Open source software is always in flux. New projects are being born every day, and from time to time, we like to shine a spotlight on those that seem particularly promising.
The second trend is closely related to the first—cross-platform or platform-independent apps. Web-based apps that will work on any operating system are becoming much more common than those designed for a particular OS.
Last is the trend toward open source principles spreading beyond software. Every project on the list includes open source code, but in some cases that code is being used to write an open source book or to do open source science where anyone is welcome to participate.
These are 50 good projects that have come to light in the last couple of years, but there are sure to be plenty more out there that didn’t get included. If you know of one (or more) that we should have put on this list, please make a note in the comments section below.
Launched earlier this year, this site aims to provide information on making other websites accessible to people with a variety of impairments, particularly those who are blind. You can read the content at the link above; if you’d like to contribute, visit the project’s GitHub page. Operating System: OS Independent
This is something new—an open source book on programming written in Python. And because it’s open source, anyone can contribute, and the book keeps getting updated and improved. Operating System: OS Independent
If you’re working with a group online, it can be really difficult to reach a decision. This platform (and MIT dissertation project) aims to make it easier to reach consensus without meeting in person. Operating System: OS Independent
Database Tools/Data Management
Still an alpha release, BlinkDB is a “massively parallel, approximate query engine for running interactive SQL queries on large volumes of data.” In some tests it performed up to 200 times faster than Hive. Operating System: Windows, Linux
This award-winning project makes it possible to set up large semantic databases where you can visualize connections between entities. It’s particularly useful for journalists and media organizations tracking the relationships between people, corporations and political entities. Operating System: Windows, Linux
Open-sourced this year, TokuDB is a performance engine that speeds up MySQL. TokuMX does the same thing for MongoDB. Both are also available in a paid enterprise version. Operating System: Windows, Linux
Short for Data-Driven Documents, D3 makes full use of newer Web standards to help users create interesting graphs and diagrams of their data. It grew out of the older Protovis project, and has been gaining more attention in the last couple of years. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, iPad
First released by Twitter in 2011, Bootstrap is a front-end framework for Web development that aims to speed the development process. It takes a mobile-first approach and compiles code to pure CSS. Operating System: OS Independent
Also created by Twitter, Bower is a front-end package manager for the Web. It works with any type of package and runs over Git. Operating System: OS Independent
This Adobe project is currently one of the most popular on GitHub, though it’s still a preview release. It’s a code editor built with Web technologies for developers who are working in Web technologies. Operating System: OS Independent
This HTML5 application architecture solution works with the Backbone.js library. It aims to help developers create single-page, scalable Web applications very quickly. Operating System: Windows, Linux
CodeMirror is a browser-based text editor. Basically, it allows Website developers to embed a code editor in their sites, which is useful if you’re creating a site that offers programming tutorials. In addition to desktop browsers, it also works with many mobile browsers. Operating System: OS Independent
This tool allows websites to recognize the browser in use and serve up conditional files accordingly. It’s great for situations where users are running older versions of browsers that don’t support modern HTML and CSS features. Operating System: OS Independent
This plug-in adds collaborative features to the Vim text editor. It’s sort of like Google Docs for Vim. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Released earlier this month by Google, Gumbo is a C implementation of the HTML5. It’s meant to provide the foundation for a variety of other development tools. Operating System: Linux
Sidekiq promises “simple, efficient background processing for Ruby.” It speeds up Web applications and makes them more scalable. Operating System: OS Independent
Exclusively for developers who work on makes, Textmate is a text editor that offers many more advanced features you would usually find in a full-fledged IDE. The project website states, “Created by a closet UNIX geek who was lured to the Mac platform by its ease of use and elegance, TextMate has been referred to as the culmination of Emacs and OS X.” Operating System: OS X
25. ZURB Foundation
One of the most popular projects on GitHub, Foundation humbly proclaims itself “The most advanced responsive front-end framework in the world.” With it, web developers can quickly create sites that automatically adjust for the size and type of device being used for access. Operating System: OS Independent
Created in Indonesia and Australia, this app helps scientists and communities explore the potential impact of natural disasters in a region. To use it, you’ll need Quantum GIS, an open source geographic information system. Operating System: OS Independent
Still looking for an alternative to Google Reader? If you’re tech-savvy enough to deploy it on your own server, Stringer might be for you. It’s a “self-hosted, anti-social RSS reader” with no social or sharing capabilities but plenty of keyboard shortcuts. Operating System: OS Independent
If you combined Dropbox and Bittorrent, the result would be something like Sharefest. It allows you to share files with anyone without storing them in the cloud. The link above takes you to the actual service, but you can find the source code on GitHub. Operating System: OS Independent
