30 Useful Open Source Apps for Web Designers

There are plenty of open source applications that can help you tremendously as a web designer. Open source projects are great not only because of their price tag (free), but also because of the passionate community that typically forms around them. In these economic times, it’s often a worthwhile endeavor to see places where you can conserve, and open source alternatives are a good place to start looking.

In this article, you’ll find 30 exceptionally handy open source applications for web designers. There are a variety of tools here that include source code, WYSIWYG, and graphic/image editors, as well as useful software utilities that can improve your task management and production processes.

Source Code and WYSIWYG Editors


KompoZer - screen shot.

KompoZer is a fully-featured web authoring system that has an integrated FTP client, an intuitive tabbed user interface, and support for all major operating systems.

Bluefish Editor

Bluefish Editor - screen shot.

Bluefish Editor is a lightweight, fast editor for web designers and programmers. It has useful wizards for HTML documents, great project management features, and a powerful search-and-replace option for quickly batch-replacing source code.

Quanta Plus

Quanta Plus - screen shot.

Quanta Plus is a robust web development IDE. It’s highly-extensible and is able to run custom scripts. It has an excellent visual CSS editor that has code hints and auto-completion of syntax.


Amaya - screen shot.

Amaya is a free, open source web editor and web browser developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Amaya started as an HTML/CSS editor and has since grown into an editor for many XML-based systems like SVG and MathML.


CSSED - screen shot.

CSSED is a fully-featured GTK-2 based CSS editor that has a plugin system for utmost extensibility; check out some of the available plugins for CSSED.


OPEN BEXI HTML Builder - screen shot.

Open BEXI HTML Builder is a browser-based open source application for creating HTML web pages. It has a CSS color picker built into the interface and a very simple project management option.


NOTEPAD++ - screen shot.

NOTEPAD++ is a very popular open source text editor for Windows. Though not strictly just for web designers, it has an excellent source code editor the supports HTML, XML, CSS, and JavaScript.


jEdit - screen shot.

jEdit is a text editor created for programmers. It can run on Mac, Windows, and Linux and has syntax highlighting for HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript and many other languages.


SeaMonkey, fostered by the Mozilla Foundation, is an "all-in-one" web browser that has a simple yet powerful HTML editor for in-browser source code editing (called SeaMonkey Composer).   

Graphics/Image Editors


GIMP - screen shot.,

GIMP, one of the most popular open source projects currently out on the market, is a feature-packed image editor and graphic design suite. For those who like Photoshop’s interface, check out Gimpshop – an extension that roughly mimics Photoshop’s interface.


Inkscape - screen shot.

Inkscape is the premier open source vector graphics editor (much like its commercial counterparts, Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW).


Krita - screen shot.

Krita is a painting and image-editing software application for KOffice.


Karbon14 - screen shot.

Karbon14 is a scalable vector-based drawing application that’s part of the KOffice project.


Kivio - screen shot.

As a web designer, you’ll often need to storyboard and prototype your designs or create flowcharts for navigation schemes; Kivio is an excellent diagramming/flowchart editor to help you boost your prototypes, wireframes, flowcharts, and diagrams.


Dia - screen shot.

Dia is another wonderful diagramming tool to help you draw diagrams and flowcharts.


Skencil - screen shot.

Skencil is a vector drawing application that’s great for illustrations and diagrams. You can save your compositions in EPS format – a format recognized by most vector-editing applications.

OpenOffice Draw

OpenOffice Draw - screen shot.

OpenOffice Draw is a simple yet powerful drawing/diagramming utility that’s part of OpenOffice software suite.


mtPaint - screen shot.

mtPaint is a simple painting utility developed by Mark Tyler (mt); it is perfect for simple painting and editing.


FontForge - screen shot.

If you ever need to edit fonts for your designs you may want to check out FontForge, a handy, open source font editor.


ImageMagick is a robust image-editing suite that lets you compose images in bitmap-based formats. It can open and save in over a hundred formats, including popular web formats such as GIF, JPG, SVG, and PDF.


GraphicsMagick is fondly referred to as the "Swiss army knife of image processing" by its core developers. It supports many image formats; you can view a list of them here.

Helpful Utilities


HTML TIDY is a free, open source utility for fixing and optimizing HTML syntax.


Cyberduck - screen shot.

Cyberduck is an excellent open source FTP client for the Mac OS. Its built-in support for Mosso Cloud files and its built-in Amazon S3 browser makes it a top-notch app for web designers and web application developers.


