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Hidden Treasures: The other calculators, Pt 1

Wed Jul 5, 2006 - 8:09 PM EDT - By Jay Gross


Overview

Quick, what's 144 plus 42? The square root of 5? Pi rounded to 13 decimals? If you forgot your two-tums tables since school let out (two-tums two is four…), your Treo is here to help add up your checkbook, finish your calculations for that fluid dynamics quiz, and pinpoint the standard deviation on your weekend golf scores.

There are nine more calculators in the Treo 650 and 700p than first meet the eye, and they're almost completely undocumented. Palm's manuals leave you on your own not only to find them, but to figure out how they work. This is the first of a two-part article that explores and explains those powerful extra calculators and documents their functions so you can use them, at last.

First, the cook's tour of the calculators, then we'll visit the issues that affect them all. In the second part of the article, we'll examine each calculator in detail, in turn. I've chased down all the functions, figured out all of the features and how to use all of the extra calculators, so the second part of this article takes up where the Treo manuals leave off. Sorry about having to split this info into two parts – it was just too long to publish as one. Your scroll mouse would go on strike from exhaustion.


The tour


First, a quick look around. On the Treo Apps screen, tap Calc. What you get is the Treos' basic-mode calculator, nothing unusual for a PDA, but rather minimalist. For most purposes – comparing per item pricing in a store, for example, it's plentifully powerful and intuitively easy to use.

Simply put, Calc does simple arithmetic, and it has a one-button square root function. You can also swap signs - change a number from positive to negative – a convenient button for figuring discounts, sales tax, and the like. Another button converts an entry to a percentage (divides it by 100, or move decimal left by 2 places), and yet another one stores the displayed number in the calculator's lone memory for later recall and further use. The Memory feature means you can add up two lists of numbers, storing the first, and recalling it when you've got the results of the second calculation to apply it to – as a percentage, a discount, a markup, whatever.

Really, Calc's quite useful, with all the features that cost beaucoup bucks only a decade or two ago. The only mistakes it'll ever make are caused by the keyboard actuator, so for me it's plenty, as I have only occasional use for higher mathematics.

There's a lot more. The Treo 650 and 700P come with nine more built-in calculators that take you far beyond simple arithmetic. Unfortunately, they're only minimally documented, and if you find their buttons puzzling, there's no place to turn for information (except the second part of this article!).

Get Calc running and actuate (the technical term is "mash") the Right button on the 5-way. Left won't go back, it only brings up the Basic calculator again, so just keep pressing Right to round-robin through the hidden features. First come the calculators:


  • Math – Calc's "advanced" mode


  • Trig – Pythagoras would be proud


  • Finance – the all-important Future Value of Money equation with a user interface that's easy to use


  • Logic – For programmer geeks. Hex, decimal and logic functions.


  • Statistics – Greek Sigma's across the top for data sets, Mean, Standard Deviation, Sum, and Squared Sum.

    These should help you compute just about anything, including a great many things I have no idea what they are. But that's not all!

    Push Right again, and have a gander at the four calculator/converters:


  • Weight/Tmp – grams, pounds, Fahrenheit and Celsius


  • Length – kilometers, miles, and yards


  • Area – square metric and square feet, at your fingertips


  • Volume – cups, liters, and the like

    These specialized calculators know how many grams in an ounce, the number of miles in a kilometer, and the fractional light years in a hectare. Okay, not with the light years. You can use these handy marvels to convert most kinds of measure from what you have to what you wish you had. And back. Easy and fast, and to vastly greater precision than the usual lookup tables. The converters are all quite simple to use, too.

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