Finding Research Software

The number of commercial and free scientific software packages is too vast and too rapidly growing to be listed in any book. The best way to find out about software packages is by searching the WEB for strings such as "finite element software" or "statistical software".

Talking to colleagues can also be helpful, but keep in mind that they are most likely only knowledgeable about one or a few packages that they have been using, and may not even be aware of alternatives, especially newer ones. Choosing software solely on the advice of others is unwise.

Your WEB search will likely lead you to the many Wikipedia articles dedicated to providing an overview of software categories, such as List of finite element software packages, List of software for molecular mechanics modeling, and List of statistical packages.

Some software lists are embedded in other articles, such as Data mining.

A good way to get a quick overview of what's available as established open source projects is looking at the listing of packages available in one of the top-tier package managers, such as Debian packages, FreeBSD ports, Gentoo Portage, MacPorts, or Pkgsrc.



Be sure to thoroughly review the instructions in Section 2, “Practice Problem Instructions” before doing the practice problems below.
  1. Is it a good idea to trust the advice of a colleague about what software to use? Why or why not?

  2. How can you be certain that you are using the best available software for your research?