11 mins read

12 Best Open Source Software to Try in 2021

Open source software feels like an anomaly in today’s corporate technology world. The idea that a community of developers is happy to work on a piece of software, usually for no money, for literally years seems ridiculous and speaks to the passion people have for making technology for the benefit of all. Open source developers, we salute you!

So, to honor these tireless workers who quietly make our daily computing experiences so much better, we’ve decided to write a cross-platform list of what we consider the best open source software you can get in 2021.

Keep in mind that there are tons of open source software out there, and we can’t cover them all. That being said, this is what we think is best for the end user. However, opinions may differ.

1. Brave Browser

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android

In a world where it seems like web browsing is increasingly becoming synonymous with just a couple of select browsers (but primarily Google Chrome), bringing a new player to the market is, appropriately, a brave move. See what we did there?

Brave Browser does things a little differently to other browsers, however, with a particular focus on privacy through ad blocking and website tracking. It uses a unique revenue system on something called Basic Attention Tokens, giving users a 70 percent share of the revenue generated from watching ads, either by gifting their earnings to their favorite websites or even converting this cryptocurrency into money. real fiduciary.

Crucially, the browser itself is very fast and easy to use as it is based on the open source Chromium browser. It still lags behind the big players when it comes to extension support, but given its strong acceptance, we expect it to improve over time.

2. LibreOffice

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

The king of open source office platforms is still going strong. After all these years, LibreOffice is receiving update after update that makes it not only the best open source option, but one of the best office suits.

With its traditional interface and a wealth of software including equivalents of Microsoft Word, Excel, Publisher, Powerpoint and Access, this is probably the most useful free open source package you’ll find.

LibreOffice has excellent support for a myriad of formats, from Microsoft’s proprietary formats to the more obscure ones, and is constantly evolving (one of my favorite little additions last year was the inclusion of a dynamic word count at the bottom from the screen).

The next step we’re really hoping for is some kind of cloud storage!

3. Krita

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

For the creatives (the Kritatives?), this is possibly one of the best kept secrets on the Internet. Which is strange, because it’s free and open source! Krita is a wonderfully deep digital painting and graphics editing tool that’s great for both those trying their hand at digital art and complete professionals.

It uses a layer-based system and, despite its complexity, has a very accessible user interface and places a much lower load on the system than, for example, Photoshop.

From broad strokes to fine details like color management, Krita is such a robust tool that you’ll be surprised how it’s offered for free.

4. Notepad++

Platforms: windows

Experienced PC users will never need to hear again why Notepad++ is so useful. It’s a brilliant tool for programmers, with all the expected features such as syntax highlighting, multiple markup languages, and one of the cleanest interfaces out there.

For gamers who like to tinker with their games’ .ini files to improve graphics and performance, it’s impossible to go back to Notepad after this, because Notepad++ automatically organizes all data into clearly numbered rows.

It also has a great tab system, which allows you to work on multiple files at once and remembers which tabs you had open, so you can pick up where you left off even after restarting your PC.

5. Test Disc and PhotoRec

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Data recovery doesn’t get colder, more clinical or more efficient than this. Test Drive looks much the same today as it did when it was first released over twenty years ago, and it remains one of the best tools for recovering entire partitions of lost or deleted data in various formats. FotoRec does the same job but focuses on recovering photos and similar digital media.

Both tools operate from a command-line interface, which may be off-putting for those who prefer a more user-friendly look and feel. But the file system support here is very impressive, and once you learn which commands do what, this pair is still one of the most efficient options for data recovery.

6. stud.io

Platforms: Windows Mac

Most of the best open source software has had years to refine, so we’ve made an effort to look for some newer tools that have also made waves. One of our favorites is the LEGO building software studio. It’s incredibly intuitive and will allow you to build digital models from your wildest imaginations right away.

One of its best features is that you can track where to buy all the bricks you used in your virtual model in real life, linking you to the stores that sell them and allowing you to order them immediately.


Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Still going strong after all these years, CAÑUTILLO has firmly established itself as the most viable free alternative to Adobe Photoshop you’ll ever need. Its user interface makes no secret of its Photoshop debts, and every one of its rich features—layers, curvature pens, masking controls, you name it—is pretty much where you’d find it in Photoshop.

In 2018, GIMP was tastefully updated with a new dark theme and customization was added with icon sizes that make it easier to adapt to HiDPI displays. Crucially, it now takes advantage of modern technology such as multi-threading, high bit depth support and GPU-side processing for those with graphics power.

8. Diameter

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Five years isn’t a long time in open source terms, but in that time Diameter has established itself as one of the best free alternatives you can get to the expensive Microsoft Visio suite (see our full list here). Diagramming software includes a wide variety of native shapes that allow you to create all types of diagrams, from flowcharts to network architectures.

Dia may not have evolved much in the last two years, but it’s still such a valuable package that it’s hard to fault it.

9. Search all

Platforms: windows

Windows’ built-in search function is not enough. It never has and perhaps never will. But that’s okay because the brave developers at voidtools have done something that the presumably very well-paid group at Microsoft couldn’t: create an incredibly efficient search tool that can find absolutely anything on your PC in seconds.

It builds a database on your first search, indexing everything so it’s accessible in the future, then filters the results as you type your search query. You can add multiple conditions to your searches and view results in thumbnails, etc., but for most searches you can simply type your query as soon as you open the tool, making it almost as instantaneous as Windows Search.

10. BleachBit

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

The open source answer to Piriform’s CCleaner, BleachBit strips away the fancy interfaces and pretty colors of similar system cleanup software, focusing instead on doing the job it needs to do: highlighting clunky files, dodgy registry keys, and harmful amounts of cookies on your PC, and clean them up for you. It also deletes/updates system files like core dump, various logs, and Prefetch caches to give your PC a fresh start under the hood (without deleting your personal data and files, of course).

BleachBit isn’t always clear on what exactly it’s cleaning when you check those options on the left, but it has other advantages, such as letting you know when certain cleaning processes may take longer. Overall, it’s probably the best open source system cleaner you’ll find.

11. Retroarc

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android

The great open source giant of video game emulation, Retroarco is an almost unfathomably ambitious hive company. It contains tons of emulators for all the most popular consoles as “cores”, which are adapted to download, update and work within the software. In many cases, the best emulators for a given console are the cores you’ll find on Retroarch (like the PS1 Beetle PSX HW core).

Retroarch is much more complicated than any emulator you’ve used before, but take a little time to get used to it and see that it’s the best too.

For more details on Retroarch, check out our guide on how to set up Retroarch to play PS1 games and how to set up Retroarch on Android.


Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Nginx has been around for quite a while, but the hard work put in means that it now feels like the most modern server software out there. It’s easy to set up and makes the sometimes frustrating task of creating a reverse proxy easier than its rivals. The way it manages work processes means it can handle a large number of connections at high and constant speeds.

Nginx still lags a little behind established software like Apache in terms of compatibility and support, but more and more people are using these two software at the same time, getting the best of both.

We know there’s a lot of great open source software that probably deserves to be here, and we’ll update this list from time to time to discuss the value of those additions. Do you think we missed a vital piece of open source software? Make your case in the comments!

Image credit: Reading the word opensource on the computer screen with a magnifying glass by DepositPhotos

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