Watercooler
July 13, 2023
5
min read

The Best 10 Open Source Projects for Developers to Contribute

Luis Minvielle

Open source is cool, can earn you additional cash, will allow you to use cute penguin 🐧 emojis with your Sysadmin friends, will let you wax lyrical on Stack Overflow surveys — and will also help you to learn.  Yes — besides allowing you flex at work, open source software can be a great starting point for most tech stacks out there. Are you interested in further exploring the world of programming? Do you want to collaborate with other developers and make meaningful contributions? The open source way is your way, then.

With so many options out there, we've compiled a list of absorbing open source projects that are perfect for beginners. These projects are not the usual suspects you might find on other lists, and we confirmed you can contribute to these.

Some projects are bigger than others, so some could be in shambles, while others could be very robust choices. Some featured projects are quite popular; you might have read about them before, while others are lower-key. But there’s a constant: even if the projects are high-profile, they still somewhat secretly offer opportunities to either learn, improve, or kick your resume to a higher flight by contributing.

Either way, if you're ready to get on an exciting movement full of learning and collaboration, every and each will work.

How to discover an open source project

If you want to contribute to open source projects but don't know where to start, here's a tip: start with the issues, not the projects. Many project maintainers use labels to indicate which issues suit newcomers or need help. The most common labels are good-first-issue, help-wanted and up-for-grabs. You can search for these labels across different projects, or check if the project you are interested in has any of them. Some websites aggregate projects requiring assistance or even curate easy pickings. If you finally contribute, you’ll probably feel elated, as most social media users tend to share around; there’s nothing like successfully contributing your five cents to a tech daydream.

There are other means to trace hot open source projects that might need your beginner attitude or your old-sailor chops. The following are some of the most popular ones:

  • Browse the most popular and trending repositories on GitHub using GitHub Explore, which is both a landing page and a repo. This is a terrific place to start. Topics, languages, collections, and more may all be filtered. Additionally, you can view the stars and followers of other developers.
  • Check out the awesome-for-begginers repo on GitHub: This wonderfully encompassing repository collects projects that feature tags that are likely to make it friendly for beginners, and also divides each project by programming language or tech. Maybe browsing through the Scala projects might land you some tech enabling you to launch yet another Twitter clone…
  • Search GitHub topics: Using specified topics or phrases, you can also locate repositories using this method. You can search directly or browse by category. Additionally, you can sort by ratings, forks, significance, or updated date. So browse through github.com/topics/frontend if you want to alter web development forever — or just want to learn how to make your portfolio a tidy site.


  • Many companies started out as free-to-play repositories on platforms like GitHub, and they continue to maintain a strong connection with the open source world. To discover open source projects, you can browse through specialised job platforms focused on the tech industry. These platforms typically feature job postings from companies that actively contribute to and rely on open source projects. 

Exploring these job platforms can provide insights into companies that value open source contributions and may offer opportunities to work on exciting projects while contributing to the community. Maybe you can land a job and get your first red-hot open source project with a pay cheque behind it.

The best open source projects for beginners to try in 2023

Now that you know how to find open source projects on GitHub, the web, or anywhere else, we’ll introduce some popular GitHub projects that even novices may contribute to. These initiatives encompass a range of topics and technological platforms and are not included in any particular sequence. We’ll briefly explain each project's purpose, appeal, and participation options.

1. Quivr

Quivr is an open source second brain. Sounds presumptuous, right? Or maybe cataclysmic. Six months ago, this project would’ve brought up rallying outcries like “The Future Travelled Back in Time to Crush Us! The End is Nigh! Androids and Skynet are Taking Over! The Ghosts Are Not Trapped Within Shells No More!” 

But AI is a thing in 2023, and Quivr’s community is working toward turning an AI trapped in a community repo into a file “reader” or interpreter that you can interact with. It aims to interact with unstructured data, including your favourite .docx files with notes from the last Town Hall with the company’s CEO, with AI capabilities to help you store and retrieve information from various sources. So Quivr supports text, images, code snippets and more, and uses AI to generate and suggest relevant content. Quivr is a great way to create your second brain and boost your productivity, which begs the question — why haven’t you deployed it yet?

On top of all this, for a project this complex, Quivr still has multiple issues tagged with the good first issue label. Moreover, many of these holler for a frontend enthusiast to sort things out for once. So, what stack will you help build the internet’s favourite second brain with? Their only prerequisite to contribute seems to have a cute GitHub profile picture — ideally of a harmless kitten.

2. Zod

Zod is a TypeScript-first schema declaration and validation library. The term “schema” doesn’t refer to a plot or scheme; it broadly refers to any data type, from a simple string to a complex nested object. Zod is designed to be as developer-friendly as possible, with the goal of eliminating duplicative type declarations. That’s why some internet users call it a “linter.” With Zod, you declare a validator once, and Zod will automatically infer the static TypeScript type. It’s easy to compose simpler types into complex data structures. Some other great aspects of Zod include zero dependencies, working in Node.js and all modern browsers, and being tiny (8kb — did you bring that floppy disc with you?), among other benefits. It also works with plain JavaScript. Moreover, Zod is a relatively mature project, and as such, most of their open issues are feature requests, which seem to be a good starting point for all-around programmers.


