Writing Anki 2.0.x Add-ons

Other Versions

This document covers add-on writing for Anki 2.0.x. For instructions on writing add-ons for Anki 2.1.x, please see https://apps.ankiweb.net/docs/addons.html


Anki is written in a user-friendly language called Python. If you’re not familiar with Python, please read the Python tutorial before proceeding with the rest of this document.

Because Python is a dynamic language, add-ons are extremely powerful in Anki - not only can they extend the program, but they can also modify arbitrary aspects of it, such as altering the way scheduling works, modifying the UI, and so on.

No special development environment is required to develop add-ons. All you need is a text editor. If you’re on Windows or a Mac, please use the packaged version of Anki that’s provided on the website, as there are no instructions available for building it from scratch on those platforms.

While you can write plugins in a simple text editor like notepad, you may want to look into an editor that can provide syntax highlighting (colouring of the code) to make things easier.

Anki is comprised of two parts:

anki contains all the "backend" code - opening collections, fetching and answering cards, and so on. It is used by Anki’s GUI, and can also be included in command line programs to access Anki decks without the GUI.

aqt contains the UI part of Anki. Anki’s UI is built upon PyQt, Python bindings for the cross-platform GUI toolkit Qt. PyQt follows Qt’s API very closely, so the documentation can be very useful when you want to know how to use a particular GUI component.

When Anki starts up, it checks for .py files in the Documents/Anki/addons folder, and runs each one it finds. When add-ons are run, they typically modify existing code or add new menu items to provide a new feature.

A Simple Add-On

Add the following to a test.py file in your add-ons folder:

# import the main window object (mw) from aqt
from aqt import mw
# import the "show info" tool from utils.py
from aqt.utils import showInfo
# import all of the Qt GUI library
from aqt.qt import *

# We're going to add a menu item below. First we want to create a function to
# be called when the menu item is activated.

def testFunction():
    # get the number of cards in the current collection, which is stored in
    # the main window
    cardCount = mw.col.cardCount()
    # show a message box
    showInfo("Card count: %d" % cardCount)

# create a new menu item, "test"
action = QAction("test", mw)
# set it to call testFunction when it's clicked
# and add it to the tools menu

Restart Anki, and you should find a test item in the tools menu. Running it will display a dialog with the card count.

If you make a mistake when entering in the plugin, Anki will show an error message on startup indicating where the problem is.

The Collection

All operations on a collection file are accessed via mw.col. Some basic examples of what you can do follow. Please note that you should put these in testFunction() as above. You can’t run them directly in an add-on, as add-ons are initialized during Anki startup, before any collection or profile has been loaded.

Get a due card:

card = mw.col.sched.getCard()
if not card:
    # current deck is finished

Answer the card:

mw.col.sched.answerCard(card, ease)

Edit a note (append " new" to the end of each field):

note = card.note()
for (name, value) in note.items():
    note[name] = value + " new"

Get card IDs for notes with tag x:

ids = mw.col.findCards("tag:x")

Get question and answer for each of those ids:

for id in ids:
    card = mw.col.getCard(id)
    question = card.q()
    answer = card.a()

Reset the scheduler after any DB changes. Note that we call reset() on the main window, since the GUI has to be updated as well:


Import a text file into the collection

from anki.importing import TextImporter
file = u"/path/to/text.txt"
# select deck
did = mw.col.decks.id("ImportDeck")
# anki defaults to the last note type used in the selected deck
m = mw.col.models.byName("Basic")
deck = mw.col.decks.get(did)
deck['mid'] = m['id']
# and puts cards in the last deck used by the note type
m['did'] = did
# import into the collection
ti = TextImporter(mw.col, file)

Almost every GUI operation has an associated function in anki, so any of the operations that Anki makes available can also be called in an add-on.

If you want to access the collection outside of the GUI, you can do so with the following code:

from anki import Collection
col = Collection("/path/to/collection.anki2")

If you make any modifications to the collection outside of Anki, you must make sure to call col.close() when you’re done, or those changes will be lost.

