The finite element method (FEM, a.k.a. finite element analysis, FEA) is a very popular technique for calculating the strength of a part, or its heat flow and fluid flow characteristics, etc. But performing the calculation itself is just one step in that process. One must first define the shape of the part and divide it into small pieces called a mesh of elements, this set of steps is known as "pre-processing". And when the calculation is done, it can be a challenge to display the deformations, temperatures, or flow velocity distributions in 3-D in a way which highlights the important features, such as the location where a part is likely to break; this visualization task is known as "post-processing".
Gmsh is a feature-rich and very mature pre- and post-processor for finite element calculations. This puts it in the same class as Salomé. It has its own built-in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) engine, and can import files from other CAD programs in the BREP, STEP and IGES formats (if linked with OpenCASCADE). It can generate meshes made of triangles in 2-D or tetrahedra in 3-D, but no quadrilaterals, prisms or hexahedra. Many open source finite element programs, such as deal.II, can import meshes generated by Gmsh.
You can read a full overview of Gmsh capabilities at the website. There are also two terrific videos demonstrating Gmsh features, including its CAD engine, meshing capabilities, and several post-processing options and tricks.
Finally, the Gmsh user interface can run and control a finite element calculation using the GetDP solver, just as Salomé-MECA can run a simulation using Code_Aster. Salomé-MECA and Code_Aster have more capabilities than Gmsh and GetDP (e.g. quadrilateral and hexahedral element shapes), but the streamlined and consistent interface will make these a great pair of tools for many users.
Gmsh and GetDP both run on Linux, Windows and MacOS (Salomé only distributes a Linux version).
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