to my mother (1950-2005)
What are BURRTOOLS? BURRTOOLS consists of two main parts. On the one hand there is a program that assembles and disassembles burr-type puzzles. That program contains a graphical user interface (GUI) which allows creating and editing puzzle definitions, solving the puzzle, and the display and animation of the solutions found. This is probably the most interesting part for most people. On the other hand there is also a C++ library that may help with the search for and design of new puzzles. This library contains all the necessary tools to write programs that do what the graphical interface does (and more).
This document describes the graphical program. It contains descriptions of all concepts and explains how to use them in the GUI program.
For those that want to use or just look at the library part of BURRTOOLS there are doxygen comments within the library source code. Besides the user interface they explain the basic ideas of the library and also some of the algorithms used. But this is only for the interested and not required for the understanding of the GUI.
But first a little bit of history of this program. There are already two programs with similar functionality to BURRTOOLS can do. One is BCPBOX/GENDA written by Bill Cutler. Cutler's programs are very versatile, they even can handle different space grids. The other one is PUZZLESOLVER3D by André van Kammen. I had bought this program a while ago and have generally been quite satisfied with it. I have taken over quite some ideas from the GUI that André developed. So why another program, you might ask. Here are a few reasons:
Anyway, I was not completely satisfied with the available software. Then in summer 2003 a German computer magazine started a competition to write a program that counts the number of solutions to a merchandising puzzle as fast as possible. My program wasn't the fastest but it was the starting point for BURRTOOLS.
As there are many people out there that are a lot more creative than I am and that could use a program like this to design nice puzzles, I decided to make it public and free (see www.gnu.org).
I added a GUI that can work on many operating systems, including LINUX and WINDOWS. This has the disadvantage that the GUI looks a bit different from what the normal WINDOWS user is used to, so stay calm if things look a bit unusual, they behave in fact quite similar to how a normal WINDOWS-program behaves.
Lately 2 people played important roles in the development of the program. These 2 are Ronald Kint-Bruynseels and Derek Bosch. Ronald has rewritten this manual and has generally contributed lots of well organized suggestions. Derek is responsible for the OSX port of the program. Without him there would be no binary for this operating system available.
I want to thank both of them for their work. I also want to thank all the other people that have sent in bug reports, suggestions and praise. Their input is very welcome and crucial to the further development of the program.
Now BURRTOOLS has become a kind of de-facto standard in the puzzle World. Many designer seem to use it. It is suitable for transmitting puzzle ideas from the designer to the producer or a friend for comments.
BURRTOOLS now also has a few capabilities that no other puzzle program has. It can do movement analysis of some non-cube-based grids (like the triangle-grid). It can produce STL output which can directly go to the 3D printer which become more and more sensible priced and which can quickly print out the most complicated shapes for quick testing of puzzle ideas.
It has taken all those years since 2003 for BURRTOOLS to reach the current state and there is no end in sight for new features that could be added. I hope that you enjoy your puzzle experience with BURRTOOLS.