The typical steps of using the Test Dialog are as follows:

1. Display Attribute after Attribute of the current entry.

The prediction can be done in the head, where the correct answer is imagined. If the correct spelling is to be verified, it may be a good idea to write the answer with pen and paper before showing the solution.

The round green button shows the next attribute according to the active skill.

2. Compare the result with your expectations.

Depending on the result, use one of the following buttons:





Declare as known

The attributes match your expectations. You are the judge!

The card is moved one level to the right, and the color reflects the new TestState according to the current ColorMode.

Declare as unknown

The attributes do not match your expectations. You are the judge!

The card is moved one level to the left (Stackz mode) or to the leftmost column (Leitner mode). The color reflects the new TestState according to the current ColorMode.

Put back on same stack

You are not sure, or you don't want to make any decision.

The card is moved back to the same stack without changing its state in any way.  Arrow Buttons and Arrow Keys

Long sessions are much more convenient using the keyboard instead of the mouse! This allows you to manipulate the Computer with your left hand, which keeps your right hand free for writing your anticipated response using pencil and paper.

The four arrow buttons of the Test Dialog correspond to the four keyboard arrow buttons. Alternatively, the NumPad arrow keys can be used.

Dialog arrow buttons

Keyboard arrow keys

Keyboard NumPad

Note that the keyboard arrow keys only have an influence on the dialog arrow buttons if one of the dialog arrow buttons has the focus.


2.2.2.           The Learn Dialog


Fig. 11: Learn Dialog

The Learn Dialog is used in the Learn Process: It represents one way of becoming familiar with new material.

The Learn Dialog's main idea is to represent a short list of new words (local stack), and expose the user repeatedly with them one after the other. The small amount of words and the heavy repetition gives the user a chance to keep all the new words simultaneously in memory, which ensures an intensive short term memory awareness of the words being learned. Once a word is known for the moment, it is replaced with a new one. The easier words leave the loop quickly, the hard ones stay for a longer time.

During learning, entries are generally not moved between stacks, but rather put back on the same stack after the learning activity. This is to avoid overly optimistic classifications based on short term memory. Learn Dialog Controls

The Learn Dialog is controlled with the following elements:





Quick help


Open Quick Help window.

Learn Dialog options


Open the Options Dialog with the Learn Dialog page.

Local stack fill mode: gradually


Add the items gradually when using the learn dialog.

Local stack fill mode: initial


Add the items directly when using the Learn Dialog.

Automatically replace removed entries: on


When an entry is removed from the local stack, it is automatically replaced with a fresh one to maintain the local stack size.

Automatically replace removed entries: off


Removed entries are not replaced automatically in this mode. The local stack becomes smaller when removing entries.

Detailed local stack


Toggle local stack detail mode. In Detail mode, an attribute is displayed instead of the number. The displayed attribute can be selected with the buttons on the bottom of the local stack.

Skill Selection


Open a popup menu to select a different Skill for learning.

Edit current entry


Edit the attributes of the current entry.



Undo last move: put the current card back to its original stack and bring the previously moved card back to the dialog by undoing all statistical records of the move. Unlimited undo levels.

Declare as known

Arrow right; NumPad 6

Moves the selected entry to the stack on the right.
Note: It is not common to declare an entry as known in the Learn Dialog because classification should not be based on short term memory. Therefore, declaring as known is only permitted If the entry is selected for the first time.

Declare as unknown

Arrow left;
NumPad 4

Move the current entry one level to the left (Stackz mode) or to the leftmost column (Leitner mode).
Note: It is not common to declare an entry as unknown in the Learn Dialog. If an entry is unknown it stays in the local stack until it is known for the moment.

Put selection back on stack

Arrow up; NumPad 8

Replace the selected entry with the next one. No change in the statistical records of the selected entry.

Step through attributes

Space; NumPad 5


Present next attribute according to the current skill. If all attributes are visible, randomly select a different entry and present its first attribute.

Add entry

Arrow down;
NumPad 2

Adds new entry to the local stack. Using the Learn Dialog

The typical steps of using the Learn Dialog are as follows:

1. Screen the Content by Repeated Exposure

When the Learn Dialog is opened, only one word is in the local stack. Use the round green button to iterate through the attributes according to the active skill. Since there is only one entry in the local stack, its attributes are redisplayed again and again, so quickly proceed to step 2.

2. Add an Additional Entry

If you feel comfortable with the content, press the “arrow down” button to add another entry to the local stack and continue with step 1. With every additional entry, step 1 becomes more challenging.

3. Replace entry

If you end up mastering a certain entry in the local stack, you can replace it with a new one by pressing the “arrow up” button. This will put the card back on the same stack without altering its statistics. Hopefully you will remember it next time when you use the Test Dialog!


·         Declaring an item as known (arrow right) should not be based on short term memory, therefore the corresponding button is normally disabled. It is only enabled at the first selection - this is to allow declaring previously mastered words as known.

·         Declaring a word as unknown (arrow left) is unusual since the entries are supposed to stay in the local stack until they are no longer unknown (for the moment). Arrow Buttons and Arrow Keys

The buttons and keyboard arrow keys behave in the same way as in the Test Dialog.

Dialog arrow buttons

Keyboard arrow keys

Keyboard NumPad

2.2.3.          The Match Dialog

The Match Dialog is a quiz type of tool. It can be used as an alternative to the Learn Dialog in the Learn Process to become familiar with new words, or to the Test Dialog in the Test Process repeat known words in a different way. Its focus does not lie directly in efficient learning activity, but rather in "playing" with the words in a relaxed way. The approach to the vocabulary is much broader than in the other dialogs because all attributes of several words are present simultaneously.