I am a beginner in computational science and programming. I am doing research in non linear solid mechanics analysis and using C++ for coding. I have been exploring various finite element open source programs and saw some nice works like Deal.ii, FEniCS, OOFEM, libmesh. But as a beginner in C++ programming and finite element , documentation of these programs are beyond my comprehension and confusing. I would like to see some simple object oriented C++ codes for solving finite element problems. My objective is not studying finite element analysis but to understand the implementation of algebra behind it in C++ Object oriented frame work.

Regarding my work, I am clear about the procedures and concepts in my mind. I have made a prototype in MATLAB. Since MATLAB program takes too much time to get the result I decided to switch to C++ considering the ease of future work. But various data structures in C++ makes me troubled to select appropriate storage and structure for nodes, elements, constraints and loads. In MATLAB I imported prepared data (nodes, element connectivity, loads and boundary constraints) from spread sheet and used in built functions for calculations. In the C++ implementation, I am thinking to use a text-file (like in Abaqus/Calculix) for input. How do I implement it?

I am searching for a well commented small finite element program source code for solving plane stress problems, like the kind of programs some university is using for teaching. I went through the book of S D Rajan, Numerical methods in C++ and got some insights about C++ data structures but still I need to go through some source codes for developing my own program. In later stages of my research I can make use of existing finite element libraries like Deal.ii and FEniCS.

  • $\begingroup$ You might want to take a look at FeaTure: utwente.nl/ctw/tm/research/NSM/software/feature It is small enough to be unintimidating but has a fair bit of functionality. A downside is that it doesn't appear to be under active development or have a large community associated with it. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2016 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ I don't like C++ very much, as one needs to import libraries to plot figures. What libraries do people use for figures? $\endgroup$
    – feynman
    Dec 22, 2018 at 10:51

2 Answers 2


Specific answers to this question are probably time-limited. However, the following general approach (from the great Eric S. Raymond) works very well:

  1. Rule of Modularity: Write simple parts connected by clean interfaces.
  2. Rule of Clarity: Clarity is better than cleverness.
  3. Rule of Composition: Design programs to be connected to other programs.
  4. Rule of Separation: Separate policy from mechanism; separate interfaces from engines.
  5. Rule of Simplicity: Design for simplicity; add complexity only where you must.
  6. Rule of Parsimony: Write a big program only when it is clear by demonstration that nothing else will do.
  7. Rule of Transparency: Design for visibility to make inspection and debugging easier.
  8. Rule of Robustness: Robustness is the child of transparency and simplicity.
  9. Rule of Representation: Fold knowledge into data so program logic can be stupid and robust.
  10. Rule of Least Surprise: In interface design, always do the least surprising thing.
  11. Rule of Silence: When a program has nothing surprising to say, it should say nothing.
  12. Rule of Repair: When you must fail, fail noisily and as soon as possible.
  13. Rule of Economy: Programmer time is expensive; conserve it in preference to machine time.
  14. Rule of Generation: Avoid hand-hacking; write programs to write programs when you can.
  15. Rule of Optimization: Prototype before polishing. Get it working before you optimize it.
  16. Rule of Diversity: Distrust all claims for "one true way".
  17. Rule of Extensibility: Design for the future, because it will be here sooner than you think.

This is not really a program as much as a big repository of codes. John Burkardt from Florida State University maintains a rich collection of scripts in C++, Matlab and Fortran for a large range of problems. You can check out the FEM 2D library or go up a level and look at other codes listed there. These have good commenting on them and you can look at the source directly.


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