Eighty is to 37 as 6.235471 is to what? Don’t know by heart or how to enter this in your calculator? Enter exactly this phrase in Soulver 3 (without the parentheses) and you’ll have an answer right here, right now (it’s 2.8839053375, by the way).
I couldn’t resist trying out Soulver 3 because I’m not a big calculus or arithmetic mind and I have the Tydlig calculator on my iPad next to PCalc. I love both, but Tydlig is so much easier than pCalc while PCalc is so much more powerful. Now, if you combine the two you get something that is both simple to use and powerful, and that results in Soulver 3.
Soulver 3 lets you create sheets with calculations, so it saves your calculations for whatever purpose you see fit. By default, Soulver 3 shows you totals, but you can switch that to averages if you like. Its major unique selling point, however, is that – in most cases – you can enter calculations and other number crunching in plain language.
The intro text of this review gives you a good example, but there are countless others. For starters, you can use Soulver as a sort of numeric journal. Let’s say you’re a big spender on clothes and to keep your chequebook balanced, you need to carefully track your expenses. You can create a spreadsheet for that in Apple Numbers or Microsoft Excel, but that’s hardly efficient. Both apps are designed for much intenser number crunching, they’re not very fast and you have to set up a spreadsheet before you can start tracking.
Soulver lets you track without any further preparation. In this usage scenario it acts like a Notes app for numbers. You just enter something like “€512 + €128 // on August 1, spent on shoes and a coat”. The next day, you can enter “€300 // on August 2, spent on a pair of trousers”. The double slash acts as a comment denominator; everything behind it is ignored.
It’s very easy to create subtotals for every month. Tracking purchases in different currencies is easy too: just add the currency to the amount and Soulver figures it out by itself – the first will be your total’s currency.
Often you’ll need to add a result to a new calculation and you can do that as well. Just double-click the previous line’s results, and you’re using that result as the first entry of your new calculation. Now, in the furthermore excellent user guide you’ll find it stated that you can only reference the previous line, but that’s not correct. The latest version of Soulver 3 lets you reference any previous line and that too has been implemented in a very user-friendly way. It works like this:
- Enter your new figures and operators up to the one that you want to contain the line reference, then
- Hit Command-L and you’ll see numbers appear right besides the calculation results of all the previous lines in the sheet.
- Make your pick and enter the number of your choice as you would any number in a calculation and magically the number of that line will appear and the result will appear as usual.
Advanced calculation features
All of the above is still relatively simple, but Soulver 3 handles more complex matters too. For example, you can declare variables very easily. You just state something like “CF (crop factor) = 1.6”, “CF = 1.5” and “CF = 1.3”, and you can calculate the hyperfocal distance for your aperture, lens and camera combination by referencing the most recently defined value in any calculation you enter on subsequent lines.
(NOTE: The formula for hyperfocal distance calculation is: Hyperfocal Distance = (Square of Focal length divided by F-number times acceptable circle of confusion) + focal length.)
Another more advanced feature is the number slider. If you hover over a number and hold down the shift key, a value slider appears so you can create simple “what if” scenarios. Other advanced features are percentages and proportions. For example, you can enter “20 is what % off 321” and “5 is to 38 as 23 is to what”. Then there are new functions that are available in the very latest version of Soulver 3, e.g. “larger/greater (or smaller/lesser) of 121 and 323” and my personal favourite for some obscure reason that I am not actually conscious of myself: “remainder of 21 divided by 8”. That’s the same as “21 mod 8” but the former is easier on the – mine at least – brain. An equally great function is “midpoint between x and y” or “half of x”.
Finally, you can enter traditional functions in the more traditional “function()” notation and perform exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, and other such calculations.
Soulver 3 will also save you a lot of time. Currency functions are the first group that come to my mind because I frequently need to convert USD and GBP to Euro and vice versa. Soulver’s Preferences hold the key to getting the last currency values. Note that Soulver 3 has an extra for those of us who deal with cryptocurrencies; it supports those as well.
And just as with the examples that I entered above, you can mix digital currencies with the real thing or just convert one into the other. Conversion also covers units, plenty of them. Unfortunately for photographers and video producers, luminosity has been given the least love; it supports candelas only.
Soulver 3 is not just a nice-to-have. It’s a time saver and a great help with many calculations that you would otherwise need to create a spreadsheet for. It’s very powerful and incredibly user-friendly, although you sometimes do need to check if your notation is correct. For example, I wanted to convert acres into square metres and entered the latter just the way I wrote it here. That didn’t work and the right notation was “m2”.
People in the visuals production industries who frequently consult a calculator will love Soulver 3 for its many built-in functions and preset constants and variables. Ultimately, even the poor support for luminance units doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker as Soulver 3 lets you define your own per-sheet variables.