29. Font Awesome
Developed for Bootstrap, Font Awesome is a set of icons related to Web activities. They’re vector graphics (meaning they’re easy to scale) and they look good on high-resolution screens. Operating System: OS Independent
Discourse calls itself a “discussion platform” and aims to modernize Web forums. Eventually, they plan to offer a hosted platform, but the open source code is available now. Operating System: OS Independent
31. Stunt Rally
Although it’s less than two years old, this racing game is based on VDrift and OGRE, so it’s very complete and mature. The graphics are fabulous, and it includes 127 different tracks and 19 cars, plus a track editor so you can create your own racecourses. Operating System: OS Independent
IT Configuration and Management
Used by companies like Rackspace, Care.com and Evernote, Ansible offers application deployment, configuration management and continuous delivery capabilities. It addition to the open source engine, it’s available in a supported enterprise edition, and paid training and consulting are also available. Operating System: Linux
Want to set up a site to share photos, videos or audio files? MediaGoblins aims to make it easy to create your own alternative to Flickr, YouTube and similar sites. Operating System: Linux
The website Etsy created this tool to help monitor its operations. It includes two separate parts: Skyline, which detects anomalies, and Oculus, which finds similar metrics. Operating System: Linux
35. Firefox OS
Created by Mozilla (the organization behind the Firefox browser), Firefox is a brand new mobile operating system. The first smartphones based on the OS have been released in Spain and others are expected in developing markets.
36. Elementary OS
Based on Ubuntu, this Linux distribution emphasizes transparency, modern interfaces, speed and apps. After several beta releases, the first official release came out earlier this month.
Still an alpha release, CoreOS is version of Linux designed for massive server deployments. It’s a minimal distribution that includes nothing but the Linux kernel and systemd.
Personal Website Builder
Syte integrates all your social interactions from Tumblr, Twitter, Github, Dribbble, Instagram and other services into your personal website. It’s a great way to let people learn all about your online activities from one convenient location. Operating System: OS Independent
This alternative to Apple’s Core Image filters offers much faster processing thanks to its use of GPU technology. It also allows users to create their own filters, and it runs on iOS 4. However, it lacks some advanced features like facial recognition. Operating System: iOS
Inspired by Prezi, this CSS3-based tool helps users create presentations that scroll, zoom and slide around the screen, instead of being bound to rectangular slides. Note that it doesn’t have a particularly user-friendly interface yet and is best for those who are comfortable with code. The project also warns, “impress.js may not help you if you have nothing interesting to say.” Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, iPad
Another HTML presentation creation tool, Reveal.js features an interesting three-dimensional navigation system (go up or down as well as backwards and forwards), and unlike Impress.js, it has an easy-to-use editor. The link above will show you Reveal.js in action; for the source code, see the GitHub page. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Mac, iPad
Many systems today include GPUs, which promise greater performance and lower energy use. Harlan is an attempt at a programming language designed specifically to take advantage of the capabilities of GPUs. Operating System: Linux, OS X
Terra is a C-like language that can interoperate with Lua, but it can also be used alone. It’s useful for high-performance computing. Operating System: Linux, OS X
44. Project Libre
The team behind the abandoned OpenProj project are working on this alternative to Microsoft Project. Because it’s a fork, the code is already very useable, despite the fact that the release is still technically a beta. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Although the project was originally begun by Selventa, the Linux Foundation now manages this effort aimed at creating a programming language “representing scientific findings in the life sciences in a computable form.” The BEL part stands for Biological Expression Language. The project includes a framework, an editor and a navigator. Operating System: Linux
This is another example of the open source movement spreading beyond software. It’s an open science effort to find a cure for malaria. It’s hosted on GitHub, and anyone can contribute. Operating System: OS Independent
This unusual project is dedicated to building the first digital life form—a virtual version of the C. elegans nematode. They have code for several projects available through GitHub, or you can contribute simply by joining in on a Google Hangout discussion. The entire project (as well as the code) is guided by open source principles. Operating System: OS Independent
This project is so new that it isn’t ready for use yet, but it looks promising—and timely. It aims to be a Skype alternative that allows you to communicate with friends and family in complete privacy. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
49. Cheddar for iOS
This open source iOS app makes it easy to track your to-do list on the go. The app is free for one or two lists, but requires a subscription for additional lists—or you can download the source code and create your own similar app. Operating System: iOS
This tool uses Google Street View images to creating time-lapse videos that also move from one location to another. The results can be truly amazing. You can play with the tool online or download the code to incorporate similar capabilities into your own website. Operating System: OS Independent