Software for a Design Office on Linux

I've been thinking about how best to run an office entirely on free / open source software. Clearly a prodessional usable FOSS CAD package is nowhere to be seen on the horizon line... ...but with Bricsys getting serious about delivering a usable CAD package for linux, we can fill one of the last remaining boxes.

  • CAD package = BricsCAD
  • Rendering package = Blender
  • Office package = OpenOffice for schedules, specifications & transmittals...
  • ...but why would you use OpenOffice for templates, correspondence and reports when you can put Scribus on every workstation in the office!
  • Inkscape or Karbon 14 for vector graphics &
  • Gimp, Cinepaint or Krita for raster graphics can similarly be legally installed on every desktop for the cost of the time they take to install...

...the interesting bit is that most of the above packages already have windows versions.

The killer for many is their Exchange server and Microsoft Outlook. Nobody seems to really care that they have so much company data in such an insecure program. At the same time, shared task lists, calendars and contact lists in Exchange are truely a wonderful tool for collaboration. I've been looking at a number of server packages like Sugar CRM for something that exceeds the capabilities of Exchange. It's hard to find something that:

  1. handles a Gant Chart of tasks with sub-tasks & dependencies (not that exchange ever did this)
  2. can connect documents, contacts or meetings with tasks...
  3. can turn e-mails into tasks, contacts, projects, etc...
  4. can handle databasing and versioning of documents
  5. and ideally can take projects, tasks, resources and hours and turn them into usable timesheets...

...anyway, that's the outline of what I'm looking for. There are quite a few server/client packages out there that do bits and pieces of the above.

any suggestions?



  • Rendering package = Blender
    little chnge

    Modelling = blender

    Rendering = luxrender or kerklythea

    Scribus is not so stable as OOo or go-oo

    As for me it should be written personal web 2.0 server for documents.

    and sribus good in paper maketting.

    for vector graphics only inkscape.

    Gimp is very got for image editing

    >The killer for many is their Exchange server and Microsoft Outlook.
     I am not really understand what MS Exchange is Doing... Did this just mail-server?

    or jabber/irc+mail server?

    Novell Evolution has Built-in Microsoft Exchange Support

  • Andrey

    You still need the Exchange server on a Microsoft Server. There are exchange server replacements. Take a look at OpenExchange. My point is: Why would you only replace a program with a clone when you can do things a little differently and have something better...

    Exchange is a mail server with an ldap server tightly integrated with a calendar, contact, journal and tasklist program.

  • I agree:

    • gimp is great. I prefer it for general RGB editing. It is also seeing much more development. Gimp is working towards integration of a new (and VERY overdue) colourspace system. Cinepaint supports much larger colour space more suitable for working with high quality film scans and still has the old 'pallette as the main window', which I happen to much prefer. Krita has CMYK support. If you're dealing with print media, you can't discuss Gimp seriously in the same sentence with Photoshop, etc. and wont be able to until CMYK support is introduced. Again, as I understand it, the new Gimp colour engine should allow CMYK support to FINALLY be added.
    • inkscape is far superior. I mentioned Karbon 14 because, it may be easier on the old brain to switch back and forward with Krita if you need it's CMYK support.


    • Scribus WAS buggy and unstable. Scribus-ng is what I've been using for some time without any noteworthy issues. If you make decent template documents, you can get a better level of fishish faster. It's PDF presentation export options are worth looking at too.
    • I don't know what sort of modelling you do, but for 'Architectural modelling', Blender is not what I'd call a 'Architectural modelling' tool... If it was, I'd have absolutely no interest in BricsCAD!'s just too tedious to make anything even vaguely to scale and the program itself doesn't scale to editing and iterative development of large projects. It is also difficult to take the model developed in it back to something in a form & format that can be readily developed into documentation without re-setting out from scratch, so for Architectural work I'd suggest that it's beter suited for the application of fine detail and development of material breakup of a model (that was at least rouged up elsewhere) ready for rendering... ...with a decent rendering engine, just as you say. Clearly you're aware that Blender is fairly well integrated with quite a few good rendering engines, each with their own pros & cons.
  • >If you're dealing with print media, you can't discuss Gimp seriously in the same sentence with Photoshop, etc.

    convert rgb.tiff  -profile path/to/srgb.icm -profile path/to/cmyk.icc cmyk.tiff

    last git gimp 2.7 does not support CMYK

    For now wide range of printers use 6 Coloured printers. If you post RGB for it, you got  better result instead  of using CMYK

    photoprint is very usefull to print visualisations and photos...


    do not really understand what you talk about (lokks I miss something) but I use svn build of scribus 1.50 it more or less stable with cool features.

