The ever-present-ness of your iPhone makes it the ideal device for doing impromptu math. Chances are, you just use the built-in calculator for price calculations, etc. But there’s a much better—and more elegant—app for that: Soulver.
We’ll be taking a look at how the application works, sharing a few examples, and outlining how it’s easy to save and revisit calculations at a later date.
Brilliant Math Power
What makes Soulver so unique is its layout? Although it has all the right buttons, where’s the simulated LCD that every calculator has? Nonexistent; Soulver works in a linear fashion. As you start tapping in your mathematical musings, Soulver calculates on the fly and displays your answer on the right. Adjust your equation, and the answer will adjust.
When you’ve finished a calculation, you don’t have to get rid of it. Just hit the “new line” button. You can now work out your next problem while your previous ones are still visible for reference. You can even call in the value of the line by using the “line reference” button. After tapping that button, tap the line number you’d like to use. Now you can adjust the expression in that line and have every subsequent calculation use the updated value automatically.
Don’t miss the “Func” key in the corner; there’s a lot more that Soulver can handle. This gives you a secondary keyboard with some advanced functions. After tapping one, you’ll be taken back to the numerical keypad.
But there’s even more lurking under the keypad. For some keys, (%, delete, sin, cos, tan, $, and .) tapping and holding will bring up extra functions. Most of these do what you would expect; the delete key offers to clear the whole row instead of just one character. My favourite is the percentage key; its extras make it easy to add and subtract percentages from a number, as well as find what percent of a whole another number is.
Notice that at the bottom of the results column, Soulver keeps a total of the sum of all your results.
Useful Saving Capabilities
When you’re finished making calculations, you can tap the button in the top right corner for a few options. You can edit lines (which allows you to remove and/or reorder lines), clear the lines, copy the lines, or show/hide the keyboard.
You could also tap the “Files” button in the top left corner. Why does a calculator have files? Whenever you open Soulver, you’re given a fresh file to work with. Soulver will save these as untitled scratch files; scratch files won’t be around forever, so if you want to save a file permanently, tap the blue arrow next to it in the file list. Then, enter a name for the file and hit save. You can tap the edit button in the top left corner to delete files.
Although Soulver doesn’t require much configuration, you’ll find a few preferences inside the settings button in the bottom right corner of the file screen. You can choose whether or not to open a new file every time you launch Soulver. If you decide not to, you’ll open to the last file you worked on. You can also choose how many scratch files you’d like Soulver to keep at a time.
If you have a few spare minutes, here’s a great piece by Marco Arment on why the interface of Soulver is better than the standard calculator app interfaces.
Soulver is an excellent app. The only thing that tripped me up is this: I continually tapped the “Func” key when I meant to tap the “New Line” key, simply because that’s where “=” has been on all the calculators I’ve ever used (both real-world and simulated).
Other than that, Soulver is an elegant and well-designed calculator. You can pick it up in the App Store for only $2.99.