Back by popular demand is another round of free tools that engineers and do-it-yourselfers can use with their various projects (see the previous list Top free DIY tools every EE needs ). With the economy the way it is, ‘free’ is as good as gold and these tools are worth every penny you didn't spend on them.
We asked engineers to add to our original list. The result, which you'll see on the following pages, 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.
Did we miss your favorite free tool? Tell us about it and why you love it in the comments section below.
The R Project for statistical computing — alternative to Excel
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 modeling, 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.
More information: The probability of users downloading this tool is roughly 70%.
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 customized 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.