Open-source software (OSS) has become an integral part of modern web development. The world of open-source is vast, with thousands of tools and libraries available to developers for free. These tools cater to every aspect of building websites and web applications, right from initializing a project to deploying it.
In this post, we’ll explore some of the most popular OSS used by web developers across categories like frameworks, content management, version control, front-end, back-end, databases, server-side scripting, DevOps, and text editors.
Table of Contents
Web frameworks provide structures and bundles of code to help developers build web applications faster. They take care of the common functionality needed across projects so that developers can focus on the core business logic.
Some of the most used open-source web frameworks are:
- Ruby on Rails – One of the first full-stack frameworks, Rails follows the MVC pattern and uses Ruby as the scripting language. It has an extensive library of tools and an active community. Rails emphasizes convention over configuration and rapid prototyping.
- Django – The leading Python framework ideal for building scalable apps quickly. It enforces rapid development through its “batteries included” philosophy by bundling common tools required for web projects. Django has great documentation and is very beginner-friendly.
- Express.js – A minimal and flexible framework for Node.js. Express promotes modularity by providing a thin layer over Node.js with middleware and routing capabilities. It gives full control over server-side rendering and configurations.
- Laravel – A PHP framework for building scalable applications using elegant syntax. Laravel has an expressive and intuitive templating engine called Blade. It incorporates robust security and follows MVC architectural pattern.
- Spring Boot – Creates stand-alone, production-ready applications using Java. Spring Boot offers autoconfiguration, dependency management, and convention over configuration to get apps up and running quickly. It integrates easily with popular Java EE frameworks.
Comparison of Frameworks
|Ruby on Rails||Ruby||Rapid prototyping, large open source libraries||Startups, MVPs|
|Django||Python||Admin interface, simplicity||Web apps, sites|
|Laravel||PHP||Elegant code, full-stack features||Web apps, websites|
|Spring Boot||Java||Enterprise integration, autoconfiguration||Enterprise apps|
Content Management Systems
Content management systems (CMS) allow you to manage and publish content dynamically without needing to code everything from scratch. They separate content from design for easy editing.
Some widely used open-source CMS options are:
- WordPress – The world’s most popular CMS used by over 43% of all websites. WordPress is built on PHP and MySQL. It has a huge library of themes and plugins. Suitable for blogs, ecommerce stores, and basic websites.
- Joomla – A leading CMS for developing complex websites like magazines, newspapers, and corporates. Joomla is extensible via extensions and templates. It has an intuitive admin interface for managing roles and accessibility.
- Drupal – A flexible and secure CMS with enterprise-level features. Drupal has robust community support and is highly customizable via modules. Used for building social networks, government sites, and portals.
- Ghost – A lightweight blogging platform focused on speed and simplicity. Ghost uses Node.js technology. It offers real-time editing and social sharing options for blog content creation.
Comparison of CMS Software
|WordPress||Ease of use, themes, plugins||Limitations for complex sites||Blogs, basic websites|
|Joomla||Powerful extensions, multi-user||Steep learning curve||News sites, magazines|
|Drupal||Flexible, secure, enterprise-ready||Complex, slow for simple sites||Government, universities|
|Ghost||Fast, minimalist for blogs||Limited features beyond blogging||Personal blogs|
Version Control Systems
Version control systems (VCS) help developers collaborate on code and track changes to projects over time. Open-source VCS tools provide remote repositories to store project files and manage versions.
Prominent options are:
- Git – The most widely used modern VCS. Git is fast, scalable, and distributed. It allows saving multiple versions of code locally as “snapshots”. Developers commit changes and branch off easily for experimentation.
- GitHub – A web-based platform built around Git for hosting code and collaborating with others. GitHub provides access control, issue tracking, documentation, and other tools over a nice UI. Free for public repos.
- GitLab – Offers unlimited private and public repos with fine user access controls. Has a full-fledged web IDE, container registry, and CI/CD pipelines. Available as SaaS and self-hosted options.
- Bitbucket – Code hosting for Git and Mercurial projects. Bitbucket integrates well with Jira issue tracking and Bamboo CI/CD. It offers unlimited private repos for small teams. Larger teams can pay for more advanced capabilities.
Comparison of VCS Platforms
|Git||Fast, distributed version control||Steep learning curve||Local VCS for projects|
|GitHub||Collaborative, user-friendly UI||No private repos in free version||Public open source projects|
|GitLab||Advanced DevOps capabilities||Can be complex to manage||Private projects with CI/CD needs|
|Bitbucket||Unlimited private repos for small teams||Limited features in free version||Private repos for small teams|
Some popular options are:
- React – Created by Facebook, React uses a component-based architecture for building responsive UIs. React is efficient, scalable, and easy to integrate with other libraries.
- Angular – Developed by Google, Angular is a TypeScript-based framework ideal for building SPAs. It provides dependency injection, CRUD functionality, and easy unit testing frameworks out of the box.
- Bootstrap – The leading CSS framework providing responsive layouts, styles, and components. Bootstrap is compatible across devices and browsers making front-end design seamless.
Comparison of Front-end Frameworks
|React||Component architecture, versatile||Steep learning curve||Complex interactive UIs|
|Vue.js||Approachable, incremental adoption||Smaller community than React||Apps needing gradual upgrades|
|Angular||Full-fledged framework, TypeScript||More complex for smaller projects||Enterprise applications|
|Bootstrap||Responsive design, extensive components||Class-based styling can cause conflicts||Quickly prototyping ideas|
While front-end focuses on the UI layer, back-end or server-side development deals with application logic, databases, APIs, security, server configuration, and more.