FileZilla - screen shot.

FileZilla is typically thought of as the most popular open source FTP client. It is cross-platform compatible (available for Linux, Mac, and Windows operating systems) and has the ability to transfer files through numerous protocols.


WinSCP - screen shot.

WinSCP is a Windows-only (S)FTP client for local to remote file transfers. It has a simple file manager to help you navigate and organize your files.


CamStudio - screen shot.

There may come a time when your client/project leader will ask you to design a computer simulation (such as an activity in an e-course or a tour of a website’s services). If you ever need a screen-capturing app, look no further than CamStudio, a fully-featured open source, screen-capturing tool.


Greenshot - screen shot.

Web designers often need to take screenshots; usually for documentation and for in-browser design presentations. Greenshot is a wonderful and robust screenshot application that’s free and open source.


ZScreen - screen shot.

ZScreen is an exceptionally useful open source screen-grabbing utility that can take full-screen, viewable area, and just certain regions of the items in your monitor. You can set it up to automatically FTP screenshots; a helpful function for easily sharing and archiving your images.


Xournal - screen shot.

Xournal is a simple note-taking/sketching utility that lets you use your tablet as an input device. It works similarly to Windows Journal.


Firebug - screen shot.

Firebug is an extremely useful and versatile web page debugging tool. You can use it to learn and explore your HTML and CSS markup.


Gallery - screen shot.

With Gallery, you can take greater command of your image repository. Gallery is a web-based image gallery that you can use to store, organize, and access image assets online.

Share experiences about your favorite apps

If your favorite open source application isn’t on the list or if you have thoughts and opinions on the ones above – we’d love to hear it – please share it with all of us in the comments.

Related content

This was published on Jan 25, 2009


Bill Lowden Jan 25 2009

Great post! I see several gems I will be checking out. Thanks.

Webmasterish Jan 26 2009

Open source rocks!

Gimper Jan 26 2009

Great lis, although i wouldn’t suggest anyone to use GIMPSHOP since it’s a dead project hasn’t been updated in ages.. a new active GIMP with photoshop like menus and UI is GIMPHOTO

desizntech Jan 26 2009

Nice article… I almost have the same kind of opensource focused article here too //

But this is one more detailed.. Good Work!!

Web Designer Jan 26 2009

Great list of apps. There’s many new one’s I haven’t seen yet. Thanks!

Roshan Bhattarai Jan 26 2009

I was wondering is there some editor which give the design functionality of Dreamweaver and code completion functionality of bluefish….

simply great!! thnx for this fabulous list!

Siraf Jan 26 2009

For open-source text-editing, I’ve always loved geany. (

Ordinary Gui Jan 26 2009

Netbeans 6.5 from Sun for PHP, XHTML, CSS Development (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X). Screengrab (Firefox extension) for screenshots.

Michael Jan 26 2009

Thanks. Great article.

Although I know and frequently use some of them (Bluefish, Notepad++, GIMP and FireBug among others), there are new and interesting things here that requires further investigation later.

Since you already mention FTP-stuff, I think the FireFTP-plugin for FireFox is a great, great alternative for a “real” FTP-client (

I love FileZilla, glad you listed it.

Might I also suggest Programmer’s Notepad for CSS + HTML + PHP + etc. I love it and use it for everything:

Only works on Windows, though, I believe.

stefan Jan 26 2009

I am really missing some applications. Without them I couldn’t do my job as a web designer/developer properly.

Suberversion, Ant, KeePass, Eclipse, Firefox WebDeveloper Extension

Matteo Jan 26 2009

Komodo edit is an exceptional opensource/multiplatform editor. Give it a try.

I highly recommend Cyberduck, much more stable than Transmit and Filezilla on the MAC

Online hry Jan 26 2009

One more tip – – great editor

John Coonen Jan 26 2009

Excellent work on putting this together. Very helpful. It’d be great to see a few OS CMSs in here like Joomla, Drupal, Typo3 – all great choices, depending on one’s aptitude technically.

Thank you again for putting this together Jacob!

John Coonen
CMS Expo

Interesting list; I see a few that are absolutely awesome (Gimp & Inkscape FTW). By the way, it would be cool to see any open source apps that can substitute for flash. I’d be eager to try them.

AntonioCS Jan 26 2009

Nice list.
I think you should explain some of the items on your list a little better. Firebug is not an application but a Firefox plug in.
I am sure there are other “apps” that are not really “apps”, but firebug is the one that really stood out for me.

montreal web design Jan 26 2009

I would also recommend using “freemind” for brainstorming and creating a basic site map.

