Automatic domain decomposition on unstructured grids (DOUG). This paper describes a parallel iterative solver for finite element discretisations of elliptic partial differential equations on 2D and 3D domains using unstructured grids. The discretisation of the PDE is assumed to be given in the form of element stiffness matrices and the solver is automatic in the sense that it requires minimal additional information about the PDE and the geometry of the domain. The solver parallelises matrix–vector operations required by iterative methods and provides parallel additive Schwarz preconditioners. Parallelisation is implemented through MPI. The paper contains numerical experiments showing almost optimal speedup on unstructured mesh problems on a range of four platforms and in addition gives illustrations of the use of the package to investigate several questions of current interest in the analysis of Schwarz methods. The package is available in public domain from the home page∼mjh/.