No manual dealing with free and open-source software would be complete without a chapter about the community. As the vast majority of free and open-source software projects, FreeCAD is made by a community, and maintained by that community. Instead of the opaque, unknown, impersonal and inaccessable firm that is more than often found behind commercial software, free and open-source software communities are open spaces, where you as a user are welcome, and where you can get answers very fast, and even have your say in the development of the software itself. You are also more than welcome to help, there are tasks for everybody.
The community is a growing, eclectic group of all kinds of people united by their passion for FreeCAD. All work on FreeCAD voluntarily, during their free time (although sometimes firms or individuals gather to pay a couple of programming hours to a developer to implement a specific function). Some are professional programmers, some are long-time FreeCAD users (some of them are true FreeCAD gurus, who know almost everything, and many of them end up knowing a lot about FreeCAD programming too), and many are new users of FreeCAD. There is nothing specific to do to be part of the community. Just use FreeCAD!
The main place where the community meets and discusses is the FreeCAD forum. All you need to do to participate to the discussions is to register an account on the forum (Your first post will need to be approved by a moderator before you can post more, to prevent spamming). The forum is a great place to ask questions when you are new to FreeCAD. Provided you made a good question (be sure to read the forum rules as they contain useful information to turn your question into a good question), you will usually get several replies within the same hour. If you think someone might have asked your question already, be sure to search, your answer might already be there.
The forum is also a great place to show what you achieved with FreeCAD, to help newcomers when you are more experienced, and to follow and give your opinions in more technical discussions about development. All the FreeCAD development is discussed on the forum, and anybody is free to read or participate.
If you are becoming as enthusiastic about FreeCAD as we are, you might want to help the project. This can be done in many different ways, and there are tasks for everybody, programmers and non-programmers, for example:
- Help to spread the word: Many people would get huge benefit from using a free, open-source 3D modeler like FreeCAD, but simply don't know its existence. Publishing the work you do with FreeCAD, talking about it on social networks, etc... helps these people to discover FreeCAD.
- Help newcomers: The vast majority of discussions on the forum are questions asked by new users. You might know good anwers to give them.
- Help reporting bugs: The stablility of FreeCAD comes in large part from the fixing of bugs. Since it is not possible for the FreeCAD developers to test all possible use cases, it is important that users report problems when they detect them. Be sure to read the guidelines if you think you found a bug, and then write a report on the bug tracker.
- Help to write documentation: The FreeCAD documentation wiki is also written by community members. Some sections of it are still incomplete, or their information incorrect or obsolete. You might be able to help to fix that. To be able to work on the wiki, you will need to familiarize yourself with wiki editing, and ask permission to edit the FreeCAD wiki on the forum.
- Help to translate FreeCAD: The translation of FreeCAD is done online by community members, on crowdin. If you don't see your language there, ask one of the administrators to have it added.
- Help to translate the wiki documentation: Every page of the wiki is translatable, and requires very little knowledge of the wiki syntax. Helping with translation is also a great way to learn FreeCAD.
- Write scripts and macros: FreeCAD has a growing list of Macros. If you wrote some interesting functionality, consider sharing it there.
- Programming: For this, you need to know how to program in Python or C++, and have a good knowledge of FreeCAD itself.
The source code of FreeCAD is located on the Github account of the FreeCAD project. Anybody can download, use and modify the code. You can publish your modifications (on Github or any other Git hosting service). If you made interesting modifications, that you wish to see included in the FreeCAD source code, you must ask the community to have them included. This can be done using Github's pull requests mechanism, but the very best way is to discuss what you intend to do first on the forum, and then post an official request in the Pull requests section of the forum when your code is ready. This avoids that you work on something that someone else is already working on too, and ensures that others agree with the way you are doing it, so there is no risk of having your work refused for some reason you didn't foresee.
Hopefully, we managed to give you a good taste of FreeCAD in this manual, and you are already our newest community member. Welcome!
- The FreeCAD forum: http://forum.freecadweb.org
- The source code of FreeCAD: https://github.com/FreeCAD/FreeCAD
- The Facebook FreeCAD community: https://www.facebook.com/FreeCAD
- The Google+ FreeCAD community: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/103183769032333474646
- The FreeCAD documentation wiki: http://www.freecadweb.org/wiki
- Translating FreeCAD on crowdin: https://crowdin.com/project/freecad
- The FreeCAD bug tracker: http://www.freecadweb.org/tracker