Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
05-19-2022, 09:34 AM (This post was last modified: 05-19-2022 09:36 AM by n3mmr.)
Post: #1
 n3mmr Junior Member Posts: 20 Joined: Feb 2017
Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
Fonts: why simulate the low resolution fonts from the original HP42s?

Keyboard on the Plus42: why maintain a row of blank keys under the display? They do appear to be redundant. Maybe the menu on the display could be moved to these keytops, possibly with a shifted-in extra row?
The key shapes might need to be changed a little, for clarity.
05-19-2022, 07:36 PM (This post was last modified: 05-19-2022 08:11 PM by johanw.)
Post: #2
 johanw Member Posts: 209 Joined: Nov 2019
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-19-2022 09:34 AM)n3mmr Wrote:  Fonts: why simulate the low resolution fonts from the original HP42s?

Nostalgia.

(05-19-2022 09:34 AM)n3mmr Wrote:  Keyboard on the Plus42: why maintain a row of blank keys under the display?

To use as programmable function keys when a menu is present, without needing something like TOP.FCN (which has been replaced by TVM).
05-19-2022, 07:47 PM
Post: #3
 Thomas Okken Senior Member Posts: 1,828 Joined: Feb 2014
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-19-2022 07:36 PM)johanw Wrote:
(05-19-2022 09:34 AM)n3mmr Wrote:  Fonts: why simulate the low resolution fonts from the original HP42s?

Nostalgia.

Also, compatibility.
05-19-2022, 07:52 PM (This post was last modified: 05-19-2022 07:54 PM by n3mmr.)
Post: #4
 n3mmr Junior Member Posts: 20 Joined: Feb 2017
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-19-2022 07:47 PM)Thomas Okken Wrote:
(05-19-2022 07:36 PM)johanw Wrote:  Nostalgia.

Also, compatibility.

Compatibility with what? What could possibly break just because the display used smooth fonts?
05-19-2022, 08:01 PM (This post was last modified: 05-19-2022 08:22 PM by Peet.)
Post: #5
 Peet Member Posts: 140 Joined: Oct 2020
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-19-2022 07:52 PM)n3mmr Wrote:  Compatibility with what? What could possibly break just because the display used smooth fonts?

All the things that won't work on the DM42 either because of the font.

(05-19-2022 07:36 PM)johanw Wrote:  To use as programmable function keys when a menu is present, ...

If the menu is active, then the display also functions as those buttons, if not, then these buttons only mirror the row of two below. Does this row of buttons even make any recognizable sense on touchscreen/mouse devices? Even on the free42 the use of the top-raw as function-keys made no sense (it was even worse because you needed to press TOP.FCN only to use the printed key-function).

My calculators - former: CBM PR100, HP41CV, HP11C, HP28S - current: HP48G, HP35S, Prime, DM41X, DM42
05-19-2022, 08:15 PM
Post: #6
 johanw Member Posts: 209 Joined: Nov 2019
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-19-2022 08:01 PM)Peet Wrote:  Does this row of buttons even make any recognizable sense on touchscreen devices? If the menu is active, then the display also functions as those buttons, if not, then these buttons only mirror the row of two below.

Plus42 also runs on non-touchscreen devices like PC's.

But if you want to change the UI from a classical calculator to a touchscreen optimized design a lot more things can change. I think this is not the scope of Free42 or Plus42.
05-19-2022, 08:28 PM
Post: #7
 Thomas Okken Senior Member Posts: 1,828 Joined: Feb 2014
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-19-2022 07:52 PM)n3mmr Wrote:
(05-19-2022 07:47 PM)Thomas Okken Wrote:  Also, compatibility.

Compatibility with what? What could possibly break just because the display used smooth fonts?

Anything that combines graphics and text.

Even if I implement support for other fonts, the classic font would always have to be an option, to make sure legacy programs that combine AVIEW and PIXEL / AGRAPH in creative ways will still look as intended.
05-19-2022, 10:10 PM (This post was last modified: 05-19-2022 10:18 PM by Peet.)
Post: #8
 Peet Member Posts: 140 Joined: Oct 2020
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-19-2022 08:15 PM)johanw Wrote:  Plus42 also runs on non-touchscreen devices like PC's.

I'll tell you a secret, on a PC you can click the softkeys with the mouse.

If I had to guess, i would say the only reason for the status quo is nostalgia. If you have 12 "keys" and you have to switch to have 12 different functions instead of two times the same 6 and no access to the other 6, an other reason that is close at hand would be stupidity.

