The 10 Coolest Open-Source Software Tools Of 2023
IT automation and infrastructure as code; sophisticated computer graphics and animated content creation; and a suite of personal productivity applications that rivals commercial alternatives: Here’s a look at the open-source software that caught our attention in 2023.
Open For Business
Open-source software tools are increasing in popularity because of the multiple advantages they provide including lower upfront software and hardware costs, lower total-cost-of-ownership, lack of vendor lock-in, simpler license management and support from active communities.
Ongoing migration to cloud systems and digital transformation initiatives are also key drivers for open-source software adoption.
Some open-source software products, including the Linux operating system and Kubernetes container platform, are so widely used they are practically household names. But there is a huge variety of innovative, open-source software available for just about anything in application development, business applications, audio and visual content creation, speech recognition, email management and more.
Here’s a look at 10 cool open-source software tools that caught our attention this year. Some of these tools are relatively new, making their debut in recent years, while others have been around for some time and make our list because of their momentum.
Ansible is an open-source, command-line IT automation application that enables infrastructure as code through its software provisioning, configuration management and application deployment capabilities, according to Red Hat. Ansible, written in Python, is used to orchestrate advanced workflows, deploy software, manage system updates and more.
Ansible’s major components, written in Python, include the Ansible Core command-line tool and Ansible Tower graphical user interface tool for executing Ansible tasks.
Originally released in 2012, Ansible was acquired by Red Hat (now part of IBM) in 2015. The open-source Ansible is available under the GNU General Public License version 3 (Red Hat sells commercial editions of the software called the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform).
Apache Flink and Apache Kafka
Businesses and organizations in financial services, retail, manufacturing and other industries are increasingly having to work with real-time streaming data. Apache Flink and Apache Kafka are two open-source data streaming technology projects at the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) that can help.
Apache Kafka is a distributed event store and stream processing platform for building real-time data pipelines that support streaming analytics, data integration and mission-critical applications, according to the ASF. Its capabilities can be expanded with Kafka Streams, a client library for building applications and microservices that use input and output data stored in Kafka clusters.
Kafka was originally developed at LinkedIn and released as an open-source project in 2011. Kafka’s original developers went on to found Confluent, based in Mountain View, Calif., which develops and markets its Confluent Platform and Confluent Cloud commercial offerings based on Kafka.
Apache Flink is a unified stream-processing and batch-processing framework with a distributed streaming data flow engine at its core. It includes algorithms and data structures to run self-contained streaming computations that support both bounded and unbounded data streams.
There is some overlap between Kafka and Flink as both provide native stream processing, but they also can be complementary technologies. Flink is generally seen as a fast and reliable, large-scale data processing system while Kafka is a distributed, fault-tolerant, high-throughput messaging system, according to Stackshare. Flink’s data processing framework uses a cluster model while the Kafka Streams embeddable library eliminates the need for building clusters, according to a blog post by enterprise architect Rajesh Krishnamurthy on the website of professional service provider OpenLogic.
Blender is a free and open-source suite of 3D computer graphics tools used to create animated films, 3D-printed models, virtual reality, motion graphics, visual effects, interactive 3D applications and games, according to the blender.org website.
Blender was originally developed in 1994 and has been available as open source since 2002.
Blender 4.0 was just released on Nov. 14 with new animation and rigging functionality, an improved user interface, new light and shadow linking, and a host of other new features.
Blender has been available under terms of the GNU General Public License since 2002 and is managed by The Blender Foundation.
Delta Lake and Delta Sharing
Delta Lake and Delta Sharing are both technologies developed by data lakehouse technology developer Databricks and offered as open-source software.
Delta Lake is a data management/data storage framework that provides the foundation for storing data and tables in a data lakehouse, according to Databricks. It extends Parquet data files with a file-based transaction log for ACID transactions and scalable metadata handling. Delta Lake works with Apache Spark – the popular open-source unified analytics/data processing engine.
Delta Lake became an open-source Linux Foundation project with the announcement of Delta Lake 2.0 in June 2022. Delta Lake 3.0.0 is currently available with the Delta Universal Format (for reading Delta tables with Hudi and Iceberg clients) that Databricks unveiled in June of this year.
Delta Sharing is an open-source protocol for securely sharing data across organizations in real time, independent of the platform on which the data resides. Part of the larger Delta Lake Project, Delta Sharing launched in June 2021 and is also a Linux Foundation project.
GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a cross-platform graphics editor used for image and photo manipulation, free-form drawing and transcoding between different image file formats, according to the gimp.org website. The software is popular among graphic designers, photographers, illustrators and scientists.
GIMP has built-in support for layers, filters and automatic photo enhancement and can be used to create new graphic design elements, according to the techradar website. It supports nearly every photo format and its capabilities can be extended using plug-ins developed by the GIMP open-source community.
