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January-February 2018

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Computer Programs for Drawing Crystal Shapes and Atomic Structures

Historically, wooden crystal models (of both external crystal shapes and atomic arrangements) have played a very important role in teaching and the study of crystallography. With the graphics capabilities of computers, an excellent alternative to these models is the generation of digital renderings. Like their wooden counterparts, digital images can be rotated and viewed from any angle; however, that is just the start of what can be done. The variety of changes and manipulations that can be made to computer renderings is huge and greatly facilitates their use in teaching and research. Given here are some of the more common, both free and commercial, programs for drawing crystal shapes and atomic structures. Descriptions of each program are taken or modified from their associated webpages, and the webpage URLs are given. Much more information can be found at these websites.


Dr. John Rakovan, an executive editor of Rocks & Minerals, is a professor of mineralogy and geochemistry at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

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