The Database

When you need to perform operations that are not already supported by anki, you can access the database directly. Anki collections are stored in SQLite files. Please see the SQLite documentation for more information.

Anki’s DB object supports the following functions:

execute() allows you to perform an insert or update operation. Use named arguments with ?. eg:

mw.col.db.execute("update cards set ivl = ? where id = ?", newIvl, cardId)

executemany() allows you to perform bulk update or insert operations. For large updates, this is much faster than calling execute() for each data point. eg:

data = [[newIvl1, cardId1], [newIvl2, cardId2]]
mw.col.db.executemany(same_sql_as_above, data)

scalar() returns a single item:

showInfo("card count: %d" % mw.col.db.scalar("select count() from cards"))

list() returns a list of the first column in each row, eg [1, 2, 3]:

ids = mw.col.db.list("select id from cards limit 3")

all() returns a list of rows, where each row is a list:

ids_and_ivl = mw.col.db.all("select id, ivl from cards")

execute() can also be used to iterate over a result set without building an intermediate list. eg:

for id, ivl in mw.col.db.execute("select id, ivl from cards limit 3"):
    showInfo("card id %d has ivl %d" % (id, ivl))

Note that add-ons should never modify the tables in a collection, as that may break future versions of Anki. If you need to store plugin-specific data, please create a new table that is unlikely to conflict, or store the data in a separate file. For small configuration options, they can be stored within mw.col.conf, but please don’t store large amounts of data there as it’s copied on every sync.


Hooks have been added to a few parts of the code to make writing add-ons easier. There are two types: hooks take some arguments and return no value, and filters take a value and return it (perhaps modified).

A simple example of the former is in the leech handling. When the scheduler (anki/sched.py) discovers a leech, it calls:

runHook("leech", card)

If you wished to perform a special operation when a leech was discovered, such as moving the card to a "Difficult" deck, you could do it with the following code:

from anki.hooks import addHook
from aqt import mw

def onLeech(card):
    # can modify without .flush(), as scheduler will do it for us
    card.did = mw.col.decks.id("Difficult")
    # if the card was in a cram deck, we have to put back the original due
    # time and original deck
    card.odid = 0
    if card.odue:
        card.due = card.odue
        card.odue = 0

addHook("leech", onLeech)

An example of a filter is in aqt/editor.py. The editor calls the "editFocusLost" filter each time a field loses focus, so that add-ons can apply changes to the note:

if runFilter(
    "editFocusLost", False, self.note, self.currentField):
    # something updated the note; schedule reload
    def onUpdate():
    self.mw.progress.timer(100, onUpdate, False)

Each filter in this example accepts three arguments: a modified flag, the note, and the current field. If a filter makes no changes it returns the modified flag the same as it received it; if it makes a change it returns True. In this way, if any single add-on makes a change, the UI will reload the note to show updates.

The Japanese Support add-on uses this hook to automatically generate one field from another. A slightly simplified version is presented below:

def onFocusLost(flag, n, fidx):
    from aqt import mw
    # japanese model?
    if "japanese" not in n.model()['name'].lower():
        return flag
    # have src and dst fields?
    for c, name in enumerate(mw.col.models.fieldNames(n.model())):
        for f in srcFields:
            if name == f:
                src = f
                srcIdx = c
        for f in dstFields:
            if name == f:
                dst = f
    if not src or not dst:
        return flag
    # dst field already filled?
    if n[dst]:
        return flag
    # event coming from src field?
    if fidx != srcIdx:
        return flag
    # grab source text
    srcTxt = mw.col.media.strip(n[src])
    if not srcTxt:
        return flag
    # update field
        n[dst] = mecab.reading(srcTxt)
    except Exception, e:
        mecab = None
    return True

addHook('editFocusLost', onFocusLost)

The first argument of a filter is the argument that should be returned. In the focus lost filter this is a flag, but in other cases it may be some other object. For example, in anki/collection.py, _renderQA() calls the "mungeQA" filter which contains the generated HTML for the front and back of cards. latex.py uses this filter to convert text in LaTeX tags into images.

