The 10 Coolest Open Source Apps of 2014

Like Open Source

The vast majority of IT professionals prefer open-source software over the proprietary variety. That's according to a recent report from the Ponemon Institute, which showed that 70 percent of IT pros value the business continuity and control afforded by open access more than the cost savings. It should also be apparent to anyone looking at the number of web servers running Apache. The open-source writing has been on the wall for years, and has led ISVs to implement open source policies in varying degrees. The most recent example is Microsoft, which in mid-November released the code for server-side .NET, further expanding its open source program and making good on a promise it made in April.

Here are 10 open-source projects that have gathered steam this year and resulted in some really cool apps. Be sure to check out the rest of CRN's 2014 product coverage.

Laptop vs. Tablet

It's hard say what might make one open-source project succeed and another fail, but it seems to happen all the time. One case in point is the Jolla tablet (pictured) versus the Librem 15 laptop. In just two days, the Jolla crowd-sourcing project to build a tablet running the open-source Sailfish OS smashed its goal of $380K in just two days, and to date has received more than $1.2 million in pledges. Meanwhile, the Librem 15 project, which endeavors to build an all open-source laptop, has collected just $40K. Their respective price tags might play a role; the slab can be had for about $200 while the clamshell approaches $2K.

ClamWin and ClamAV

On the subject of mollusks, there's ClamWin (pictured) and ClamAV, two separate projects that both filter malware. ClamWin is an unobtrusive anti-virus client for all versions of Windows desktop and server. ClamAV is an email gateway that scans incoming mail and diverts anything it judges to be written by a bottom-feeder. is a JavaScript development framework that implements Node.js and Grunt to simplify the creation of complex UIs that move smoothly and are totally free of lag. That's thanks to the 3-D layout and physics animation engines that are built in and can render to Canvas, DOM or WebGL. And it's all free and open source with no proprietary gotchas.


Not to be confused with the hard-drive imaging tool of the same name, the open-source Ghost does just one thing: simplifies publishing words to the web in the form of a modern-looking blog. As words are typed into the built-in syntax editor on one side of the screen, the resulting page appears in a real-time preview on the right. And unlike Wordpress, Ghost blogs actually look good.


Digital rights management is a tricky thing. If a DVD is purchased legally, why shouldn't it be viewable without an optical drive? Taking that implicit stand are the makers of Handbrake, an open-source tool that provides the simplest means we've seen of transcoding content from a DVD to a hard drive in a format playable with any media player.


If you've ever taken the time to write down all the passwords you use in a given month or two, we'd venture to guess that it easily approaches 20. And for IT pros, that number would be closer to 100. Forget about remembering them all. That's what KeePass is for. This open-source tool stores all your passwords behind a single passcode or file that's secured using AES and Twofish encryption. The Test Center advises extra caution when trusting any tool that stores passwords, however. A mid-November report identified a new wave of malware specifically targeting password management apps.


Microsoft's Notepad is great when a small-footprint app is needed to create or edit text files, but it's severely lacking in several key areas. Based on the Scintilla code-editing tool, Notepad2 can handle multiple open documents, provides counts of lines, words and characters, and even does some tag highlighting. What's more, the monolithic app can be dragged onto a system and launched; it doesn't muck with the registry.


We thought that the "Internet of Things" was more of a concept, but it's also apparently a product. OpenIoT is open-source middleware that's designed to read and regularize the data coming from the billions of IoT sensors around the world to allow it to be given meaning through applications.


Pidgen does for instant messaging what Gmail does for inboxes; it provides a single place to read all incoming messages regardless of whence they came. The client for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows supports AIM, Bonjour, Gado-Gadu, Google Talk, GroupWise, ICQ, IRC, MSN, MXit, SILC, SIMPLE, Sametime, XMPP, Yahoo and Zephyr.


When first installed, Android apps display a warning of the type of device access they require and the data that they might give out. So the only way to prevent data from leaking out of an Android app is to actually read those warnings and prohibit those apps from running. Or you can use XPrivacy. Just install it on any Android device running 4.0.3 through 4.4.4 and it causes apps to feed blank or made-up data instead of the real McCoy.