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1 Overview of units

The units program converts quantities expressed in various systems of measurement to their equivalents in other systems of measurement. Like many similar programs, it can handle multiplicative scale changes. It can also handle nonlinear conversions such as Fahrenheit to Celsius;1 see Temperature Conversions. The program can also perform conversions from and to sums of units, such as converting between meters and feet plus inches.

Basic operation is simple: you enter the units that you want to convert from and the units that you want to convert to. You can use the program interactively with prompts, or you can use it from the command line.

Beyond simple unit conversions, units can be used as a general-purpose scientific calculator that keeps track of units in its calculations. You can form arbitrary complex mathematical expressions of dimensions including sums, products, quotients, powers, and even roots of dimensions. Thus you can ensure accuracy and dimensional consistency when working with long expressions that involve many different units that may combine in complex ways; for an illustration, see Complicated Unit Expressions.

The units are defined in an external data file. You can use the extensive data file that comes with this program, or you can provide your own data file to suit your needs. You can also use your own data file to supplement the standard data file.

You can change the default behavior of units with various options given on the command line. See Invoking Units, for a description of the available options.


[1] But Fahrenheit to Celsius is linear, you insist. Not so. A transformation T is linear if T(x+y)=T(x)+T(y) and this fails for T(x)=ax+b. This transformation is affine, but not linear.