Since the arrival of DNA nanotechnology nearly 40 years ago, the field has progressed from its beginnings of envisioning rather simple DNA structures having a branched, multi-strand architecture into creating beautifully complex structures comprising hundreds or even thousands of unique strands, with the possibility to exactly control the positions down to the molecular level. While the earliest construction methodologies, such as simple Holliday junctions or tiles, could reasonably be designed on pen and paper in a short amount of time, the advent of complex techniques, such as DNA origami or DNA bricks, require software to reduce the time required and propensity for human error within the design process. Where available, readily accessible design software catalyzes our ability to bring techniques to researchers in diverse fields and it has helped to speed the penetration of methods, such as DNA origami, into a wide range of applications from biomedicine to photonics. Here, we review the historical and current state of CAD software to enable a variety of methods that are fundamental to using structural DNA technology. Beginning with the first tools for predicting sequence-based secondary structure of nucleotides, we trace the development and significance of different software packages to the current state-of-the-art, with a particular focus on programs that are open source.
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