A quick look at notepad calculators, natural language calculators

They go by a couple of different names, but “notepad calculator” or “natural language calculator” will usually do the trick. These are editor style calculators that understand standard calculations like 2+2, but also “20% of $100.” You can also create and assign variables to perform more complex calculations, similar to a spreadsheet, except without the bulk and bloat of a spreadsheet.

The standard example is, rate=$10, hours=40, rate*hours.

Other uses include:

  • Imperial to metric – mph to kph, yards to meters, 120 inches to meters
  • Currency conversion, USD to EUR
  • Binary and Hexadecimal math
  • Time calculations – Now + 30 days
  • And the usual sin(), cos() math I never understood or use

These types of apps are great for little calculations, but are also great for formulas when you don’t need or want to work with a spreadsheet.

Soulver might the first one to come to mind, and was my introduction to this kind of calculator. I used Soulver 2 to emulate several website calculations and drop them into Jira which is more readable than copying and pasting spreadsheet cells, plus formulas isn’t ideal.

Along with Soulver there are apps like Numi, AYBO, and PiPad. Soulver has also upgraded to v3, and with it comes a massive price hike, and dropping support for 10.14. It’s a nice replacement for a spreadsheet, but is it $35 nice? Not to me.

Numi is a fine replacement with some neat features. It uses the same methodology and borrows much from Soulver. The free version allows one sheet of calculations at a time. For $20, you can have multiple sheets worth of calculations. I think it you need multiple sheets at a time maybe you need a spreadsheet.

A bit more simplistic, but with some cool features is AYBO. A very odd name indeed, but it supports variables and calculations like the others. It has features like time, weather, html color codes, languages translations, and the ability to get and locate your IP address. Not sure what those last couple have to do with a calculator, but they’re still cool. Plus, AYBO comes in at $10. That’s more than I paid originally, but the price of everything is going up it seems.

Finally, there is PiPad, which has the same features of variables, unit conversions, currency conversions, equations, and multiline calculations, but it’s free. Its syntax is a little different from the others so you’ll need to refer to the online help to get the hang of it, but it seems quite powerful, certainly beyond my limited needs.

My current choice is AYBO, because I got it for a much cheaper price. I believe it was only $2.99 at the time.

My needs are pretty simple, but:

  • I use it to display the time for different countries because I work with the UK and France.
  • I make unit conversions because bike racing is in metric.
  • I check a few translations for the app I work on.
  • And of course, simple calculations to make sure my math agrees with the site.

I’ve had AYBO for a couple years now and I’m quite happy with it. However, Numi is a quality app as well. If you just want a single sheet of calculations, you can stick with the free version. I like Numi, but I think $20 is a little high for this type of work. It’s certainly better than the sky high price of Soulver at $34.

The phrase, “There’s an app for that,” holds true, and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting or haven’t seen.

I like these notepad calculators, they’re great for simple calculations, and even complex ones, but can be a lot easier to follow, for you and the reader, than a spreadsheet.

If you’ve come as an elf, see it through as an elf.
Author Signature for Posts