Windows calculator (accessory)

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The calculator.

  Windows calculator
Brand name Microsoft Windows
Model number Calculator
Available under "accessories" on your PC running Windows.
This page specifically deals with version 5.1 (2001). (Spot check suggests that it is the same in later Windows. If you see something that should be addressed here, please let me know.)

Picture of Windows Calculator, in "scientific" mode [link opens in new window]. (Screen shot provided by the author of this page.)

If the calculator that displays is not "scientific", go to the View menu, and choose Scientific.

Help for this calculator is available from the Help menu. Also, you can get information about any key by right clicking on it. That leads to a box called "What's this?"; click on that for information.

Logic system. Does your calculator use algebraic or RPN (reverse Polish notation) logic? How do you tell? Typically, an algebraic calculator has an = key, used to find a result; an RPN calculator has an ENTER key, used for an initial entry. To add two numbers (say, 2 & 3) on an algebraic calculator, you type the keys "2 + 3 =". On an RPN calculator, you type "2 ENTER 3 +". The sequence is what matters, not the key name; some algebraic calculators (especially the more complex, graphics calculators) use ENTER instead of =.
  Windows calculator
Algebraic or RPN? Algebraic.
(If you use the numeric keypad on your keyboard, use the Enter key as an = key, to finalize a calculation.)
Algebraic calculators can be subdivided into AOS and DAL. If you know which type yours is, you can write that here. If not, you will figure that out later on the form. AOS

Shift keys. Shift keys are used to get the second (or third) function for a particular key. If there are two shift keys, list both.
  Windows calculator
What is the label on the "shift" key(s) Inv
This Inv key works for only a few keys, such as LOG and x^2, where there is an obvious inverse function. The keys are not labeled with their second function, but the usage is logical.
Where is the shift key? left, near top; it is a check box.

Scientific notation; entering. Identify the key used to enter the exponent. (It is usually EE or EXP, or similar.)
* A special case concerns entering a number that starts with 1x in scientific notation: do you need to enter the 1? Try it... Calculate 1x1012 * 2. Do it twice, once with the first 1 and once without it. Do you need to enter the 1 to get the correct answer, 2x1012?
* The key for making an exponent negative is the same key used for entering negative numbers.

  Windows calculator
What is the label on the key for entering exponents? EXP
Where is that key? near upper left, just below the (
When entering a number that starts with 1x in scientific notation, do you need to enter the 1? (e.g., 1x1012) yes
What is the key for making an exponent negative? +/-
Where is that key? between the "zero" and the "decimal point" keys.

Scientific notation; display.

  Windows calculator
Most scientific calculators allow you to "force" the display to use (or to not use) scientific notation.

Many calculators allow you to set the number of decimal places displayed.

(Some calculators also have an option for "Engineering notation", which is a variation of Scientific notation. Not important for most people.)
F-E key, near upper left, just to the left of the (.
Toggle this key to switch display between fixed decimal and exponential (scientific) notations.

There seems to be no control over number of decimal places displayed.

For large numbers, you may want to turn on "Digit grouping" on the View menu. I see no way to make very small numbers easier to read.

Logarithms (and anti-logs). In intro chem we most often use base 10 logs (log10), for example with pH. The log10 is the power of 10 of the number. For example, the log10 of 1000 is 3; and then the antilog10 of 3 is 1000.
* On some calculators, you press the LOG key before the number, and on some you press the number then the LOG key.

  Windows calculator
How is the log10 key labeled? log
How is the base 10 antilog key labeled? Use the 2-key sequence Inv log; it is not labeled.
To take the log10 of 1000 which do you enter first, the number or the LOG key? the number. That is, enter 1000 log.
The preceding step serves to distinguish AOS and DAL calculators. If your calculator uses algebraic notation, and if you enter the number first, then it is AOS; if you enter the LOG first, it is DAL. The same pattern holds for other one-key functions, such as antilog and square root.

Base e logs (loge or ln) are called natural logs. We do not use these in intro chem, but you are likely to use them if you go much beyond that.
How are the keys labeled for natural logs and antilogs? ln

anti-log: Use the 2-key sequence Inv ln; it is not labeled.

Miscellaneous. These are functions we do not use in intro chem, but which you are likely to use in other math and science courses. Briefly noted here.

  Windows calculator
Angles: degrees or radians

(Some calculators also have an option for "grad". The grad is 0.9 degree, so that a right angle is 100 grad. Not commonly used.)
Click on appropriate buttons, near upper right. Or, see View menu.
Polar vs rectangular coordinates (not available)

You. Please provide your name and e-mail, so I can check back with you if there are questions (and maybe have you proofread the web page for your calculator). We will not list your name at the web site without your explicit permission. We will not make your e-mail available in any case.

May we list your name in the collection (at the web site), to give you credit for providing this information?
If yes, how would you like your name listed? ("handles" ok.)
Bob Bruner

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Main page for "Using your scientific calculator". (Links for other calculators posted here; links for other sources of information about calculators, including some possible sources for manuals.)
Form for submitting information about your calculator, (If you just want to ask me a question, you can use the "Contact information" link below.)
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Last update: March 27, 2019