I tend to talk a lot about apps that I use a lot, so it’s a little weird I haven’t mentioned Soulver more than I already have. Soulver, made by Acqualia, is by far my favorite (favourite?) calculator for OS X and iOS. I use the Mac, iPad, and iPhone versions all the time.
When Acqualia added Dropbox syncing to the iOS versions earlier this year, Soulver became more than an app. For me, it turned into a math ecosystem.
Why would you want calculators to stay in sync, you ask? Well, once you understand that Soulver isn’t your typical calculator, you’ll get it.
Soulver is like a mash-up of a note-taking app and calculator. It invites you to write notes among your calculations.
The iOS versions keep a history of your notes making it perfect for “scratch” work.
Soulver can also function as a “lite” spreadsheet. You can create variables and make line references. In the screenshot a few pixels north of here, the $65.67 on line 4 is a line reference that points to line 3. If I were to edit the values on line 3, the calculation on line 4 would update automatically.
The iPad version is the sweetspot
I use all three versions of Soulver regularly, but the iPad version gets the most use in my workflow. The iPad’s size and shape are just perfect for an app like Soulver.
As an actuary, I’m usually working on problems that involve a lot of math (shocker). But problem soulving can be note-heavy, too. Soulver has proven to be way more practical than my old handheld calculator and legal pad approach to solving one-off problems. By using line references heavily, it makes it easy to “recalculate” a whole page of notes if you need to.
Features galore without assaulting your senses
It’s impressive how many functions are available on the iPad’s minimalist interface. Pay close attention to buttons that have
... in the bottom-right corner. If you long-press them, you’ll get a little pop-up with some really useful extra stuff.
I really love the line selection shortcuts you get when you long-press the arrow keys. You can quickly jump to the beginning of a line or select the entire line.1
My affection for Soulver on the iPad is the summation of many little things, which are too insignificant to list. I’ll give you one anyway: If you select part or all of a line and press the
() button, it will wrap the selection in parentheses. Things like that just make me happy.
Clearly, Acqualia is a company that has given a lot of thought to how a calculator should work in a touch screen world, and they’ve implemented their ideas beautifully and practically.
I would love to see more iOS app developers use this long-press technique because it’s a great way to add “power user” features without cluttering the interface. ↩