UPDATED BY
Rose Velazquez | Nov 22, 2023

Name-brand software for purchase exists for pretty much every activity under the sun, from building apps to creating animation. Businesses, entrepreneurs and creators have another option, too: Open source software. Available to download and in most cases, even customize, open-source software gets the job done. 

“With open-source software, anyone has the power to solve business problems, create more effective education programs, and even enact social change,” writes Walter Bender, CTO and co-founder at health-tech firm Sorcero, in a Built in blog post

Open Source Software To Know

  • Linux
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Blender
  • Flutter
  • LibreOffice
  • Python

Is it free? Sometimes, sometimes not. And there is discussion about the difference between free software and open-source software. The principles of freedom as a social value underpin free software, while open-source software is absent any philosophical or ethical underpinnings, states a 2022 post on GeeksforGeeks.org. Free software users can copy, disseminate and change the software; open-source software can be modified without running afoul of licensing agreements, the blog continues. 

Open source software is also not free in another sense: The development of much of it is supported by foundations, for example the Mozilla Foundation’s Mozilla Firefox and the Document Foundation’s LibreOffice. Upon finding the perfect open source software for your project, don’t be surprised to see a “donate” button on the home page. 

 

23 Open Source Software Products to Know

SmartBear

SmartBear serves more than 15 million tech professionals around the globe. Its solutions give them the capabilities to efficiently build high-quality software products that meet their users’ needs. SmartBear has four open source offerings: Cucumber, Swagger, SoapUI and Pact. Swagger is equipped with tools to support API developers, for example, while SoapUI covers API testing.

 

Audacity

Audacity’s audio software edits multiple tracks and performs other functions for Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux and other operating systems, its website says. Users can record live audio, convert records and tapes into digital recordings and CDs, edit music files such as WAV, MP2 and MP3, mix and splice sound, add sound effects, change tempos and pitches and otherwise do nifty things with sound. Audacity, based in Renton, Washington, was launched in 1999. 

 

Babel   

Babel, to quote its website, is a JavaScript compiler, used by Netflix, Yahoo, PayPal and other recognizable companies “somewhere in their organizations.” Babel changes edge JavaScript into ES5 JavaScript, which can run in old and new browsers, explains blogger Nicholas Johnson, who adds that Babel includes plug-ins for a variety of other tools, including Grunt, Webstorm and Rollup. Babel, based in France, was launched in 2012. It is operated by a volunteer staff and asks for contributions or sponsorships, at a variety of levels, from users. 

More on Open-Source Software7 Reasons to Get Serious About Your Open-Source Strategy

 

Blender

This Amsterdam-based organization offers open-source software for animators, artists, studios, scientists, students and anyone else who creates 3D images, according to its website. The latest version, Blender 3.2, helps users better control light sources in their work. Blender Institute, founded in 2007, employs about two dozen people who work on Blender software, including testing it in different environments, the website states. Blender was founded in 2002 by the nonprofit Blender Foundation. In 2019, it received a $1.2 million grant from Epic Games. 

 

Brave 

Brave is a browser that protects users from third-party trackers and cookies, provides private and incognito searching, and even has a VPN, according to its website. Users can import bookmarks, extensions and saved passwords when they download Brave, the website says. The company offers users tokens as rewards for browsing and has an e-wallet, too. Brave is based in San Francisco, California, and was established in 2015. 

 

Drupal

Practically anyone who’s worked in publishing in the 21st century has encountered a Drupal or Drupal-esque content management system, the mechanism for publishing stuff on the web. Its website offers options for hosting as well as a community-created tutorial. Drupal 10 is set to launch in December of 2022; the update will include upgrades to its Layout Builder and Media functions and offer tools for custom theme creation, according to the Drupal website. The Portland, Oregon-based organization was founded in 2001.  

 

Flutter

Flutter, open-source UI software released by Google in 2017, enables users to build apps for any type of screen, be it mobile, web, desktop or embedded, according to information on its website. It claims to be “the most popular cross-platform framework in the world,” the website says, and its users number in the tens of thousands. Flutter’s website includes info on how to join a Flutter Meetup and it has its own version of an employee resource group, Flutteristas, for users who identify as women or non-binary. 

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Gimp

Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and it is image-editing software for use on a variety of operating systems, including Mac and Windows. Its website says it provides “sophisticated tools to get the job done” for photographers, illustrators, scientists and other people who need to create compelling graphics. The latest version became available on Microsoft Store in June of 2022; previously, it was available only as a download. Gimp is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was founded in 1996. It is funded by Gnome, a California-based nonprofit. 

 

Grafana  

Users of this tool can make charts and graphs for the web that are connecting to data sources. Users can create complex, custom dashboards with as many parts of their tech stack as they like; it can be managed via the cloud or self managed, according to its website. In recent news, its paging and scheduling app, Grafana OnCall, has been made available for use in on-premises IT environments. Before, it was available only via Grafana’s cloud service. It is based in New York City and was founded in 2014.