    >I don't know what sort of modelling you do, but for 'Architectural modelling', Blender is not what I'd call a 'Architectural modelling' tool..

    I am use blender exactly for 'Architectural modelling' :)

     actually yes, but 

    >'s just too tedious to make anything even vaguely to scale and the program itself doesn't scale to editing and iterative development of large projects

    do not agree with you here

    try google for "blender precision modelling"

    some time it is hard to understad how aligned extrude (not ortho) work. but it work and much more good then bad. but it is very easy to model house from scretch in some scale, normally I am use 1 blender unit = 0.1 meter (1 decimeter)

    BricsCAD I need only for 2D drawings (plans, facades, sections and some nodes), and to place drawings on layouts (this can be replaced with scribus)

  • Gimp 2.7 does support the GEGL library though. GEGL uses 32 bits per chanel to process RGB images (so approaching the colour space capabilities of cinepaint) and you can filter a gimp image directly to cmyk colour separations, but you can't run filters or use tools or gradients in a CMYK colour space. Hopefully the new GEGL colour engine will allow that to happen one day.

    You can't model in context in blender. You can't say "I want a box with one corner here, facing in this direction with a length as long as the distance to that line and a width the same as the distance to this line and a height of Z". You have to plonk a 1x1x1 cube at the origin and then use move, rotate and scale operations to get it where you want. That's tedious and time consuming. It's designed around eyeballing alignments in a four pane view. All a bit 1995. Once you start doing complex boolean operations on a model, you really need contextual modelling, with snaps, in perspective to get anything done. Otherwise you can't efficiently get the accuracy you need to avoid hundreds of miniscule faces at junctions or (worse yet) the loss of one of these small faces in your solid as part of a boolean operation error, degenerating your solid into a much less useful collection of faces... can't draw a polyline. When you can draw a polyline to a specific shape with snaps in perspective then it will be a suitable modeling tool. The rotate tool rotates objects around the camera axis! The move tool moves objects in the camera plane! That's four pane view rubbish. Efficient architectural modelling means contextual modelling in perspective with snaps. Contextual modeling in axo with snaps can be made to work, but in big complex projects everything starts to line up and it's too easy to get lost in a sea of lines.

    You're right. AutoCAD (and by extension BricsCAD) is not the most accomplished modelling tool either. It shines in 2D documentation, as you say, but it's closer than blender by a good way.

  • Bricscad is very good in 2D, opens all dwg that sent other people (electrical, etc...) a must.

    Is blender like archicad or revit? I used architectural desktop for 5 years and now archicad for modeling.

  • actually blender its more like 3d studio... not especifically made for architectural modelling but it works... there's some tutorials on internet about using blender for architectural, you can google it... Ive been using it for 3 years now... actually ive use ONLY linux since 3 years ago... since i found blender....

  • Any suggestions for a good CRM / Groupware / document management system?

  • I have been triying to move to linux for sometime now, CRM has been one of my headaches, the best that I found in the Linux world was Sugarcrm, but we found that it was plaged with many bugs especially if you consider that email is important in your life, their email client is plagued with bugs, somehow the developers consider that CRM is feasible without a good email client.

    I used to be a Goldmine advocate but always suffered a real lack of support from FrontRange so January last year I moved to Sugar part of my CRM to test, the program looked quite good and had nice features but a very slow turnaround for bug fix, like I said above, specially in the Email client which for us is a very important part (things like confusing attachments, you get an email with an attachment and open it and the displayed file is different from the one that came attached), after a full year of many disapointments we have decided to move to a new player called Redhorse, very much like Goldmine with important addons that are usually priced separately included in the price but with real support and customer interest, I have been testing on my personal Lap for a month with excelent success and today we started the migration of the office which we expect to complete next week.


  • 2Erik Lundberg mostly

    as I said before? we have to make own solution. I am sure that price/localisation and adapting existing solutions is much more expansive to me than develop exaclty what I need from scratch.

    It is more reasonoble to me have a good integration with opensource database mysql or postgres with BricsCAD? to operate data from our Document Management -CRM solution with Blender.

