What open source projects are best for beginners?

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Which project would you recommend to a newbie who wants to get started with open source?

While Opensource.com is preparing for our upcoming Beginners in Open Source Week starting February 17, we want to hear from our readers about which open source projects are best for beginners. After you've responded to the poll, mark your calendars for:

Beginners in Open Source Week: February 17 - 28

Call for articles! We are taking submissions and suggestions for stories about the work you do or the work someone you know is doing to help beginners in open source software, hardware, and other areas of openness. Please send your article or idea to osdc-admin@redhat.com or contact us—from now through February 14.

Throughout the year we plan to continue these sorts of initiatives around dedicated topics, like youth, women, and beginners in open source. Stay tuned, we have a lot more ideas up our sleeves!

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Ruth's picture

Joomla :)

Chiara Aliotta's picture

Joomla! (www.joomla.org)

robinmuilwijk's picture
Open Source Sensei

Thanks Ruth and Chiara, for suggesting Joomla! I can recommend this project myself, as former member. There is lot's to do like: coding, documentation, translation and more. It's a great way to step into an open source project, and learn.

Johnny's picture

Sorry, Joomla is deprecated ;)

jimbethancourt's picture
Open Enthusiast

If you're a Java developer, one approach is to check out http://nemo.sonarqube.org/ and see what projects you like that also need some cleaning up.

mairin's picture
Open Source Evangelist

Just wanted to put it out there that Dreamwidth is a wonderful open source project for women just starting out. I've personally had great experience with the upstream Mailman project community as well.

The suggested projects in the poll are very large, established projects with huge codebases. While each is a great community and welcoming to newcomers, I do feel like it's less overwhelming to get involved in a smaller project where you can understand the application in depth (because of its smaller scope) and you can get to know a majority of the contributors involved more closely (because there aren't as many since the projects aren't as massive.) You get a more personal touch from smaller projects, and you learn the basic ropes to move onto larger projects if you like later on.

jhibbets's picture

Where can someone get started with Dreamwidth?

robinmuilwijk's picture
Open Source Sensei

I think Dreamwidth can be found here http://www.dreamwidth.org/about

Taha's picture

Though I voted for Ubuntu, I deeply believe the real soul of Open Source is in Debian project, a pure definition of Open Source and freedom in software, but since contributing in that project is pretty hard, I would suggest Ubuntu project with its real good launchpad contribution portal.

mhanwell's picture
Open Source Evangelist

I think KDE can be a great project for new developers, and is one of the first I contributed to. It is a very large and established project, but it is split into many smaller subprojects that can satisfy most interests from low-level graphics programming in C++/OpenGL, through to plasma and the use of interpreted languages to create useful widgets in a relatively short amount of time. The community is friendly and inviting, they take part in the various programs such as Google Summer of Code to encourage new contributors, and have an annual developer conference.

Heidi's picture


Heidi's picture

Joomla has a well developed and helpful community with an active forum. Anyone can contribute on any level or get help for their problems!

Heidi's picture


caineslisa's picture

Wordpress. It is easy to get started, and it is a highly popular open source application.

Michael O.'s picture


robinmuilwijk's picture
Open Source Sensei

If you are into mapping, check out Open Streetmap http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Beginners'_guide You might be able to put your own neighborhood on the map.

Or maybe you are into science? Check out open science and open access at http://openscience.com/what-is-open-access-useful-links-for-beginners/

And if you want to work with something concrete, something solid like open hardware, this is fun: http://www.youtube.com/user/RaspberryPiBeginners.

Jason Baker's picture
Open Source Champion

I love the OpenStreetMap suggestion. As a map geek, I love open geodata projects because they allow just about anyone to participate - all it takes is some knowledge of the area where you live, work, and play to made great additions to mapping data.

Keeping the map geek theme going on the developer side, my favorite getting-started-with-open-source suggestions are GDAL/OGR, which have really easy-to-use Python bindings for people who want to try out geographic data manipulation. I also really enjoyed playing with the open source community edition of the OpenGeo Suite stack, which you can get up and running and doing cool things with no programming experience (though a little server configuration background wouldn't hurt).

John Morris's picture

WordPress! Using and programming.

willingc's picture
Open Enthusiast

OpenHatch - A project that helps people learn how to contribute to open source. Wonderful outreach through the Open Source Comes to Campus program.

Python is another great community for beginners and newcomers.

Unidentified's picture

Bodhi Linux

Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér's picture

For someone who "wants to get started with open source"?
I assume we are talking contributing.
I have put a lot of time into translations, which I still think is a particularly important aspect of open source software. Consider the LibreOffice translations - it is extremely unlikely that this software would ever be translated by a proprietary software provider.
If we are talking about coding, the projects at the top seem like a bit of a learning curve. Wordpress themes, perhaps? That seems like a place to start?

dncnmckn's picture
Open Enthusiast

I would say:

Hello. I'm Duncan. I've recently set up Sparkwood and 21 an open source design studio.

jiero's picture

firefox? and open source html5 game?

JessicaDunbar's picture
Community Member

:) Joomla!

Get social with me

robinmuilwijk's picture
Open Source Sensei

Whats Joomla? ;) Just kidding of course, great to see you registered. Welcome to Opensource.com!

ScottNesbitt's picture
Open Minded

As usual, I'll plug FLOSS Manuals. If you don't have (m)any technical chops, or even if you do, it's a great way to create documentation for any number of Open Source projects. Especially if you can't choose just one project.

Unidentified's picture

Drupal has a wonderful community and they have active initiatives for getting new people started with contributing, something I've not encountered in another project. Check out http://drupalladder.org/ for an example of something that has been built for helping people to get started with their contributions.

kriszzilla's picture
Open Minded

I recommend python! =)

Thanks and Regards,
Kristian Aggarao

Follow me on twitter
Applications Developer

Tobias's picture


smh's picture

hi! why you define joomla in the polls?

nabeelhussain's picture
Open Enthusiast

From a business perspective - Wordpress
Loads of plugins, templates, documentation, easy to learn and manage, but most importantly, there is always someone in your 4 degrees who has used Wordpress.

Best Regards,
Nabeel Hussain
​New Product Development and Digital Marketing Specialist

Hans Bezemer's picture

If you want to get started in FOSS, start your own project - or start one with friends. You have far more control, do more things and learn the trade bottom up without getting swamped in a large project where everything is doing just fine without you.

Suba's picture

I got java developer certification, using this like to build more with JSP,Spring and much more J2EE related technologies. How can I improve my knowledge in Java like internship or any beginners project? Suggestions please.....

Thanks in advance..

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