A New Way to Type—On the Wolfram|Alpha App

February 5, 2010
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The Wolfram|Alpha Team
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Version 1.1 of the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone & iPod is now available in the App Store. The new version includes a number of new features that continue to improve the app’s unique mobile Wolfram|Alpha experience. Perhaps its most iconic feature, the specialized keyboards that greet you when you first open the Wolfram|Alpha App, have been painstakingly constructed to ease the burden of entering queries, whether you’re converting from pounds Pounds key to euros Euro key or computing a numerical value for the Weierstrass p-function Weierstrass p-function. Our goal in creating these keyboards was to form families of characters that naturally occur together both in common use and in traditional mathematical applications. We also wanted mathematical expressions to look and feel natural to enhance usability and understanding. Version 1.1 has four specialized keyboards: the default keyboard, the “math” keyboard accessed by the right-shift key Integral Infinity key , the “Greek” keyboard accessed by one press of the left-shift key Right-shift key on the math keyboard, and the “symbol” keyboard accessed by a second press of the left-shift key.

The default keyboard in the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch The math keyboard in the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch The Greek keyboard in the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch The symbol keyboard in the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch

To determine the optimal keyboard layout, we scoured Wolfram|Alpha’s server logs for the most commonly entered phrases that have characters with meaning in Wolfram|Alpha. Given that Wolfram|Alpha is built on Mathematica, one of its core strengths is advanced mathematics. True to form most of the commonly typed characters are related to math. For example, you would generally type the word “integrate” to compute an integral on the Wolfram|Alpha website. In the Wolfram|Alpha App you could simply type the Integral key key on the math keyboard. The same is true for other symbols common in math, such as Theta key and Pi key. Specifying geometric shapes, such as a triangle, is straightforward as well.

Entering an integral into the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch Using Greek characters in the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch Specifying geometric shapes in the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch

With the specialized keyboards, currency conversions (accessed by a press-hold popup on the Currency key key) are exceptionally easy, as is finding the positions of the planets, or looking at the population of males in the U.K.

Calculating currency with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch Viewing sky charts with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod Touch Computing the population of males in the U.K. with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch

Sums, limits, integrals, and derivatives can be expressed in their natural forms.

Calculating a limit with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch Computing a derivative with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch

The keyboards also allow you to enter a formula naturally, such as for Ohm’s law and frequency-wavelength relationships, and you can properly refer to units, physical constants, and elementary particles.

Ohm's law in the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch Computing frequency with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch Tau Letpron in the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch

Of course, you can do advanced mathematics, as well.

Computing advanced mathematics with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch Computing advanced mathematics with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch Computing advanced mathematics with the Wolfram|Alpha App for the iPhone and iPod touch

This is just a small fraction of the ways the specialized keyboards make the Wolfram|Alpha App more useful. Give it a try, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself leaving your calculator at home.

14 Comments

This is great. Please consider putting them on the wolframalpha.com homepage. Symbols are much more intuitive than text. What’s good for the app is good for the website… Thanks for the great work!

Posted by Jo February 6, 2010 at 4:41 am Reply

On the Windows LIve web page please can you make it possible to cut and paste any of these special characters to the input form. Perhaps by placing a table of the characters immediately below the input form.

Posted by Brian Gilbert February 6, 2010 at 7:05 am Reply

Good, but when will you add Android?
Android is growing like weed while Apple is just losing PR everywhere.

Posted by Pedro Rodriguez February 6, 2010 at 12:24 pm Reply

I have to take this as a bad sign – chances are if this is being introduced in the paid version, there’s little chance of it on the main online one, which I use, not even owning an iPhone. It’s too bad – considering I think this would be one of the most helpful features to be added.

Posted by BCG February 6, 2010 at 5:45 pm Reply

I was just wondering why did you make a $50 app if people can use the website for free. It’s just silly because people can enter wolfram from safari in their ipod/iphone.

Posted by Andres February 7, 2010 at 12:29 am Reply

I guess I don’t need to buy that calculator now;)

Posted by Marcus Hunde February 7, 2010 at 10:41 am Reply

Go go Android release!

Posted by dylan February 8, 2010 at 5:13 am Reply

Its stupid to have a really expensive app when its free on the internet. i’m sure i must be making a mistake but i can’t see how the app is any better, and definitely not $50 better.

Posted by Matthew February 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm Reply

Please put a keyboard with special characters so no need to open character map.

Posted by John M Smith May 16, 2010 at 6:20 am Reply

Indeed very impressive. Please consider making a version for androids..

/Jonas

Posted by Jagthunde November 26, 2010 at 9:37 am Reply

The app is great. One thing that would be very handy is if you could also make your keyboards available to other iPhone apps like Notes. At present it is possible to do this via cut and paste from the wolframalpha screen, but this is quite cumbersome.

Posted by Robin June 10, 2011 at 12:40 am Reply

This is the coolest app on my iPhone – it really rocks! Would be cool if data could be shared between apps though.

Posted by Mikkel Hundefoder January 29, 2012 at 3:55 am Reply

This ebook has some great insights from somenoe who seems to have done it especially the lesson on UI design where I have little experience. Would be nice to have some case studies but other than that, it’s fab. Thank you!!

Posted by Yean December 1, 2012 at 8:34 pm Reply
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