If you’re like me, the one program that never closes on your computer is your web browser. And why not? I use my web browser to access my email, my calendar, my work here at MakeUseOf and even a good chunk of my entertainment.

But why stop there? Your web browser can function perfectly well for making basic calculations, and you don’t even need to install any plugins. There are a variety of online calculators out there, but I prefer to just use Google as a calculator.

Why? Because for what I need to calculate day-to-day it works. That and, since Google is my homepage and almost every browser builds in easy access to Google’s search functions, it’s almost always on hand.

Basic calculations

Getting started with Google as a calculator is easy: just type in what you want to calculate. If you’re stupid, for example, and don’t know what one plus one is, a quick search for 1 + 1 will give you the result.

This is a really simple example, of course: the calculator can do more than addition. Subtraction (1-1), Multiplication (1*1), and division (1/1) are all simple, as are exponents (5^6). A complete list of the functions Google’s calculator can use can be found here, and includes advanced functions including square root (sqrt(110)) and percentage (5% of 300).

As with any good calculator, parenthesis can be used if you want a certain part of a calculation to be completed first. This allows you to construct complex equations if you like, but you might find that really complex stuff is best left to actual calculators. Still, if you want to dive into the Google Calculator as deep as you can, I highly recommend GoogleGuide’s calculator page for more information.

Conversion

But Google calculator isn’t just useful in the ways a traditional calculator is; it goes beyond that, allowing you to convert between any two units just by typing a simple sentence. For example, I live in Boulder, Colorado now but used to live in Peace River, Alberta. Driving to Peace River from here is almost 1,600 miles. I could inform a Canadian friend of mine of this number, but seeing as everyone uses kilometers in Canada it probably wouldn’t mean much to them. No problem, I can do a quick conversion with Google.

Conversion isn’t limited to units of distance: you can convert Fahrenheit to Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius), find out how many tablespoons are in half a cup (tablespoons in half cup) or silly things like how many bakers dozens there are in a score.

You can even convert units that change over time, like currency. If I were planning a trip to Peace River, I could use the conversion tool to figure out how many Canadian dollars I could buy with 500 American.

(Looks like the American dollar is a lot weaker than it was during my move. I should have held on to my Canadian currency”¦)

Other Nifty Features

If this is the first you’ve heard about using Google’s search function for anything besides”¦well”¦search, you’ll be interested to know that using Google as a calculator is just the tip of the iceberg. Google can quickly find local weather reports, information on packages and even the scores to live sporting events””all by typing a single search. Read all about it in Charnita’s article about 9 cool Google search shortcuts.

Conclusion

Google’s mostly known for its search engine, and rightly so: its widely thought to be the best on the planet. But building a calculator into the search bar means I can crunch basic numbers and conversions right from my search bar or home page. I use this on a daily basis.

What do you guys think? Is this a useful feature for Google to have, or would you never use a search engine to crunch numbers? Do you prefer another search engine to Google, and want to discuss its merits over Google (whilst possibly insulting me for not mentioning them?) Well, we have comments, so you’re free to say what you like!

1. Relequestual
April 1, 2010 at 4:35 am

When creating a calculator application for my uni project, I got bored. After getting BIDMAS to work, I set on making a "what does google say" button, which queried google for the answer of the calculation! Had to fake the browser type and then extract the answer from the resulting html! Doesn't work any more though as the resulting html has changed, but was a fun challenge. Didn't get any extra marks for it though lol.

• Justin Pot
April 1, 2010 at 5:13 am

That's pretty clever.

• Relequestual
April 1, 2010 at 6:17 am

If I complete the set task quickly and I'm bored, why not try to stretch myself a bit further. The best way to learn programming is to do programming :)

2. malayalamonline
March 31, 2010 at 10:07 pm

It is very informative, that search engines can use for calculations and conversions. thanks .

3. D. Gates
March 31, 2010 at 11:53 am

I use Wolfram Alpha as my online calculator. If I were to use a search engine, I'd use Bing â€” which uses Wolfram Alpha as a backend. Google's calculator can't graph or solve equations, unless there's something I missed. It certainly doesn't have any of Wolfram Alpha's more advanced capabilities, like integration with step-by-step directions or matrix manipulation.

• Justin Pot
April 1, 2010 at 5:16 am

I wrote this one up about Google because it's what most people use for search, and thus seemed most relevant. But if Bing/Wolfram Alpha is superior to Google in this respect perhaps I'll need to do a follow-up...

4. Shivam Vaid
March 31, 2010 at 9:51 am

Even bing/yahoo search offer basic calculation and conversion facilities( eg [2^3 +4] or "kms in a mile" etc ). It might not be as efficient as google but it also signifies another aspect. The basic functionality of these search engines is not really to provide this kind of facility. There are separate dedicated applications to do the same. However, as browser is eventually becoming a user's sole playground ( cloud computing, social networking etc ) - it increasingly makes sense to have this kind of stuff integrated (eg in google/bing ) to create a value add to the end user. With a good internet speed at disposal and the lethargy to open a separate application - these features can sure help the search engines to build a newer kind of relation with the end user.