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Skritter: Online Character Practice, want feedback!

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fabiothebest

You are welcome. I downloaded the app and I've tried it for a couple of days. I like the UI, it's nicely designed and the app contains all the main features of the web app. One thing I feel is that it seems a bit resources heavy. It probably runs much smoother on ios, anyway that's normal I guess since the owner of Skritter is a iOS app developer and the iOS version exists from long time. The android app is still in beta, there are some improvements to do anyway it's on the right way. On my phone the app is a bit slow and sometimes it just hangs there with a white screen. Maybe this problem doesn't affect all phones, mine is a phone that is getting old, I have a Nexus S. Anyway I think it can be furtherly optimised. It could be that I'll switch to iphone when I change my phone anyway I have been an android user for long time and I always wanted an android version of this app. There's a huge number of people using android so keep up the good work. Everyone serious about learning chinese can take advantage of and deserves your app no matter the OS they are using :)

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SkritterJake

Dear imron,

 

 Thanks for giving such a thoughtful and detailed review of Skritter on iOS thus far. After reading, and re-reading your comments, I found myself shaking my head in approval of almost all of your critiques of the application. Rather than address each of your points individually, I'd just like to say that we're working on fixing and improving upon almost everything that you've mentioned here. Unfortunately, with such a small team (a team of five, with one developer right now) it's very hard to say when some of the changes take place, and in which order, but they're all on the list of things to improve and update. Most of our efforts are being put toward getting the Android app ready for public release, and once that is accomplished we'll be working toward updating the iOS and Flash (website) applications to match the feedback we've been getting.

 

One of the big features that now exists on Android is a teaching feature, which, as you suggested above, actually creates a teaching opportunity for new words that you're studying on Skritter. No more blank study screens for words that you've never seen before... instead characters (and the correct stroke order) are presented in a way that allows users to visualize and trace the new character/word that they're seeing for the first time. I can't wait to bring this feature over to iOS and the web once we've polished its functionality on the Android app! 

 

We look forward to hearing more about your experience at the end of your three months on the app, and I hope you reach your goal of learning every traditional character you'd ever need to write during your time using the app! 

 

Best,

Jake and the Skritter team

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imron
After reading, and re-reading your comments, I found myself shaking my head in approval of almost all of your critiques of the application

Although it seems like a long list of criticisms, I don't think any of them are real deal-breakers for anyone - it's more a list of niggling things on top of a really useful program.  As a developer myself, I also find it useful getting detailed feedback like this, and understand how features can take time to get in to the released product.

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spiff

I'd also like to chime in with my impressions of Skritter, having tried it out for a couple of weeks as part of the Scoop Up a Summer of Skritter giveaway.


 


I'm using the iOS app exclusively; I've been learning Chinese off and on for a few years, and writing has always been my weakest aspect. In fact, I'm not interested in learning to write characters by hand beyond what is required by the HSK exams, but I hope that Skritter might be able to improve my reading by helping me to distinguish similar characters.


 


First impressions are definitely positive; everything seems fairly intuitive (barring the could-mean-anything options that imron mentioned) and works well. Compared with, say, the memrise app last time I tried it, Skritter is much more polished and functional. However, a few things could certainly be improved:


 


  • Adding characters to study seems only possible via lists, and not on an ad-hoc basis. Being able to examine a word via the info button, look at it's component parts, and then add those parts to one's collection of characters to be studied would be very helpful. For example, I know most of the radicals, but there are a few that trip me up, and I'd like to add those when I encounter them as parts of characters I'm tested on.

 


  • It would be great to be able to drill down more than one level of component parts.

 


  • Also, I think it would be an improvement if mnemonics and example sentences were viewable on characters' information pages, so as you drill down to the different components you can also look at mnemonics and examples.

 


  • Example sentences seem extremely rare, and it doesn't seem possible to add them via the app. It also doesn't seem possible to look at any other mnemonics. 

 


I'll stick with it, and come the new term in September, I'll see if it's had any effect in helping me retain characters.


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Yadang

@Imron:

 

 

People are probably also going to be interested in my opinions on using Skritter vs something like my own Hanzi Grids.

 

I would also be very interested in what you think are the advantages to using Skritter vs. visualizing the strokes and components and then full characters popping into your head, as you described here.