In Anki 2.1, a hook was added for adding buttons to the editor. It can be used like so:

from aqt.utils import showInfo
from anki.hooks import addHook

# cross out the currently selected text
def onStrike(editor):
    editor.web.eval("wrap('<del>', '</del>');")

def addMyButton(buttons, editor):
    editor._links['strike'] = onStrike
    return buttons + [editor._addButton(
        "iconname", # "/full/path/to/icon.png",
        "strike", # link name

addHook("setupEditorButtons", addMyButton)

Monkey Patching and Method Wrapping

If you want to modify a function that doesn’t already have a hook, it’s possible to overwrite that function with a custom version instead. This is sometimes referred to as monkey patching.

In aqt/editor.py there is a function setupButtons() which creates the buttons like bold, italics and so on that you see in the editor. Let’s imagine you want to add another button in your add-on.

Anki 2.1 no longer uses setupButtons(). The code below is still useful to understand how monkey patching works, but for adding buttons to the editor please see the setupEditorButtons hook described in the previous section.

The simplest way is to copy and paste the function from the Anki source code, add your text to the bottom, and then overwrite the original, like so:

from aqt.editor import Editor

def mySetupButtons(self):
    <copy & pasted code from original>
    <custom add-on code>

Editor.setupButtons = mySetupButtons

This approach is fragile however, as if the original code is updated in a future version of Anki, you would also have to update your add-on. A better approach would be to save the original, and call it in our custom version:

from aqt.editor import Editor

def mySetupButtons(self):
    <custom add-on code>

origSetupButtons = Editor.setupButtons
Editor.setupButtons = mySetupButtons

Because this is a common operation, Anki provides a function called wrap() which makes this a little more convenient. A real example:

from anki.hooks import wrap
from aqt.editor import Editor
from aqt.utils import showInfo

def buttonPressed(self):
    showInfo("pressed " + `self`)

def mySetupButtons(self):
    # - size=False tells Anki not to use a small button
    # - the lambda is necessary to pass the editor instance to the
    #   callback, as we're passing in a function rather than a bound
    #   method
    self._addButton("mybutton", lambda s=self: buttonPressed(self),
                    text="PressMe", size=False)

Editor.setupButtons = wrap(Editor.setupButtons, mySetupButtons)

By default, wrap() runs your custom code after the original code. You can pass a third argument, "before", to reverse this. If you need to run code both before and after the original version, you can do so like so:

from anki.hooks import wrap
from aqt.editor import Editor

def mySetupButtons(self, _old):
    <before code>
    ret = _old(self)
    <after code>
    return ret

Editor.setupButtons = wrap(Editor.setupButtons, mySetupButtons, "around")

If you need to modify the middle of a function rather than run code before or after it, there may a good argument for adding a hook to that function in the original code. In these situations, please post on the forum and ask for a hook to be added.


As mentioned in the overview, the Qt documentation is invaluable for learning how to display different GUI widgets.

One particular thing to bear in mind is that objects are garbage collected in Python, so if you do something like:

def myfunc():
    widget = QWidget()

…then the widget will disappear as soon as the function exits. To prevent this, assign top level widgets to an existing object, like:

def myfunc():
    mw.myWidget = widget = QWidget()

This is often not required when you create a Qt object and give it an existing object as the parent, as the parent will keep a reference to the object.

Standard Modules

Anki ships with only the standard modules necessary to run the program - a full copy of Python is not included. For that reason, if you need to use a standard module that is not included with Anki, you’ll need to bundle it with your add-on.


If your code throws an exception, it will be caught by Anki’s standard exception handler (which catches anything written to stderr). If you need to print information for debugging purposes, you can use aqt.utils.showInfo, or write it to stderr with sys.stderr.write("text\n").

