Science

Your computer’s calculator app stinks. Here are 4 better alternatives.

Your computer’s built-in calculator app is acting like an old pocket calculator and that’s kind of weird.

The word processor on your computer doesn’t pretend to be a physical piece of paper, insisting that you draw words instead of typing. The contacts app on your computer doesn’t force you to turn virtual pages or limits the number of entries that begin with a particular letter. Why, then, are stock calculator apps insisting on being an on-screen recreation of an electronic device from the 60s, with all of the same limitations? 

There are better calculator apps out there—they look more like text documents than pocket-sized numbered keypads, and are much easier to use. 

These apps, which you can call notepad calculators, allow you to write down equations and see the answer in real-time, while also offering features like natural language parsing, unit conversations, and even built-in connections to work out things like currency values. These tools allow you to type “16 tablespoons in cups” and get an actual answer. 

(That’s one cup, in case you were wondering). 

Numi

Numi is one of the first notepad calculators I noticed and my personal favorite. You can do straightforward number crunching by using the app as a normal calculator—just type out the operation and you’ll see the result. But Numi also supports natural language, so when you type “6k divided by 12,” you’ll also get a correct answer. 

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According to the developers, Numi supports every unit of distance, length, area, and volume you can think of, percentages, time zones, currencies and cryptocurrencies, and various trigonometry functions. So, for example, the platform can figure out what is 3 inches in centimeters, what’s 5 percent of 123, how much is $20 in Euros, or what’s the price of one Bitcoin. There’s a lot more to dig into here, too, including the ability to set variables early in the document and use them later. 

Numi is free to download for macOS. The full version, including unlimited notes and iCloud syncing, is available for a one-time payment of $20. 

Parsify

Parsify is very similar to Numi but is also available to non-Mac people. You can write equations and use natural language in the left panel, and results will show up on the right. This platform also supports tabs, which means you can have several documents open at once. 

According to the Parsify docs this application supports unit conversions, currencies and cryptocurrencies, and time zones. As with Numi, you can use “prev” to pull in the solution to the previous line and set variables early in the document to pull in later. 

Parsify is free to download for Windows, macOS, and Linux, but limits files to only five lines. The full, unlimited version will set you back $29. 

Evaluator

Evaluator is different from the other apps on this list. You can have it running in the background, and summon it by hitting the keyboard shortcut, Alt+Space. A small window will pop up in the middle of the screen ready for you to crunch up some numbers. 

You can type out whatever mathematical operations you want to solve and you’ll see the answers in real-time. If you hit Enter, Evaluator will copy the latest answer to your clipboard, so you can paste it into any other applications, which comes in handy if you’re working with a spreadsheet. 

Evaluator doesn’t offer as many bells and whistles as the above apps—there’s no currency support and it can’t handle natural language. But it makes up for this by always being ready and being the fastest number cruncher in the west. 

Evaluator is free to download for Windows and macOS.

Numpad

Numpad runs entirely in the browser, meaning you can start using it without installing anything. It’s completely free to use and there’s even support for sharing your files with other people—just click the Share button to copy a link. 

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Open the site and you’ll see the documentation right away, which you can even edit to learn about all of the platform’s functionality. Numpad can do basic math, unit and currency conversion, percentages, and more. There’s even support for calculating dates—for example, you can type “25th December 2022 – 80 days” to find out when 80 days before Christmas is. The app also supports the keyboard shortcuts you use in the text editor Vim and Emacs, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. 

Numpad is free and available on the web. 

Other ways to quickly crunch numbers

Actually, you don’t need a dedicated app to do quick calculations. Here are a few other ways you can let machines do the heavy lifting for you: 

  • Google search. Type and search any equation to get the answer, including things like unit or currency conversions. 
  • The Windows start menu. Open the start menu and type any equation to see the result show up in the right-side panel. It’s a little laggy but it works. 
  • Spotlight on macOS. Type command + space bar to bring up the default search tool and type any equation to instantly see the answer. 
  • Voice assistants. If you’re the kind of person who prefers to do math out loud, the Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri can all answer basic math questions.



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