Forgot to add Aptana.

Jimmy Jan 26 2009

@Roshan Bhattarai

check out aptana studio Jan 26 2009

Great post several of these are new to me

ahmet alp balkan Jan 26 2009

Check out Eclipse or Aptana!

Kurt Avish Jan 26 2009

Wonderful list. I am already having a look at some. Thanks fr sharing.

Don’t forget Smultron for text/code editing on the Mac…

PM Hut Jan 26 2009

It would have been nice if you added collaboration tools. A lot of web designers also do a sort of Project Management, so that would have been extremely helpful.

Matthew Holloway Jan 26 2009

Glazman has been working on a new version of Nvu/KompoZer for ages now, and making good progress:

Samir Jan 27 2009

Great list! I myself am a web designer (and designer in general) with a completely open source workflow, so I was glad to see many of my favourites here. Also very glad to discover many apps I didn’t know about.

From my experience there are some others that deserve a place here:


Yes, it’s meant for print work, and that is how I mainly use it, but it is the best out there for editing and creating complex PDF files. Can also create PDF forms so a must for the more adventurous web designer.


Make 3D stills, animations, and can even be used to do some more complex image manipulations with its excellent node compositing system. Invaluable once you get the hang of it.

GhostScript and GhostView

More PDF goodness and the hidden workhorse behind some of the PDF capabilities of many, including GIMP, Inkscape, and Scribus.


Most think of this as just a media player, but dig below the surface and you’ll find a powerful media conversion tool. Convert between various video formats to put your video files on the web.


This is one I haven’t played with much but it is a powerful 2D animation suite. It can do simple frame-by-frame animation as well as more complex calculated stuff with vector filters and other complexities. Worth a look.


Want something simpler for 2D animation? Try this one. Let loose on this with a graphics tablet and you’re bound to come up with some fun animated doodles. It can even export to Flash.

I’m sure there are many more I’ve missed, including some I use on a regular basis. It’s difficult to itemize things on demand when they have become second nature.

Thanks again for the useful list.


Mukesh Jan 27 2009

This is a great list…Very useful for the designers. Thanks a lot.

alika Jan 27 2009

check out aptana studio.

Ashish Jan 27 2009

Great List !

Marielle Jan 27 2009

Check out Total Commander–for batch file operations from your cpu to ftp it’s awesome! It does a ton of other stuff but that’s one of my favorites. You can donate to the guy that made it, but it’s shareware with no limitations.

Marielle Jan 27 2009

Btw, thanks for the great list, as always, Jacob!!!!

Jacob Gube Jan 27 2009

Hi everyone, thanks for all of the input! I think if people don’t read the comments, they’re really missing out – I mean it, I thank everyone here who’ve taken the time to leave a comment and for making these articles more informative and comprehensive.

@Gimper: Good tip on GimPhoto, thanks for sharing that here.

@Roshan Bhattarai: Dreamweaver is sort of tough to beat, it’s one of the few non open-source applications I use. If you guys have a suggestion for Roshan, help him out.

@John Coonen: I guess I was thinking more about production tools really, and I felt that CMS/Publishing Platforms are out of that scope, otherwise this would be a very, very long list.

@Marielle: Thanks for your kind compliment, glad you found this post to be useful!

I’m a big fan on WinSCP

MikeMoreno Jan 27 2009

Many thanks as well! I would like to add to the list a screen capture program I like to use, it’s called MWSnap, it has all the features you might expect from a screen grab program as well as some nifty tools like a zoom tool, a ruler, color picker and a window info tool. It can be also used as a fast picture viewer or converter and you can run it from any portable device, check it out at:

And if you can, donate as well. Cheers!

newport web design Jan 27 2009

On Kubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid) / KDE4.2 I use Krusader for managing multiple servers, file tree comparison, visual file diffs, archive making, etc..

Also web developer FF extension is priceless.

Recently came across FontMatrix which is a very good font manager, useful for choosing fonts when preparing graphics.

Surely Mark Tyler must be your mate?? What exactly do you use that app for?

Bernard Jan 28 2009

Thank you very much. As always your posts are very usefull. Go on and “courage” !

Mark Sanborn Jan 28 2009

When developing on a Nix box I have to have: Vim and SSH.

Farid Hadi Jan 29 2009

Nice list Jacob. I’ll be checking a few of these apps out. Thanks.

