Numeric Notes: Basic Note Taking and Calculations Rolled Into One

Today we’ll be looking at a wonderfully simple app that’s basically the result of a collision of a notes app and a calculator. The result is a simple and friendly way to take notes with basic built-in support for automatic mathematical functions.

The app is called Numeric Notes and if you’re in the market to upgrade your basic calculator, you might want to take a look.

Spreadsheets Suck

I’m a graphic designer, photographer and writer. In other words, my mind is fairly skewed towards the creative side of life. This has obvious ramifications in the software that I choose to use. I’ll spend all day in Photoshop, just don’t make me use Excel.

“It’s more than a notes app and more than a calculator, but pleasantly much less than a spreadsheet.”

Spreadsheets are beyond boring and the apps that create them are understandably complicated. Unfortunately, I actually really like the calculation functionality that you get in a spreadsheet. You have so much freedom to write notes and insert whatever you need while still having access to automatic totals and the like when you need them.

That being said, I see plenty of room for other sub-genres to emerge that represent much simpler ways to perform calculations that are beyond what a typical calculator can do but much more basic than a spreadsheet.

This is where Numeric Notes comes in. It’s more than a notes app and more than a calculator, but pleasantly much less than a spreadsheet.

Meet Numeric Notes

When you launch Numeric notes, you’re greeted with a very simple, sticky-like interface that allows for text entry. The UI is perfectly simple and very welcoming. There aren’t really any options and the menu is scarce, all that you can really do is begin typing!


Numeric Notes

Once you begin to type, your text will appear in a bold, easily readable sans-serif font. The string of words you’re working on is shown surrounded by little arrows.


Text appears in bold and the current line is encapsulated in little arrows

Numeric Entry

As I mentioned, this app is specifically created for running quick calculations and is especially good for creating lists that need totaling.

Now, notice that I actually included a number (2011) in my initial entry, but because it’s inside those little brackets, it’s not being acted upon. Check out what happens if I start a new line and hit my right arrow key to exit the brackets and then type a number.


Numeric entries are duplicated in the right column

Now I can continue to list my items on the left and I get a nice column of numbers on the right.


Numeric entries are duplicated in the right column

Performing Calculations

Now, if this app were only good for making lists like the one above it would be pretty lame, but fortunately it can also run calculations for you.


Hit ⌘= to get a total

Here I’ve separated my items into two distinct lists, each of which has an automatically calculated total. It took me a while to figure out how to do, but it turns out to get an automatic total you have to hit ⌘= or go to Edit “Insert Sum.”

Here’s an example from the website that shows some of the various functions. Notice that it allows you to follow the number with the type of unit you’re using (inches, days, etc.).


Numeric Notes accepts all kinds of entries

Unlike the Spotlight mathematic functions on your Mac, Numeric notes also allows you to use parentheses to control the order of operations.

That’s It?

Believe it or not, that’s about all there is to it. Normally I would never dream of reviewing an app this simple but this one is so charming that it caught my eye. Like WriteRoom or IA Writer, it actually benefits from simplicity.

That being said, there’s a fine line between keeping things simple and offering up the features users need. I personally think Numeric Notes is off to a great start, but it needs to go further.

For instance, I need a way to reference other lines. So if I’m on line five and want to know what 100 times whatever the total on line one was, I should be able to reference that value. Instacalc is a web app that handles this functionality particularly well (it also has an awesome variable system). There should also be built-in support for more complicated math functions for things like square roots.


Overall, this is a great little app that I find quite useful. It has the freedom of a notes app with the usefulness of a calculator and that’s a powerful combination.

It’s available for $5.99 on the Mac App Store. Honestly, I think the developers are reaching a little with that price point. The limited functionality seems more in the range of a $1.99 app. That being said, I’ve seen plenty of super basic full-screen text editors running for $10 so it may not be such a bad deal after all. Try it out and let us know what you think.


A simple but elegant notes app that allows you to easily create lists with automatic sums. Though I like the minimalism at work here, I think it needs some more robust functionality to justify the price point. It's still a great app though and I definitely enjoy using it.