Best open source software of 2023 (2023)

By Jacob Parker

last updated

Free software for everyday use








Best open source software of 2023 (1)

The best open source software makes it simple and easy to do everyday tasks on Windows, Mac, and Linux, without the need for license fees.

Open source software is any kind of program where the developer behind it chooses to release the source code for free. Whenever software has an open source license, it means anyone in the world can download, modify and distribute it without paying fees to its original creator.

Since the open source movement took off as a software development philosophy at the end of the 1990s, it’s changed the world. Estimates even suggest that a mind-blowing 96% of all web servers globally are running on some form of open source Linux operating system, for example.

It’s important to remember that open source doesn’t just mean “free”. Lots of companies release their software for free but maintain full copyright ownership of their code, so other developers aren’t able to modify it. By contrast, successful open source initiatives are built on the hard work of potentially thousands of collaborators who have voluntarily given up their time to create something awesome.

Such an accessible development system has some serious advantages. Open source software is often more secure because people from around the world scrutinize new releases and bugs get reported and addressed fast. Also, people are motivated to add cool new features to open source platforms which means open source software is often just as good, if not better, than competing pay-to-use programs.

While open source software is used in everything from networks to web servers, here we'll focus on the best open source software for you to download and run on your desktop or laptop.

We've also featured the best laptop for programming.

The best open source software of 2023 in full:

Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Best open source software of 2023 (2)

1. LibreOffice

A real open source alternative to Microsoft Office


Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy


Full set of office apps


Supports Microsoft files


Lots of templates

Reasons to avoid


Not cloud-based

With support for documents, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, diagrams, and mathematical formulae, LibreOffice is essentially a free version of the world’s most popular office productivity suite, Microsoft 365 (opens in new tab).

Some would actually argue that LibreOffice is the more fully-featured of the two, thanks to its dedicated developer community which is adding new tools and tricks all the time. For example, in the latest update, LibreOffice added a QR code generator tool so you can quickly create mobile-friendly links.

An alternative well-known open source office tool is Open Office, which offers many similar features to LibreOffice. The reason that LibreOffice has taken the top spot today is that it is much better at preserving Microsoft file formats. In other words, your formatting won’t get screwed up if you need to modify a document originally written in Microsoft Word.

The only downside to this awesome free office software (opens in new tab) is that editing documents collaboratively online is a bit tricky. Recently, an online editing option has been added but it still requires some technical know-how to implement.

Read our full LibreOffice review.

Best open source software of 2023 (3)

Best open source software of 2023 (4)

2. VLC Media Player

An open source media player than can play virtually anything


Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS

Reasons to buy


Runs well on old hardware


Plays virtually any media file


Optimizes playback

Reasons to avoid


Complex menu system

VLC (or VideoLAN Client) media player is a lightweight application created by an open source development group known as the VideoLAN project. This video and media player has been leading the industry for years in terms of popularity, and it’s not hard to see why. You can use VLC media player to open audio and video files in just about any format without having to hunt down extra codecs.

VLC also works for streaming media such as podcasts and online radio stations. But perhaps the greatest VLC media player feature is playback control. You can change almost everything about how your media is displayed from hardware optimization to adding subtitle files from third-party sources.

Like some of the other amazing open source offerings mentioned here, VLC is constantly being upgraded with new goodies and features to explore. The latest updates to the free video player (opens in new tab) have included the ability to stream to other devices (like Chromecasts) and 360-degree video support for VR headsets (opens in new tab).

Read our full VLC Media Player review.

Best open source software of 2023 (5)

Best open source software of 2023 (6)


A powerful open source photo and image editing tool


Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy


Fully customizable interface


Layers, filters and masks


Advanced editing tools

Reasons to avoid


May confuse first-time users

Beloved by Linux users since its original release in 1996, GIMP is one of the most famous and best-maintained open source software tools out there. This software is about as close to image editing power and flexibility of the Adobe Photoshop platform as you’re likely to get for free.

GIMP has built-in support for layers, filters, and automatic photo enhancement. It also makes it easy to create new graphic design elements and you can really take things to the next level by downloading plug-ins created by the broader GIMP open source community.

Just like Photoshop, GIMP has a fairly steep learning curve but anyone who puts in a bit of time is sure to appreciate its customizable interface and GPU hardware acceleration. However, if you’re looking for a simple free photo editor (opens in new tab), check out Paint.NET (opens in new tab) instead. It’s not as powerful, but easier to get to grips with.

Read our full GIMP review.

