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Google search's new basic calculator (google.com)
76 points by gnyman 1794 days ago | hide | past | web | 66 comments | favorite

Interesting how Microsoft and Google have different ideas of how percentage key (%) should work.

Relevant post by Raymond Chen:

“How does the [Windows] calculator percent key work?”


Implementing % button, Google chose an approach which is more mathematically sensible but arguably less obvious to users. For Google, 10% just an alias for 0.1. This means that if you want to calculate how much a dress with a price of $299 costs with a 20% discount, type in

  299 + 299 × 20%
Perhaps, this is exactly how you think % should work.

Microsoft, however, chose to make “%” key more user-friendly, perhaps sacrificing some consistency. Windows calculator tries to use the last computed value as “the whole”. Therefore,

  299 - 20%
will give you how much a $299 dress costs with 20% discount, and

  299 + 5% - 20%
will help you calculate 5% tax before applying the discount.

Sadly, Google thinks

  500 + 1% = 500.01
which is really not that helpful.

I don't get it, if i try 500 + 1% on Google i get 505 http://sadpanda.us/images/1112074-RA9OURZ.png

You get a different result if you click the buttons versus performing a google search.

which I think it is exactly how I would expect it to work: If I ask a question, I expect the system to guess what I really want to know and give me an answer.

But a calculator should work like a calculator.

Still a pretty big inconsistency.

500 + 1% typed right in calculator displays "500 + 1% = 500.01" in the calculator.

500 + 1% typed in the search box displays "500 + 1% = 505" in the calculator too.

It's probably due to the search result being returned by some server at Google while the other one is computed locally through some client-side JS logic. I think they'll notice and unify the behavior at some point.

"But a calculator should work like a calculator."

Yes, and no physical calculator I have ever seen would give 500.01 for "500 + 1%".

The way Microsoft did it is the same way most physical calculators I've seen work.

I just tested it and the percent key in the Google calculator doesn't work like the one described in the linked article. It really just divides by 100.

3 + 5% = 3 + 0.05 = 3.05

Sorry, I just reworded my comment to make it more clear.

This article is about Windows calculator and I'm comparing two different approaches.

Google went with simple 10% = 0.1 here, like you say.

Link that works for people with non-English Google:


(The link is setting the language to English for just that search.)

Thanks, I wonder why they would only enable this for English searches?

They always test new stuff on their English sites first.

thanks, I tried to double check that the url would work for everyone but did not think about the automatic redirect to local the local google

ha, I wondered why I got the old interface when my normal searches give me the new one;) I have chrome set to go to the English site;)


I noticed there is also a new visual interface for unit conversions. e.g. https://www.google.com/search?q=1kg%20in%20lbs

That is to say there was one earlier. It used to be just result, no interface.

That's still an interface (perhaps I'm being a bit too technical).

Shameless plug:

I would like you to check out the calculator I built:


It's pure Javascript, has a full parser/tree-builder to process equations, allows you to define functions and variables, and is very fast.

It also installs a search handler so you can do calculations from your search bar.

So 299+5% and/or 299+(5%) to figure the sales tax does not work at all, it just says "Your equation has an error. Please correct it." and no hint to what the error is.

Sorry, not ready for prime time

What a complete load of shit. You have to actually click the numbers, you can't use your computer's keyboard. Google, I am disappoint.

You can type your calculation as a google query and you'll get the result. This calculator is designed for people looking for a mouse- / touch-based UI.

Note that the iPad doesn't ship with a calculator app.

(Equally annoying, Android doesn't have a simple stopwatch/timer built in.)

iPad also doesn't ship with stopwatch/timer/alarm like the iPhone does. The lack of these Apple apps is always sad to me.

iOS 6 brings those over (at least on the iPad 3, presumably because it made more sense than #ifdef'ing those bits out of Siri). I keep meaning to just write a non-crap Android stopwatch, because using my iPad as a 10" stopwatch is just silly.

Google Now has a timer built in

Sadly not, as its "timer" is actually just setting an alarm for x minutes later. That also means that you lose precision of seconds. If it's 5:22:36 and you tell it to set a timer for 10 minutes, it'll set an alarm for 5:32:00, not 5:32:36.

I'll admit that as I'm using my laptop touch devices didn't occur to me, just tried it on my phone and actually it works really well with touch.

But when on a non-touch device, even if you click on the calculator, focus remains on the search input, that seems like a massive UX failure to me.

So given this new information, what percentage of a load of shit would you now say it is?

I'd say it's now a 70% load of shit. Also, thanks for the epic comment, it's not often I actually laugh out loud on HN :D

It seems to be the correct UI choice - If you start typing, your input goes into the search field, and the calculator app is purely a mouse/touch application. Looks like a thoughtful UX choice.

I bet they are doing this to collect data on my favorite numbers! Don't bubble my calculations, Google!

Interesting, works for:-


But not:-


Also seems like it could be much smaller, since it's following this increasing trend to devote less and less screen real-estate to search results.

This is Google trying to outsmart you. It thinks you're searching for Sept. 11 if you type 9/11. It happens quite regularly with other queries, add a = sign to force the calculator.

You can force a calculator result with an equals sign:


My guess is 9/11 was if-ed out; if someone types that into a query, one most likely wants to see results related to WTC attack.

They could have generalized that based on result CTR.

Not sure what a result CTR is - can you explain (click through rate?)

Yes, click-through rate. If an unusually large percentage of users click on a result instead of engaging with the calculator then the calculator probably shouldn't be there.

would be nice if you could use the keyboard

I couldn't help but wonder how much traffic is lost by online-calculator.com, the first search result...

Your submission seems to be doing better than mine from earlier in the week http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4295093

There's also graphical calculator, or is that not a new thing? I don't remember seeing it before. For example: http://goo.gl/uSSWW

% is percentage, not mod (with our without signs). Damn normals!

That's pretty cool. The only thing I'd change is to make it clearer that the top left button switches between rad and deg.

Bah, humbug! If it's not RPN, it's crap! :)

Also cool: In Chrome, type "0xff in decimal" in the address bar.

"=255" appears as one of the suggested searches.

This happens for basic calculation really, for which Google spits out an answer. And since it's a feature of Google Suggest, it also works in Firefox.

the often forgotten unix, linux command line calculators I use all the time.

bc -l

or for those who like rpn


I just fire up irb these days

I just use spotlight

builtin zcalc's good if you're a zsh user:-

    seth:~% which calc
    calc: aliased to noglob zcalc
    seth:~% calc ((8*8)/8)*8

python -i


And then, there are units and bc.

9^9^9 = Infinity and 9^9^9^9 gives Error :)

I'm holding my breath for "stopwatch".

Pretty cool, but why doesn't pressing equal again repeat the last step? Eg. on any decent calculator if you press:

2, x, 2, =

You get 4.

Press = again, you get 8, and so on.

As insignificant as this may seem, lack of this in a calculator is a complete showstopper problem for me.

Meanwhile, Bing still doesn't do rate calculations that have worked at Google for years, like:

  1GB / 1 hour
  500km / 1.5 hours in mph

Unfortunately if you use google without javascript this is a pain as it does not fall back to the inline calculator.

If anyone knows or figures out a url option to make it do the old inline math, please let me know ?


I don't get it either. Maybe only US IPs?

It's working for me from the UK. I can't imagine why Google would want to geolocate this. Perhaps they've only partially rolled it out to some of their datacenters?

As you say was probably a rollout lag. Working here in UK now.

Red Swede reporting in: only get a usual search query

Works from Hungary.

aristidb (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4308149) reports that you have to be searching in English (which can be done manually with `hl=en`).

google is not just a search engine

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