How to Use Your Web Browser as a Calculator

Ever wanted to add some numbers, but didn’t have a calculator to hand?

Maybe you’re working out your tax return, totting up the cost of your shopping lists or helping the children out with their pesky homework.

Who even carries one of those old-fashioned calculators around with them anyway?

Doing it the old way with a plastic calculator.

The truth is that we don’t need the bulky black box of a calculator stuffed into a trouser pocket any more.

Modern smartphones often come with nifty apps preinstalled that perform all kinds of calculations.

We can tap on the screen and get the answer in seconds.

It’s never been simpler.

But what if you don’t have access to your phone or the battery’s died?

You could always get a pen and paper and work it yourself. Like your grandparents did.

Yet that can often take too much time. And make your head hurt.

Do you even remember how to do long division?

I've cracked it!

Well, I’m going to show you how to use your web browser — the program on your computer that you use to surf the web — to do any kind of calculation you can think of.

Whether you’re using Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox, you can press the F12 key on your keyboard.

This will bring up the “Developer tools” that are designed for web professionals and power users.

Find the tab labelled “Console” and press it.

You will now be able to enter your sums.

For example, typing 6 + 4 + 10 and then pressing the Enter key will return the answer 20.

As in the image below (and you may need to click on it to make it bigger):

Some simple addition.

You use the + symbol for addition and - for subtraction, which are both pretty straightforward.

However, multiplication and division use symbols that you may not expect, to make them easier to type on a standard keyboard.

The * symbol — known as an asterisk — is used for multiplication, while the / symbol — a forward slash — is used for division.

So to calculate the number of seconds in a week you would type 60 * 60 * 24 * 7, because there are always 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.

And here’s the answer:

Multiplying seconds, minutes, hours and days.

Yet there are times when just using the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division symbols won’t be able to give you the answer you’re looking for.

Sometimes you want to make sure that one part of a calculation is done before another.

For example, (50 * 10) + 4 gives a very different answer than 50 * (10 + 4), even though both calculations use exactly the same numbers and arithmetical symbols.

That’s because if you multiply 50 * 10 first, you get 500 — and when you add 4 to that, you end up with 504.

On the other hand, if you add 10 and 4 first, you get 14 — and when you times that by 50, you get 700.

So the order that you break the calculations up into really does matter!

In the web console, all you need to do is place brackets — or, as mathematicians sometimes call them, “parentheses” — around the parts of the calculation that you want to be done first.

Using brackets to control the order of your calculations.

Notice how you don’t even need to use brackets when you want to do the multiplication part of the calculation first.

That is because the computer will automatically do any multiplication before it moves onto addition.

If you learned about PEDMAS or BODMAS when you studied math at school, then this follows exactly the same principle.

But if you didn’t — or can’t remember — don’t worry, because all you need to know is that whatever you put inside the brackets gets done first!

It really is as easy as that.

And you can always use more brackets than you absolutely need, if you want to be on the safe side.

Just make sure that you always use matching pairs of brackets and don’t have one dangling on its own.

If you did that, the console would keep waiting for you to enter the closing bracket before it begins the calculation.

But I’m sure you won’t have any problems with matching your brackets!

Just experiment and see what works. You’re unlikely to break anything as long as you keep to the console.

Raising a glass with friends.

Now that you know how to use your web browser as a calculator, you can impress your friends with your newfound abilities!

As long as you have access to some kind of computer, you can split any bill with ease, and you’ll never again find yourself paying more than your fair share.

And if your friends are calculating how much you owe them, just make sure to show them this blog post — they’ll have no excuse to get it wrong!

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