Build It! Must-Have Open Source Development Tools

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 23, 2014

These days, there is big demand for strong web and application development skills in the job market. The good news is that there are many  open source tools to help you with your web project or application, and given the costs of proprietary development environments, they can save you a lot of money. Here are many good examples of development tools and tutorials, with some unsung choices that you may not have considered.

Of course, one of the most beloved tools for web developers is the Firebug extension for Firefox. If you're deep into development for the web, you probably already use it. With Firebug, experimenting with CSS changes no longer requires that you reload a page dozens of times; using Firebug, you can dynamically edit an HTML element's styling, looking at the effects as you change each variable value. Firebug's JavaScript console also makes it easy to work with JavaScript interactively.

Dragonfly is an open source (under a BSD license) suite of tools for developers from the folks at Opera. Dragonfly is built to support remote debugging on many types of machines and devices and has a lot of useful tools. We covered it in its alpha version here, and it's made much progress since then.

There are a number of excellent sites where you can get tutorials on open source web development topics. DevShed is a great one, with multi-chapter tutorials on everything from Python, to PHP to Tomcat performance tuning. W3Schools is an excellent site for learning everything from CSS to AJAX to PHP, and it lets you see how your published attempts will look online. Plus, don't miss OpenSourceCMS if you'd like to try open source content management systems such as Drupal and Joomla for free.

Ruby On Rails has emerged as a giant hit with web developers, and one of the best places to find open source Rails applications is Open Source Rails. There are free starter kits there for everything from launching a blog to starting a wiki, and much more.

Are you in need of a web site design? we have covered Open Source Designs, which provides thousands of web site designs, with the majority of them XHTML/CSS-based. This looks like an awesome way to get a site going with a good theme, look and platform to build on. I

Most web development environments cater especially to developers who favor certain languages and environments. Kompozer, seen at left, is a huge favorite with developers who are into CSS (cascading style sheets). Kompozer's rendering engine uses Gecko, the same layout engine in Mozilla's Firefox. It stands out for its very easy-to-use CSS editor, and strong WYSIWYG features. You also don't have to be very experienced with HTML or other web development langauges to use Kompozer. Windows, Mac and Linux users can get going with it.

Piwik, at left, is open source web analytics software, and I've written once before about it--highly recommended. When it comes to doing web analytics, it's beneficial to get as many views of your data as possible, so you can use Piwik in conjunction with a tool like Google Analytics or on its own.

Piwik's features are built inside plug-ins, and a community of developers contributes interesting plug-ins. It also has a very customizable interface where you can drag and drop site metrics widgets you would like to keep an eye on onto web pages.

Quanta Plus is a very rich, open source web development environment, especially popular with those who concentrate on PHP for building sites and applications. It does a good job of letting you work with multiple pages at once, and has very complete PHP debugging.

Hopefully, this collection tools holds some that are of interest to you. The good news is that everything here is available for free.