My calculators - former: CBM PR100, HP41CV, HP11C, HP28S - current: HP48G, HP35S, Prime, DM41X, DM42
05-20-2022, 02:08 AM
Post: #9
 Thomas Okken Senior Member Posts: 1,828 Joined: Feb 2014
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
Actually, I felt myself getting a bit annoyed at this whole line of questioning... but I bit my tongue, and after a while, it dawned on me that maybe a bit of perspective would be a good thing, so here goes:

When I started work on Free42, the app upon which Plus42 is based, it was 2004, and the first platform I had in mind for running it on was the Palm m100, a low-end PDA that was popular at the time. The m100 had a 16 MHz 68000 CPU and no hardware floating-point unit, and it had a 160x160 pixel 2 bpp (4 levels) grayscale screen.

For comparison, that's about the same number of pixels as one icon on a recent iPhone's home screen, and the CPU is about 100,000 times slower than current smartphones.

What this means is: back in 2004, it was all I could do just to get Free42 to run at roughly the same speed as a real HP-42S, and the keyboard and display barely fit. Retina screens and fancy fonts weren't on anybody's radar.

Of course, hardware development hasn't stood still in the nearly 18 years since then, but I had my reasons for not supporting every little UI innovation.

The big one was OS churn. I initially developed Free42 for PalmOS and Linux (the latter using the Motif widget set). Once they were done, I ported it to Windows before releasing 1.0. And in the years that followed, I added more and more functionality to the UI, like program import and export, and the print-out window, meaning every subsequent port was going to be more and more work. And there were ports: to Windows Mobile, to PalmOS on ARM, to Linux using GTK widgets, to Android, to iOS, and to MacOS, and I also added even more functionality to the UI, like customizable skins, portable state files and quick state file switching, audible and haptic feedback, landscape mode, Unicode support, 64-bit support, copy & paste for all data types including programs and matrices... And lots of core functionality as well, like the big stack, local variables, long strings, et cetera.

And I did all this while also living a life and working a full-time job.

I'm not complaining, I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't fun, but maybe this helps get the point across how it might be possible that features that may make perfect sense have nonetheless, somehow, not gotten done yet.

If Plus42 sells well, maybe I can make it my full time job and then I can implement everything anyone has ever suggested, but if not, the pace of progress will remain slow and unpredictable. I'll need to sell a lot more units to make that happen, though, so, spread the word!
05-20-2022, 11:05 AM (This post was last modified: 05-20-2022 11:06 AM by n3mmr.)
Post: #10
 n3mmr Junior Member Posts: 20 Joined: Feb 2017
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
Thank you for biting your tongue!

It is cosmetic, and plus42/free42 is still the only day-to-day calculator app I can imagine using.

I do hope plus42 can keep you set up for life!
05-20-2022, 01:38 PM
Post: #11
 jonmoore Member Posts: 224 Joined: Apr 2020
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-20-2022 02:08 AM)Thomas Okken Wrote:  Actually, I felt myself getting a bit annoyed at this whole line of questioning... but I bit my tongue, and after a while, it dawned on me that maybe a bit of perspective would be a good thing, so here goes:

When I started work on Free42, the app upon which Plus42 is based, it was 2004, and the first platform I had in mind for running it on was the Palm m100, a low-end PDA that was popular at the time. The m100 had a 16 MHz 68000 CPU and no hardware floating-point unit, and it had a 160x160 pixel 2 bpp (4 levels) grayscale screen.

For comparison, that's about the same number of pixels as one icon on a recent iPhone's home screen, and the CPU is about 100,000 times slower than current smartphones.

What this means is: back in 2004, it was all I could do just to get Free42 to run at roughly the same speed as a real HP-42S, and the keyboard and display barely fit. Retina screens and fancy fonts weren't on anybody's radar.

Of course, hardware development hasn't stood still in the nearly 18 years since then, but I had my reasons for not supporting every little UI innovation.

The big one was OS churn. I initially developed Free42 for PalmOS and Linux (the latter using the Motif widget set). Once they were done, I ported it to Windows before releasing 1.0. And in the years that followed, I added more and more functionality to the UI, like program import and export, and the print-out window, meaning every subsequent port was going to be more and more work. And there were ports: to Windows Mobile, to PalmOS on ARM, to Linux using GTK widgets, to Android, to iOS, and to MacOS, and I also added even more functionality to the UI, like customizable skins, portable state files and quick state file switching, audible and haptic feedback, landscape mode, Unicode support, 64-bit support, copy & paste for all data types including programs and matrices... And lots of core functionality as well, like the big stack, local variables, long strings, et cetera.

And I did all this while also living a life and working a full-time job.

I'm not complaining, I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't fun, but maybe this helps get the point across how it might be possible that features that may make perfect sense have nonetheless, somehow, not gotten done yet.

