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Software Review of:
currency converter for the Palm


Susan Ives is a past president of Alamo PC.

From the March, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Iíve spent a lot of time living and traveling abroad, and for math-impaired souls like me this presents a never-ending series of hazards. Itís not enough that the money is different. Oh no. They measure things in kilometers instead of miles. Gauge the temperature in centigrade rather than Fahrenheit. Dole out petrol in litres instead of gasoline in gallons. In England they even weigh people in stones rather than pounds. Now I ask you ó stones??! Whatever were they thinking? Iíve spent many a year in a muddle but now Iíve 2XCalc. Iím bugging John for a trip to Europe just so I can try it out for real.

2XCalc is a converter for a handheld computer using the Palm operating system. It will convert most of those wacky numbers that confuse red-blooded Americans. Kilos into pounds. Liters into Gallons. Funny money into dollars. And you can carry it with you always.

The currency converter is a gem. Euros have only been around for a few months and no one except two German bankers really know what theyíre worth. 

The software developer maintains Palm-compatible Excel spreadsheet of 160 currencies and updates them once a week. You can download the file and be assured that you have reasonable current exchange rates. When I travel, Iím not obsessed with figuring out the cost down to the last franc or pfennig, but I do want to make sure Iím not sitting down to a $25 slice of pizza in Piazza San Marco or dropping ten bucks on a refrigerator magnet at Buckingham Palace. Weekly updates are good enough. However, if I do need more precise data, I can edit the exchange rates myself whenever I want, either on the Palm itself or in MS Excel. I can also select which ones are displayed on the drop-down menu so I do not have to scroll through Korean Wan on my trip to France.

VAT is Value Added Tax, and the program will automatically calculate this for you. This number can be easily customized to reflect any calculation you want, plus or minus.

Now, I hear you saying, ďSusan, I never leave Texas. What on earth do I need a currency calculator?Ē Let me tell you what I did. I re-programmed this magic number to read ď1.07875Ē Does that ring a bell? Itís the state sales tax charged in San Antonio. While Iím at home, I can plug is US Dollars for both figures and the sales tax will be automatically calculated for me. Slick, no? 

The calculator buttons are really big. This is no accident. While youíre pawing over a brass candlestick in the souk in Jerusalem you probably canít juggle your Palm and the little stylus to convert the shekels into dollars. The onscreen keypad is big enough to poke with your fingers, even one-handed. I tried it and itís true.

If all this program did were to convert currency is would be worth $14.50 (thatís ¥1,926.56 or £10.09 or 64.54 shekels, in case you were wondering.) But it does more. It also converts temperatures, lengths, areas, volumes, speeds, masses, pressure, energy and power. I canít imagine a situation where I would desperately need to convert Joules into BTUs, but you might. I do, on occasion, need to translate miles into kilometers, pounds into kilograms and Fahrenheit into centigrade.  It also works for normal household calculations, such as gallons into fluid ounces. 

2Xcalc is available as a download from wiz|u,. You can try the demo for free, but it wonít display more than 5 digits. To get more digits you need to pay $14.50 to register it, which you can do online. (Thatís Canadian $23.16 or 133.86 Mexican Pesos, if youíre curious.) There are online instruction and the download comes with an Adobe PDF manual. The program is fairly intuitive which was good because I suspect that the manualís author is not a native speaker of English. 

This is a nifty little program Ė if youíve got a Palm handheld, you need this one. Itís a bargain at only Euro16.26.

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