Most usable keystroke calculator?


What do people think is the most usable calculator or calculator application (including apps for phones and tablets)? The criterion I propose is a calculator that is usable in a manual keystroke fashion. It may be programmable, but that is a neutral attribute. I am looking for one that I can bang away on the keys without getting frustrated by extraneous keystrokes. For example, the 50g and 35s get hurt by their HEX-OCT-BIN mode behavior. They are essentially unusable due to the enormous keystroke overhead for entering HEX values in particular. Sometimes there are more modifier keys for entering the numbers than there are digits. Two to five for the 50g (there is an extra ENTER required prior to an operation), and three for the 35s. That's simply unusable. Of the calculators that I own, two rise to the top, the HP32s and the iOS app PCalc. They are not without faults, but they are the best I have found. Why doesn't PCalc use BCD? Of course you can have my 16c when you pry it from my cold dead hands, though it fails for scientific functions. Oh, and RPN/L only, of course.


The WP-34S of course.

- Pauli


That is one to consider. The quick look I took found that it ships from a seller in Spain. I wonder how much it costs to ship to the US, or is there a US based seller?


You don't need to buy it from Spain. Buy a 30b from whoever you want (currently available from for $19.79), then read this article to learn how to turn it into a wp34s.


It is CDN $79.49 on What a rip-off! link to 30b

Jeff Kearns


It is CDN $79.49 on What a rip-off! link to 30b

Yeah no kidding. Perhaps someone can buy us a couple and ship them to Ottawa for us - even covering their time and postage we'd still be ahead.



I believe you are acquainted with Neil... I live in Aylmer and work downtown. Hopefully the subject line will result in a friendly offer to buy and ship on our behalf. I would get two at that price and just keep one as a 30b and use the other to create my own WP34s - that way I can return Neil's 20b modified-unit to him sooner.


Jeff Kearns


While not as cheap as the site, Samson Cables is still selling the 30b for $30 with $12 shipping to our neck of the woods. I suspect that the pro-rated shipping would go down if several were purchased. Still much cheaper than the site.


Thanks Neil I didn't notice they sold them. That works out to 8.75$ shipping each if Jeff and I order 2 each together.


I'm sure 10 people will have 11 different opinions. My favorite is Free42 by Thomas Okken. I use it on my PC and Android phone - it's available for many platforms (Windows, Linux, iPhone, WM, Palm, Android, etc.) which is a big plus. The HP-42S has many functions buried in menus, but it allows you to create a custom menu of six functions and have them available on the bottom line of the display, so they're available just as if they were unshifted keyboard functions. If you need more than six functions in addition to what's native on the keyboard, you're back to multiple keystrokes navigating menus, but for me it's the best calculator and simulator out there. Oh, and the simulator is, as the name suggests, free.


it allows you to create a custom menu of six functions

The CUSTOM menu has 18 fields. The other two lines of six fields can be displayed using the arrow-keys.

Kind regards



Thank you for pointing that out. After all this time, I didn't know that. I can make good use of 12 more easily accessible functions.


Free42 is a nice one. I was a little put off by having to fiddle with the top row keys to go from "A…F" to "DEC". I was using "SHIFT BASE DEC" until I just found that "EXIT DEC" works as well. Not too shabby. One keystroke to go from DEC to HEX or A…F, and two to go from A…F to DEC.

There is also a excellent derivative of Free42 for iOS devices. It is "42s RPN Calculator" by Byron Foster. Thomas Okken even links to it on his Free42 page. It costs $9.99, but it has some very nice user interface enhancements, more preference settings and a nicely polished skin. It has the ability to turn off the key-clicks, which you cannot do in the original Free42 for iOS. It is one of the front runners now.


My Casio CM-100 - simple and plain ;-))


Edited: 4 Jan 2012, 9:18 p.m.


Consider the Casio fx-115ES, a.k.a. fx-991ES, or the slightly improved but not generally available in USA fx-991ES Plus.

