Performing Complex Calculations Using the Scientific Calculator

by Barry Dysert
(last updated October 27, 2014)

There are several calculators that come with Windows. Their capabilities range from performing simple calculations (like add, subtract, multiply, and divide) to more complicated calculations (like trigonometric functions, logarithms, and exponentiation). You can even perform certain conversions with the calculators, perform mortgage analyses, and work with dates.

To start the calculator (even though there are several calculators, they are technically different views of one "super" calculator), click Start | All Programs | Accessories | Calculator if you are using Windows 7. Since many people use the numeric keypad with Calculator (instead of the mouse), you may find it easier to just press the Windows key on your keyboard, type "calc" (without the quotes), and press Enter.

If you are using Windows 8, finding the calculator is a bit more vexing. The easiest way is to start from the Start screen and use the search capabilities to look for "calc." The app that is located will be the calculator you want to run.

The type of calculator that appears depends on the type of calculator that was used last. This tip is specific to the Scientific calculator, so whichever way you invoke it you'll see the following: (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Scientific calculator.

If another type of calculator appears, click View | Scientific to get the one that matches what's shown in the figure. The right side of the scientific calculator is the same as the standard calculator. The left side, however, contains the scientific functions as shown above.

You can use the mouse to click the on-screen keys, or you can use the keyboard to cause the corresponding button to be pressed. (For buttons not on the keyboard you must use the mouse.) The Scientific calculator uses operator precedence like what you learned in school (i.e., how multiplication and division are performed before addition and subtraction). So, for example, if you enter 3 + 2 * 4 = you'll get the answer 11 instead of 20.

If you are working with trigonometric functions, you can set the calculator to use degrees, radians, or grads. So, for example, if you have the Degrees button pushed and have 180 in the display, calculating the sine (by clicking the "sin" button) will display 0, which is the sine of 180 degrees. Similarly, if you have the Radians button pushed and have pi in the display, calculating the sine will also display 0 because 180 degrees is the equivalent of pi radians.

 This tip (12146) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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