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4.1 Basic Commands

To start the Calculator in its standard interface, type M-x calc. By default this creates a pair of small windows, ‘*Calculator*’ and ‘*Calc Trail*’. The former displays the contents of the Calculator stack and is manipulated exclusively through Calc commands. It is possible (though not usually necessary) to create several Calc mode buffers each of which has an independent stack, undo list, and mode settings. There is exactly one Calc Trail buffer; it records a list of the results of all calculations that have been done. The Calc Trail buffer uses a variant of Calc mode, so Calculator commands still work when the trail buffer's window is selected. It is possible to turn the trail window off, but the ‘*Calc Trail*’ buffer itself still exists and is updated silently. See Trail Commands.

In most installations, the C-x * c key sequence is a more convenient way to start the Calculator. Also, C-x * * is a synonym for C-x * c unless you last used Calc in its Keypad mode.

Most Calc commands use one or two keystrokes. Lower- and upper-case letters are distinct. Commands may also be entered in full M-x form; for some commands this is the only form. As a convenience, the x key (calc-execute-extended-command) is like M-x except that it enters the initial string ‘calc-’ for you. For example, the following key sequences are equivalent: S, M-x calc-sin <RET>, x sin <RET>.

Although Calc is designed to be used from the keyboard, some of Calc's more common commands are available from a menu. In the menu, the arguments to the functions are given by referring to their stack level numbers.

The Calculator exists in many parts. When you type C-x * c, the Emacs “auto-load” mechanism will bring in only the first part, which contains the basic arithmetic functions. The other parts will be auto-loaded the first time you use the more advanced commands like trig functions or matrix operations. This is done to improve the response time of the Calculator in the common case when all you need to do is a little arithmetic. If for some reason the Calculator fails to load an extension module automatically, you can force it to load all the extensions by using the C-x * L (calc-load-everything) command. See Mode Settings.

If you type M-x calc or C-x * c with any numeric prefix argument, the Calculator is loaded if necessary, but it is not actually started. If the argument is positive, the calc-ext extensions are also loaded if necessary. User-written Lisp code that wishes to make use of Calc's arithmetic routines can use ‘(calc 0)’ or ‘(calc 1)’ to auto-load the Calculator.

If you type C-x * b, then next time you use C-x * c you will get a Calculator that uses the full height of the Emacs screen. When full-screen mode is on, C-x * c runs the full-calc command instead of calc. From the Unix shell you can type ‘emacs -f full-calc’ to start a new Emacs specifically for use as a calculator. When Calc is started from the Emacs command line like this, Calc's normal “quit” commands actually quit Emacs itself.

The C-x * o command is like C-x * c except that the Calc window is not actually selected. If you are already in the Calc window, C-x * o switches you out of it. (The regular Emacs C-x o command would also work for this, but it has a tendency to drop you into the Calc Trail window instead, which C-x * o takes care not to do.)

For one quick calculation, you can type C-x * q (quick-calc) which prompts you for a formula (like ‘2+3/4’). The result is displayed at the bottom of the Emacs screen without ever creating any special Calculator windows. See Quick Calculator.

Finally, if you are using the X window system you may want to try C-x * k (calc-keypad) which runs Calc with a “calculator keypad” picture as well as a stack display. Click on the keys with the mouse to operate the calculator. See Keypad Mode.

The q key (calc-quit) exits Calc mode and closes the Calculator's window(s). It does not delete the Calculator buffers. If you type M-x calc again, the Calculator will reappear with the contents of the stack intact. Typing C-x * c or C-x * * again from inside the Calculator buffer is equivalent to executing calc-quit; you can think of C-x * * as toggling the Calculator on and off.

The C-x * x command also turns the Calculator off, no matter which user interface (standard, Keypad, or Embedded) is currently active. It also cancels calc-edit mode if used from there.

The d <SPC> key sequence (calc-refresh) redraws the contents of the Calculator buffer from memory. Use this if the contents of the buffer have been damaged somehow.

The o key (calc-realign) moves the cursor back to its “home” position at the bottom of the Calculator buffer.

The < and > keys are bound to calc-scroll-left and calc-scroll-right. These are just like the normal horizontal scrolling commands except that they scroll one half-screen at a time by default. (Calc formats its output to fit within the bounds of the window whenever it can.)

The { and } keys are bound to calc-scroll-down and calc-scroll-up. They scroll up or down by one-half the height of the Calc window.

The C-x * 0 command (calc-reset; that's C-x * followed by a zero) resets the Calculator to its initial state. This clears the stack, resets all the modes to their initial values (the values that were saved with m m (calc-save-modes)), clears the caches (see Caches), and so on. (It does not erase the values of any variables.) With an argument of 0, Calc will be reset to its default state; namely, the modes will be given their default values. With a positive prefix argument, C-x * 0 preserves the contents of the stack but resets everything else to its initial state; with a negative prefix argument, C-x * 0 preserves the contents of the stack but resets everything else to its default state.