Some open-source technologies for back-end web development are:
- Flask – A microframework for Python focused on simplicity and flexibility. Flask offers developers full control over configurations and extensibility through its modular structure.
- Phoenix – An Elixir framework built for productivity and maintainability. Phoenix excels at handling real-time communication and concurrent connections with excellent fault-tolerance.
- Spring – Popular Java framework for building enterprise-grade backends. Spring simplifies dependencies injection and configurations through dependency inversion and aspects oriented programming.
Comparison of Back-end Frameworks
|Flask||Python||Simple, flexible, minimalist||Prototyping, small scale backends|
|Phoenix||Elixir||Fault-tolerance, scalability||Real-time apps, CRUD APIs|
|Spring||Java||Robust, enterprise-ready||Transactional apps, enterprise systems|
Databases provide mechanisms for storing, manipulating, and retrieving data. They are a crucial part of full-stack web applications.
Some open-source database options are:
- MySQL – The world’s most popular RDBMS. MySQL is relational, making it great for structured transactional data. It offers vast language support and integrates well with PHP.
- PostgreSQL – A powerful object-relational database management system. PostgreSQL has a strong reputation for reliability, robustness, and correctness.
- MongoDB – The leading NoSQL document-based database. MongoDB offers automatic scaling, indexing, load balancing and other features for Big Data and real-time insights.
Comparison of Database Types
|MySQL||Relational||Robust, simple, popular||Not built for unstructured data||Traditional web apps|
|PostgreSQL||Relational||Reliable, full-featured||Steeper learning curve||High traffic web apps|
|MongoDB||NoSQL document||Flexible schemas, scalable||Loosely structured||Big data, content management|
Server-side scripting involves using programming languages to create web app backends by generating dynamic content.
Some popular open-source server-side languages are:
- PHP – A widely-used scripting language perfectly suited for web development. PHP powers popular CMS platforms like WordPress and Drupal. It integrates easily with HTML and databases.
- Python – A general purpose language great for building scalable and maintainable backends. Python promotes rapid development through its simple yet powerful syntax.
- Ruby – An elegant language with simple syntax leading to natural and easily readable code. Ruby powers frameworks like Ruby on Rails and finds use in a wide range of web apps.
Comparison of Server-side Languages
|PHP||Great for web, integrates with HTML/MySQL||Not suited for large complex apps||WordPress sites, simple backends|
|Python||Rapid development, scalable||Indentation sensitive syntax||Machine learning, web apps|
|Ruby||Beautiful concise syntax||Not great for mobile development||Building prototypes|
DevOps and Deployment
DevOps refers to integrating development and operations teams to improve collaboration and automate software delivery pipelines.
Popular open-source DevOps tools include:
- Docker – Provides OS-level virtualization through containers to run isolated environments for apps. This makes deployment consistent across environments.
- Kubernetes – An orchestration platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of containerized apps across clusters.
- Jenkins – The leading open-source automation server for CI/CD pipelines. Jenkins helps to build, test, and deploy applications securely and efficiently.
- Ansible – A configuration management and automation platform for provisioning infrastructure in a simple declarative way. Ansible uses YAML to define app environments.
Comparison of DevOps Tools
|Docker||Containerization||Consistent environments, microservices||Containers have overheads||Deploying apps across machines|
|Kubernetes||Container orchestration||Auto scaling, operations automation||Complex initial setup||Large scale container management|
|Jenkins||CI/CD workflows||Strong community, extensive plugin ecosystem||Steep learning curve||Automating pipelines in large teams|
|Ansible||Configuration management||Agentless, uses simple YAML||Not suitable for complex tasks||Provisioning and app deployments|
Text Editors & IDEs
While a basic text editor is enough for editing code, developers often use more advanced tools like Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) and code editors. These tools improve productivity by providing helpful features like debugging, code completion, notation, version control integration, extensions, and more.
Some popular open source options are:
- Visual Studio Code – A lightweight yet powerful source code editor. VS Code has a vast extension marketplace and is highly customizable. It offers out-of-the-box support for debugging, version control, and intelligent code completion.
- Atom – A hackable code editor created by GitHub. Atom comes with cross-platform editing, smart autocompletion, and support for plugins to add extra features. Multiple panes and easy debugging aid rapid development.
- Sublime Text – A fast and minimal code editor with slick interface. Sublime Text offers speedy performance, excellent responsiveness, and hassle-free plugin integration. The wide range of customizations suit it for heavy daily use.
Comparison of Code Editors
|Atom||Hackable, well integrated with Git||Slower than competitors||General purpose coding|
|Sublime Text||Lightning fast, minimalist||Need to pay for advanced features||Web development, daily use|
|Eclipse||Extensive plugins, great for Java||Clunky interface||Java development and debugging|
Open-source software plays a fundamental role in modern web development across the full-stack – from initializing projects to deploying them at scale. Developers are blessed with an amazing variety of OSS frameworks, libraries, tools, and technologies across languages and stacks to build high-quality web solutions efficiently.
I hope this guide gave you a broad overview of the popular open-source options available for web development today. The world of open-source evolves rapidly. As a developer, explore different projects, learn their architecture patterns, use the ones that best suit your applications, and even contribute back to the community!