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The first “compact” calculator was released in 1957, and needed to be built into a desk. Over time the device shrank, to the point where you could easily fit it in your hand. These days most people use software calculators on their phones, instead of a separate device. This gives you a lot of choice, and different ways of using calculators.
Which brings us to today’s Cool Websites and Apps, where we’ll look at five apps that do calculators differently. From algebra solvers that show their work to notepad-like tools that also crunch numbers, we’ve got all sorts of ways for you to do what computers do best: calculate.
Algebra Calculator (Web, iOS): Solves Problems, Shows Its Work
There are plenty of calculators out there capable of solving algebra problems, but not all of them bother to show you how the problem was solved – which makes them useless for learning. If there’s a problem you can’t figure out, Algebra Calculator can solve it for you and show you every step.
Whether you’re a student learning algebra for the first time or just someone looking for a refresher, Algebra Calculator is more than just a calculator – it’s a tutor. You can use the web version, or an iOS app for iPhone and iPad.
Notepad Calculator: Jot Down Calculations, Get Answers Instantly
This one isn’t like any calculator you’ve ever seen before: it’s got a notepad-like interface. Just type out equations to get solutions, or you can assign values to terms and use them for more calculations later.
I’d say Notepad Calculator is to Excel as Notepad is to Word – less powerful, sure, but faster and cleaner if you just quickly need to work something out. It’s simple, and open source. Calculations are saved locally in your browser’s local storage, so you can find them back later easily.
Numi (Mac): Powerful, Attractive Calculator and Converter
Like the idea behind Notepad Calculator, but prefer native Mac apps? Numi is perfect for you. Like Notepad calculator, you can jot down equations to get quick answers – and even define terms to use them later. But there’s more: this app can also convert currency, and include those conversions in calculations.
There are a few Mac-specific features, including menubar support, and there’s even a night mode if you like things to be dark. You can save a sheet of calculations for future use as a file.
We’ve gone over alternative Windows calculators as well in the past, of course, so those of you who prefer PCs are also covered.
Calcbot (iOS/Apple Watch): Calculator and Converter
Speaking of calculators with currency conversion: here’s one for iOS users. Calcbot looks like a simple calculator, and you can use it that way, but it also offers a variety of conversion tools. This puts all your number-crunching needs in one place.
There’s also support for Apple Watch, if you want to bring the calculator watch to the 21st century.
Desmos Graphing Calculator (Web): Do Your Homework Entirely in Your Browser
In high school I was required to buy a TI83 graphing calculator, but that was 15 years ago – cell phones weren’t yet commonplace, let alone smart phones. I had assumed the graphing calculator died a long time ago, another device eaten by readily available computers, so imagine my surprise to see them offered prominently in back-to-school sales.
Anyway: Desmos is a great example of why dedicated graphing calculators are kind of silly in this day and age. It’s an alternative to a graphing calculator you can run in your web browser.
If nothing else this is a great way to do your homework with a nice interface before learning to do it on an archaic calculator, right? Give it a shot and let me know. Or, if there’s some reason dedicated graphing calculators are worth $100+, please fill me in using the comments below – I’m admittedly wrong a lot.
What Are Your Favorite Calculators?
So, which amazing calculator apps do you like best? Did I miss anything good? Fill me in using the comments below, okay?
Oh, and if you know of any weird uses for Wolfram Alpha, I’d love to learn about those as well. Let’s chat!