Open source alternatives

Open source resources

So you've decided to start integrating more open source tools and applications into your life. Now what?

Whether you've decided to seek out open source tools because you're trying to cut costs over proprietary alternatives, because you want to become more involved in the direction of a project, or simply because you want to have more control over your digital world, there is an amazing collection of free and open source projects out there.

If you're coming from a Mac or Windows environment, the first thing you might want to understand when exploring open source is what the equivalents are to the closed source, proprietary programs that you may be used to.

To get you started, has compiled a collection of articles introducing you to some of the most popular and useful open source tools for a wide variety of common needs. Looking for a replacement for a tool not listed here? Let us know what you're interested in, and we'll consider it future additions to this series.


  • Do you use Basecamp, Microsoft Project, or Asana to help you with project management? There are many open source tools which provide the same functionality.

  • Are you keeping notes in Evernote, Google Keep, or OneNote? There are a ton of excellent alternatives with Joplin trending in the category.

  • Some teams, particularly in the software world, turn to kanban boards like Trello to manage their projects instead of a full project management suite. Open source Kanban projects are a good fit here, and in fact many offer better integration into large project management suites than what Trello offers.

  • Teams are more and more turning to chat tools for facilitating communication, both for remote employees and those who share a physical space. While tools like Slack and HipChat receive a lot of attention, there are open source chat tools that work just as well (in many cases, better).

  • If you have a large number of contacts to manage, there’s a good chance you’re using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce, Hubspot, or Zoho to organize contacts. But open source CRM projects fit the bill as well, and several have commercial support.

  • Businesses need ways to balance pricing, product planning, accounting and finance, managing payroll, dealing with inventory, and more. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools like Oracle ERP, Microsoft Dynamics, and SAP ERP are the big names in the space, but there are plenty of open source ERP solutions as well.


  • Did you use Dreamweaver or another visual editor for laying out web pages? Consider these alternatives for WYSIWYG and direct editing of HTML/CSS for your next web design project.

  • Think Photoshop is the only tool for graphic designers looking to make professional edits to photos or other graphics? Consider one of these tools instead.

  • Designing print layouts with InDesign, Publisher, or QuarkXPress? These three free tools might meet your needs.

  • For industrial designers, engineers, and others building things in the physical world, AutoCAD is the big name in the business for computer aided design. For many uses, an open source CAD program might work just as well.


  • Minecraft has proven a great tool for teaching kids the basics of logic and programming, but unfortunately, it’s a closed source program. The community has created many open source alternative Minecraft-like games.

  • MATLAB is an important learning and research tool for many people working in the physical sciences, but it’s far from the only tool for numerical computing. Scilab, NumPy, SageMath, and GNU Octave all offer similar functionality.


  • Are you a user of Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Windows Movie Maker, or Pinnacle Studio? Check out these alternative open source video editors.

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