State of Mental Case after 4 years of use: Regressions and suggestions

Ann T.'s Avatar

Ann T.

16 Sep, 2015 01:47 PM


I've been using Mental Case for some years now, but unfortunately noticed some regressions and other problems during my years of using your app. This post shall serve to inform you about some problems that I experienced, and I hope it may help you in improving the application's quality.

Some words about my use case: I used Mental Case to learn a foreign language, which started about 3 to 4 years ago, and over the time accumulated about 20000 individual cards spread across several decks. Even though this might sound like a large number, all of these cards rarely have any markup attached to them---most cards consist of about 3 facets with a simple word on each of them.

When I began using Mental Case, I only had a Mac and an iPad. To sync my library to the iPad, I had to connect both devices to the same network and then had to sync the iPad manually. This worked without problems, albeit slowly.

When this syncing method was replaced with iCloud sync, things started to go down for me. I stopped using the iPad and replaced it with a portable MacBook. My aim was to have my library synced across these two Macs, but the iCloud syncing option was non-functioning at best and destructive at worst. For instance, one time this happened:

On my old Mac, I activate iCloud syncing and let it upload my library. On the new Mac (which has no Mental Case library right now, since it was newly installed), I active iCloud syncing as well. What happened? The library on my old Mac was completely erased, probably because the new installation uploaded its empty state and made iCloud sync that to my old Mac.

I had to restore my library from a Time Machine backup, making me lose all the learning progress that I made to that date.

I always thought that the size of my library was one cause for the syncing problems, but in my opinion, 20000 cards are nothing fancy if you want to learn a foreign language.

Things got even worse when I started adding images to some cards. This was also around the time when Dropbox syncing was offered as an alternative to iCloud syncing. Sadly, saving my library to Dropbox didn't help syncing at all. I could always see Dropbox uploading small files with obscure file names, and when I checked the file size of the library inside the Dropbox folder, sometimes it was as large as several gigabytes (!), and this for a library with only text and some images. Unsurprisingly, the Dropbox-synced library never made its way to the other Mac. By the way, all of this happened on both OS X Mavericks and OS X Yosemite (after I updated iCloud's "Documents & Data" to "iCloud Drive").

It's gotten so bad that I, unfortunately, had to stop using Mental Case and switched to a competitor's product which makes me quite sad because I put much time into my library, and prior to the syncing problems, Mental Case helped me *tremendously* in learning a language.

I'm still watching Mental Case's development after I had to switch to another product, and would love to see my old "companion" rise again to a state that makes it usable for me. Here are some things that I hope Mental Case improves in some future update:

* First of all, syncing. As I explained before, Mental Case's database is somehow unreliable when syncing with iCloud or Dropbox. Perhaps this is because it is a single large file, in contrast to separate files for each Deck of cards. I would love to see Mental Case using separate documents (that is, separate files) for each Deck---this way, syncing could be done by moving these files to a platform of the user's choice, and let Mental Case open the deck from that place.

* Templates/Markup. This might be due to my library's size, but whenever I applied my template to a deck of about 1000 cards, Mental Case crashed after applying the template. I can see the benefits of having templates for different topics, but using it is a little bit awkward, especially because there's no way to change a template without making a new one and applying it to all cards.

* I know that Mental Case supports some kind of "ID" for a facet, e.g. "Image", "Foreign word", "Definition", and so on, but this feature didn't work for me most of the time. The thing that happened was the following: I create a card, add some facets, select "Definition" or "Answer" for some facets and applied some markup. Then, I created a template based on this card, and applied it so some other cards. Now, when I create a new card and looked at the list of "IDs", there were duplicate entries for "Definition" and "Answer". Probably because Mental Case thought I was creating new user-"IDs", that happen to have the same name as Mental Case's built-in ones.

* Compared to a competitor's product, the way cards are displayed in the right column makes editing a little bit slow (even though it does look beautiful!). The only way I can edit cards without clicking each card and be put into the "Facets view" is by using the List View, making me lose the possibility to add markup. For your information, I attached a screenshot of how I can edit cards in another app: On the left I can see all my cards, and on the right I edit them directly with the buttons for Bold, Italic, etc. on the bottom without having to "click inside" each card to see and edit its facets.

* With a slideshow of about 1000 cards, going forward and backward or flipping through the facets was very slow, especially on older Macs. This could be sped up by disabling the transition animations, but what was even more annoying was the fact that the fans started to speed up to a high level (especially on MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs). There's probably some kind of serious data-crunching going on when flipping through the cards, e.g. applying the learning algorithm, etc. but on my mobile Mac, CPU usage and the temperature were so high that I could hardly use my Mac anymore.

* Backwards compatibility. By this I mean the compatibility with older operating systems, e.g. OS X Mavericks. I know that right now, Mental Case supports even older versions than Mavericks, so please don't make the mistake to make Mental Case dependent on OS X Yosemite or even El Capitan.

Despite this criticism, I can see that much love was put into Mental Case's interface---I love all the small details, the look of the cards, the animations ... It's very sad for me that I can't use Mental Case anymore.

I hope all of this didn't sound too harsh on my side---I know that I can't expect you to implement all the things that I mentioned, so take all of this just as an insight to how I used Mental Case, my use case, which is probably different from the use case of other people, but not so different for someone obsessed with languages. Mental Case is still a very beautiful application (something you don't see often in this era of flat-design-ugliness!), and I wish you all of the best for the future of Mental Case.

Kind regards,

an old, fanatic Mental Case user

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by drewmccormack on 17 Sep, 2015 06:45 AM

    drewmccormack's Avatar

    Hi Ann,
    Thanks for the extensive feedback.
    We have been working for about a year on a complete overhaul of the app. Many of the points you raise have been addressed.
    Would you be interested in helping us beta test it when we start in a month or two?
    Kind regards,

  2. 2 Posted by Ann T. on 17 Sep, 2015 09:57 PM

    Ann T.'s Avatar

    Hello Drew,

    this sounds like great news, and I would be more than happy to help you test the new version of Mental Case!

    You can contact me by the address I provided on this discussion board or by my personal mail: anntree(at)outlook(dot)com

    Thanks for giving me this opportunity, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you when the beta version is ready to be tested!

    Best regards

  3. drewmccormack closed this discussion on 19 Sep, 2015 04:49 PM.

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