The number of open source applications and tools that are available on today’s popular operating systems is simply mind-blowing. They come in all forms. Small scripts and console tools that can be easily integrated into large projects, feature-rich applications that offer everything a complete solution, well designed tools, games that encourage real participation, and eye catching candy.
Open source software holds many compelling advantages over proprietary software. Open source improves the quality of the code, keeps costs down, encourages innovation and collaboration, combined with superior security, freedom, flexibility, interoperability, business agility, and much more.
Open source’s popularity continues to bloom. There is a staggering volume of proven open source software available to download. This compilation selects the best-of-breed ranging from software coded by individual programmers, small teams of enthusiasts, extending to large multinational corporations. We mostly recommend cross-platform software, but, where appropriate, make some exceptions.
This is a living document. And it is not an exhaustive selection. There have been many difficult choices. The article has been divided into 7 pages.
You are welcome to recommend additions to this article (there is a form to complete on the final page) providing they meet the following requirements:
- Released under an open source license;
- Available for at least one of the following operating systems: Linux, Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X.
LibreOffice is the most popular open source office suite. It comprises programs to do word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawing, math, and database management. For business users, it offers good compatibility with Microsoft file formats. It is fast, powerful, and the leading free desktop-style alternative to Microsoft Office.
In the last few years, the suite has become increasingly polished. We particularly like the user-friendly interface with no annoying ribbons.
We also admire its strong integration with remote servers. The supported servers include Alfresco, FTP servers, Google Drive, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft OneDrive, and WebDAV.
|The Document Foundation provides packages for 32-bit and 64-bit Linux, OS X (10.8 or newer) and Windows (Vista or newer). For Linux, it can also be downloaded as Flatpak and Snap images.
LibreOffice Portable is a full-featured portable version of LibreOffice – packaged as a portable app. The Document Foundation provides a LibreOffice Viewer for Android.
Developer: The Document Foundation
License: MPL v2.0
A real alternative to LibreOffice, Calligra offers an excellent integrated set of applications for word processing, computations, presentations, planning, database creation and flowcharting.
It uses the OpenDocument format as its default file format for most applications and can import other formats, such as Microsoft Office formats.
The star of the suite was Krita, an award-winning digital painting application that has artists drooling. In Autumn 2015, Krita was split off into a project independent from Calligra.
|Calligra's main platform is PCs running Linux, FreeBSD, OS X, and Windows, of which Linux is the best supported system.
Besides desktop PCs, this software is available for tablet computers, and smartphones.
License: GNU GPL v2, GNU LGPL v2
If you need to layout, typeset and prepare files for professional quality image setting equipment, Scribus is just the ticket. Scribus can also create animated and interactive PDF presentations and forms. Use Scribus to produce books, small newspapers, brochures, posters, and newsletters.
Scribus supports professional DTP features, such as CMYK color and a color management system to soft proof images for high quality color printing, flexible PDF creation options, Encapsulated PostScript import/export and creation of 4 color separations, import of EPS/PS and SVG as native vector graphics, Unicode text including right to left scripts such as Arabic and Hebrew via freetype. Graphic formats which can be placed in Scribus as images include PDF, Encapsulated Post Script (eps), TIFF, JPEG, PNG and XPixMap(xpm), and any bitmap type supported by QT4.
|Scribus runs on Linux and other flavors of Unix and Unix-like systems, including Mac OS X, as well as OS/2 and eComStation, and Windows 2000 or later.
Installation packages for Windows, Mac OS X, a Linux AppImage and the source code are available.
Developer: The Scribus Team
License: GNU GPL v2 or later
The open source replacement for Microsoft Project. Users will appreciate the familiar interface, compatibility with Project 2010, and its powerful charting capabilities. Deliver winning projects with ProjectLibre.
It is capable of sharing files with Microsoft Project and has very similar functionality (Gantt, PERT diagram, histogram, charts, reports, detailed usage), as well as tree views.
|ProjectLibre is a Java application, and so it runs on any operating system that has a recent Java Runtime Environment.
It has been downloaded over 2,700,000 times in 200 countries.
Developer: Marc O'Brien, Laurent Chrettieneau
License: Common Public Attribution License
A drop-in replacement for the MySQL relational database with lots of cutting edge features. Shed loads of huge corporations have migrated to MariaDB. With good reason, MariaDB is another massive open source success. It is arguably the most feature-laden and stable SQL server available.
The development is led by the original core developers of MySQL; they created MariaDB as a response to Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems.
|MariaDB Server is available in the standard repositories of all major Linux distributions including CentOS, Fedora, Red Hat, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, or Mageia. There are also packages for Solaris.
The developers provide binary packages for Debian and Red Hat based distros. There are binary packages for Solaris. Windows has MSI packages.
Developer: MariaDB Corporation Ab, MariaDB Foundation
License: GNU GPL v2. GNU LGPL for client libraries
There’s nothing to beat this complete e-library solution. With a lavish selection of features, it offers library management, format conversion supporting all the major e-book formats, news feeds to e-book conversion as well as e-book reader sync features.
Calibre has a built-in e-book viewer that can display all the major e-book formats. It also has a built-in web server that allows users to remotely access their ebook collection using a simple browser.