If Plus42 sells well, maybe I can make it my full time job and then I can implement everything anyone has ever suggested, but if not, the pace of progress will remain slow and unpredictable. I'll need to sell a lot more units to make that happen, though, so, spread the word!

I feel your pain, and fully understand why things have developed the way they have.

But I do have some sympathies also with the discussion ref Plus42 especially. With Plus42, there's an opportunity to improve upon 42S UX/UI conventions that can make it very difficult for those not versed in the world of HP calculator evolution to pick up Plus42 and realise its benefits before frustration stops them from feeling their money has been wasted. I feel the same way when it comes to the DMC42 in much the same way (I have a few friends who purchased DMC42's having heard me rave about it, for them only to sell them a few short months later as they found the UX cumbersome.

If developers continue to only target their creations to an ever-shrinking target audience (preaching to the already converted), they can't complain when their apps aren't profitable.

Take a look at the NCalc Fx app on iOS (and it's Android sibling that goes by another name). This is what you're going up against. It's an emulation of what is probably Casio's best education-focused calculator the humble/diminutive fx-991ex. As well as mirroring all of the functionality of the aforementioned Casio hardware, it includes a wealth of CAS functions that share the same nomenclature as the same functions in Mathematica and graphing capabilities (Casio have a couple of current graphing calculators, the CG50 and Classpad but the fx-991ex covers the majority of the same functionality minus the graphing and CAS features of the Classpad). And you get all of this for approx $3. As such, it has a universal appeal to both high school and college students as well as professionals working in the field when they may not have access to their laptops (with Maple, Mathematica or Matlab etc.). I actually think the features of Plus42 stack up pretty well against NCalc Fx, but the UX/UI can be a barrier for those more used to modern calculator offerings. I don't mean any of this as a criticism as I do understand how you got to now and the challenges of keeping your old customers happy whilst making a product appeal to new customers from outside of the HP calculator ecosystem/community. Many of the things you've discussed with regard to new v1.1 features will definitely help widen the appeal and hopefully, that will be enough to convince more paying customers to jump on board. Ultimately, continued innovation will only make commercial sense if you widen your base (classic chicken/egg scenario). 05-21-2022, 12:25 AM Post: #12  rprosperi Super Moderator Posts: 5,524 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues Hmm....$9.99 for HP-42S UI/UX with extensions for Solver, Units, Directories, etc.

$3.00 for$19 Casio clone with CAS extensions, and more Mathlab-like.

Easy choice, and at more than three times the price, it's still a bargain.

Sure highschool kids may find NCalc familiar but most can't use it since it's on a phone, and college students in Engineering, Physics, etc, may find that more familiar, but any who look at more than just a few screen shots would likely find Plus42 a better choice.

If the 42 UX is too cumbersome to master you're probably right, they likely are better off with NCalc. Hope they're happy with it.

OTOH, suggesting Plus42 should morph its UI/UX into something more 'modern', for some unsubstantiated additional market slice seems specious to be sure.

Don't do it, Thomas! Keep the faith!

--Bob Prosperi
05-21-2022, 10:32 AM
Post: #13
 mfleming Senior Member Posts: 863 Joined: Jul 2015
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
Even if the Plus42 UI were "modernized" per current suggestions, wouldn't we be having this exact same conversation five years from now?

Remember kids, "In a democracy, you get the government you deserve."
05-21-2022, 03:58 PM
Post: #14
 jonmoore Member Posts: 224 Joined: Apr 2020
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-21-2022 12:25 AM)rprosperi Wrote:  Hmm....

$3.00 for$19 Casio clone with CAS extensions, and more Mathlab-like.

Sure highschool kids may find NCalc familiar but most can't use it since it's on a phone, and college students in Engineering, Physics, etc, may find that more familiar, but any who look at more than just a few screen shots would likely find Plus42 a better choice.

To be clear. Phone calculator apps are fine for High School students, it's just that they can't use them in tests/exams. And Ncalc is already a proven hit, it's score on the iOS store is 4.8 out of 5 (based on 1360 current ratings). The app developer is definitely getting something right.

As to the UI design, I find the lighter skin to be elegant/streamlined and the interaction design to be considered.

But I'm not suggesting that Plus42 uses the same approach. What I was most definitely suggesting was that if Thomas wants Plus42 to be a viable commercial offering, where he can make enough of a return that he feels his time is being suitably rewarded, he needs to appeal to the student market, as well as the niche community of HP calculator enthusiasts.

After all, the primary market for higher math calculators is education. A fact that HP themselves were too slow to realise, and we know where that sorry tale ended.

