Future Road Map Suggestions

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Future Road Map Suggestions

Postby Prairie » Fri Oct 11, 2013 10:46 am

Various comments for future development, some of which are related to WA/CAS and some to ND1 more generally:

When entering expressions, adding single quotes is a real pain, especially around variables. Sometimes one can do it without quotes and other times it is required. I know you have mentioned working on this, but if it is possible to eliminate the need to require quotation in expressions, that would be great! Having equations potentially work both ways is confusing. Users shouldn't have to guess/remember where it works and where it doesn't.

A related issue is having to enter text by first tapping the "rpn:" input line; this takes an extra step for such a common use case. It would be nice for the single quote key to automatically launch the keyboard. Not sure what that breaks for other uses. Also, similar functionality for [, ( keys would be useful. Also, havering an analogous " key would be nice.

On the topic of keyboard, I know that Apple frowns on different keyboards by default, but what about a customized ND1 keyboard for editing within ND1? It's really awkward to enter mathematical formulas; lots of shifting back and forth to enter symbols, digits and operators (also delimiters). Digits and operators on different keyboard screen is particularly bad.

Lacking a custom keyboard, I would hope ND1 1.5 will use new style of iOS 7 keyboard. If you can make a customized one, please make it have the iOS 7 style.

When WA is available, I would suggest adding several WA menus. One new Menu might allow for easy adhoc creation/editing of WA functions/commands. For example a WA-opt key would allow for input a vector of options. A WA, key might allow for executing a simple command [with options] on stack without having to create expression from scratch, i.e., eliminate << command WA>> syntax.

Another WA type menu would put the most common WA functions into their own WA/CAS menu, including: Simplify, Evaluate, Solve, Integrate, Differentiate. By putting all of these under one menu, it will create a much better user experience. Inside these Menus, users will know that network connectivity is required and that there will be a 1-3 second latency. Outside of the WA menu's, command execution will execute locally and quickly. This really should provide for a better user experience. Moreover, if the WA functionality is an extra charge, it's easier to isolate that functionality to several menus than having different default keyboards--or worse the same keyboard with non-functioning keys for users not paying for WA. I wouldn't put anything on the main keys that makes WA calls. Personally, I have found the WA latency to be acceptable, albeit it barely. (Anything you could do for speed would be great, but probably not in your control.) The issue is expectations management. I should know when and when not to expect a command to execute remotely through W|A.

Related to the prior point, I'm not sure that Integration and Differentiation (even if implemented locally) belong on the main keyboard. My guess is that they are much less used than many other functions, including for example a numerical pi, trig and/or log functions.

For 5s users (or retinal display users) is it possible to add soft-2nd-level-keys? This would be a huge addition! (If screen space is a problem on the non-retinal display phones, make it a configuration option.) Since you have suggested getting rid of the 2nd-level key in favor of holding the primary key longer, it would be great to have the same functionality for the soft-keys. That would provide for a huge increase in primary keyboard functionality, reducing the frequency of dropping into the Menus.

I know that holding soft keys brings up the Help system. I would not get rid of the Help system. Instead, I would implement it with a special 'Help' key that one could execute prior to executing the key one is getting help for. This has the added benefit that you could provide better Help support for all keys, not just soft keys. (Also a big win.)

By the way, getting rid of the 2nd-key in favor of just holding the key is a great idea. I haven't used the 2nd-level key since its been provided. Its much faster to hold a key slightly longer in order to access the secondary functionality. Also, picking up an extra key is nice. The only thing I would try to do is to continue to have some sort of cue that the 2nd-level functionality worked. Right now, it's by lighting up the 2nd-level key itself. Perhaps the cue would be changing the color of the label on the secondary function.

As you begin to fully flush out the CAS elements of ND1, I would start with the view that a 'Naive' user will want the main calculator keyset to act like a high end rpn calculator. CAS should be there, a step away, not in the way.

Moreover, personally, I would like to only use one calculator, the ND1. Currently, I still use the HP 42s because very common calculations involving numeric pi, trig, log and/or scientific notation take more keystrokes on the ND1. Consider designing the ND1 keyboard modeled after the HP 42s (the iPhone app is gorgeous in look and engineering design) rather than trying to copy the HP 50g (for which there are nothing but hideous iPhone apps.) The former is much more consistent with the form factor of a mobile device than a squeezed down HP 50g.

Finally, and please don't take any offense, but how about a more descriptive name for the product? ND1 is very obscure. I literally have tried every rpn calculator or high-end mathematical app for several years and didn't even come across ND1 until recently, and then only by chance.

With the programming hooks built into ND1, it is a very powerful and differentiated product. The ability to drop into RPL or Javsacript provides unprecedented power, but even programmers don't want to work when they are doing the obvious. Mac OSx should be an inspiration. It has the GUI and easy of use that appeals to my parents, but a unix underbelly that is there for the power user/programmer. ND1 offers the same opportunity. Please keep up the great work!
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Re: Future Road Map Suggestions

Postby oliver » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:43 pm


Thanks for your extensive notes.

