Monday, April 18, 2011

Calculator on iPod and Palm

One thing I was very pleased to see on the iPod Calculator was the fact that if you entered, e.g., 2 + 3, the + button would have an "illuminated" border around it after being pressed. I like having an indicator that shows if the last button you pressed was an arithmetic operator. This may be more important to me since I normally set the iPod to not make any sound when I tap a key, so I get no auditory confirmation. Along with that, Apple chose to not let multiple consecutive presses of the same arithmetic operator change the running total. If you were entering, e.g., 5 + 5, on the iPod, you could never do inadvertent additions by hitting the + key more than once in a row (e.g., if you couldn't remember whether you had last pressed 5 or +, you might press + a second time), as would occur in the Palm Calc application.

In Palm's defense, if you hide the Graffiti section of the screen, you can see a display of entries like you might see on an adding machine, which could help you prevent inadvertently changing your running total (I just learned this now, as I am leaving the Palm platform!). As far as I can remember, in all my years of (periodic) usage of the Palm Calc application, I always had the Graffiti section of the screen visible, because I normally had it visible when doing other things, so it remained visible when I invoked Calc. Perhaps Palm should have hidden the Graffiti section of the screen by default when the Calc application was started. What user is going to prefer to use Graffiti software to enter digits when Calc already gives you nice big buttons for each?

The iPod Calculator's "clear" button's label is AC initially (All Clear, i.e., reset running total to zero), which is the same function as C on the Palm. After you enter a number, it changes to C (clear entry), which is done by the CE button on the Palm. It changes back to AC after you press C. After mistyping a digit on a multi-digit number which was not the first in a sequence of numbers I was adding, I was briefly put out when, looking at the C button, I mistakenly thought there was no clear entry functionality -- I hadn't noticed that that same button was labeled AC at the start.

Note also that after entering a sequence like 6 + 7 + 8, if you press C to clear the entry of 8, the + sign remains illuminated as a helpful indicator about what you've pressed. So in that case, your running total of 13 is still active, although 0 is displayed because it's waiting for you to enter the next addend.

The iPod Calculator has an m- (memory minus) button which Palm lacks, which might be useful. It will probably be more useful than the % and √ (square root) keys the Palm has but which the iPod lacks.

Winner: iPod.

The Android calculator apparently shows math operations horizontally in the display, e.g., 1+2+3 shows exactly like that, not just as 1, then 2, then 3, as would be the case on iPod or Palm. Press = to see the total. Presumably it follows My Dear Aunt Sally's rule of Multiplication & Division operations first, then Addition & Subtraction operations, if there were a mix of the two types.

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