Saturday, August 29, 2009

Redesign Your Home For Free*

* virtually.
  • Overview

    In this blog, I'll be doing a review of Sweet Home 3D to see whether it satisfies the Prime Directives of Open Source Software Engineering. The project's main website describes Sweet Home 3D as "a free interior design application that helps you place your furniture on a house 2D plan with a 3D preview". They also want users to be able to design their interior quickly, whether it's placing new furniture or rearranging existing furniture. It is available in a myriad of languages, including French, Russian, and Chinese.

  • Prime Directive 1

    Prime directive 1 says that "The system must accomplish a useful task". Remodeling a home requires a lot of planning. There tends to be a lot of money involved, so one wants to be sure to get things right. Also, people will probably have to live with their design decisions for a long time. Because of this, many people use interior design programs to get a better idea of how their room will look before making any lasting decisions. While one can go to their local software store and purchase one, having one that's free and open source is a great alternative. Thus, I would say that prime directive 1 is satisfied.

  • Prime Directive 2

    Prime directive 2 states that an external user can successfully install and use the system. Installing Sweet Home 3D is remarkably easy. On OSX, the download from Sourceforge is a dmg file that many Mac users are familiar with. Once the file is opened, the user drags into their application folder, just like many other Mac applications. One might not even think that this application is written in Java at all since it integrates so well with OSX.

    The application itself is fairly straightforward as well. When the application is opened, the list of home items and the floor plan grid are visible in the window. To create a room, you can use the room tool at the top to designate the corners of your room. Here's a sample bathroom that I made in 5 minutes.

    If you need more help, there is a great users guide that describes how to use the various tools to redesign your home. These three things (easy installation, an intuitive interface, and a detailed user guide) help this application satisfy prime directive 2.

  • Prime Directive 3

    Prime directive 3 says that an external developer can successfully understand and enhance the system. To do this, you need to find the source code for the application. The source code for Sweet Home 3D is located on their download page near the bottom. Note that they also provide a Javadoc download for developers who want to understand how the application works. In the source code folder, the README file contains instructions on how to add the Sweet Home 3D project to Eclipse and how to build the project using Ant.
    Below is a screenshot of the imported Sweet Home 3D project. I was also able to run their unit tests in Eclipse.

    Sweet Home 3D also supports plugins to extend functionality of the program. I went through their tutorial and created my own plugin for Sweet Home 3D.
    Being able to both build the app from the source code and develop your own plugins means that the developer can easily enhance the system. Thus, prime directive 3 is satisfied.

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