The Windows Calculator application has been a part of Windows for a long time. So why would anyone want an alternative? Maybe you need more features, or maybe, like me, you just need a calculator that has bigger digits. When normal resolutions hovered around 640 x 480, the digits on the Calculator looked large enough on the screen. But now with my current resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels, the digits, and even the number buttons themselves are so small that they are difficult to read. So one fine day, I decided it was time to look for alternatives.
With so many applications available these days, I though it would only take about ten minutes before I found a bunch of alternative. Alas, I had no such luck. Yes, I did find some calculators that had large digits, but their interfaces were so gaudy and non-standard, they looked entirely out of place in my desktop. Rather than tolerate them, I kept looking. Here's what I found.
You can download Calc98from www.calculator.org. It's a nice application. You can choose the digits you want. If you get the premium version, you can even apply a custom background image so that your calculator looks as distinctive as you want. If you don't want to customize the background with an image, the free version works great. Even the free version allows you to change the fonts and colors. You have both regular Windows and PocketPC versions although the features I discuss here mainly relate to the desktop Windows version. Calc98 also allows you to do unit conversions, such as between feet and inches, and vice versa. It also provides scientific functions. All put together, this is a great application.
Figures 1 and 2 show you Calc98 before and after some customization.
The basic version is freeware but you can order the premium version on CD for $23.95 that lets you do so much more look at the screenshots at: http://www.calculator.org/OrderCD.html to get a better idea.
If you want to hack your existing Windows Calculator to show bigger digits, visit http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/regs_edits/BCalc.exe. This small application is actually a quick registry edit that opens the conventional Windows Calculator with larger digits. If I had not explored other calculator options, I would have been happy with this option.
Figure 3 shows you the conventional Calculator that's included within Microsoft Windows, and Figure 4 shows you the hacked BCalc version.
Microsoft Power Calculator
This calculator is part of Microsoft's PowerToys collection for Windows XP, which is available at: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx
Although the digits may not be much larger, you can graph and evaluate functions and convert between various unit types (see Figure 5).
In my search, I did find many other calculator applications, but most of them seemed odd in some way or another. One even looked like a Dell Axim PDA. Plus, others insist that you get a registration code, even though they are free. Out of the 30 or so calculator applications I played with, the three alternatives I mention here were the best. (Thank you to all my friends who sent me links to alternative calculator applications!)