The software is mature; it has been in development for a decade.
|Calibre works on Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10. It also works on OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) and higher. It has a binary install for 32-bit and 64-bit Linux distributions.
The Calibre portable build can be run on any Windows computer running at least Windows Vista.
Developer: Kovid Goyal
License: GNU GPL v3
A simple, distraction-free word processor. It uses a hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in your work. Improve your writing productivity.
Features include support for ODT files, timers and alarms, daily goals, customizable themes, auto-save, live statistics, spell-checking. It has been translated into over 20 languages.
|FocusWriter is actively maintained for Linux, Windows and OS X.
The developer provides binary packages for Windows and OS X. Most popular Linux distributions include packages.
Developer: Graeme Gott
License: GNU GPL v3
LyX Document Processor
LyX is an advanced open source document processor. It is called a “document processor”, because unlike standard word processors, LyX encourages an approach to writing based on the structure of documents, not their appearance.
Think of LyX as the first WYSIWYM word processor: What You See Is What You Mean.
It has strong features for the mathematics and scientific fields, good support for graphics and tables, and enables users to create structured documents. You can import and export to many formats (LaTeX, PDF, Postscript, DVI, ASCII, HTML, OpenDocument, RTF, MS Word, and others).
|There are binary versions for Windows, OS X, Linux, OS/2 and Haiku.
The software depends on LaTeX, a large macro package that loads on top of TeX, a typesetting system. The developers provide bundles designed for new users.
Developer: The LyX Team
License: GNU GPL v2 or later
Supporting a whole raft of different formats including PDF, PostScript, DjVU, images, Open Document, this app is a noteworthy universal document viewer.
Okular allows you to review and annotate your documents. Annotations created in Okular are automatically saved in the internal local data folder for each user.
|Okular works on multiple platforms, including but not limited to Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, *BSD, etc.
The last stable release is Okular 1.0, shipped as part of the KDE Applications 16.12 release.
Developer: Piotr Szymański
License: GNU GPL v2
A great tool to keep track of your financial position, KMyMoney offers a good set of financial features and tools. It is simple to use, and supports different account types, categorization of expenses and incomes, reconciliation of bank accounts and import/export to the “QIF” file format.
KMyMoney seeks to provide the main features found in proprietary personal finance managers. It aims to offer an individual and unique view of your finances.
|As a result of the development towards KDE Frameworks 5 (KF5), KMyMoney has been successfully built by the developers from a common source base for Linux, OS X and Windows.
Developer: Michael Edwardes, Javier Campos Morales, Felix Rodriguez, John C, Thomas Baumgart, and Arni Ingimundarson
License: GNU GPL v2
Run a small business? Look no further than GnuCash – it is based on professional accounting principles to generate balanced books and accurate reports. But you can use it to handle your bank accounts, investment portfolio, income and expenses too.
A real gem of an open source program, GnuCash gives commercial rivals a run for their money.
|GnuCash is part of the GNU Project and runs on Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, Solaris, macOS, and other Unix-like platforms.
There is an app for Android.
Developer: GnuCash Development Team
License: GNU General Public License Apache License 2
Zathura is a highly customizable and functional document viewer. It provides a minimalistic and space saving interface as well as an easy usage that mainly focuses on keyboard interaction.
With SyncTex, quickmarks, bookmarks, automatic document reloading, Zathura has a lot going for it. Each file type that is supported by the application is implemented by its own plugin.
|Zathura depends on two external libraries, girara, a simplistic user interface library and GTK+, a cross-platform widget toolkit. Zathura is supported on popular distributions including Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Mint, openSUSE.
Zathura also runs on OpenBSD.
Developer: Moritz Lipp, Sebastian Ramacher and contributors
License: Open source
Need to capture thoughts with a useful application? CherryTree is a hierarchical note taking application. CherryTree features rich text and syntax highlighting, storing data in a single xml or sqlite file.
The software has excellent search functions that make finding information painless. Cherrytree has many user configurable options to alter its look and behavior.
|The developer provides packages for Debian/Ubuntu and Red Hat. There is a windows installer and a portable archive.
There is no official support for OS X but some people have the software runnning with MacPorts and XQuartz.
Developer: Giuseppe Penone
License: GNU GPL v3
Mindmapping software written in Java that makes for a high productivity tool. FreeMind allows the user to edit a hierarchical set of ideas around a central concept. FreeMind is great for knowledge and content management.
|FreeMind is written in Java, so it runs on almost any system with a Java runtime environment. Java Runtime Environment 1.6 or later is required.
Developer: Jörg Müller, Daniel Polansky, Petr Novak, Christian Foltin, Dimitri Polivaev, and others
License: GNU GPL v2
One of many applications available to take notes, to file documents and to manage activities. But MyNoteX stands out with its near-perfect combination of features and uniqueness.
MyNotex stores notes in a SQLite database, but attachments (any type of file format) are compressed and saved in a folder in the same location as the database.
Notes are gathered under different subjects and are made by a title, a date, a tags (keywords) list and a free-length text.
|Sadly, the developer has no intention to release a version for Windows or OS X. So it's strictly Linux (and other UNIX) only.
MyNotex is developed using Free Pascal and Lazarus.
Developer: Massimo Nardello
License: GNU GPL v3