As the name suggests, Open source software is a piece of computer program that is not owned by any one person or organization but is meant to be a collaborative effort and is usually left to a public domain for improvements and its maintenance. This way, the users save a lot of money and are benefitted by the fact, that the software is constantly updated in a collaborative manner. Specialized users can even “add” functionality to any existing open source software and thus in turn the software goes on improving in its features.
The open source initiative was formed in 1998 by Eric S. Raymond and Bruce Perens. Open source software need not essentially be “free of cost” to the end user, but the term certainly means that the user has the freedom to freely distribute the work (without actually removing the name of the original creator). Several open source software licenses have qualified within the boundaries of the Open Source Definition. The most prominent and popular example is the GNU General Public License (GPL).
All this did spell a lot of difference to many commercial software development houses like Microsoft. The most famous case that history records is of the Netscape Navigator’s release of its Internet browser source code to public domain.
The open source software offers almost any kind of software to its users. Be it Operating systems like UNIX from AT & T, or the Internet browser from Netscape to CAD software like QCAD. One cannot forget the LINUX operating system that was first created by Linus Torvalds and released for public use. One can see the many versions of Linux that is now available free of cost and by far – well maintained. The end user benefits from this all. For example - the initial version of Linux did not have the USB support, but then, experts followed the source code of Linux and added this functionality. Thus the OSS system works for the end users benefit.
Open source software for architectural purpose :
Many architects use AutoCAD, 3D Studio, CorelDraw, and Photoshop for architectural drawing and 3D modeling. These are rather bulky packages and provide many functions an architect will never use. Luckily, there are several open source alternatives that are well-suited for architects - QCad in place of AutoCAD, Blender instead of 3DMax, Inkscape in place of CorelDraw, and the GIMP as a substitute for Photoshop.
On one hand AutoCAD provides architects with efficient solutions: you can, for instance, put hundreds of doors, windows, or pillars in your plan within seconds. By contrast, in open source CAD, you have to do most of the works from zero. Current open source CAD applications are still not that good at handling a mass of standardizing drawings. But if you do unique designs, or would like to develop a custom CAD solution that fits your need, open source is a good choice.
QCad community edition is a simple open source 2D CAD application that works well for architectural plans.
The release of the QCad community edition follows a few months behind the professional edition. The current version of QCAD is 2.2. QCAD 3 is scheduled to be released beginning of 2011. You can also download the demo version of the current edition from http://www.qcad.org/qcad_downloads.html
On the upside, QCad does support AutoCAD's DXF files also.
Another open source CAD application is BRL-CAD. It handles 3D CAD for constructive solid geometry (CSG) modeling. Or you can choose Open CASCADE as your platform if you want to develop your own CAD.
For 3D modeling and rendering one can choose Blender or the less powerful Wings 3D. Blender is a small but powerful 3D modeling, rendering, and animation application. Available for free download at http://www.blender.org
It can import files in DXF, OBJ, and 3DS formats. You can also put the left view, front view, and platform of your architectural plans in the background of the software to begin your modeling. You can choose elements such as mesh, curve, surface, or meta to do your 3D modeling in different ways. A new feature in the latest version, Blender 2.49 64 Bit, can help you to work out a perfect virtual reality for "participating media" such as glaze tile and crystal
Complete Article and Images are available in Building Giants Feb-Apr 2011 Issue