More than your basic search engine, Wolfram Alpha is a “computational search engine” that does computations on the fly using its own amazing algorithms. Unlike Google, Wolfram answers factual queries in real-time from its own information-rich database that took 20 years to create.
Wolfram Alpha debuted much to the excitement of researchers, students, journalists and geeks everywhere. While Google can find the same results, it doesn’t do it in the intelligent way Wolfram can – through its own database; a much more reliable and reputable way.
For newbies to Wolfram, our guide will outline how to use Wolfram Alpha from every angle and why it’s worth checking out.
What Wolfram Alpha Can Do
Why use Wolfram over Google? It’ll give you answers twice as fast, all in one page, because remember – Wolfram doesn’t just “find” sites containing your answer, it literally computes the answer itself. Factual queries are its expertise.
When you enter your search words, take your birthday as an example, “April 7th, 1977,” Wolfram will compute several aspects of data relevant to the day you were born.
As you can see, the time difference between then and today, the weather, important events that day, the moon phase, it’s all shown in one big chunk, completely removing the need of having to click and poke around for your answer on multiple pages like you would in Google.
A red “thinking” bar graphic will be displayed whenever Wolfram is computing results.
Wolfram can compute all genres of knowledge in real-time, and it does it fast. From mathematical equations to physics, it can compute nearly anything. I’d have loved this thing in college.
You can also enter a company name, such as Disney. It will show the latest stock trade, financials and more in-depth information such as stock price history and performance comparisons.
Wolfram’s Mega Menu of Computation
This is just for starters. Currency info, social sociology stats, engineering stats, biology stats, date calculations for family tree research projects, there’s an unbelievable amount of information Wolfram can compute. In case you want to see everything it can do, Wolfram’s menu showing its categories is a good place to start.
Nutritional Data for Anything You Can Think Of
Another way Wolfram stands out is that you don’t have to input full sentences for it to understand what you’re looking for. For example, when using Wolfram to find nutritional data, which is one of the cooler things you can do with this site, you don’t have to enter anything more than the name of a fruit and a number.
If you enter “1 carrot, 1 cucumber,” it will know what you’re looking for and will display the nutritional value of both of these veggies. This is a great tool for dieticians to anyone trying to get in shape.
There’s a very helpful “Total nutritional facts” button that can give you the nutritional value of any combination of food; again, pretty awesome stuff.
Statistics About Names and Places
Other unique ways you can use Wolfram are numerous. You can input a city or town name to view a whole host of information, or you can just a person’s first name to see every statistic attached to that name, such as how popular it is in the US and how many people have that name.
Historical and Current Weather Data
Wolfram is also really something when it comes to providing weather data, making it great for research projects.
Historical weather, with amazing graphs of the daily fluctuation of temps, clouds, and precipitation from that day can be computed in real-time, is one of the neater things Wolfram can do.
Current weather anywhere in the world can also be relayed, with every aspect of the weather shown.
Social Media Data Monitoring
One of the more fun things you can examine with Wolfram is your Facebook usage; an up-close look at everything you’ve done since registering your account. Once you connect your account with Wolfram, it will be able to compute all kinds of graphs analyzing how you use Facebook.
Regular Wolfram Alpha vs. Pro
Many expected Wolfram to be sold to Google by now but they haven’t, which means they need money to operate, so no one was surprised when Wolfram released a paid version to users.
What’s changed isn’t too bad for those not looking to pay anything, as long as you don’t mind a few more pop-up ads and having to register to export the text and PDF files.
One service, however, that you can no longer access unless you subscribe to Pro is the ability to request extra time for a long calculation. If you see this error which is, unfortunately, becoming more common when you input a complicated calculation under a free account in Wolfram, you can’t request extra time unless you go Pro, which is $4.99/month, unless you’re a student, then it’s only $2.99/month.
For researchers or college students, subscribing isn’t a bad idea. As a subscriber, you can upload images, files, tabular data, and you get access to more step-by-step solutions, zoom-in options, extended computing time and options to export raw data. These are things these types of folks may need.
Access Wolfram Anywhere
You can access Wolfram quicker than just going to its URL. Apps for this site are offered by both Chrome and Firefox which are easy to install. Just click the “Add to” buttons on their respective sites, then follow the prompts to install the app.
These apps provide in-tab use via an icon or an omnibar search bar that you can use without leaving the site you’re currently on. For Chrome, typing “=” +” Tab” will bring up a search field for Wolfram in your address bar.
In Firefox, a separate search tab for the app will be the top-right of the browser.
One bummer both of these apps share, however, is that they don’t show the results in the same tab or window, and instead of opening a new tab to display the results.
For those wanting to use Wolfram on their mobile device, there’s an app for the iPhone and Android, as well as the iPod Touch, Nook, and Kindle. The phone apps do cost a fee, $2, and they can be downloaded directly from Wolfram’s site.
For science nerds, geeks, journalists or anyone who appreciates an onslaught of facts, you can’t get anything better than Wolfram Alpha. While it may not be as fast as was when it debuted in 2009, the site is still fast enough to love despite the few minor changes in recent years.
If you think you’ll be using Wolfram Alpha often, and want your hands free, you might want to give Wolfram Alpha-powered S. Voice a try on your Samsung smartphone.