Great list & great comment.
For font manager I use NexusFont2 (, free, windows only.

alika Feb 02 2009

Great list! I myself am a web designer (and designer in general) with a completely open source workflow, so I was glad to see many of my favourites here. Also very glad to discover many apps I didn’t know about..

suspicious minds Feb 07 2009

What the hell!?

I hope you know this guy Jacob, or else you are being ripped off!

Rokurosv Feb 07 2009

Another open source illustrator program is sk1, it’s very powerful and easy to use.

Jacob Gube Feb 08 2009

@suspicious minds: Nope, I don’t know the owner of that site; you’re right, I’m being ripped off.

Lauren Feb 09 2009

great list. Thanks for taking the time to put it all down for us!

Banago Feb 09 2009

I use Bluefish. It is great, especially for css.

jbrown Feb 11 2009

Awesome as usual. The comments are just as good as the article itself. Here is a cool web based util and I use it alot. It will convert any file type into just about any other file type you can imagine. It could probably turn a document into a mp3. ;)

Miguel Feb 15 2009

Hey, thanks for sharing. I’ve never heard of Xournal before? I’m looking for a blog editor for a mac? any suggestions?


Bob Lawrence Feb 17 2009

Thanks for this terrific list. I knew of (use) a number of these, but wasn’t aware of most. In fact, I have a need right now to storyboard a project. Looks like Kivio or Dia will come in handy. Thanks again!

Bob Law

india Feb 22 2009

awesome list guys …. you and smashingmagazine guys simply rock…..keep it up

Seriously missing..

Web Developer Toolbar:



Jacob Gube Mar 01 2009

@Ric: Web Developer and Paint.NET is free, but but not open source.

Duyet Mar 04 2009

Nice list.

As sometimes one needs to verify stuff in IE, you can use Firebug Lite on other browser @

Also IETester is a nice tool for testing all version of IE @

Majella Apr 29 2009

Fantastic list, I am just starting out on web design and feel lucky to have found this site

Cesar Noel Jun 11 2009

Nice list most of this I use on my Ubuntu Laptop

Eebrah Jun 12 2009

Great list. I tend to stick to firebug, screengrab, and yslow for “what if?” analysis and screenshots because they can be used across platforms.
I use notepad++ on windows and late on linux to type the actual code. Has worked well but i’m looking forward to trying out the apps on your list and those suggested in the coments in trying to improve my workflow. I’m a recovering macrodobe addict trying to get back to basics :-)

Just Fantastic! I am sending this link out to many people!

webguy303 Jul 19 2009

Wow – nice list of stuff! I saw a few of my favorites in there but there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t heard of that I’ll now for sure spend a few hours distracted :)

David King Aug 11 2009

Brilliant! I’ve tried the vast majority of them and believe anyone will find a nice setup using this list, I’m a: FireFTP, FireBug, GIMP, Inkscape, Blender, gEdit kinda guy!

S. Emerson Aug 15 2009

Great list of open source applications for web design!

I have used:

Ashely Adams Sep 11 2009

Hey there……..a great collection once again. I can see some gems here that I would like to check out. Thanks :)

Sasha Dec 19 2009

I think Selenium web site testing framework should among the first 3 in this least, here is a short introductory article –

Great list, Kivio is very useful. Thanks.

OMG, Amaya is utter bollocks. I’ve been a paid web developer for 2 years (amateur for many more) and I’ve mainly used Dreamweaver! I had to use Amaya for a module on my Degree course, I was horrified at how poor it was at generating valid code.

Bunnymon Oct 31 2010

Thanks.. very useful information

sohan dhande Nov 16 2010

very much informative post. Though a little technical, but simple enough to understand.
Out of these few tools, I already use GIMP.. its amazing & easy…

This was very well put 2gethr, eclipse is also a great tool for programmers!

Hudzaifah Aug 02 2011

important information. continue to share! thank you very much.

Christian Esperar Sep 10 2011

Nice list! I also used open source software because of its flexibility and simplicity. Why Geany is not included?

Prathap Sep 19 2011

Great list :-), Aptana is also a great choice.

aegin santoso Oct 03 2011

Nice posting,,, thanks very much…

micky Nov 09 2011

Hi. This looks great. (Is this list still current?) What do you recommend for an artist that wants to put their art on line and maintain it themselves? I am pretty techno savy, just want something that makes it easy to browse images with thumbnails linking to the larger images. Is this list still current?

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