3. Godot

Remember the last time you sent your application to Ubisoft, dreaming about moving to Montréal and developing video games while learning Québécois French by the St. Lawrence River’s waterfront, pointing towards the streets and calling it a “rue”? Of course, back then, you didn’t fulfil the requisite of “at least 25 years developing video games or game-related content” and were left out of the contest, but, hey, everybody fantasises in French once in a while. Fortunately, you still got the Godot card to make your dreams come true. This game engine is famous enough to be named in the same breath as the Unreal Engine — Fortnite rings a bell? — and Unity engines. A C++ project, Godot has plenty of good-first-issue open issues that tackle tasks such as particles, the game editor or documentation. So how about contributing your two cents to the gaming community, so you can then show video game giants what real gaming chops are like? 🎮

4. Linkfree

Linkfree is an open source project that lets you create a personal webpage with links to your social media profiles, websites, blogs, portfolios, and more. (In a parallel universe, it got a T in its name, but it got warped in translation and instead wound up with an F). You can customise your page with themes, colours, fonts, and images. Linkfree is easy to use, fast to load, and free to host. Linkfree is ideal if you want to promote your work, expand your following, or simply share your internet presence. So maybe you can create a great landing page linked through Linkfree and then feature your open source contributions in your CV, in an exercise full of meta references. Linkfree uses Next.js, MongoDB and Tailwind CSS, making it attractive for the full stack crowd.


5. Date-fns ⏳

Date-fns is an open source project that provides a collection of lightweight, pure functions for manipulating JavaScript dates and times. It’s like Lodash for dates, with over 200 functions. It’s built using pure functions and always returns a new date instance. For your convenience, date-fns has plenty of open issues that are easy for beginners and that, hold your breath, actually involve features. Time is pressing, so get on with them now!


6. Deno

Killers have been around for ages: Max Steel had Action Man, Halo 2 had Killzone, and Node.js has Deno, one of the stars of this lot. Deno, a so-called Node.js killer, is an open source project that provides a secure and modern runtime for JavaScript and TypeScript. Deno can be used to create and run web servers, web applications, scripts, and more. It contains a built-in dependency manager, a standard library, and native support for ES modules. It is developed on top of Rust, Tokio, and V8. Presently, Deno has over 500 open issues that are either suggestions or bugs. Why don't you browse through them and start slaying?

7. FastAPI

You can tell that a core team retains their unassuming origins when they have over 50k stars and still haven’t made it to version 1. Such is the case of FastAPI. It is an open source project that provides a high-performance and easy-to-use framework for building web APIs with Python. You can use FastAPI to create RESTful, GraphQL, WebSocket, and other types of web APIs with minimal code and maximum speed. Based on Pydantic and Starlette, FastAPI offers async/await, type annotations, dependency injection, documentation, validation, and testing. It is also quick, expandable, and reliable. FastAPI is the ideal tool whether you want to build a straightforward prototype, a sophisticated microservice, or a whole web application. Browse through their open issues, and before long you’ll ask for an API instead of an IPA at your local brewery.


8. PyTorch

PyTorch is an open source project — often pitted against the also-featured TensorFlow — that provides a flexible and powerful platform for deep learning with Python. You can use PyTorch to build and train neural networks, perform tensor computations, implement dynamic graphs, and leverage a rich ecosystem of tools and libraries. PyTorch is fast, expressive, and easy to debug. We won’t blame you if you’re just starting with Python and didn’t know that the GPU could be used for something other than running first-person shooters at 60 frames per second, but this quite successful project is good for beginners because it has plenty of open issues for starters. So maybe you can get into the maze of neural networks by contributing…


9. TensorFlow

TensorFlow, a tool that continually ranks among the most popular for machine learning, is an end-to-end open source platform for, well, machine learning. It has been quickly adopted, being used by thousands of repos spread around GitHub, and it has a comprehensive, flexible ecosystem of tools, libraries, and community resources that lets researchers push ML, and allows developers to easily build and deploy ML-powered applications. You can learn more about TensorFlow on their GitHub repository and check out their open issues.

This project is not exactly a cloak-and-dagger undertaking, but it’s a hidden gem for a different reason: If you ever wanted to work at FAANG, TensorFlow might be your way to go. This project surfaced in 2015 when it was open-sourced, but it was originally a proprietary, secret technology developed by the headline-gathering lab Google Brain. So maybe it’s time to beef your resume up with some TensorFlow contributions.

10. Nuclear

When Metallica nuked Napster out of everyone’s clanking desktop PCs, they didn’t know they were breeding Nuclear. This hot open source repo belongs to a music streaming software that lifts tracks from free sources. It’s a Spotify of sorts, but without a subscription and a bigger library. If you want to take the internet by storm, follow suit and push frontend gits making these features possible:

  • Use Nuclear with a Winamp skin
  • Use Nuclear with a Kazaa skin
  • Use Nuclear with a LimeWire skin

Besides nostalgic reveries, Nuclear has a great deal of open issues for first-timers, both related to bugs or enhancements. They even have a whole section snarking off the developers who want to contribute but instead come by to express their opposition to Electron. It’s impossible not to love this project, folks.


The Best 10 Open Source Projects for Developers to Contribute

July 13, 2023
5
min read

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