Monday, April 23, 2007


I love apps that break through your model of what you can do in a particular area. Calculation on the Mac seems to generally revolve around calculators like TopCalculette or spreadsheets, like Excel or Tables.

Soulver is one such app. It’s neither a straightforward calculator, though you can certainly use it as one, nor is it a full spreadsheet program.

There’s a phrase in mathematics or more likely, book-keeping or carpentry, called a ready reckoner. This implies a handy tool, a sense of some practical application which will enable your work to proceed. I keep being reminded of this every time I load Soulver.

The developer touts it’s abilities to evaluate English language statements and to calculate results from them, to wit:
Ten euro a day for ten days = 100 euro.
Two apples and three apples = 5 apples

Which is all fine and good and possibly useful for some but has no real place in my life. I use it as a calculator and math scratchpad. For stuff that’s not that involved but would require you to jot down intermediate results if you used the average calculator.

For example, It can understand defined constants.
Book = 10 euro
Fifteen books = 150 euro.

Or you can make reference to particular lines in your calculation
1. 130/2        = 65
2. Line1*10 = 650

These two simple things open up a lot. You can set up scratchpads which you can use for ready reckoning... For the kind of thing that Excel would just be overkill. And, best of all, you can save them.

I set up one, which calculates cost implications of different film ratios for me. You could just as easily do a simple pad up for a mortgage calculation, or to calculate costs of different floor coverings for various rooms, simple things that we juggle every day, that don’t require major setup.


Here, it’s a simple matter to adjust all the key variables
- the duration of the movie
- the shooting ratios evaluated
- the set costs per metre

Loading up Excel for a simple ten line spreadsheet always seems silly, but in Soulver, it feels smart. It’s cheap, only 18$, and we’ve seen steady development over the past year. There’s tons of flexibility and real stuff that mathematicians care about but for me...this is enough.

It’s from France, hence the name, Soulver, highly recommended.

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