Anki also includes a REPL. From within the program, press the shortcut key and a window will open up. You can enter expressions or statements into the top area, and then press ctrl+return/command+return to evaluate them. An example session follows:

>>> mw
<no output>

>>> print(mw)
<aqt.main.AnkiQt object at 0x10c0ddc20>

>>> invalidName
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/Users/dae/Lib/anki/qt/aqt/main.py", line 933, in onDebugRet
    exec text
  File "<string>", line 1, in <module>
NameError: name 'invalidName' is not defined

>>> a = [a for a in dir(mw.form) if a.startswith("action")]
... print(a)
... print()
... pp(a)
['actionAbout', 'actionCheckMediaDatabase', ...]


>>> pp(mw.reviewer.card)
<anki.cards.Card object at 0x112181150>

>>> pp(card()) # shortcut for mw.reviewer.card.__dict__
{'_note': <anki.notes.Note object at 0x11221da90>,
 '_qa': [...]
 'col': <anki.collection._Collection object at 0x1122415d0>,
 'data': u'',
 'did': 1,
 'due': -1,
 'factor': 2350,
 'flags': 0,
 'id': 1307820012852L,

>>> pp(bcard()) # shortcut for selected card in browser
<as above>

Note that you need to explicitly print an expression in order to see what it evaluates to. Anki exports pp() (pretty print) in the scope to make it easier to quickly dump the details of objects, and the shortcut ctrl+shift+return will wrap the current text in the upper area with pp() and execute the result.

If you’re on Linux or are running Anki from source, it’s also possible to debug your script with pdb. Place the following line somewhere in your code, and when Anki reaches that point it will kick into the debugger in the terminal:

from aqt.qt import debug; debug()

Alternatively you can export DEBUG=1 in your shell and it will kick into the debugger on an uncaught exception.

Learning More

Both anki and aqt are available at http://github.com/dae/. The colllection object is defined in anki’s collection.py. Other useful files to check out are cards.py, notes.py, sched.py, models.py and decks.py.

It can also be helpful to look in the aqt source to see how it’s calling anki for a particular operation, or to learn more about the GUI.

Much of the GUI is defined in designer files. You can use the Qt Designer program to open the .ui files and browse the GUI in a convenient way.

And finally, it can also be extremely helpful to browse other add-ons to see how they accomplish something.

Porting Anki 1.2 plugins

Some of the main changes to be aware of:

  • Table changes: facts→notes, reviewHistory→revlog

  • Fields are stored in the notes tables now, in a single text field flds. The fields are separated by \x1f.

  • There’s no cardTags table now. Use col.findCards("tag:x note:y card:z") to search in a similar way to before.

  • The scheduling code is all in sched.py; the deck code is now in collection.py.

  • If you do bulk updates of the notes table and don’t use findReplace(), make sure to call col.updateFieldCache()

  • There’s no Q/A cache anymore, so you can’t search for text in the card question or answer without generating it first.

  • Instead of the old undo system, call mw.checkpoint("Undo Name") to save the collection before you make changes. If the user undoes the operation, it will revert back to the saved state.

  • In order to ensure changes sync, if you modify notes or cards in the DB, make sure you update mod and set usn to col.usn().

  • Likewise, when you modify models or decks, make sure to call save() in the relevant manager.

  • If you set up a timer, use mw.progress.timer() to ensure the timer doesn’t fire in the middle of a DB operation.

  • There’s no stats table anymore, since it can’t be merged when syncing. The statistics now need to be derived from the revlog table.

Sharing Add-ons

For a simple one-file add-on, you can upload the .py file. For multi-file add-ons, please create a subfolder that acts as a Python package, and create a small .py file that imports that package. Using the Japanese support add-on as an example, the structure looks like:

japanese/__init__.py # can be empty; marks the folder as a package
japanese/<binary support files>

To upload a multi-file add-on, please zip up the folder and the loader .py file and upload the zip.

Please upload add-ons to https://ankiweb.net/shared/addons/