Just curious, why do virtual calculators on desktops even have the numbers and symbols added to the UI.

Here's an example of what I mean

Windows Calculator

Windows Calculator


macOS Calculator

On desktops, the primary mode of input is the keyboard and I imagine in most cases, users would use the physical keyboard not only to input numbers but also for basic operations like addition, subtraction etc.

If that's the case, does the visual depiction of numbers and operations on the UI add any value. Is there an official research, statement explaining this better?

  • What else do you plan to do with the visual space? Just have a tiny window for the result, like a console? I think it's skeuomorphism for those who need help to remember the operations that can be done rather than just a result, as well as aesthetically nicer than just the window, and potentially capable of showing more feedback on screen. (Especially if you type without looking on the numpad, it can be a good extra layer of verification to see the correct number highlighted.) Commented May 1 at 11:46
  • An increasing number of computers - even desktops, not just laptops or tablets - have touch screens. and it's also becoming increasingly common to find physical keyboards that don't have numeric pads. In such cases, it might well be more "natural" for the user to use the graphical keys on the UI, which are usually clickable with a mouse even on systems that don't have touch screens. Such clickability also makes it easier to include functions that don't have "obvious" keyboard equivalents. Commented May 1 at 11:55
  • 2
    do you have all those options in your keyboard? Of course not! Also, there are keyboards without numeric pads (such as the Macbook I'm using to comment right now), and it's much easier to click on the screen with minimal movements than to click numbers across the whole width of the keyboard, which is basically Fitts's Law
    – Devin
    Commented May 1 at 16:07
  • For a lot of people, a calculator interface without numbers would be an awkward experience, since we are so used to that standard layout. Also it would be very inefficient to constantly move your hand from mouse to keyboard and vice versa. Graphical interfaces opposed to command line interfaces are meant to be accessible, so one doesn't have to learn keyboard shortcuts or commands, but can discover functionality by looking and clicking.
    – jazZRo
    Commented May 2 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


Not all users are the same or have the same possibilities for interaction

Years ago I was a teacher in a two-month QuarkXPress course. An extremely difficult layout and text editing application for those who are not used to working with it, with different keyboard shortcuts, submenus, and commands. I had always seen it as a redundant application, with repeated, hidden, and tremendously absurd options. Until I had to give this course to which I refer. Suddenly everything made sense. The course was in a rehabilitation center for paraplegics, most of them due to traffic accidents. They used a spinning ball as a mouse. In fact, they used all the options that seemed redundant to me in the application, which, accustomed to a couple of keyboard shortcuts, I had to relearn them with their real name, meaning, location and action. Since then every time I visualize redundancy in an interface, I analyze it with two or three different eyes.

Copy-paste from this answer

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    What a wild ride! QuarkXPress was likely the first design app I ever learned and I did layouts and pre-press with it for years. It's been a long time now, but to hear it described as "extremely difficult" or a "redundant application" is a mind bender. I probably haven't used it for decades but at the time it felt great and there was not much to compare it to
    – It's Dylan
    Commented May 1 at 21:38

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