Seven Scientific Calculators for Computer Users

This is a brief post on scientific calculators for computer users. It is partially a followup to the post Ten Great Quick Calculators for Computer Users and overlaps some of the content in this previous post.

A scientific calculator can quickly perform a range of operations and functions beyond basic arithmetic. All scientific calculators perform floating point arithmetic. Most scientific calculators have trigonometric functions, logarithm and power functions, hyperbolic functions, and the factorial. Most scientific calculators support scientific notation. Some scientific calculators can perform various more advanced mathematics such as calculus. In this post, we look at scientific calculator programs for computer users, primarily for performing quick scientific or engineering calculations while working on a computer.

(1) Microsoft Windows Calculator

Microsoft Windows comes with a built-in calculator utility that has a basic and a scientific mode.

Scientific Calculator Microsoft Windows

Scientific Calculator Microsoft Windows

The scientific calculator mode can be selected by selecting the Scientific Menu Item in the View Menu as shown below. The Windows Calculator from Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium is shown.

Selecting Scientific Calculator Mode Windows Calc

Selecting Scientific Calculator Mode Windows Calc

(2) Macintosh OS X Calculator

Like Microsoft Windows, the Macintosh OS X operating system comes with a built-in calculator with a scientific calculator mode.

Mac OS X Scientific Calculator

Mac OS X Scientific Calculator

The scientific calculator can be selected by selecting the Scientific menu item in the View pulldown menu as shown below.

Selecting Mac OS X Calculator Mode

Selecting Mac OS X Calculator Mode

(3) Unix/X Window System xcalc Utility

The X Window System comes with a scientific calculator xcalc. xcalc emulates the Texas Instruments TI-30 scientific calculator by default.

xcalc TI-30 Default Scientific Calculator

xcalc TI-30 Default Scientific Calculator

xcalc -rpn

launches xcalc emulating the classic Hewlett-Packard HP-10C scientific calculator.

xcalc emulating the Classic HP10C Scientific Calculator

xcalc emulating the Classic HP10C Scientific Calculator

(4) Google

The Google search box has been able to evaluate mathematical expressions for years. It has the capabilities of a scientific calculator. In the last few weeks, Google modified its search interface to display a scientific calculator when a scientific mathematical expression is entered.

Google Scientific Calculator Full Screen Capture

Google Scientific Calculator Full Screen Capture

(5) Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha
has extensive scientific calculator functionality and much more.

Wolfram Alpha Screen Shot

Wolfram Alpha Screen Shot

(6) iPhone (IOS)

The iPhone calculator utility morphs into a scientific calculator when you hold the iPhone in landscape (not portrait) mode. Note that when the iPhone is held in portrait mode (long side vertical/short side horizontal) the iPhone Calculator is a basic arithmetic calculator.

(7) GNU Emacs Text Editor

The widely used and widely available GNU Emacs text editor has both a sophisticated calculator mode with a significant learning curve and an easy-to-use quick calculator command. This calculator has extensive scientific calculator functions bordering on a poor man’s MATLAB.

M-x
quick-calc
a (op) b

In most versions of GNU Emacs, the result of the quick calculation is placed in the Emacs “kill ring” and can be then pasted into the current edit buffer by using Ctrl-y (“yank”).

GNU Emacs Quick Calc Command Screenshot

GNU Emacs Quick Calc Command Screenshot

GNU Emacs Quick Calc Step Two Screenshot

GNU Emacs Quick Calc Step Two Screenshot

GNU Emacs Quick Calc Step Three (Result)

GNU Emacs Quick Calc Step Three (Result)

The picture below shows the GNU Emacs calculator computing the sin(2.1*3.1) below. Note that the GNU Emacs calculator defaults to degrees rather than radians (Google, Wolfram Alpha) so the result differs from the result computed by Google and Wolfram Alpha.

GNU Emacs Scientific Calculator

GNU Emacs Scientific Calculator

The GNU Emacs calculator has an extensive user manual.

Conclusion

This brief post has presented seven scientific calculators for computer users:

    1. The Microsoft Windows Calculator
      The Mac OS X Calculator
      The Unix/X Window System xcalc Utility
      Google
      Wolfram Alpha
      The iPhone Calculator
      The GNU Emacs Calculator
  • © 2012 John F. McGowan

    About the Author

    John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, Visual Basic, Mathematica, MATLAB, and many other programming languages. He is probably best known for his AVI Overview, an Internet FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on the Microsoft AVI (Audio Video Interleave) file format. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He can be reached at jmcgowan11@earthlink.net.

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    5 Comments

    1. Bob August 2, 2012
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