Best open source software of 2023 (7)

Best open source software of 2023 (8)

4. Shotcut

A slick open source program for advanced video editing


Operating system: Windows

Reasons to buy


HDMI preview and capture


Hundreds of codecs supported


Advanced effects

Reasons to avoid


Steep learning curve

Shotcut is open source free video editing software (opens in new tab). It’s one of those open source programs that really demonstrates how much a dedicated development community can improve a platform given time. In earlier versions, the Shotcut interface was a little bare, but later releases have added extra dockable panels, an intuitive timeline, and other touches that put Shotcut in the same league as premium video editors like Adobe Premiere Pro (opens in new tab).

This video tool supports non-destructive audio and video editing, meaning you can compile effects without any quality loss. You can also use this platform to do color keying and grading operations, as well as more basic clip splicing and trimming.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Shotcut is its ability to work with more or less any format of video, audio, or photo media. That’s largely thanks to FFmpeg, an open source video framework that sits under the hood of the Shotcut program.

Read our full Shotcut review.

Best open source software of 2023 (9)

Best open source software of 2023 (10)

5. Brave

For a private open source browsing experience


Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS

Reasons to buy


Automatically disables trackers


Supports Chrome extensions


Built-in ad-blocker

Reasons to avoid


Features its own ads

Built on top of Google’s open source Chromium project, Brave is a web browser (opens in new tab) that’s designed to keep your browsing activity private by automatically disabling website trackers and blocking pesky ads. For even more secure browsing, it has a built-in Tor function.

The big advantage of using Brave is that you can access many of the Google Chrome store’s thousands of extensions but enjoy a faster browsing experience than you’d get with a normal Chrome browser. That’s because Brave is less of a resource hog than Google’s regular Chrome package, giving it a performance boost when loading pages.

Another interesting thing about the Brave browser is something called Brave Rewards. The idea behind this feature is that you can opt in to see certain ads and receive a small Basic Attention Token crypto coin in return. Eventually, the developers behind Brave hope this will change the way advertising works on the internet.

Read our full Brave browser review.

Best open source software of 2023 (11)

Best open source software of 2023 (12)

6. Audacity

A powerful audio editor, ideal for music and podcasts


Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy


Supports direct streaming


Works with almost all audio files


Expandable with plugins

Reasons to avoid


No mobile app

Even two decades after its original launch date, Audacity remains one of the most widely-used open source applications. It’s a free audio editor (opens in new tab) that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.

After installing this nifty little package, you’ll find everything you need to record, edit, and enhance sound files. What’s more, thanks to the enormous developer community supporting the program, you can use Audacity’s library of third-party extensions to add any features that aren’t included by default. These will allow you to do everything from adding sound effects to auto-tuning your tracks.

The Audacity interface might look a little complex at first, but given the professional-grade tools available through the program, it’s easy to see why this is the go-to application for musicians and podcast creators.

Read our full Audacity review.

Best open source software of 2023 (13)

Best open source software of 2023 (14)

7. KeePass

A handy password generator and credential storage tool


Operating systems: Windows (unofficial ports available for others)

Reasons to buy


Two-factor authentication



Reasons to avoid


Basic features

There are plenty of great password manager (opens in new tab)s out there, but KeePass Password Safe stands out from the crowd thanks to its simple set up and comprehensive feature set. It uses industry-standard (and near unbreakable) AES encryption and two-factor authentication to keep the details of your accounts safe and secure.

KeePass also deserves a mention on this run-down of the best open source platforms due to its portability. Although this open source program can be installed on Windows, Mac, Linux, and mobile devices, you can also store your database and the program on a USB stick for safekeeping.

As if that wasn’t enough, an extensive selection of plug-ins is available for KeePass. You can use these to sync KeePass credential data automatically with your cloud storage service of choice or your browser.

Read our full KeePass review.

Best open source software of 2023 (15)

Best open source software of 2023 (16)

8. Thunderbird

An excellent option for open source email management


Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy


All your messages in one inbox


Connects calendar events


Slick interface

Reasons to avoid


No cloud connectivity

If you’ve used Microsoft Outlook before, you’ll know all about the benefits of being able to check multiple email inboxes in one place. That’s exactly what Mozilla Thunderbird allows you to do, but with an open source twist. Thunderbird is an email client (opens in new tab) developed by Mozilla, which you’ve likely heard of thanks to its other famous project, Firefox (opens in new tab).

Thunderbird comes with plenty of cool tricks to help you deal with your email more efficiently. You can, for example, link emailed event updates with an inbuilt calendar or check the news with an RSS reader. If you need to send a contact a huge file, Thunderbird will even let you do by uploading it to a separate server and dropping a link into your message.

Read our full Thunderbird review.

