The 13 most exciting open source projects on the web

We're constantly amazed by all of the cool new open source projects; if you look around there's almost always a blinding open source alternative to whatever pro software you need for your web design work.

With so many exciting projects out there, we had our work cut out trying to decide on our favourites. From source code editors to JavaScript app builders to web font tools and more, here are 13 great examples of the superb work that's being done to make the web a better place.

01. React Native

React Native is like React, but for native mobile apps

React Native enables users to build native mobile apps using only JavaScript. It's similar to React (the popular JavaScript library for building user interfaces), except its building blocks are native components rather than web components. 

With it, users can creative rich mobile UIs that are indistinguishable from apps build using Objective-C, Java or Swift. However, it does combine nicely with those three, so if you want to drop down to native code to optimise certain components, that's fine too. The project is incredibly popular on GitHub, with around 1,500 contributors.

(You might want to also check out these 20 JavaScript tools to blow your mind)

02. Yarn

Is Yarn the new NPM?

Offering 'ultra-fast, mega-secure, super-reliable' dependency management, open source project Yarn is a competitor to node package manager.

Features include the ability to reinstall packages without an internet connection, an efficient request queue that promises to maximise network use, and a flat mode that helps you avoid duplicate dependencies.

03. Pattern Lab

A suite of tools for working according to atomic design principles

Pattern Lab is a suite of tools designed to help you build sites using the principles of atomic design.

That means breaking interfaces down into smaller parts, and operating within a UI design system that you've built to suit your purposes. Atomic design and Pattern Lab are both the brainchild of Brad Frost, and have blossomed in popularity since they launched.

04. Visual Studio Code

An open source project from Microsoft

This free, open source code editor from Microsoft has a slew of great features that make coding quicker. There’s a function called IntelliSense that provides smart completions; built-in Git commands; debugging from within the editor and much more.

In September 2017 there was a significant update to the project, with the addition of macOS touch bar support, integrated terminal performance, and automatic import suggestions.

05. Font Awesome

open source projects

Awesome indeed

Font Awesome is indeed awesome: 675 (at the time of writing) icons contained within a single font, constituting "a pictographic language of web-related actions". Icons are infinitely scalable, so they look the same at any size, and you can style them with CSS.

It works well with all frameworks and screen readers, and doesn't require JavaScript.

(You might also like these 40 top free web fonts)

06. Bootstrap

open source projects

Makes frontend web development faster and easier

Bootstrap is a frontend component library to help you build responsive, mobile-first projects using HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and one of the most popular open source projects on GitHub. Bootstrap was launched by Twitter in 2011, but as it grew, its creators Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton decided to move it to its own open source organisation, and the project separated from Twitter.

Bootstrap has a small footprint, Less integration and compelling visual design. There is a web-based customiser that you can use to tailor it to your open source project: components and jQuery plugins can be added or removed by ticking checkboxes, and variables can be customised using a web form. 

There's a 12-column responsive grid, typography, form controls and it uses responsive CSS to work with mobile browsers. One of our 14 great free Bootstrap themes might come in handy here, too.

07. Brackets

open source projects

A modern text editor for designing in the browser

An open source project that began its life at Adobe, Brackets is a lightweight and modern code editor focused on web technologies.

Crafted specifically for web designers and frontend developers, it boasts a collection of innovative features, including inline editors that let you open windows into the code you're working on rather than jumping between file tabs, and a live preview the offers real-time connection with your browser.

(You might also like these 3 handy Chrome extensions for frontend developers)

08. The Accessibility Project

open source projects

A11y makes accessibility more approachable

The Accessibility Project is an open source project committed to making web accessibility easier for frontend designers and developers to understand and adopt into a daily workflow. The project started in mid-January 2013 in response to a general feeling among developers that core accessibility concepts, features and code examples are overly difficult to extract.

The project has three core tenets. It aims to be digestible (offering short, easy to understand pieces of content), up-to-date (in line with the latest standards) and forgiving (because people make mistakes, and web accessibility is tricky). 

At the time of writing, 102 people have contributed to The Accessibility Project and it has become an invaluable resource for any developer looking to make their sites more accessible to all.

09. Laravel

open source projects

Make beautiful code with Laravel

Laravel has revolutionised PHP development. A free, open source project, it pitches itself as the framework for web artisans – in other words, people who value code that's elegant, simple and readable – and it helps teams and individuals build well-made applications quickly.

There's a big community and collection of resources around Laravel (for example, the Laracast screencasts) and it's one of the most popular PHP frameworks in use today.

10. Grunt

open source projects

Grunt, the JavaScript task runner

Grunt allows you to automate common tasks using JavaScript. You can perform mundane, repetitive tasks such as minification, compilation, unit testing and linting with almost zero effort. And because Grunt is extensible, if someone hasn't already built what you need, you can easily author and publish your own Grunt plugin.

Grunt has dramatically lowered the barrier to entry for web developers by providing a common interface for the tasks in their build process. The extensive plugin ecosystem and easy configuration format makes it possible for anyone on the team to create a modern build process – designers included.

11. Ember.js

open source projects

Make ambitious apps with Ember

Ember.js bills itself as "a framework for creating ambitious web applications". One of the biggest features is its data binding; objects in Ember can bind properties to each other, so when a property changes in one object, the other is kept in sync.

Another interesting feature is Ember's the ability to define functions on an object that you can then treat as properties. Hence, if a model has a first and last name, you could create a function to define a person's full name, and have it treated as if the model has a full name property.

The feature most likely to draw you in is that Ember automatically updates its views when data changes – saving you a lot of work.

12. AngularJS

open source projects

AngularJS: HTML enhances for web apps

AngularJS extends the vocabulary of HTML for declaring dynamic views in web apps. It takes a slightly different approach to Backbone and Ember by doing data binding directly in your HTML. It also uses just plain JavaScript for its controllers, meaning there's no need to extend other objects as you have to do in other frameworks.

The data binding means data in views is automatically updated when the data changes, but also Angular makes it effortless to bind forms to models, meaning a lot of the code you typically write to link a form to creating a new instance of a model is not needed. Its data binding is bi-directional.

By moving a lot of the binding directly into the HTML, Angular leaves you with much leaner controllers and less JavaScript to write. It might take a while to get your head around, but this approach is really powerful.

13. Ghost

Ghost, an open source blogging platform

Blogging platform Ghost turned heads when it was successfully funded through Kickstarter, surpassing its original request of £25,000 and eventually bring in over £196,000 in funding. The open source project is now maintained by non-profit organisation the Ghost Foundation plus some independent contributors (273 people have contributed to the project so far). 

Ghost has a unique purpose in providing bloggers with a simple interface that allows them to write and publish their content without dealing with the complexity of traditional platforms. It's free as a package you can download and install to your own web server, but if that's too much hassle and you're willing to pay, there are pro hosted versions.

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