Fractionally improved

There’s a new version of PCalc in the App Store, and it has a great new feature for those of us who have to work with lengths measured in inches and fractions of an inch. It’s a display mode that allows all your calculations to be kept in fractional notation rather than converted to decimal form. This is remarkably generous for a developer, James Thomson, who lives in Europe, where you can, I believe, be thrown in jail for failing to worship the Decimal God of Metric.

PCalc has for some time been able to accept fractional input. If, for example, you wanted to enter 1⅝, you can tap out the sequence

1 . 5 . 8

And the number you want will appear in the display (assuming you have the Quick Fraction Entry preference set in Advanced Settings).

Quick Fraction Entry

Up until now, that number would change from




when you tapped any operation key or (if you work in RPN, as all right-thinking people do) the Enter key.

But with PCalc 3.6, you can set the display mode to Fraction, either in the Settings

Fraction Display Setting

or by tapping and holding on the display area.

Action Buttons

What’s great about this is that it allows you to get fractional answers when that’s the natural way to present the results. For example, we can add 1⅝″ and ¾″1

Fractional Input

to get 2⅜″.

Fractional Answer

Sure, it’s easy to see 2.375 and think 2⅜, but even us old hands at decimal-fraction conversion hesitate when dealing with 16ths and 32nds.

I’m told PCalc 3.6 has some cool features that work with iOS 10. I wouldn’t know, as I haven’t tried out Apple’s public beta and don’t intend to install the released version of iOS 10 until the initial excitement—and the initial bugs—have passed by. What I do know is that PCalc 3.6 is an excellent update even on my horribly outdated iPhone 6S running iOS 9.

  1. To enter a pure fraction, tap the decimal point key twice between the numerator and the denominator, e.g., 3 . . 4