Best open source software of 2023 (17)

Best open source software of 2023 (18)

9. FileZilla

An open source FTP client that's refreshingly user-friendly


Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux

Reasons to buy


Resumes dropped connections


Intuitive interface


Remote file editing

Reasons to avoid


Looks slightly dated

FileZilla is a free file transfer protocol (FTP) client that allows you to manage server file systems remotely. If you own your own website, you’ll already know that doing FTP operations through a web client can be a frustrating experience, and FileZilla provides a far more consistent and pleasant FTP experience than you can get with the default FTP applications that most web hosts offer.

This open source FTP tool comes with all sorts of advanced features such as support for large file transfers, synchronized directory browsing, and filename filters. In case you have any trouble getting through to your website’s server, a network configuration wizard is also included.

The FileZilla interface might look a little confusing to first time users, but it’s actually very simple to use. In the left-hand panel, you’ll find a window displaying your local file system. Meanwhile, on the right, you’ll see the file system of your server. To move a file from one to the other, simply drag and drop it.

Read our full FileZilla review.

Best open source software of 2023 (19)

Best open source software of 2023 (20)

10. Linux

The open source operating system


Operating system: n/a

Reasons to buy


Increasingly accessible


Good features


Strong security

Reasons to avoid


Overwhelming choice of distros

Obviously this list couldn’t be wrapped up without mentioning the most iconic open source software around, Linux. First released in 1991, Linux has since morphed into a huge family of different OS distros including desktop variants like Chrome OS (which you'd find on a Chromebook) and Ubuntu, and server stack solutions like LAMP.

Back in the day, Linux was only run by a handful of coders due to the difficulty of installation and the amount of tweaking Linux systems required to run. However, in recent years, the developers behind the best known Linux distros have made a conscious effort to turn them into more user-friendly packages. It’s now easier than ever to run a virtual Linux machine or re-partition your hard drive to add Linux as an extra OS.

Several big-name computer manufacturers have even started selling Linux laptops directly to the public. That’s probably, in part, because Linux uses completely different base code from more popular Windows and Os X systems, making it less of a target for hackers and bad actors online.

Back in the day, users would often be put off Linux because few software manufacturers developed for the system. Fortunately, cloud applications don’t care what kind of local system you’re running, and as these get more popular there’s less reason than ever not to give Linux a go.

Read our guide to the best Linux distros.

We've featured the best small business apps.

Which open source software is best for you?

When deciding which open source software to download and use, first consider what your actual needs are, as some platforms may only provide basic options, so if you need to use advanced tools you may find a different platform is much more worthwhile. There are many different open source software options out there, some better than others, but ultimately your choice will be based on whether the open source platform delivers on the tools you actually need, so do ensure you have a good idea of which features you think you may require.

How we tested the best open source software

To test for the best open source software we first set up an account with the relevant software platform, whether as a download or as an online service. We then tested the service to see how the software could be used for different purposes and in different situations. The aim was to push each open source software platform to see how useful its basic tools were and also how easy it was to get to grips with any more advanced tools.

Read how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar (opens in new tab).

Are you a pro? Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to theTechRadar Pro newsletter to get all the top news, opinion, features and guidance your business needs to succeed!

Jacob Parker


What is the most successful open source project? ›

12 Most Popular Open-Source Projects on GitHub
  • TensorFlow. TensorFlow platform is used for data automation, model tracking and retraining, and performance monitoring. ...
  • OpenCV. ...
  • React-Native. ...
  • DALL-E. ...
  • YOLOv7. ...
  • Kubernetes. ...
  • Flutter. ...
  • Jenkins.
Oct 29, 2022

What are the latest open source technologies? ›

Top Open Source Technologies for 2022
  • Mozilla Firefox. Mozilla Firefox is a free and open-source internet browser that offers numerous plugins which can be accessed with a single mouse click. ...
  • LibreOffice. ...
  • GIMP. ...
  • VLC Media Player. ...
  • Shotcut. ...
  • Brave. ...
  • Linux. ...
  • Python.
Jan 12, 2023

What are 3 examples of open source? ›

  • GNU/Linux.
  • Mozilla Firefox.
  • VLC media player.
  • SugarCRM.
  • GIMP.
  • VNC.
  • Apache web server.
  • LibreOffice.

What is top of open source digital platform? ›

GitHub is the world's largest open-source developer community platform where users upload their projects and code for others to view, edit, and tweak.

Who is the biggest open source contributor? ›

5 Biggest Open Source Contributors
  • Microsoft — 5,708 active contributors.
  • Alphabet — 5,182.
  • Red Hat — 3,334.
  • IBM — 2,259.
  • Intel — 2,048.
Nov 24, 2022

What is the best open source big data? ›


Created in 2008 by Apache Software Foundation, it is recognized as the best open-source big data tool for scalability.