GIMP 2.10.36 was released on Nov. 7 with a number of new features, including ASE and ACB palettes support, FG to transparent gradient and non-square ratio support for GIFs, along with security updates and bug fixes.
GIMP is available for GNU/Linux, macOS, Windows and other operating systems under the GNU General Public License.
Grafana is a multi-platform observability, monitoring and data visualization application that collects, analyzes and displays metric, log and trace data for use in monitoring the performance and behavior of databases, applications, containers, IoT devices and other operational systems.
The open-source software, which surpassed 20 million users this year, provides operational dashboards, charts, graphs and alerts for supported data sources.
Grafana 10 launched in June with new advanced features that emphasize efficiency and intuitive navigation, according to Grafana developer Grafana Labs, and improvements in user authorization and resource organization for faster data retrieval. Team collaboration capabilities got a boost in the new release, which also featured enhanced security and scalability.
Grafana Labs develops and provides the core Grafana technology under the GNU AGPL version 3.0 license along with other open-source software including Grafana Loki, a multi-tenant log aggregation system, and Grafana Mimir for metrics storage. The company also markets commercial editions of its software including Grafana Enterprise and Grafana Cloud.
Amazon Web Services offers Amazon Managed Grafana, a fully managed service based on the open-source technology.
LibreOffice is a free and open-source office productivity software suite that offers an open-source alternative to commercial personal productivity applications such as Microsoft Office.
LibreOffice applications include Write for word processing, Calc for creating and editing spreadsheets, Impress for building slideshows, Draw for creating diagrams and drawings, Base for database management, and Math for editing mathematical formulas, according to the website for The Document Foundation, which develops and manages LibreOffice.
LibreOffice runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux systems and is based on code from Apache OpenOffice. The software is offered subject to terms of the Mozilla Public License v2.0.
LibreOffice 7.6.3 Community, the most recent release and the third minor release of the 7.6 family, became available on Nov. 23. The software is offered in two versions: “Still,” the prior major release, which has generally been around for six months and subject to more bug fixes; and “Fresh,” the most recent major version with all the latest enhancements.
Python, an open-source programming language for web and software development, has been around for more than 30 years. But it has become one of the most popular programming languages in the world over the last couple of years, even surpassing Java, PHP and C# in adoption and usage by developers, according to several market studies including GitHub’s Octoverse and Bootcamp.berkeley.edu.
Python usage increased 22.5 percent in 2022, according to a posting on The GitHub Blog.
Python is a high-level, interpreted programming language that developers use to create complex, multi-protocol applications while maintaining concise, readable syntax. One of its key benefits is its ability to automate manual, repetitive tasks. It’s also popular among data scientists – Github says it’s the most popular language for data science and research – and can be used for AI and machine language model development.
The latest releases, Python 3.12.0, was made available on Oct. 2 with a number of enhancements including a new debugging/profiling API, more flexible f-string parsing, support for the buffer protocol in Python code, and support for isolated subinterpreters with separate Global Interpreter Locks.
The non-profit Python Software Foundation holds the intellectual property rights to Python and manages the open-source licensing under the PSF License Agreement, a BSD-style, permissive software license that is compatible with the GNU General Public License.
Thunderbird is an open-source email management client developed by Mozilla, the folks behind the Firefox browser.
Thunderbird allows you to access all of your messages, calendars and contacts in a single application, filter and organize them according to personal preference, and manage all accounts separately or in a unified inbox.
In July Mozilla released Thunderbird 115 “Supernova” for Windows, macOS and Linux. Mozilla described Supernova “as the beginning of a new era for Thunderbird,” a modernized overhaul of the software – both visually and technically.
With the new release Mozilla sought a “comfortable balance” between new features and interface changes to appeal to new users while maintaining the software’s layout and look-and-feel that millions of users are familiar with. New functionality includes a modernized card view with a vertical layout, a dynamic unified toolbar, an intuitive application menu, an improved calendar design, new sortable folder modes, and improved keyboard navigation and screen reader accessibility.
Thunderbird is available under the terms of the Mozilla Public License.
While OpenAI’s ChatGPT generative AI application has gotten a lot of notice this year, the company’s Whisper automatic speech recognition and transcription system is very cool.
Introduced in September 2022, Whisper enables transcription in 57 languages and translation from those languages into English. Potential applications include voice assistant, chatbot, speech translation to English, automated note taking and speech transcription, according to a Datacamp.com review.
Whisper was originally trained on a huge dataset: 680,000 hours of “multilingual and multitask supervised” audio data collected from the web, according to OpenAI.
Whisper is provided under the MIT open-source license. Programmers with basic knowledge of Python can integrate the Whisper API into an application.
OpenAI released Whisper v3 in early November, offering improved accuracy and reduced error rates thanks to its training on audio data that exceeded 1 million hours.