iPad calculator: How to use the calculator(s) hidden in your Apple tablet

How to use the calculator hidden in your iPad


How to use the calculator hidden in your iPad
There’s no Calculator app in the iPad, but that doesn’t mean there’s no calculator.
Photo: Cult of Mac

There is a full-featured calculator hidden in your iPad, even though Apple never ported the iPhone Calculator app to its tablets. Actually, there are two of them.

Here’s how to use them.

Why no iPad calculator app?

Steve Jobs nixed the calculator from Apple’s original tablet because it was lame — nothing more than the iPhone app awkwardly blown up to iPad size.

But that was more than a decade ago. What’s stopping Cupertino from adding one now? According to Apple software chief Craig Federighi, the company just hasn’t been inspired to make a great one.

How to use Spotlight as iPad calculator

All that doesn’t mean there isn’t a calculator in your iPad, though. There is, and it’s a good one. You’ll find it in Spotlight. That’s the search engine for the tablet, but it can also take on any math problem the iPhone’s calculator app can handle.

To access Spotlight, just go to your iPad’s Home screen, touch the middle of the display and drag downward. A pop-up window will appear with a Search box at the top.

It’s even easier if you have a keyboard. Just type CMD-Space (⌘-Space Bar) from within any application.

You can type basic math problems into the Search box using the standard + – * / symbols. Or put in more complex ones using parentheses. For example, if you need a rate of decline, type in (67 – 42) / 67. Or it can tell you the tangent of 87.

Spotlight also functions as an iPad calculator.
Spotlight also functions as an iPad calculator.
Screenshot: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

An advantage of using Spotlight instead of a calculator app is that you can easily edit complex calculations. For example, put in 27 + 19 + 17 + 32 and get 95. But if you realize you meant 91 instead of 19, you can simply change the number without starting over.

Also, you can cut and paste the answer into a document. Tap and hold on the result of your calculation in the Spotlight pop-up window and the option to copy it will appear.

How to use Siri as an iPad calculator

People often mock Siri for being stupid, but Apple’s voice assistant can handle simple calculations. Just ask it.

Start with “Hey Siri.” Or, if you don’t have that enabled, press and hold the button on the top edge of your iPad (or your Home button if your iPad has one) until the Siri pop-up appears.

Then say, “What is 51 divided by 12?” It’ll answer “4.25.” It’s a convenient hands-free way to get answers to your math questions.

Siri can be used as an iPad calculator.
Siri can be used as a simple iPad calculator, too.
Screenshot: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Bonus: Google

If those two weren’t enough, Google is ready to be your calculator (assuming you haven’t replaced Google as your default search engine in Safari). Open the Safari web browser and type your math problem into the URL bar at the top of the screen. Submit it and the resulting web page will give the answer.

These can be fairly complex: It can handle (19 + 27) / 15, for example.

The resulting web page also will include a fairly full-featured calculator so you can enter additional math problems.

With all these options, a dedicated iPad calculator app starts to feel unnecessary. Maybe it makes sense that Apple never made one.

Cult of Mac's Newsletters

Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.