What has replaced OpenOffice? ›

LibreOffice is a free and powerful office suite, and a successor to (commonly known as OpenOffice). Its clean interface and feature-rich tools help you unleash your creativity and enhance your productivity.

Does open-source software have a future? ›

Overall, open source projects are in demand from developers and from enterprises. But without companies that can build sustainable businesses, the support for communities will slowly wither away. This could affect the future of open source in the long term as a way to make software available to everyone.

What is a popular open source? ›

Python is one of the most popular programming languages available today — and it's entirely open source. This language can be used for a variety of things, such as creating web apps, desktop apps, and even video games.

Is Google Chrome an open-source software? ›

Unlike Chromium, Chrome is not open-source, so its binaries are licensed as freeware under the Google Chrome Terms of Service.

What are the two types of open-source software? ›

Types of open source software
  • Open source office software.
  • Open source accounting software.
  • Open source operating systems.
  • Open source website software.
  • Open source browsers and communication applications.
  • Open source IT security.
  • Images/multi-media.
  • Open source development tools.

Is Google an open-source software? ›

Google continues to be one of the largest maintainers, contributors, and users of open source and is deeply involved in helping make the open source software ecosystem more secure through efforts including the Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF), Open Source Vulnerabilities (OSV) database, and OSS-Fuzz.

Which is the most widely used open source e learning technology? ›

Moodle. Moodle is an open source education platform - more specifically, a course management system. Written in PHP, it's probably the most widely applied LMS in the world, with around 3000 universities currently using it.

Which of the following is the most famous example of open source software? ›

One of the most successful open-source products is the Linux operating system, an open-source Unix-like operating system, and its derivative Android, an operating system for mobile devices.

Can you get sued for open source? ›

Open source is a software development, busi- ness, and licensing model. Open source does not have standing to be a defendant in a lawsuit.

Do people make money from open source? ›

As any experienced programmer makes money online, open-source developers can monetize their work. Also, they can earn enough money to improve their software. With any of the chosen methods, you can gain enough money to develop your software and bring more innovations into the world.

Which one is the most widely used open source license? ›

The MIT License is one of the most commonly used and permissive open source licenses. Under this license, you can essentially do anything with the software as long as you include the original copyright and license notice in the copy of the software. It is also compatible with many copyleft licenses, including the GPLs.

What is the most powerful database software? ›

Here are 25 of the best database management softwares (DBMS) that can help your business with productivity and the realization of its true potential:
  • 1 Improvado.
  • 2 Microsoft SQL Server.
  • 3 Postgre SQL.
  • 4 My SQL.
  • 5 Amazon RDS.
  • 6 Oracle RDBMS.
  • 7 Razor SQL.
  • 9 SQL Developer.
Feb 1, 2023

Which database can handle millions of data? ›

“Distributed SQL” is required where millions of transactions should be handled in a globally distributed database. Data is extremely relational (e.g., Social Media), i.e., Graph like data.

Which are the fastest growing sources of big data? ›

The Primary Sources of Big Data:
  • Machine Data. In-Demand Software Development Skills.
  • Social Data.
  • Transactional Data.

Is there anything better than LibreOffice? ›

We have compiled a list of solutions that reviewers voted as the best overall alternatives and competitors to LibreOffice, including Google Workspace, ONLYOFFICE, Microsoft 365, and OpenOffice.

What are the disadvantages of OpenOffice? ›

Cons of open office spaces
  • Open offices can be noisy and distracting. The biggest downside of open-plan offices is that they can be really noisy. ...
  • Open offices lack privacy. With team members working side-by-side all day, there is little to no privacy in open-plan offices. ...
  • Open offices can cause anxiety and stress.

Why is OpenOffice discontinued? ›

In April 2011, Oracle stopped development of and fired the remaining Star Division development team. Its reasons for doing so were not disclosed; some speculate that it was due to the loss of mindshare with much of the community moving to LibreOffice while others suggest it was a commercial decision.

Do hackers use open-source software? ›

Microsoft: Hackers are using open source software and fake jobs in phishing attacks. Microsoft details how hackers are using easily available tools and non-existent job offers to trick developers and IT workers.

Which software field is best for future? ›

Which field will be best in software engineering in the future? Artificial intelligence, DevOps, cyber security, UI/UX development, data analytics, and other sectors are currently lucrative in addition to software engineering.

Can you make a living as an open source developer? ›

Yes, as a developer you can make money with open source.