05-21-2022, 04:34 PM
Post: #15
 ijabbott Senior Member Posts: 1,210 Joined: Jul 2015
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
I think the main problem with NCalc is that it is sold as many variant apps that each claim to emulate some particular Casio model, but are in fact just skin jobs of the same app. And the one I bought a license for through the Google store a few years ago could somehow only be installed on a single Android device unless you go through hoops to contact the developer for a new key to install another Android device. That's not how paid Android apps from the Google store are supposed to work.

— Ian Abbott
05-21-2022, 05:15 PM (This post was last modified: 05-21-2022 05:17 PM by jonmoore.)
Post: #16
 jonmoore Member Posts: 224 Joined: Apr 2020
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-21-2022 04:34 PM)ijabbott Wrote:  I think the main problem with NCalc is that it is sold as many variant apps that each claim to emulate some particular Casio model, but are in fact just skin jobs of the same app. And the one I bought a license for through the Google store a few years ago could somehow only be installed on a single Android device unless you go through hoops to contact the developer for a new key to install another Android device. That's not how paid Android apps from the Google store are supposed to work.

There's more than a single developer doing these Casio/TI clone efforts and they're generally all based in East Asia (and display scant regard to intellectual property).

I own the Ncalc based on the fx-991ex on both iOS and Android and have never had any problems installing it on multiple devices (they also make an Ncalc product based on one of the TI graphic calcs). The version on Android is called CalcES as it was launched before the latest upgrade to 991ex but is functionally identical to the iOS product (both allow you to set up the interface using 991es or 991ex conventions).

My partner and I have 4 kids at various stages of the education system and I pick up various calculator apps and set them up on Family Share (both the Android and iOS flavours). They all have physical Primes, both physical Casio CG50's and fx991ex's (the CG50 is clunky in many ways but is by far the best graphing calc - even without the Primes touch-screen) and one wanted a Classpad too, but sold it as it was painfully slow. We instead have a family subscription to Classpad.net, which wraps up all of the Classpad features into a web-app (it came in very handy at the height of COVID). Best of all, the classpad.net subscriptions include free subscriptions to the Classpad calculator emulator on both iOS and Android. Classpad has always been the best of the tablet-style calculators and coupled with the speed of a modern tablet/pen combo makes for a very powerful option.

The eldest has recently grown attached to my 50g but stands no chance of getting their filthy paws on it permanently!
05-24-2022, 02:14 AM
Post: #17
 agarza Member Posts: 118 Joined: Oct 2016
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
Regarding the fonts... On iOS, if you display more than 2 rows, the font size becomes smaller. Even tough there is plenty of space to have same big font.

Is there a way to keep the same font size?
05-24-2022, 07:07 AM
Post: #18
 Thomas Okken Senior Member Posts: 1,828 Joined: Feb 2014
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
By default, the vertical pixel size is set equal to the horizontal pixel size when the number of rows is greater than 2. The idea is to make the display look like the HP-42S when there are two rows, and emulate the square pixels of the RPL calculators when there are more rows.

This behavior can be overridden using a DisplaySize: line in the skin's layout. For an existing skin image whose default display area is designed to fit 2 rows, add this:

DisplaySize: 22,2 -1 ys -1

For ys, use the same number as for the "y magnification" in the Display: line.

05-25-2022, 03:13 PM
Post: #19
 agarza Member Posts: 118 Joined: Oct 2016
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-24-2022 07:07 AM)Thomas Okken Wrote:  By default, the vertical pixel size is set equal to the horizontal pixel size when the number of rows is greater than 2. The idea is to make the display look like the HP-42S when there are two rows, and emulate the square pixels of the RPL calculators when there are more rows.

This behavior can be overridden using a DisplaySize: line in the skin's layout. For an existing skin image whose default display area is designed to fit 2 rows, add this:

DisplaySize: 22,2 -1 ys -1

For ys, use the same number as for the "y magnification" in the Display: line.

Well, that was my only issue. (That is what happens when you don't read the manual!)

Great, great calculator! My to go calculator on my desktop, iPhone and iPad.

By the way, is there a way to install/purchase plus42 on amazon kindle tablet? It does not apear on the store.
05-25-2022, 05:37 PM
Post: #20
 jonmoore Member Posts: 224 Joined: Apr 2020
RE: Plus42 (and Free42) minor cosmetic issues
(05-25-2022 03:13 PM)agarza Wrote:  By the way, is there a way to install/purchase plus42 on amazon kindle tablet? It does not apear on the store.

You have to install the Google Play store. Do a search online, there are plenty of sites that provide guides ref the exact steps. But rest assured it's really easy and doesn't involve jailbreaks or suchlike trickery.
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