Archive for June, 2009

Paraview. Can it be even considered “open”-source?

June 13th, 2009 6 comments

I’ve been working on a poster for a research conference, and decided to try my hand at generating nice plots using gnuplot, tecplot, and paraview. Paraview is “open-source” and can handle a variety of datasets. It touts itself as a great tool with tons of features.

In reality, paraview is fairly difficult to use. It’s not intuitive. You can’t import data easily (csv, text). Best of all, Kitware charges for documentation!

While paraview may technically give their source away, I argue that it is not “open”. First. if paraview was indeed “open” in spirit, why do they charge for documentation? Now I don’t care so much about all the nitty gritty details. I just want to be able to find a doc with information about it’s python classes and write a little filter to import 3D point data + faces. However, to my knowledge, no such document really exists. At least it’s not in the top 3 or 4 pages of google search, which means if it does exists, it’s been hidden.

Second, if paraview was “open”, why is CSV not properly supported? I just wanted to plot data from a spreadsheet/matrix/whatever. Why do I even need to use a python filter to read a file and import it?

Also, I will grip about how the doxygen docs are next to unusable. They aren’t even in alphabetical order!

In conclusion, while the features exist in paraview as Kitware hypes it up to be, paraview, at this point in time, can’t really be an open-source application and is entirely unusable for general purposes. Yes, there are nifty filters, which, after you spend a few hours trying to figure how to operate work spectacularly well. Yes, it does do a lot of nifty things, like create movies, extract surfaces, and points. There are a whole slew of things that are nice about paraview. However, the following “issues”, mar whatever Kitware claims paraview to be:

  • Lack of any useful documentation, aside from learning how the interface works (Yes, the GUI and pipeline system are SO intuitive that you need to look at a manual to operate. I will say that it is more user friendly than blender, which doesn’t mean much.
  • Inflexibility in importing data. If I can’t import my data, how can I even render/plot/manipulate it?

Therefore, Paraview is open-source, as in “I show you the source”, but it fails in being “open”-source, as they blatantly withold information from you. It is nothing less than intellectual blackmail. I think I will stop trying to use paraview for the time being. It’s a big waste-of-time/time sink. Five hours of messing around just to try to get a contour plot and I still haven’t gotten it to work. Although I think I figured out how to do it theoretically, ideally I would modify the python programmable source filters. However, as I mentioend before, there is no documentation on it that is useful. I just want to add mesh data via faces.

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