People have dug deep into Windows 7, in the several months since the operating system’s release, and they found all kinds of hidden gems. One big surprise is the major overhaul given to the most modest of built-in applications: Windows Calculator.
Yes, the native calculator. We’ve all used it to do some quick math. Microsoft keyboards even have a hotkey mapped to the calculator. But did you ever think you could do scientific or financial calculations on it? You can now.
In Windows Vista, Microsoft basically didn’t do anything except give the calculator an Aero skin, but this version in Windows 7 is in fact quite different. It has a new layout to support multi-touch displays, since Microsoft built a lot of touch screen support and functionality into Windows 7.
You now have four modes to choose from when operating the calculator: Standard, Scientific, Programmer, and Statistics. Let’s cover them individually.
Standard Mode Features
A new Memory key, Memory Minus (M-), is in the upper right. It subtracts whatever figure is in memory.
The new Calculator lets you see your calculation history by typing CTRL-H or selecting View, History. Doing so displays your previous calculations. Let’s say you’ve done a series of four or five calculations in a row. You can backtrack to your prior steps by clicking on that line and if you need, correct your typos (changing “335” to “333”). All of the subsequent calculations are then recalculated (using “333” so your final result isn’t wrong).
Copy and paste are expanded. Your entries be copied and pasted into other apps, such as Excel. The calculation history can also be copied (Edit, History, Copy History) and pasted into Excel. I did a 10-line calculation then copied the entire thing into the spreadsheet, and it filled into 10 cells in a column.
You can do unit calculation and date calculation. These are not features I need often, but when I do, it’s a pain using other means.
The unit calculations cover angle, area, energy, length, power, pressure, temperature, time, velocity and weight/mass. I find area nifty because it does instant calculations between measurements like square feet and square meters. Energy is an interesting option; you can convert calories to BTUs. The calculator’s Length features cover a variety of measures. You can find out how many microns there are in a mile (a question that I seriously have wondered about). The rest all have specialized use cases, but the fact is, they are there. In many instances, you don’t have to go digging through Google for unit conversions.
The date calculator is also nifty. Want to know what day it was on this date x number of years ago? Just subtract x years from the date. This is all done through radio buttons and input boxes. You can also calculate the number of days between two dates.
Scientific, Statistics, and Programmer Modes
The scientific features from the old calculator have been split into the Scientific and Statistics features. I’ve combined them into one group because, in all candor, I’m not a heavy user of these functions and only understand the basics.
In Scientific mode, Calculator is precise to 32 significant digits and honors operator precedence. It offers functions such as basic to-the-power-of calculations as well as more powerful functions like sine, cosine, and pi functions. You can use them in normal or inverse mode.
In Programmer mode, Calculator is precise up to 64 bits, depending on the word size. The calculator honors operator precedence in Programmer mode and works in integer only mode. Decimals are discarded. This mode lets you work in a variety of base operations: binary, octal, hexadecimal, and decimal; it can do calculations from one base to another, such as converting octal to binary.
The Statistics mode isn’t quite as elaborate as the other two, but it’s still something the old calculator did not have. You get functions like the sum of numbers and the sum of numbers to a power to make statistical calculations.
The C key in statistics mode deletes the current value expressed instead of clearing it. The CAD button clears all the values from the dataset, since statistics are usually built on a large number of figures.
The Calculator is fully usable from the keyboard as well as with the mouse. Every function (as far as I can tell) is mapped to a keyboard shortcut. A complete list of shortcuts is here in PDF format.
For people still stuck using Windows Vista, there is a workaround to get the Calculator running on 32-bit or 64-bit Vista. You have to download the Calculator from a number of sites, which will we not link to here out of obvious respect for Microsoft copyright.
Back up the existing
calc.exe file from the
C:\Windows\System32\ directory and
C:\Windows\System32\en-US\ directory into a separate folder. Replace
C:\Windows\System32\en-US\ with the Windows 7 versions. This must be done in Administrator mode.
It’s hardly a replacement for the HP 12C calculator, but Microsoft has given the Windows 7 Calculator a very nice overhaul, putting in many features that I frequently had to find on Google. No more Googling a metric converter or volume converter, and the mileage tool is a real handy thing for business travel. Once you find out how much Microsoft has added, you may find yourself turning to the Calculator a lot more often.
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