IMHO, it's the first non-RPN calculator that does so much (but not programming) that it's worth learning its very non-RPN user interface. Here in the US it's typically about $18. If you wind up hating it, you'd still not be out much.

Would you believe it performs Gauss-Kronrod numerical integration, and has stunning numerical accuracy in general? The keyboard "feel" is not like any HP, but that's not necessarily bad.

I have Casio calculators that are as much as 34 years old. They all still work. I can't say that about all of my TI and HP machines.


I really liked my first HP calculator - the 29C because it could be operated completely with one hand. You cradle it in your 4 fingers and use your thumb to operate it. Calculator in one hand, pencil in the other - it was high school homework bliss, if there can be such a thing.

For modern calcs I'm with Pauli - the 34S.



All the Woodstocks are like that. For me it was the 21, even with my small hands. I held it in my left hand. Also, it was far and away the most pocketable of the LED generation calcs.


The HP-21 is a sentimental favorite for me as well. It took me through 4 years of college. I still have mine, and it still works. It is sorely limited though. There are some nice free emulators available for it, such as Nonpareil and its offspring, like "rpn-21" by Maciej Bartosiak for iOS. There is also a payed one for iOS that is better in many regards, except for being implemented with binary math. Sorry, but 100 - 99.99 - 0.01 does not equal 5.1156995e-15.


It seems you already know the answer. My advice is: stick to the 32s; otherwise, you should give up RPN.

Warm regards



Ummm ... a 32sii :-D


From an aesthetical perspective, I like very much the turquoise/orange keyboard of the 32sII, but I find the layout of the 32s keyboard more straightforward, the greater number of menus notwithstanding. If you don't need the additional features, maybe the 32s remains the best choice.
It seems that Sid doesn't care about advanced features (programming capability included); so, maybe a less cluttered keyboard could be more suitable. A strictly subjective opinion, of course.

Warm regards



How about bugs and known issues, does the 32s have any?


I have not heard of any, nor have I seen any in my own. However, I have not done any testing to actually look for bugs.


I have not heard of any, nor have I seen any in my own. However, I have not done any testing to actually look for bugs.

and on the 32s page of the Craig Finset site, none is reported


The best keystroke RPN calculator have still to be invent...

Edited: 5 Jan 2012, 4:09 a.m.


CLx ??

- Pauli


CLx ??

- Pauli

Should replace the useless EEX key


Hello usabilities searchers,

CLX can be replaced by a multiplying with zero. Ouh the EEX key is very important, such a small calculator mutates to a real number-crusher!



In fact, I realise that Pauly is right.

I so much use to type on keyboard, and I am so prone to errors, that I often have to correct entries with the 'back-delete' key.

That means that a keystroke calculator must have a 'back erase' key. Or as an alternative way to correct mistyping an 'Clx' Key.

Perhaps, we have to INVENT same thing more like this one:

which is a good full RPN four operation banger !


Tried ND0 yet? (Free, for iOS.)

0xabcd will enter a hex number, and you can mix hex and dec at will.


\<< 1e6 primes total toHex \>>
to get the sum of the first million primes... as a hex number.

You didn't say what else you need. Personally, I'd die without a visible multi-level stack and an unshifted undo key.


I like the Sharp 506 and 516 for scientific and different number bases, though they're not RPN.


For example, the 50g and 35s get hurt by their HEX-OCT-BIN mode behavior. They are essentially unusable due to the enormous keystroke overhead for entering HEX values in particular.

I completely agree with that statement in regards to the HP35S. However, IMHO, the 48 series and their derivatives are pretty easy to use with non-decimal base input. All you need to do is prepend the '#' symbol to turn the number entered into the currently selected base. If you don't like having the '#' key shifted just assign it somewhere easily accessible.

Just my $0.02.




For example, the 50g and 35s get hurt by their HEX-OCT-BIN mode behavior.
That's the reason why I prefer the 33s for daily tasks. It's not that beautiful but efficient usage is more important to me.

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