When we talk about Open Source Software we are used to referring to free tools, libraries, or products, maintained by generous developers or companies around the world, which code is publicly available on some repository.

What are 3 benefits to open source programs? ›

8 advantages of using open source in the enterprise
  • FLEXIBILITY AND AGILITY. IT leaders must fundamentally provide flexibility and agility for their enterprise. ...
  • SPEED. ...

Is Netflix an open source software? ›

At Netflix we use a wide range of Open Source technologies. In the recent months, we also released many of our internally developed components and libraries, starting with Curator for Zookeeper, and most recently with Asgard.

Is open source software illegal? ›

Software published under a Free or Open Source license do not put any restrictions on how the software can be used - that is one of the fundamental freedoms in both the Free Software Definition and the Open Source Definition. However that doesn't mean that your actions using FOSS software can't be illegal.

Is Apple an open source software? ›

Google's Android is considered an Open Source mobile OS, while Apple's iOS is considered closed source and each has its own benefits and issues.

How do I choose an open-source software? ›

Look for evidence of planned future software releases, and whether the software has a good history of frequent releases. An actively maintained project website is also a good indicator. There might even be a roadmap for development. An important aspect of sustainability is the adoption of open standards.

What is the most free open source license? ›

GNU General Public License (GNU GPL)

The GNU GPL is a copyleft license and perhaps the most popular of the open source licenses. It guarantees developers the freedom to take a program and modify it in any way they want, as long as they then distribute that altered version as free software.

Who owns open-source software? ›

Who Owns It? Typically, for open-source projects, the creator owns the software but provides a license to other “contributors” to reproduce, modify and redistribute the software. The licenses offered to contributors and users of the software are often standardized (see MIT, GNU LPGL, and Apache as examples).

Is Python an open source? ›

Python is developed under an OSI-approved open source license, making it freely usable and distributable, even for commercial use.

Is Amazon an open source? ›

Open source at AWS

Since its inception, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been the best place for customers to build and run open source software in the cloud. AWS is proud to support open source projects, foundations, and partners.

Is Facebook an open source? ›

Facebook's most popular open source projects like React, GraphQL, and PyTorch thrive and grow thanks to intensive effort by Facebook Open Source. The Open Source website showcases a handful of its hundreds of tools and libraries.

What are the top 5 social platforms? ›

Global social networks ranked by number of users 2023

Meta Platforms owns four of the biggest social media platforms, all with over one billion monthly active users each: Facebook (core platform), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.

What open source project should I contribute to? ›

Some well-known open source projects include Django, Postgres, MongoDB, Vue, Go, Ruby, TypeScript, Git and so many more. Although the main point of open source projects is to create valuable and accessible open source software, individual contributors can get plenty of personal benefit from contributing to them.

How do you find a good open source project? ›

  1. 10 Platforms to Find Open Source Projects for Beginners.
  2. Open Source Guides. Before starting open source, it's always good to know how to contribute to an open-source project. ...
  3. Up For Grabs. ...
  4. Ovio Projects. ...
  5. CodeTriage. ...
  6. First Contributions. ...
  7. Codetribute. ...
  8. Hacktoberfest Projects.
Jan 12, 2022

Are open source projects profitable? ›

As any experienced programmer makes money online, open-source developers can monetize their work. Also, they can earn enough money to improve their software. With any of the chosen methods, you can gain enough money to develop your software and bring more innovations into the world.

Is Google Chrome an open source software? ›

Unlike Chromium, Chrome is not open-source, so its binaries are licensed as freeware under the Google Chrome Terms of Service.

What are the two types of open source software? ›

Types of open source software
  • Open source office software.
  • Open source accounting software.
  • Open source operating systems.
  • Open source website software.
  • Open source browsers and communication applications.
  • Open source IT security.
  • Images/multi-media.
  • Open source development tools.

What are the disadvantages of open source software? ›

Disadvantages of open source software
  • The difficulty of use - Some open source applications may be tricky to set up and use. ...
  • Compatibility issues - Many types of proprietary hardware need specialised drivers to run open source programs, which are often only available from the equipment manufacturer.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Last Updated: 11/16/2023

Views: 6162

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Birthday: 1998-01-29

Address: Apt. 611 3357 Yong Plain, West Audra, IL 70053

Phone: +5819954278378

Job: Construction Director

Hobby: Embroidery, Creative writing, Shopping, Driving, Stand-up comedy, Coffee roasting, Scrapbooking

Introduction: My name is Dr. Pierre Goyette, I am a enchanting, powerful, jolly, rich, graceful, colorful, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.