It’s back to school season! Flashcards, whether physical or digital, are an effective study tool. There are many flashcard apps and software programs out there, but today I’ll be reviewing two of the most popular options.
Our first option is a free app from the creators of Evernote. It’s called Peek, and the app’s gimmick is the creative use of the iPad SmartCover. This means Peek is only available for iPad, and only works if the iPad is in landscape orientation. If you don’t have a SmartCover, the app includes a digital version.
Peek contains a few default flashcard sets. If you want to study relevant material you will need to create your own cards in an Evernote account. Each set of flashcards in Peek corresponds to a notebook in Evernote, and each card corresponds to one note. The note’s title is the clue, and the note’s content is the answer. So for instance, you would need to create a note with the title “Hola” and the word “Hello” in the content to get a flashcard like the one shown below.
Once you have a notebook set up in your Evernote account, it will show up on the menu screen of Peek. You can edit the notebook by touching and holding the icon, or click it to begin the slideshow.
In slideshow mode, you need to either cover the screen with your SmartCover or pull down on the digital version to cover the note. I personally found the digital version of the cover hard to manipulate – it requires touching and holding your finger (or stylus) to the screen in order to move the “cover” up and down. You need to maintain contact with the screen to move it, instead of using a more natural swiping gesture. The idea is that you lift the cover to peek at the clue, and lift it further to reveal the answer. Lifting the cover all the way up reveals the flashcard’s menu.
Evernote allows you to add photo and audio attachments to the flashcards. Keep in mind that the card’s image shows up in the answer section, not the clue section, so you can’t use images as a hint. However, any recorded audio shows up on the clue section. Finally, you can mark each flashcard as answered correctly or incorrectly. this is useful upon retesting if you want to just review the cards you got wrong.
Pros: Free, well-integrated with Evernote, fun way to engage with SmartCover.
Cons: Awkward without SmartCover, can’t create flashcards from within the app, no way to easily import flashcards from other sources.
Mental Case is a very robust flashcard app. It is available for Mac OS, iPad, and iPhone. My review is for the iPad version, which is currently priced at $2.99.
Mental Case has a more complex interface than Peek. The main menu shows your flashcard library listed categorically. In iOS the library is on the left in landscape orientation and behind the suitcase button in portrait orientation. The right side of the screen holds your cases of flashcards. You can scroll down to see them all.
The app comes with several sample packs of cards, but in my opinion the biggest advantage of this app over Peek is the ability to create your own flashcards in-app. You have the flexibility to move cards between sets – called “cases” in this app – and to nest cases within cases for organization. Card creation is easy! Just click the pencil icon in the top right corner of the screen. You can add multimedia to cards, and also attach cards to Lessons by enabling the setting when editing a case. Lessons allow you to review cards at timed intervals – Mental Case will prompt you when it’s time to study again.
If you don’t want the hassle of creating your own flashcards, there is also a button at the bottom of the library menu labeled Exchange that takes you online to the two most popular Flashcard repositories – Flashcard Exchange and Quizlet.com. This is a fantastic feature. You can browse these sites and download free cards to your Mental Case library without having to sign up for an account. Of course, if you choose to, you can create your own flashcard sets and share them with the world.
The play button icon in the top right corner of the screen opens the Study Slideshows menu, which controls the flashcard slideshows.In the slideshow mode your cards become full screen. You can navigate through with gestures or use the arrow buttons at the bottom. To automate the progression, the play button begins a timed slideshow. There are also buttons to mark each slide as correct or incorrect. If you exit before finishing your slideshow, you can resume from the last viewed card via the Study Slideshows menu.
The Sharing features of Mental Case are also quite powerful. You can synch to the Mental Case Mac app, share notes via Bluetooth and email, and more. This makes it a great option for study groups who want to collaborate on flashcards together.
Pros: In-app flashcard creation, easy sharing and access to sharing sites, Lessons feature.
Cons: Costs money.