 

Hazelcast

Users of Hazelcast, which describes itself as an in-memory computing platform, can build applications in the cloud quickly and securely, the website says. It can be used for retail banking, e-commerce, IoT, digital transformation, real-time streaming applications, fast batch processing and a host of other tasks, the website says. The San Mateo, California-based company was founded in 2020. 

 

Hugging Face

Hugging Face, whose logo is a hugging emoji, bills itself as “the AI community building the future.” It is an open-source platform that provides tools for users to build and deploy machine-learning models based on open-source, according to a tech-industry post on the subject. The New York-based company, founded in 2016, was minted a unicorn in early 2022, thanks to a $100 million Series C funding round. 

More on Open-Source SoftwareThe Ultimate Guide to Open-Source Contribution

 

Joomla!

Joomla! is an open-source CMS (content management system) suitable for businesses, online magazines, nonprofits such as schools and churches, and families to publish web content, according to the Joomla! website. The basic Joomla! is available for download, as are extensions and upgrades. The nonprofit Joomla! is based in New York and was founded in 2005. 

 

KeePass

This open-source password-management tool is transparent: Users can examine its full-source code to check security measures for themselves, the website says. The latest version, released in June of 2022, includes some new features, among them the dialog changes size when it senses it does not fit on a screen, and improvements such as an upgraded installer, the website says. KeePass is based in Germany. 

 

LibreOffice

LibreOffice, offered by the nonprofit Document Foundation, is an office suite complete with applications for word processing, creating presentations, spreadsheets and databases, and formula editing, rather like the famous office suite that’s not open source. According to info on its website, it is the successor to OpenOffice, which was launched in 2014 by Apache. LibreOffice says it is used around the world by millions of people for use at home, in businesses, and in government settings. The latest version, 7.3, launched in February of 2022.

 

Linux

Arguably the most famous name in open source, Linux was launched in 1991 by Finnish engineer Linus Torvalds with the debut of the Linux kernel. Linux is an open-source operating system, meaning it is the software upon which all other software sits, according to OpenSource, an online resource for the open-source community. Linux is the base on which Android is built and is also used in vehicles, household appliances, the Internet, stock exchanges and supercomputers, according to its website. Its website offers robust user forums as well as tutorials. 

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Mozilla Firefox

If you’ve used a browser, you’ve likely used or at least downloaded Mozilla Firefox. It’s the creation of the Mozilla Foundation, which exists to “ensure the internet remains a public resource open and accessible to all,” according to the foundation’s website. In addition to browsers, Firefox’s product lineup includes a tool to prevent social media from collecting personal data, a monitor to see if personal info has shown up in a data breach, and a VPN. A network protection tool is now in beta testing, according to Firefox’s website. Netscape, no longer in existence, launched Mozilla Firefox in 1998.

 

Odoo

Odoo is an open-source business platform with apps that handle finance, sales, HR, marketing, productivity, inventory, website building (including e-commerce) and other necessary business functions, its website says. Users can collaborate on a Odoo forum and via Github. Odoo is based in Belgium and was launched in 2005. It raised 112 million Euros (about $118 million USD) in its latest funding round. 

 

Openware  

According to its website, Openware allows the crypto crowd to create digital and crypto products, operate an NFT marketplace, facilitate the exchange of digital assets and cryptocurrencies, and create a trading platform for Blockchain-powered financial investments. The South San Francisco, California-based company was founded in 2006.

 

Python

The popular coding language is an open-source product supported by the nonprofit Python Software Foundation. Python allows users to work quickly and effectively integrate systems, according to the website. The website offers tutorials, documentation, and sources and workshops focused on learning Python. The foundation is based in Wilmington, Delaware, and was founded in 1991. 

More on Software EngineeringThe 21 Best Coding Bootcamps

 

Shotcut

Fledgling filmmakers can edit their masterpieces for free with Shotcut, described as a cross-platform video editor on its website. It supports a variety of audio and video formats, as well as resolution up to 4K and captures from a variety of sources, including SDI, webcam and IP streams, the website says. The newest version, Glaxnimate, was introduced in June of 2022.

 

Thunderbird

This free email platform, another Mozilla offering, offers users a setup wizard, an easy-to-access address book, tabbed email for ease of toggling between emails, a quick filter function to find emails, and an archive, according to its website. Customization is also available. In May of 2022, newsletter Android Headlines reported that Thunderbird was working on a mobile app for the product. 

 

VLC Media Player 

Videolan’s VLC Media Player, an open-source, cross-multiple media player, plays most media files, plus DVDs, audio CDs and a variety of streaming protocols, its website says. Other options from Videolan, a nonprofit, include VLMC, for creating videos, and DVBLast, multicast and x264 for video professionals, according to website information. Videolan started as a student project in France in 1996. It is based in Paris. 

 

Webpack

Webpack, a bundler for “Javascript and friends” that “packs many modules into a few bundled assets” enables users to write code and bundle it without configuration or with custom configuration, the website says. Users can contribute to documentation and the product’s core repository, the website says. The nonprofit is based in France. 

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