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Friday, 27 June 2014

Getting Our Feet Wet - A (Condensed) Tutorial on Using the Windows™ Calculator

Before we start any actual programming, we must set up our "apparatus" in steps. The first is learning how to exploit use the features of the calculator that ships in with Windows™ 7 (or later). This is a very useful little program that we will be using very frequently to verify the accuracy of our experiments. So, let's dive in!

Finding The Calculator

Finding our little friend is relatively easy...
  1. Click on the Start ButtonPicture of the Start button.
  2. Start typing "calculator" (or a part of it). The control should automatically move to the lowest text box (i.e. the search box).
  3. The calculator should appear on top as illustrated.
  4. Click on the icon. This will open the calculator. You could also "pin" the program to your start menu (in Windows™ 7, start screen in Windows™ 8) or to your task bar. Simply right click on the icon and select the desired option.

Type in the program to search in the lower search box.

The Basic View

The calculator window appears with modest features supporting basic operations like arithmetic operations, reciprocal, square root, and so on... Use this for quick calculations, for this is accurate up to 15 digits. To switch to this mode from another, press Alt + 1.

The basic view with minimal features.

The "view" menu.
The Scientific Mode

Now press the Alt + 2 hot key combo (or alternatively click "Scientific" on the View menu. The window gets wider as shown. Accuracy is maintained up to 32 digits, which will come in handy when we tackle the problems involving precision. Apparently, it supports a lot of operations. :-)
The powerful "Scientific Mode".

The Programmer Mode

Now this is something that we'd (and I bet you'd too, after reading this) use a lot. So, memorize the combo: Alt + 3.

It supports the "arithmetic operations on Integers", i.e. it discards the fractional part. It is particularly useful while finding the output of a given snippet of code involving integer arithmetic.

A nifty feature is that it instantaneously displays the unsigned binary equivalent of the number typed in. The size of the integer can be altered using the options at the lower left corner. You can also click on the bits to toggle their value (between '0' and '1', of course) and see the effect on the decimal equivalent.

You'll notice that while negating numbers, it uses the two's compliment system to represent the decimal number in binary or hexadecimal or octal.
The Extremely Useful "Programmer Mode".

The Statistics Mode

This method is useful when we are feeling lazy ;-) to calculate the various operations on list of numbers. Here's the combo: Alt + 4. This can be used to calculate the sum of the numbers, the average, deviation, etc.
The "Statistics Mode".


The Windows™ Calculator also supports conversion of data to other units, selected financial worksheets, and so on which you should find out for yourself - that's your homework :-).
The "Date Calculation" view comes in handy for everyone. Hotkey: Ctrl + E.
The "Unit Conversion" mode is also very useful. Hotkey: Ctrl + U.

The choices in "Unit Conversion" mode are... well... plenty! :-)

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