  • sorry for bold. that is a problam of engine in this forum I think. BOLD is not that I want to make.


  • So far i used freeware a9cad on wine, which is good combination

    (with lot of limitations of course, but very stable)

    if new bcad for linux proves ok, i will for sure have a completly electrical design on linux :)

    i dont need 3d, i dont need render, vba neither, for 14 years of using autocad i have once or twice use this features

    (so i think, i dont realy need them, as wall as 99% engneers)

    i need good 2d drafting, and lisp compatibility


  • @ Jose

    I'd love to hear how you go with the rollout of Redhorse.

    Please advise.



  • Jose

    the help page for RedHorse lists the following as the server requirements:

    • Microsoft® Windows Server 2003 or 2008
    • Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2005 or 2008, Express or higher
    • 2.0 GHz or faster CPU
    • 1 GB RAM or more recommended
    • 500 MB or more storage recommended depending upon size of database



  • @ Andrey

    I understand what you mean. I'm considering taking Kolab with Kontact as a starting point. (BTW: Not a KDE fanboy. I use XFCE actually...)

    I'm considering the non-trivial aspects of adding custom timesheet & 'leads & opportunities' databases (maybe in ldap, maybe in sql) and starting with an OOo base form as the frontend. The trick would be to use tables from the Kolab databases to handle contacts, meetings, projects and project stages in the additions...

    A more robust front end tailored to a gant style dependency based project management front end to the task database in Kolab would be the next project if I'm successful with the first. At this stage I'm still searching for someone who's done the hard work for me.

    FYI: I'm not interested in anything that requires wine or virtual machines, as I view this as an unsupportable solution. ie. if something goes wrong and it's running on wine, the manufacturer will probably not even discuss the problem, simply because it's running on wine. The problem would have to be reproduced on MS Windows... ...and what if it works there? You might just find you have all your data in a system that you can't support and that nobody will fix. That's what I mean by unsupportable.



  • @Erik.

    Try Novell OpenWorkgroup for Small Business.

    It's come with Novell Groupwise , Teaming and many more that prob suit for your internal office.



  • Hi Erick,

    Redhorse feels very much like Goldmine but with support, Connie is great at helping you out.  I loaded the program several weeks ago in my lap and started using it as a trial system separate from the company email system, this past friday we made the instalation on our server which I should clarify is not a real server, my main servers are Linux and some time ago I set up an old XP to run the few programs that did require a Microsoft server system.  So right now we have installed Microsoft® Windows Server Express 2008 on an XP machine acting as server, Microsoft® SQL Server™2008 express and RedHorse 2.4.  Last friday we made some minor test to make sure that the XP would do as server and all seemed to work fine, however, due to some time constraints on my part the system will not be fully deployed for the next 2 weeks as I want to implement some database modifications (add fields that we have used for a long time, finish spanish translation I have already started, etc.) before I let all in.  Back when we had Goldmine we used to have 6 licenses and discovered that that was enough as in our company not everybody is connected at the same time, XP can serve 10 net connections so in my case is enough.  I would have loved to find a Linux alternative but I have already waited some 12 years for this to happen and it just does not seem to be happening, this move will be our last as far as I can see.



  • #11 Andrey,

    Why not try O3Spaces?



  • @Erik you should try kontact for kde with a kolab server, it deliveres all of the requested features and much more :D

  • @ nuno

    You're right. It's come a long way in the last year & a bit. It still seems to handle timesheet entry in a programmer kind of way, but they've agreed on a standard database structure. Not sure if they have automatic scheduling of tasks based on dependency but they seem to have a better gantt view now too. I wonder how hard it would be to get kplato to work on the KOrganiser & KTimeTracker apps.

    It doesn't have an integrated document manager yet though. Probably sensible to split that off.

    Anyway, looks like it's time for another test run, doesn't it?



  • 9 years later

    CAD : Bricscad, Shape and FreeCAD
    Rendering + 3D : Modo and Blender
    Graphic : Gimp, Krita, Scribus, ....

    Office is a bit hard. Libre Office.
    But for my needs I wish for something simpler and more fun,
    like I had with Numbers and Pages on Mac.
    Also I am still missing good alternatives for :
    online banking, time tracking, invoices, mail and
    reliable system wide sync with respect to privacy.

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