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Free Software for Students

The following software packages can be freely downloaded and used by students. Some of them allow users to examine their inner workings, modify them for any purpose, and redistribute modified versions.

We have an interest in finding free tools for our users wherever possible. This is not just to reduce out-of-pocket costs, but also to avoid being locked in to proprietary software and file formats, and also to encourage our users to recognize that they often have the ability to modify these tools to better suit their needs. The freedom to innovate is far closer to the mission of academia than it is for most software businesses.

We're not just promoting garden-variety freeware or shareware programs here; every program listed as open-source gives its users the freedom to:

  • Use the software for any purpose (personal, academic, or commercial)
  • Examine the software's inner workings (source code)
  • Modify the software's source code for whatever purpose
  • Redistribute original source code or programs to others
  • Redistribute modified source code or programs to others

An increasing number of these packages are already available on CAE Network systems. A student or anyone else could even build an entirely free operating environment with these types of programs and a free operating system, such as GNU/Linux or FreeBSD. Email Mike Renfro if you're interested in installing Debian GNU/Linux on a computer (PC, Sun Sparc, or PowerPC) on campus.

Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Illustration

Computer Aided Design and Drafting, Solid Modeling

  • Alibre Design Xpress (Windows only, free, fully functional for 30 day trial, with limits on number of parts in an assembly after trial period) — 3D parametric solid modeling system.
  • AutoCAD (Windows only, free to students) — 2D and 3D computer aided drafting system.
  • Autodesk Inventor Pro (Windows only, free to students) — 3D parametric solid modeling system.
  • Pro/E Wildfire Schools Edition (Windows only, free to students) — 3D parametric solid modeling system.
  • ProgeCAD 2008 Smart (Windows only, free for personal use) — very similar to AutoCAD, and file-compatible with AutoCAD 2008 and earlier.

Symbolic Mathematics (Computer Algebra Systems)

  • Maxima (open source) — works similar to Maple or Mathematica.

Non-Symbolic Mathematics and Programming

  • Code::Blocks (open source) — integrated development environment for C++.
  • Dev-C++ (Windows only, open source) — integrated development environment for C++.
  • Force Fortran (Windows only, freeware, uses open source compilers) — integrated development environment for Fortran 77, 90, 95, and newer.
  • Octave (open source) — generally compatible with Matlab. Installers for Windows and OS X are available at Octave Forge. Linux users should probably use the version that is packaged with their preferred distribution.
  • Python (open source) — general-purpose programming language. Can be used interactively, as an interpreted scripting language, or can be converted to executables. Huge standard library of modules for GUI creation, networking, Windows-specific libraries, etc. If the SciPy modules are added, it should handle most any scientific or numerical task required.

Finite Element Analysis

  • LISA (Windows only, free version limited to 1300 nodes) — solves static, thermal, eigenvalue, dynamic response, fluid, electromagnetic, and acoustic problems.
  • Warp3D (open source, with Windows and i386 Linux executables available) — a research code for the solution of very large-scale, 3-D solid models subjected to static and dynamic loads. Specific features in the code oriented toward the investigation of fracture in metals include a robust finite strain formulation, a general J-integral computation facility (with inertia, thermal, face loading), interaction integrals for computation of linear-elastic fracture parameters, very general element extinction and node release facilities to model crack growth, nonlinear material models including viscoplastic and cyclic, cohesive elements and cohesive constitutive models, and the Gurson-Tvergaard dilatant plasticity model for void growth.
  • CalculiX (open source, with Windows and i386 Linux executables available) — a package designed to solve field problems using the finite element method. With CalculiX Finite Element Models can be built, calculated and post-processed. The pre- and post-processor is an interactive 3D-tool using the openGL API. The solver is able to do linear and non-linear calculations. Static, dynamic and thermal solutions are available. Both programs can be used independently. Because the solver makes use of the abaqus input format it is possible to use commercial pre-processors as well. In turn the pre-processor is able to write mesh related data for nastran, abaqus, ansys, code-aster and for the free-cfd codes duns, ISAAC and OpenFOAM. A vda CAD interface is available.