Personal Finance > Saving and Spending
Review: Palm tipping software
October 23, 2001: 11:02 a.m. ET

For the numerically challenged, an easy tipping calculator.
By Peter Valdes-Dapena
NEW YORK (CNNmoney) - Evaluating Palm Pilot tip-calculating software under real-world conditions is a difficult undertaking. Consider a typical scenario:

A waiter puts the check down on the table. I'm a man with a job to do, so I grab the check and pull out my Palm Pilot. By the time I have the cover open and my stylus out, someone else at the table snatches the check out of my hand and says, eyes rolling, "Oh, give it to me. I can figure it out."

Test over.

As such, I only ever really got to test these programs while I was dining alone or by playing around with pretend meal tabs divided among my pretend group of friends. (I do actually have real friends, they just don't want to sit around while I fiddle with my fancy calculator.)

This all raises a legitimate question: Why use a Palm Pilot to calculate a tip, anyway? If you want to leave a 20 percent tip, you divide by five. If you want to leave a 15 percent tip, divide by 10 and increase that  amount by half. It's not as if, before there were personal digital assistants, people used to carry around slide rules for this stuff.

I have, however, three good answers to that question.

Answer number one: Because I have a Palm Pilot.

Answer number two: Mathematicians have not yet discovered the equation so simple that I could not get it wrong, especially after a big meal and a couple of beers.

Answer number three: For a large group, it helps with dividing the check equally (the guy who ordered the extra plate of nachos not withstanding).

My main criteria for choosing my favorite Palm tip software were simplicity and ease of use. To make any sense at all, a tip-calculating program has to be quicker than using a pen and paper.

There is a temptation, as with any type of software, to make it do too much. I wanted something on which I could pre-set my preferences (how much I usually wanted to tip and whether I wanted to write in the amount with or without tax) and get my result immediately. I didn't want to log my expenses or divide drinks from food or anything like that. The most I wanted to do was split the check with my fellow diners.

I wanted a simple, clear screen without annoying graphics. And I didn't want to have to buy a big "financial software package" to get it. For something this simple, it should be really cheap. And, especially since I have an older Palm, it shouldn't take up a lot of what little memory my device has.

And the winner is...

I chose to review QuickTip by Quick's Palm Software. I have to confess that I had a little more input in the final version of this program than software reviewers usually do.

As I was about to write my review of QuickTip, I discovered that the program wasn't handling sales tax correctly. At least it wasn't handling it the way I thought it should. The program has a check box labeled "Amount includes tax." That's how you let the program know that the number you enter in the "Amount" field includes the sales tax. Of course, you shouldn't tip on sales tax, so the program should have calculated what the food and drink total was before the tax was added in, then done the tip calculation. The original version of QuickTip didn't do that. The newest version, 4.0d, does subtract the sales-tax amount before figuring out the tip.

Quicktip has a simple interface in which all fields except the check amount can be pre-set. You can enter the check amount and the number of people in your group by either writing it in or using pull-down menus. Likewise, the sales-tax amount can either be written in or set using up-and-down arrows. The tip calculation is automatic as soon as the check amount is entered. The tip percentage can be set using a number of large buttons. Tapping the "i" icon provides you with a list of suggested tip amounts.

QuickTip is free and you can download it at programmer Carl Quick's Website at www.thequickster.com

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