How to understand openfoam source code? Which tools are recommanded?

OpenFOAM is an open-source software primarily used in computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Understanding its source code can be a complex task if you’re not versed in C++ and the core concepts of CFD. Here are some tips and tools that can make understanding the OpenFOAM source code easier:

  1. C++ Knowledge: Basic understanding of C++ syntax and concepts is a prerequisite for understanding any software written in C++. Each class, function, or template present in the OpenFOAM source code has been structured using C++ programming methods.
  2. CFD Knowledge: Understanding basic fluid mechanics and numerical techniques (such as finite volume method) is fundamental.
  3. Documentation: The OpenFOAM documentation ( provides a lot of detail on its various modules and how they function.
  4. Doxygen: It’s probably the most recommended tool for browsing OpenFOAM source code. Install Doxygen and generate the documentation in HTML form.
  5. Coding IDEs: IDE’s like Eclipse or visual studio code with c++ plugins can make the understanding a bit easier by providing code navigation, highlighting syntax, searching and indexing of codes.
  6. OpenFOAM Tutorials: It is a good idea to go through OpenFOAM tutorials related to your problems of interest. These will contain examples of how to construct, setup and operate OpenFOAM applications.
  7. Forums and Community: Get help from peers who are involved in similar tasks. Forums like CFD-Online ( are active with discussions about various topics.
  8. Debugging Tools: OpenFOAM comes with a built-in debugging system that can help you understand how the software works. You can use software like GDB or DDD (Data Display Debugger) to analyze the running code.

Remember, understanding the source code of a complex software like OpenFOAM is not a work of a few days. It requires patience and continuous effort. Practicing code modifications and problem solving using OpenFOAM will also enhance understanding.


作者: 常恭

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