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Freeware, Open Source, or Free-to-Students Software for Engineers and Scientists

(So far, the list below is focused on software useful to mechanical engineering students. As I get recommendations for software useful in other areas, I’ll add those, too.)

Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Illustration

  • OpenOffice (open source) — we have an on-campus mirror for OpenOffice, including installers for Windows and MacOS X. Linux users should probably use the OpenOffice that is packaged with their preferred distribution, but you can find Linux installers at the mirror link given previously.

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.