The following is my list of free and open source software to assist web designers and developers with their production process.
Every good website starts off with sitemaps/flowcharts and wire frames A great utility I’ve recently added to the toolbox is Pencil Project , not only does it allow you easily create charts, diagrams, and wire frames, but billed as “An open-source GUI prototyping tool” Pencil Project also allows you to create full blown mock-ups if your heart so desires, with mobile device frames and UI elements from Android and iOS. Pencil project is light weight, easy on the eyes, and available to download for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program commonly known as Gimp is the best Graphic/Photo editing and creation software that money can’t buy. Everyone knows Photoshop is King of the pixel but there may come a time when you don’t have access to Photoshop, or maybe it’s just not in your budget, in these situations Gimp is your go to guy…um program. Gimp operates a lot like Photoshop and can probably be used to preform most if not all of the common tasks you’re using Photoshop for. Gimp is available to download for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS.
XAMPP is an Apache web server distribution. It’s easy to install and comes packaged with MySQL, PHP, Pearl, and many other tools. XAMPP has been my development server of choice for almost as long as I’ve been developing websites, it’s free of charge and available for WIndows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris
NetBeans & Eclipse
NetBeans and Eclipse both are free and open source integrated development environments (IDEs) both support a vast array of plugins and have tools like spell check, framework support, code hinting, debugging, and more. I’ve been using NetBeans for a while now but which one you chose to use will probably boil down to a matter of taste, or a requirement for a particular plugin. Both programs are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, NetBeans is also available for Solaris.
HeidiSQL is a free and open source Windows based MySQL client. Using a Desktop database client can make it very easy to access and work with databases that you use on a regular bases. I like Heidi Because it’s light weight, fast, and has lots of options for importing, and exporting data. Some alternatives to HeidiSQL are MySQL Workbench, and SQLYOG Community Edition.
When editing lots of files and moving them from one location to another or working from various computers and collaborationg with others sometimes you can lose track of which file is the latest version or exactly what changes have been made, that’s when WinMerge comes in handy. WinMerge is an open source differencing and merging program for Windows, it highlights changes and allows you to quickly and easily compare two versions of a file and see the differences and similarities between the two files and push some or all changes to one file or the other.
A basic and very big part of web development is moving files from a development environment/computer to a live hosting server. A common and fast way to move said files from point A to point B is via FTP. A very solid and easy to use FTP client is FileZilla, its free, open source, and available for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
PuTTY & Kitty
Putty and Kitty are SSH clients that allow you the user to connect to a remote shell/command-line and run scripts and execute commands, things that you can’t do with a common ftp/sftp client. Kitty is a fork of Putty and adds a few more features such as automatic password log in, and automatic command execution. Putty and Kitty are available to download for Windows.
Inevitably in the course of developing or maintaining a site, there will come a time when you have to send someone a visual representation of an issue at hand. GreenShot makes quick work of these situations. The program sits in your system tray and goes into action when you hit the print screen button. After the screen shot has been captured it will open in GreenShot’s light weight editor which allows you to crop, add shapes, text, highlights, and obfuscations to your screen shot, GreenShot can also be configured to open your screen shots in an alternate image editor of your choosing if you so desire. GreenShot is free, open source, and available for Windows.
All of the software mentioned above is available for free but the developers do accept donations, a donation which I think is a great investment if you use the developers software on a regular basis. The few dollars they recommend for donations is practically nothing when compared to the prices of similar commercial software.
What programs are in your web development toolbox? Do you know of any Linux or Mac alternatives for the Windows only programs I’ve listed?