For me, I have two categories of apps with a half dozen apps each on the list. Calculators and unit converters. For some, they’re the same app. Here are the two I recommend to every Mac and iPhone-using friend.
Calculate And Convert
If you don’t mind spending good money for Apple-like quality, and you need a calculator that’s enjoyable to use, and has just the right amount of technical bells and whistles, try PCalc.
At the basic level PCalc is a calculator. Whether you use it on Mac or iPhone it has a similar look, with similar functionality.
What’s the difference? Why bother with a calculator that has a price tag when so many calculators are free, including the one in OS X and the one in iOS (both provided by Apple)?
In this case, PCalc has more functionality, yet retains that buttery smooth Apple-like interface.
The Mac version is good for ringing up groceries, but equally adept as the tool of choice for engineers, students, scientists and we of the geek set. There’s the standard RPN mode, a long list of unit conversions, a paper tape, both engineering and scientific notation, and, for programmers, hexadecimal, binary, and octal calculations.
The iPhone version is similarly equipped but full screen makes the iPhone look and feel like an HP calculator.
What do you think? Does this image remind you of an HP calculator?
The addition of the ticker tape in the latest versions make PCalc almost perfect when it comes to usability.
The attention to detail is sufficient to fool you into thinking that Apple developed PCalc. Alas, quality has a price tag.
At the other end of my Must Have Useful Apps for the Mac is Converter Plus. The speciality isn’t calculations in the calculator sense. It does conversions; more than a hundred at last count, including the option to convert multiple currencies at the same time.
The Mac version of Converter Plus costs just a few dollars, but the iPhone version is even less, making it a good value for the conversion minded user.
See the similarities with PCalc?
As my favorite conversion tool, Converter Plus has a few pluses not found in most calculators or conversion apps.
There’s built-in support for compound units (pounds plus ounces, feet plus inches), as well as a standard calculator (not on the same level as PCalc, unfortunately), including computer data (bytes to megabytes, gigabytes, and data transfer rates).
It’s easy to setup a favorites list for quick conversion searching. But Converter Plus shines in one additional area. Currency conversions.
Not only does it convert multiple currencies, it handles the exchange rate for all 167 of the world’s common currencies (which can refreshed online). For anyone who travels, this is the kind of detail you appreciate.
The key differentiator for both apps is in the usability. There’s a higher ratio of five star reviews on the Mac App Store and iTunes App Store than you’re likely to find with any other app.
So, why the price tag? Quality comes at a price. And quality breeds value. I know I can find a dozen calculators and conversion apps without a price tag but– as it is with my smart phone and computer of choice– I choose quality, usability, and value or the low price alternatives.