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Introduction: PCalc 3.8 for Mac OS X

PCalc 3.8 for Mac OS X is not just some new calculator app. It’s been with the Mac for 20 years and has an interesting history. Even Steve Jobs tried it out!


During the production of the Ultimate iPad Guide: Apps for Architects series several very cool discoveries were made on the Mac desktop front. We learned of cool Mac apps that were either written before the developer had an iOS app or were written after. You see, as it happens, many new iOS developers are using iOS as a pathway to Mac OS X and sometimes vice versa.

PCalc 3 for Mac OS X

In the case of PCalc 3.8 for OS X, this app has been around for a very long time. In fact, it celebrated its 20 year anniversary on 20 December 2012. It was first written at university for the Mac in 1992. This app on the iOS App Store is highly lauded as one of the very best calculators you can get for your iPhone or iPad. That’s why we included it in our special series here.

01 - The highly regarded iOS calculator app is also available on OS X--which is where it came from-- and features a true HP48-RPN mode option.

PCalc 3.8 gets its name from the developer’s own efforts at learning how to program for the Mac during the new System 7 days. It is short for “Programmers Calculator.” After buying a brand new Mac Classic with a whopping 4 meg of RAM, the developer needed a programming project to learn how to program on the Mac. He decided on a calculator and then realized that he needed an aid to do binary and hex to help with the programming. So that is how this calculator began. (there is a good history page here to review with old screen shots of the older versions).

02 - PCalc on OS X. This view shows all the "drawers" open. The right drawer is the paper tape window.

PCalc 3.8 for Mac OS X is a full scientific programming calculator with HP48-RPN (reverse polish notation) logic input option. It currently supports the Retina Display as well and one thing we can say from our research on this calculator is that the developer has always put a lot of thought and intention behind the user-interface and general design. There are several “theme” options for the UI, on both the Mac OS X and iOS versions.

So What Do You Need PCalc For, You’re an Architect or Designer?

Chances are if you are reading Architosh there is approximately a 48 percent chance you are an architect or working within the architectural industry. Do architects need scientific calculators that much? Well, actually we do now more than ever. If you are doing sustainable design (green design) you will be facing more calculation work.

With PCalc 3.8 on Mac you could use it as your general calculator and use it for a ton of trig calc work that architects and designers still generally need to do.

Some things we like in this calculator is the RPN option, the many themes for the user interface, its general layout logic and way the “drawers” work to each side of the app, plus of course that it does have the tape which can be viewed and saved. This might be the calculator you didn’t know you were missing on OS X or iOS.

PCalc on OS X is 9.99.USD. The iOS version for iPhone or iPad is also 9.99.USD.

There is also a free PCalc Lite option which is a near full version of the “full version.” What is missing are things like the paper tape, hex, octal and binary calculations and numerous other features and themes. You can also optionally buy these individually as “in-app” purchases to convert your “lite” version into the full version. Here is a link to the PCalc Lite version which is free for iOS.

We encourage you to check it out–for Mac or iOS. Click here.

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