 

I'm also interested in how you plan to keep from forgetting what you've learned once you stop using Skritter. This is something I'm worried about - if I use Skritter for say, a year, how do I stop using it without either putting all of those cards as new into Anki and spending hours going over cards that I know well, but still want to be reminded about at some point in the future with Anki, or forgetting a lot of them by not reviewing them with Anki?

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imron
I would also be very interested in what you think are the advantages to using Skritter vs. visualizing the strokes and components and then full characters popping into your head

Difficult to say, because I use that technique in conjunction with Skritter, e.g. if I come across a word that I don't know, I go to the info page to see the full character, then I break it down in to its components and visualise it, and then once it's good I go back to the writing page and write it down (and then typically mark it as incorrect even though I get it right, because I didn't know it at the beginning).

 

If I don't do that, and just rely on Skritter reps (which I've done for some words) I find that it takes significantly longer for the word to hold.  There could be other reasons for this though due to the way I'm working through the characters, because I basically don't have any context.  In hindsight this was probably not a good way to go about doing things.

 

I'm also interested in how you plan to keep from forgetting what you've learned once you stop using Skritter.

Reading more traditional content and text messaging with handwriting input.

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Shelley

I feel that I have had a good amount of time now enjoying a Free Summer Of Skritter, so that I feel I can give reasonable feedback.

 

I was not a fan of SRS learning, but now that i have been using it I understand and have benefited from this way of learning. I am using the Beta version of the android app.

 

There have been some teething problems with the software, but these have been sorted quickly and as part of the beta tester group reporting problems and receiving  answers and getting results has been very easy and friendly.

 

There is going to be another update (quite a big one from what I understand) and so should fill in missing bits and help with syncing.

 

As for the actual Skritter app. I am absolutely hooked. it is a great aid to character learning, I am actually learning lots and they are sticking.

 

I am really enjoying the way it looks and the content,

 

Unfortunately i cannot justify paying for a subscription because learning Chinese is my passion and my hobby, I don't need to learn for any reason and at the moment its not something i can think of paying for. However I do have a plan to ask for subscription money as Christmas and Birthday presents so we will see how that works out. :)

 

When my free three months is up I plan to keep my learning going by using the flashcard addon in pleco, with handwriting available on my tablet one of the tests does include writing characters. also I am going to just try writing more Chinese, not necessarily rows and rows of the same character but actual sentences using the characters that I am trying to remember and some from earlier lessons so it won't be so boring and I hope to practice my grammar by writing sentences.

 

I will also continue with writing rows and rows of characters in little boxes (using the great prog Hanzi grids) but not the same ones in the same row to alleviate boredom and to emulate one of the things I like about skritter the fact that it doesn't show the same one time after time but a few different ones at a time. it opened my eyes to the fact that it is more enjoyable this way and I think more productive.

 

So all in all its thumbs up from me. excellent app on android and I assume it is this good on  other platforms.

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Mr John

Hi,

 

I've been playing around with Skritter recently on an android device, but I can't seem to find the "teaching feature" the developer mentioned in this thread. Can anyone point me in the right direction, as this is a bit of a deal breaker.

 

Kind regards,

John

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Shelley

@Mr John If I understand you correctly, I think you want to have the stoke order shown, you can do this by clicking on the little magic wand on the left hand side near the top of the screen on my tablet,

 

This walks you through the strokes of the character that you are on. So if you get stuck with a character you click the wand and follow the strokes. Using the magic wand will automatically mark this character as wrong, which is fair enough as you get to practice it some more.

 

Also if you find that you have gotten through say half of a character and get stuck, if you make 3 or 4 (can't remember which) wrong strokes, it will flash up a light grey hint about the next stoke. Again it will then be marked as wrong.

 

Hope this helps.

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Mr John

Hi Shelley,

 

Thanks for your reply. Perhaps that is the feature described above and I have simply misunderstood the nature of the "teach function". I assumed it would be a setting you could activate, whereby the first time you learnt a character it remained visible (rather than the blank screen that's usually shown). The problem with the magic wand - as Imron points out - is that it's not very useful for remembering the components which each character is made up of. Even the eye feature doesn't help much, because the character disappears as soon as the first stroke is made. I was hoping the developer that responded to Imron's feedback was saying that they had developed a new feature for the android version, where the character would remain visible, and the strokes would be demonstrated, in order to help users learn the character from scratch.

