key review info
- Application: Qalculate! 0.9.3.1
- Reviewed on:
- Display of as-you-type expression parsing and function hints
- (6 more, see all...)
I was browsing the Internet, looking for an advanced scientific calculator in Linux. At some point I stopped over one named Qalculate! The Q is pink, but the boys won't mind because this one might be the most advanced tool useful for science. Girls will definitely like the pink too.
Qalculate has a simple interface and its purpose it to be easy to use and in the same time very powerful and versatile. I loved it right away because its purpose was easily achieved. I'm far from being good at math but now I don't really have to be. Qalculate is good for me. However, that some basic knowledge is required because you need to know at least what you want to do with it.
I remember that I did once a calculator in the Basic programming language. It was something similar to the one you can find in Windows. This one is far more advanced than those cheap ones you can find everywhere. Is actually much more advanced than my "hardware" CASIO fx calculator that I use for school. The difference is that my CASIO calculator uses a very cheap microprocessor and a very cheap display and this one uses some of the power and flexibility of the modern PCs that are generally designed to do very complicated computations when they are running 3D games.
What I was actually looking for was a piece of software that supports expressions. This is actually essential for modern calculators, both software and hardware. This means that in those you can input an expression just as you would write it on the paper but with the obvious advantage of being able to make modifications in the expression at all times. This is actually in the center of attention in Qalculate.
Entering expressions in Qalculate is very easy and fault tolerant. It supports completion so as you enter the expression a list of possible functions, variables and units will be shown. If you don't know how to enter a function you can use the appropriate menu and there you'll find a very comprehensive list. The list is also useful to see which the available functions are. You'll see that a very wide area is covered.
After executing an expression you'll see that it will be marked. If the syntax is not correctly written an error box will be displayed and it tells you what's wrong. If everything was ok the result will be shown in an area below the expression entry. It's amazing what a great output Qalculate has. Actually this gets even better because the output of the mathematical result is customizable. You should go in the mode menu and see the possibilities there. Configuring it here can really make a difference in the usability of the program. I was absolutely pleased with the results outputted by Qalculate. Equations that perhaps would take me forever to deal with were solved by this software in a split second.
At the bottom left corner in the main window there are two buttons. One is History and the other is Keypad. Even though these two are not something spectacular, they can turn out to be very useful. History is good to go through the previous calculations. You can copy the text from the history and paste it somewhere so later you can print it.
Two additional features would be great for Qalculate; to be able to print the history to look like the solution of a problem and to be able to export the result as a picture so it can be pasted in a document. The second button makes Qalculate start resembling a calculator. This one is useful mostly for users that want to have the calculator view in front of their eyes. I use the button that switches to fraction from this keypad. Other buttons I really don't use because I like the power of the expression interpreter.
One of the coolest features of Qalculate is that it can import and export CSV files. These are somehow popular in scientific applications because formatying them is a pretty easy task and adapting is not hard. For example, spreadsheet software can export in CSV but also custom applications used in data acquisition do this.
Other cool tools that will be very helpful in some situations are dialogs for creating vectors and matrices and also for creating variables. How you use all these tools together will decide how effective you can work with Qalculate. For example, you can easily create a matrix and then store it as a variable for using it in a simplified equation.
Possibilities are huge with this software and the more you use it the more you'll realize this. It even has an online update for exchange rates, a periodic table and a dialog for plotting expressions.
All I have to say is that I appreciate this fine release of Niklas Knutsson and I hope he will continue developing this software.
The interface of this software is very simple and in the same time powerful. Perhaps the best thing is the interpreter of expressions. The fact that all the power is stored in libqalculate allows developers to create different frontends so in the future we can expect other powerful applications.
It's hard to say I didn't like something about this software. Perhaps the only thing I want to see in a future release is a better history function.
Engineers can really benefit a lot from it. If you are not in engineering but you do some kind of computations you should give it a try. I saw some economics functions there but who knows what other stuff you might find useful.
Check out some screenshots below: