Compared to other standard calculators, Mac OS X users definitely can’t complain. The Calculator app that ships with Mac OS by default is diverse and incredibly powerful. However, you simply can’t build an app as general as a calculator to satisfy all possible user scenarios. For different users, different apps will always come out on top. Luckily, there’s no shortage of calculator alternatives in the Mac App Store.
For this article, we scoured the Mac App Store for the best calculator applications, each for a very different usage scenario. No matter how you’re used to crunching your numbers, there are a number of Calculator alternatives worth looking into.
Always on Top Calculator ($0.99)
One of the things that can be most irritating when you’re multitasking on Mac OS X is having to switch to and fro between Calculator and the app or apps you’re working in. Admittedly, this is a problem most calculator applications suffer from, those covered in this article included. The exception appears to be Always on Top Calculator, a cheap little calculator that—you may have guessed it – always stays on top.
You won’t be able to do all the same things as you would in a more powerful calculator application. Powers, roots and goniometric formulas are out of the question. However, Always on Top Calculator will suffice for standard number crunching and for the menial price of $0.99, you’ll never again lose your calculator application between the clutter of other applications.
Soulver does the kind of number crunching you’d expect from expansive spreadsheets. However, contrary to those applications, Soulver is very fast and intuitive to use. If there’s any way to describe Soulver, it would be as a smart, contextual calculator. Instead of wrestling for control of intricate formula chains, Soulver allows you to use (something very close to) natural language.
With a $19.99 price tag, Soulver is the most expensive Calculator alternative we’ll cover in this round-up. Whether it’s worth that price depends on how often you have to crunch your numbers and how complicated the operations are. In any case, Soulver will speed up the way you work, allowing you to juggle different currencies and current stock prices with intuitive natural language constructions.
Mac’s Calculator app includes a scientific mode, granting access to a wide variety of functions. Although the sheer amount of features packed into the Calculator app is impressive, it still hasn’t reached the same level of calculator goodness that is PCalc. Although the application is especially popular among fans of the RPN mode, PCalc is an all-round great scientific and programmer calculator.
At just under ten bucks, PCalc isn’t cheap either, but you’re buying a whole lot of functionality packed into a good-looking and user-friendly application. Even more impressive is the developer’s dedication to the application. The first version of PCalc was released over twenty years ago, in 1992. A special release of PCalc 2 was even shipped with Mac OS X in the United States and other countries in 2002. Looking at its track record, it’s easy to see why PCalc 3 does not disappoint.
You’ve no doubt already made acquaintance with Wolfram Alpha, a ‘smart’ computational knowledge engine. If not, it’s high time to learn about the true power of the Wolfram Alpha knowledge engine. More interesting uses can be found in Saikat’s article – 10 Search Terms To Put Wolfram Alpha To Good Use Everyday. Any one of these examples is reason enough to integrate Wolfram Alpha into your workflow as a computational knowledge calculator.
The default way to access Wolfram Alpha on your computer is through your browser. However, other apps allow for a more tight integration of Wolfram Alpha. My personal favorite in this area is, which allows you to turn any website into a standalone application. You can create a standard desktop application for free, or purchase the $4.99 premium version of Fluid to create a menu bar application.
To keep things nice and tidy I prefer to use Wolfram Alpha’s mobile website, as can be seen in the above screenshot.
Magic Calculator ($3.99)
Most calculators allow you to save some intermediate results to a spot in memory, remaining there for later perusal. For more complicated calculations, one such spot in memory quickly proves to be insufficient. Magic Calculator is an advanced calculator, with support for functions and variables. Save any number (or formula evaluation) to a chosen variable name and start juggling intermediate results like an expert.
More advanced usage is also possible. Magic Calculator lets you define functions yourself. Adding to this user-friendly function plotting and Magic Calculator proves itself to be a very powerful calculating tool. All of this for the decidedly low price of $3.99.
What calculator tools do you use in your workflow? Share your favorite applications (or websites) with the other readers in the comments section below the article!