 

Thanks again,

John

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Shelley

Interesting, I find the magic wand and the eye very helpful to prompt the memory.

 

I have to admit I don't use skritter until I have put in practice with other methods. I use Pleco flashcards with the handwriting input, the character practice in my text book, pages of Hanzi Grids, old fashion paper flashcards and lots of reading, and writing in general.

 

I never really thought of skiritter as a teaching aid more of a memorising aid.

 

Really wouldn't have got as far as I have without all the above mentioned study materials.

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SkritterJake

@Shelley, thanks for your helpful replies! 

 

@Mr John, you initial understanding of the "teach function" was correct. Unfortunately, the scope of the feature had to be put on hold until we could integrate it into a larger update. The goal is still to teach new characters/words that appear in the Skritter study queue and our development team is working with a designer right now to make that happen. My best guess would be that this is ready for the Android app and website in the next few months. In the meantime, I've asked the development team to include a grey, traceable character on the canvas when the magic wand is pressed. That element should be included into the Android app update scheduled for early next week. 

 

Thanks  to both of you for the comments and feedback! 

 

-Jake

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Shelley

@SkritterJake that sounds like a really good plan. I didn't realise this was going to happen.

 

The grey traceable character will be a big help to go on with. It is good to see the whole character as you learn it and not just as successive stokes.

 

As always thanks for a great app and keep up the good work :)

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Mr John

@SkritterJake

 

Thanks for the feedback. I'm still enjoying the app. Hopefully the next update will help.

 

Kind regards,

John

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Shelley

Just successfully updated Skritter, had to do a reinstall but all working now.

 

New Teaching mode is good, use the magic wand and it shows the whole character and leads you through the correct stroke order.

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kawakusong

Skritter is thought by many users as the best app for learning Chinese characters though it's expensive.  And I also think its handwriting feature is really fun.

 

But, what's the real requirement/purpose of "learning characters"? Do most character learners really want to be able to handwrite the characters on paper? Personally I don't think so. IMO, recognizing characters is the real motivation of people using apps like skritter.

Then what feature makes skritter really effective, or better than others?
Is it the stroke recognition accuracy? Its SRS algorithm? or any other feature?

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Shelley

IMHO learning to write characters however you do it, Skritter or pen and paper or other methods, is because it helps you remember the character.

 

If you only want be able read characters you still need to learn them.

 

Using the correct stroke order helps you remember how to write them and it ensures the character is written correctly. It also helps with "muscle memory" by doing something the same way every time helps build muscle memory.

 

IMO not learning characters is a bad idea, I think it rounds out and solidifies your chinese.

 

Skritter is excellent, but as I am only studying for pleasure I can't justify the cost. If I ever started studying seriously for an exam or other reason I would try to afford skritter. Until then I use other methods. One is pen and paper using Hanzi grids http://www.hanzigrids.com/

 

Another option is a nice little app called Hello Chinese - Learn Chinese this has a character writing section sort of like, but not the same as skritter as well as other learning material. Have a read of my blog http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/blog/108-my-chinese-learning-blog/ to see what I use and more details for this app.

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fabiothebest

I started using Skritter again after long time and it seems to me that the web version is more convenient than the iOS app I tried. I might be wrong as I need to spend more time using it..anyway it seems that when I use the web version I see the whole character the first time, instead on the iOS app it asks me directly to write it without showing me first at least once. Does it happen also to you? Did I do anything wrong? I don't see any setting in the app for enabling that option so I thought it'd be automatic..hmm, can anyone help?

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SkritterJake

@fabiothebest  you're not missing anything. Sadly, the feature you're describing isn't in the release version of our iOS application at the moment, but we're working on deploying it along with a lot of other changes in the next major release for the app for both Chinese and Japanese. Our website works well in mobile browsers, so if you're finding the character tracing useful in the learning process, I would encourage you to keep studying there while we roll this update out. 

 

The latest version of Skritter that is coming out will be a new release and a separate application from the one currently offered in the App Store. I'll be sure to jump back on the forum once it has been released and provide some more details about what's new in the app. We're currently working the Japanese version of the application and ironing out a few minor details for that launch before we switch back to the Chinese version. These updates have been a long time coming and we're very excited about bringing them out soon! 

I'll be sure to post a more comprehensive update in the near future along with some more info about beta testing and release dates once we have them locked in!

Best,

Jake and The Skritter Team

 

 

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