Pcalc turned 25 years old on December 23rd. I’ll admit, even though I’ve listened to Pcalc creator James Thomson talk about the history of his Mac and iOS calculator app on podcasts and have used the app myself on iOS almost since (I think) its inception on that platform, I had no idea that it has such an amazingly long history.
“Yay, a calculator,” I can hear you thinking. “I get one for free just by logging onto my Mac or unlocking my iPhone.”
Yes. You do. But guess what (turn away for a second, Apple)? THOSE SUCK. Also all the free calculator apps you’ve ever tried suck too. I’m not saying that as a matter of opinion. I’m stating unbiased, provable, universal truth. No fake news here.
It’s not any one feature that sold me on Pcalc. It’s the combination of features, UI, and, quite frankly, the developer himself. Mac and iOS have some of the best third-party developers and apps in the universe.
Pcalc has flexible layout options. You can set up just about any level of complexity, go for basic, complex, programming, scientific, hex, and many other layouts. It’s great.
There’s also a tip calculator layout, which works amazingly on an iPhone with 3D Touch. Simply 3D Touch the app icon, select tips layout, and Pcalc launches in tip mode. After you close the app and launch it again by just tapping the icon normally, you’ll automatically go back to whatever template you usually prefer. If there’s a faster way to switch between normal calculator and tip calculator, I’ve never seen it.
In tip calculator layout, just type in the total on the check, tap the button corresponding to whatever percentage you want to leave as a tip, and Pcalc does the math. The cool thing is that it automatically figures out a tip value that will round the total to a whole number — no crazy numbers of cents, just beautiful whole dollars. I always err on the side of rounding high by choosing a decent percentage. 20% is probably a good safe value in the US.
In the example above, a total of $28.43 with a choice of 20% tip results in a tip of $6.57 for a total of $35.00.
Another thing I use Pcalc all the time for is conversions. Enter whatever your number is, tap the A \> B button, and choose your units. In the semiconductor world, if you work in the US, you deal with both imperial and metric units all the time, and I love me some Pcalc conversions.