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10 free analysis and design tools engineers need

24 Jun 2014  | Cabe Atwell

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Due to its popularity, we have prepared another set of free tools that engineers and hobbyists can use for their projects. As usual, the following tools come for free.

We asked engineers to add to our original list. The result, which you'll see in 10 slides here, includes a compelling alternative to Excel now emerging called the R Project for Statistical Computing. Engineers say that its ability to handle large data sets and its more flexible graphing tools makes the steeper learning worth it. Engineers also give high marks to FreePCB, which trades off form for function and allows users to design and edit PCB schematics using a simple graphical interface.

The R Project for statistical computing—alternative to Excel.

 The R Project

First up is R&R's (created by Robert Gentleman and Ross Ihaka) R Project, or simply 'R', which is a downloadable software environment used for statistical computing and graphics.

The software provides statistical and graphical techniques, including linear/non-linear modelling,, time-series analysis and classical statistical tests among a host of others. The software is compatible with most OSs and will run on various UNIX platforms, Windows, and MacOS-based PCs. R is also open-source software, enabling users to modify it at will to suit their needs without the fear of litigation.

Sage helps in a wide range of mathematics


Do certain math problems have you stumped? Perhaps you need help with computations in CAD-based models. Whatever the problem may be, Sage has you covered. The software was created using almost 100 open-source packages that are unified under one interface for ease of use. The platform can be used for a myriad of mathematical applications, including calculus, algebra, and elementary math. There is also advanced 'Doc Brown' applications incorporated as well, such as group theory, cryptography and combinatorics among a host of others.

The downloadable software is accessed through a web browser and connects locally to either your Sage installation or through Sage's network server. The interface is quite interesting and is in 'notebook' form, which allows users to create customised graphics, mathematical expressions (for the String Theory fans), and add/delete input based on specific projects. Moreover, you can create incredible 'Spirograph' artworks just like using the retro toy from your childhood.

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