Revisiting the Mac Calculator

calc_basicIt’s been around ever since the very first Mac, Yet most folks forgot or never knew it existed. The old trusty Apple Calculator. Go ahead. Check your Applications folder. It’s in there. I promise.

That’s okay. I’ll wait. Ta-daaa!

Told you.

I keep it on my Dock. It’s amazing how often you need to do a quick calculation. However, in addition to your basic add, subtract, multiply, divide, there are features (some relatively new, some not) that may have escaped you.

Show Paper Tape (Window Menu)

Need to keep track of a trail of numbers? Just show the Paper Tape window. Yes, you can save and print it too.

Conversions (Covert Menu)

calc_convertSo, your friend in Toronto tells you it’s -5°C outside and you want to know what that means in the good ol’ USA (23°F). Maybe you want to buy truffles directly from France, but all the prices are in Euros. Or for what ever reason, you need to convert BTUs into Joules.

Just call up the Apple Calculator.

Type in the originating number, pull down the Convert menu, choose your category (Area, Currency, Energy or Work, Length, Power, Pressure, Speed, Temperature, Time, Volume, Weights and Masses), select from what to what, click the Convert button. Bingo. Mystery solved.

Note: in the Currency convert dialog, click the Update button to resync the most current exchange rates from the Yahoo Currency Converter.

Scientific Calculator (View Menu)


All that stuff you learned in high school and prayed you never had to use again. Sine, cosine, tangent, logarithms, etc., etc., (my head hurts). If you ever need it, or want to take a trip down memory lane – slide rule edition, here you go.

Programmer Calculator View (View Menu)


A programmer calculator is used for things like converting between decimal, hexadecimal, binary, unicode, and ascii. It can calculate emulate certain features a computer will do, such as Shift Bits, Flip Bits, and Logical Operators (AND, OR, NOR, XOR). To be honest, I don’t know what all that means either. But if you do, then the Apple calculator has you covered.

RPN Mode (View Menu)

All views – Basic, Scientific, and Programmer – can be used in RPN mode. Reverse Polish Notation is a streamlined method of entering equations. It was developed in the 1920s by Polish mathematician Jan Lukasiewicz. Basically you put the operators in front of their operands, instead of between them, making brackets unnecessary.

In other words, don’t worry about it. Unless you want to. Then again, Apple has your back.