Anki Heatmap: The Ultimate Motivation Tool (Quick Guide)

I’ve been using Anki Heatmap, along with the excellent Zanki, since day one of med school. It’s my favorite Anki add-on, motivating me to hit my study goals day after day.

If you haven’t got it installed (and you’re using Anki), you’re really missing out. Here’s why:

  • It’s free
  • It’s super useful for helping you build review streaks (keeping you motivated)
  • It can give you useful info about future study sessions

Interested in learning more about what this fantastic tool can do for you? This guide’s got you covered.

We’ll talk about how to use it, where and how to download it and what other students say about it.

Ready? Let’s go.

What Is Anki Review Heatmap?

Anki Review Heatmap is a free add-on for Anki that gives you an overview of your study sessions directly on the application’s homescreen.

It’s color coded to help show you which days you’ve hit all your reviews. Your efforts are matched by the color’s intensity. If you don’t hit your daily reviews it’ll show a lighter shade. Skip your reviews entirely and it’ll leave an uncolored square.

You can see from the image above I’m using the default green color (more on this later). You can toggle heatmap off by pressing Ctrl + R.

Using Heatmap will give you the following info:

  • Your daily average: how many cards you review in a typical day
  • Days learned: a percentage on how many days out of a year you’ve kept up with your reviews
  • Your longest streak: how many days you’ve consecutively done reviews
  • Current streak: pretty self-explanatory!

A few words on my numbers here…Yes, 801 is an excessive daily average but I spend a couple of hours a day with Anki while in med school. My 3 month streak is generally disrupted by holidays/exam finals finishing!

Anki Heatmap’s “Projections”

One of the most useful features of Anki Heatmap is its ability to (roughly) show you how many reviews you have coming up for the days ahead.

Hover over an upcoming date and it’ll tell you how many card reviews you have due.

This is deck specific (more on this in fine tuning Heatmap).

This makes planning your future study sessions easier. You can estimate roughly when you’ll have bigger/smaller workloads. Thus helping you schedule other things around your flashcard review time.

Finally Anking’s YouTube channel provides a neat overview on Heatmap and why it can help you as a student…


Why Use Review Heatmap in Med School?

Here are a few big reasons (these don’t only apply for med school!):

  • Shows past and future card activity: Enabling you to plan your study sessions/know when you most need to focus etc.
  • Works with your current stats: even if you’ve been using Anki a while without this app, it’ll integrate and give you the averages across all the study sessions you made before downloading the plug-in. Super useful!
  • Immediate feedback: Colors indicate when you’ve hit your review target for a little extra motivation. Seeing those streaks come to life makes it hard to skip reviews – the study technique “Don’t Break The Chain (Seinfeld technique)” is all about this!

Related: 10 Powerful Study Techniques Like The Pomodoro Method (Useful Alternatives)

What Are the Limitations of Review Heatmap?

Although they’re not game changers by any means, here are two drawbacks:

  • The forecasts are based on your cards current intervals: E.g. the impact of doing 200 new cards today (and hitting easy) won’t show in the review forecast 3 days from now. Whatever your review interval is limited to, Heatmap’s projections won’t go beyond.
  • iOS: Using Anki via the Apple app makes it impossible to use Review Heatmap at this time. Add-on functionality in the app is limited (it’s built-in on the newest version of AnkiDroid (Android) however).

That last point is why I generally always advise using a laptop to do you first pass of new cards in Anki.

Related: 10 Unusual Anki Tips & Tricks (Fast, Furious & More Fun)

How to Install Heatmap Add-on for Anki?

You can download Heatmap here. It’s hosted at the add-on creator, Glutanimate’s, hub.

Once downloaded, you can double click this file to install. Or, on older versions of Anki, drag it to the app’s add-on directory (Ctrl + Shift + A).

You’ll then have to restart Anki for the changes to take effect.

Note: There is some issue with Heatmap’s functionality across different versions of Anki (2.0, 2.1 etc). For that reason, I recommend checking out Glutanimate’s documentation notes first before downloading. You’ll find direct instructions on how to download it for whatever version you’re running here too.

Anki Heatmap: Reddit’s Top Tips

  • Sync Heatmap perfectly across two separate PC’s: Go to Tools -> Review Heatmap Options -> Fine Tuning Check “Ignore data before” setting/Go to Tools -> Preferences -> Scheduling Check “Next day starts at” setting ~ r/hapakla
  • Reset heatmap but don’t see reviews: The heatmap should appear as soon as you’ve reviewed some cards ~ r/Glutanimate

What Is The Future of Heatmap Review?

Creator Glutanimate is fairly active on Anki related subreddits like r/medicalschoolanki and r/anki.

Browsing those forums you’ll see several recommendations for future versions of Heatmap with features like exam date specifications, bug fixes etc.

Although there’s no clear indication the plug-in will incorporate these features in future updates, it’s encouraging to see Glutanimate responding.

Heatmap Alternatives

  • Anki Simulator: A workaround for Review Heatmap’s forecast projection problem. Using this add-on you’ll get more accurate projections on your future review sessions (number of cards etc). Use it in combination for the full effects of both.

Related Questions

How to Change the Color of Heatmap in Anki?

You can change the default lime (green) color of the heatmap in three steps:

  1. Menu > Tools > Review Heatmap > General
  2. Select color (lime, olive, ice, magenta or flame)
  3. Hit “OK”

How to Change the Calendar Mode?

You can change the calendar mode to a yearly overview or continuous timeline via Menu > Tools > Review Heatmap > General.

Here’s how the continous timeline looks (compared to the default yearly overview)…

How Do I Fine Tune Heatmap?

You can change the following options in Menu > Tools > Review Heatmap > Fine Tuning.

  • History limit: Limits the number of days in the past that the heatmap displays
  • Forecast limit: Limits the number of days in the future that the heatmap displays
  • Exclude specific decks from main heatmap

How to Reset Anki Heatmap?

You can reset Heatmap via Menu > Tools > Review Heatmap > Fine Tuning and changing the history limit to 1 day.

Final Thoughts: Anki Heatmap

Anki heatmap is one of my favorite plug-ins for Anki. Using it makes your study sessions even more powerful.

Seeing that streak die? Not on my watch!


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