capsule review

Quick calculations

Talking with users about Tiger’s new Dashboard feature, one of the most popular Widgets—Apple’s name for Dashboard modules—also happens to be one of the most basic: the calculator. People like being able to press a key, quickly perform a calculation, and then get back to whatever it was they were doing—they also like having quick access to a calculator without having to wait for it to launch and without it taking up valuable Dock space.

Unfortunately, those who haven’t upgraded to Tiger can’t take advantage of this feature—and those Tiger users who aren’t fond of Dashboard but are stuck using it just for a quick-access calculator might prefer an alternative. (Sure, Konfabulator is an option, but $25 makes for an expensive calculator.) I recently came across Katoemba Software’s free Calq 1.2.1 (   ), and it just might be the solution for both groups of people.

Calq is a handy onscreen calculator with a unique feature: After launching Calq, it waits invisibly in the background; it only appears when you press a keyboard shortcut, defined by you. (You can also enable a menu bar menu that lets you activate Calq.) Once visible, the small Calq display lets you type in your calculations—as long as you’re using it, it remains onscreen. However, after a period of inactivity, it fades away automatically. (It also disappears when you switch to another application.)

Calq screenshot

Although you can’t use the mouse to “type” by clicking onscreen calculator buttons, as you can with Mac OS X’s own calulator, Calq offers the basic functionality most people will need for everyday use: add, subtract, multiply, divide, as well as the ability to copy (Command+C) results from, and paste (Command+V) numbers into, the display. And for those times when you don’t want Calq to fade away automatically, you can lock it (L) onscreen.

Calq also offers a few ways to customize its appearance. You can choose where on the screen the Calq window appears, the transparency of that window, and how long a period of inactivity before Calq automatically disappears.

Calq doesn’t have any of the advanced features that would allow it to replace a more full-featured calculator—in fact, it doesn’t even have some rather basic features, such as a memory register, found in most calculators. But for simple, everyday number crunching, it’s quite handy.

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