Calculators on computers tend to follow one of two paths. Some are simply digital recreations of the physical object. Their number pad is made of pixels instead of plastic, and they generally are poorly made to handle anything more than a simple arithmetic operation.
The second line of calculation app can be seen in spreadsheets, which rely on the keyboard much more heavily and are also capable of significantly more advanced operations. The iPad hasn’t seen many great, pure calculation apps. Tydlig — funny name, yes — tries to prove that math can be as intuitive as Apple’s iPad.
Open the app for the first time, and you are greeted with a white screen and a small, traditional calculation pad in the bottom right corner of the screen.
The white screen is where your calculations are stored as they are entered from the virtual keypad. Simple calculations — addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division — are easy to do. Additionally, and most usefully, results and individual numbers can be dragged from one equation into another, making multi-level calculations much easier and significantly faster than in more traditional calculators.
This drag-and-drop interaction method isn’t entirely new or novel, but it has been implemented very well in Tydlig. This alone makes the app worth it on some levels: if you ever use your iPad for even simple calculations, Tydlig will likely save you time and frustration. For the price, you can’t beat that.
We have the speed and ease-of-use, so where’s the power? The rest of Tydlig’s feature set is hidden behind the folder icon in the top right.
Tapping that slides in another panel above the keypad. Included here are the trigonometric operations, in addition to other operations. These included functions make Tydlig an incredibly capable calculator for most any profession — while it lacks the sheer programmability of other apps like Calca, these operations allow most math to be done without any slowdowns or hitches.
A simple line graph can also be dragged onscreen to assist in math operations and visualizations. This graph can be linked to specific operations, thus making it more powerful for visualizing trends as well as for checking answers and demonstration purposes.
Not all of the features are about math: there are sharing options. These rely on the app itself taking a photo of your work, and then sending that out to AirDrop, Messages, Mail, and the expected social networks that iOS supports.
Simple Design Can Become Cramped
Tydlig is incredibly simple in design. The app is literally the white screen (perhaps to remind users of a whiteboard?) where the math takes place, the two sliding panels that make up the keypad and the extended operations view, and then the settings pop-over that actually only includes options to switch between angles and radians. Additionally, you can select “Clear all content” to wipe the board, so to speak, thus deleting all operations.
The whiteboard view is scrollable both vertically and horizontally, meaning that you can extend your operations well beyond what you can see. Keeping track of equations when they are spread throughout the app isn’t easy, but some people prefer to work messily and are able to keep everything mentally organized. Tydlig can support this method. Tydlig is also compatible with the idea of keeping everything clean and simple, though there isn’t an easy way to delete a few equations at once. As it currently stands, you’re either stuck editing one at a time, or clearing the entire page. A batch edit option would be very helpful, in my experience, particularly since Tydlig is able to carry numbers from one equation to another.
The organization problem might also be less pronounced on an iPad; on the iPad mini, the interface can become seriously cramped after just a few minutes of serious usage. This is a large drawback of the app, particularly since it focuses on simplicity and providing an uncluttered workspace.
Other than that, I applaud the designers and developers for taking a step back and examining what makes the iPad great: direct interaction, and a large screen for your content. I was skeptical coming in to this app of how well it would work. I wasn’t sure that there was a place between a traditional, skeumorphic calculator and something like Tydlig. Turns out, there isn’t: Tydlig takes over where the skeumorphic calculator once reigned supreme.
Tydlig is now sitting on my iPad’s home screen where Calcbot once resided. My iPad doesn’t see constant use as a calculator, but I do enjoy using it for the occasional paper when I’m away from my Mac and its more powerful, keyboard-based applications, or when I just need a few quick results.
I hope that Tydlig continues to evolve; the current release feels like a solid idea that needs a few more features to truly crack into the mainstream market. The ease-of-use is there, and the features are also present. I want to see what other ideas the developers have up their sleeves, and perhaps the ability to batch edit equations. Those are small complaints for an app that executes on a great and seemingly-unique concept, so I have to happily recommend Tydlig to anyone that does any amount of calculation on their iPad.