There's one rule regarding single-quotes that hopefully clarifies a lot: if you refer to an undefined variable, you can type the name with single-quotes. If it's defined then you need to add single quotes because without them you de-reference the variable, that is, invoke its contents. That's carried over from HPs and kinda makes a lot of sense. In RPL+, you can type expressions without single-quotes and they will evaluate automatically. The calc will probably evolve more into an algebraic-by-default machine and you may end up being able to live without them. (But then, *something* needs to be typed to differentiate between referring to names vs. evaluating them. In RPL+ you can type "0 =x" instead of "0 'x' STO" but you *have* to use "x". In the algebraic world, that's "x=0", which still needs one character to make clear your intention.)

Once there's a function editor, entering algebraic expressions will be easier. On the Program menu, if you press the <<>> key, an editor is opened for you to begin typing. I could easily add the same for 'expr', [], {}, so you press one key and get an editor immediately. Let me know if that would help.

See the "iOS 7 look" page re keyboard changes. I think it merges quite well with the iOS 7 keyboard. Let me know how this should be improved further.

If the CAS is installed, the alt-button will be replaced with a CAS button that brings up dedicated menus with CAS functionality. I'm still working on those. If you have suggestions under which headings which functions should be grouped, that would be very welcome.

Yes, absolutely, there'll be a WA key. (Two actually.)

And, yes, none of this is in the beta, simply because there was no way for me to deliver a second menu set with a 1.4.3 target. V1.5 is ready to go in this respect.

Integration and differentiation will remain on the main keyboard. Differentiation is supposed to be implemented without need for WA. Integration is for both numerical and symbolic, and former is done without WA, too. The functionality of the keys changes from bringing up W|A pages (yes, lame, but better than nothing) to calling W|A, as in the beta. I'm quite happy with the variable param input for both functions and believe that will make them quite powerful. (And deserving of a spot on the keyboard.)

Long-pressing softkeys invokes the editor on their contents. I like this a lot and use this a lot. I hope most users do too. So, the 2nd-level spot for soft-keys is already taken. However, on an iPhone 5 you can have another row of soft-keys! V1.5 can do this already. Simply add 6 soft-keys and see how this works for you. (I think 15 soft-keys is quite sweet actually.)

A dedicated Help key sounds reasonable (and is less obscure than the current scheme). What info/help would you provide for other than built-in functions?

A big yes on indicating the 2nd level function is selected after a certain time of pressing a key. My intention is not to change color but pulse/glow the label just when the key becomes available. I'm glad to hear you like long-presses and don't even use the alt-key!

I get your concerns about not overloading a user with CAS stuff. Again, integration and differentiation symbols are going to switch to CAS (or built-in, depending on params) and other than the newly available CAS key will be there. No other intrusions onto the keyboard.

Hmm, interesting. Can you give me examples for common calculations involving pi, trig, log that more keystrokes on ND1?
I mentioned that already in private correspondence: soon you'll be able to design your own calcs. You could have one with functions tailored to exactly what you want/need commonly and switch between that and ND1 and/or others. You could already experiment with alternative layouts. (Wait for v1.5 first and the key update.) In fact, you'll be able to save any edited keyboard when that update (1.6 or 2.0) hits.

I responded to the naming in personal correspondence. The iPad version is going to be "CalcPad" (*if* I still own the name; I think I do but there's a product out there). CalcPad is going to be ND1 v2.0 in big. ND1 with CAS was supposed to be called ND2. (And ND0 is free.) So, you see, there's just a little sense behind giving it a number. (And, hey, calculators *have* numbers in their names, no!?)

Thanks for your kind words and all the feedback!

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Re: Future Road Map Suggestions

Postby oliver » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:57 pm

Two more thoughts about 2nd function soft-keys. I appreciate your suggestion and that this would allow to fit twice as many functions and reduce dropping into the menu system.

I'm a bit worried that the keyboard would look very dense. As it is, people have been complaining about how small the type of 2nd functions is, but I don't see how I can make it larger. With the keyboard this isn't so much of a problem, I'm thinking, because as a frequent user you're simply going to memorize where your functions are. You don't actually have to read small type to find them. But, you'd have to if there were 2nd-level soft-keys, since you're surely not going to memorize those. (Plus, they keep changing.) Ultimately, half of the function would be relegated as "hard-to-find".

There's a plan for something completely else. CalcPad isn't going to have soft-keys. Rather, there's going to be a slick hierarchical, animated graph of function nodes, which you can tap anywhere. If you tap a top-level node, its children are going to appear. This is going supersede both soft-keys and the menu system. On the tall 4" screens I'm working to fit the same system. It's going to look sexy (as far as calcs go...) and going to make a lot of sense.

(BTW, this always eliminates the help function. You can have optional panes open. If you open the help tab on a pane, you're going to see the help text for any given selected node. You can have two panes. One for your source, one for the help text w/ example. Both can be located right off the stack which remains visible, too. I'm aiming for a nice environment. ND1 won't replicate all this, but it will *run* all you can develop there.)

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