50 Noteworthy New Open Source Apps

Tuesday Aug 27th 2013 by Cynthia Harvey
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Check out these newer open source tools for development, database management, collaboration, science and more.

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.

As we compiled this list, a few trends stood out. First was the sheer volume of projects surrounding JavaScript and Web development. Many of these relate to the creation of mobile apps and/or HTML5 technology.

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.

Accessibility

1. The Accessibility Project

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

Book

2. Probabilistic Programming & Bayesian Methods for Hackers

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

Collaboration

3. InterTwinkles

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

4. BlinkDB

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

5. Poderopedia

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

6. TokuDB/TokuMX

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

Data Visualization

7. D3.js

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

Development Tools

8. Bootstrap

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

9. Bower

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

10. Brackets

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

11. Chaplin.js

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

12. CodeMirror

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

13. Conditionizr

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

14. CoVim

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

15. Ember.js

There are a lot of JavaScript Web development frameworks out there—this one calls itself "a framework for creating ambitious Web applications. It aims to make developers more productive immediately. Operating System: OS Independent

16. Grunt

Used by companies like Twitter, jQuery, Adobe, Modernizr and others, Grunt is a task runner for JavaScript. It automates tasks like minification, compilation, unit testing and linting. Operating System: OS Independent

17. Gumbo

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

18. Hammer.js

If you're writing Web applications for mobile devices, this JavaScript library will allow to you enable multi-touch gestures, like swipe, tap, pinch, etc. The website proclaims, "You can touch this." Operating System: OS Independent

19. Meteor

Want to write your entire Web app in JavaScript? Meteor makes it fast and easy. Note that it is still a preview release. Operating System: OS Independent

20. Mojito

One of the "Yahoo Cocktails," Mojito is an HTML5 applications development tool for creating client-server applications in JavaScript. It works with Node.js and helps create cross-platform apps. Operating System: Linux

21. Sidekiq

Sidekiq promises "simple, efficient background processing for Ruby." It speeds up Web applications and makes them more scalable. Operating System: OS Independent

22. SheetSee.js

This JavaScript library makes it possible to use a Google spreadsheet as the database that feeds your website content. It makes updates quick and easy. Operating System: OS Independent

23. Textmate

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

24. TypeScript

Developed by Microsoft and released in 2012, TypeScript is a variant of JavaScript with static typing and class-based object oriented programming capabilities. It compiles to pure JavaScript, and as a result, works with any operating system and browser. Operating System: OS Independent

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

Disaster Preparedness

26. InaSAFE Foundation

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

Feed Reader

27. Stringer

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

File Sharing

28. Sharefest

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

Fonts

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

Forum Software

30. Discourse

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

Games

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

32. Ansible

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

Media Publishing

33. MediaGoblin

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

Monitoring

34. Kale

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

Operating System

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.

37. CoreOS

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

38. Syte

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

Photo Filters

39. GPUImage

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

Presentations

40. Impress.js

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

41. Reveal.js

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

Programming Languages

42. Harlan

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

43. Terra

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

Project Management

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

Science

45. OpenBEL

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

46. Open Source Malaria

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

47. OpenWorm

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

Secure Messaging

48. Tox

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

Task Management

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

Video Tools

50. Hyperlapse

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

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