8 Must-Have Open Source Productivity Apps for 2021


Open source technology is increasingly becoming a preferred route for companies embracing digitalization. According to a recent Red Hat report that surveyed 900+ IT leaders — 86%Opens a new window of technology decision makers agree that today’s most innovative companies use open source. Around 95% IT decision makers (ITDMs) believe open source is “strategically important.” Interestingly, you don’t need to be a developer or even have the specialized technical expertise to leverage open source technology. 

In 2021, open source has gone well beyond command-line interfaces (CLI) and complex installations to become more accessible to every user segment. Whether you are a designer or a knowledge worker, a team leader, or an independent sales professional, open source applications can take your productivity game to a whole new level. 

We’ve shortlisted eight open source apps that can be used to up the productivity game in 2021. 

Learn More: 10 Workplace Apps That Grew the Fastest in the Remote Work Era 

1. BeeftextOpens a new window  

Overview – Beeftext is a text snipper replacement app that makes typing easier and faster. You can configure phrases and text combinations using Beeftext and assign it a Combo name. Next time, when you type in the combo name, it is automatically replaced with the intended phrase or textual string. 

Additional features – To maintain security, Beeftext does not store any typing information and doesn’t share any data with a server. 

USP – For knowledge workers using the same typing combination (email signature, custom emoji, code snippet, etc.) multiple times, Beeftext is a major timesaver. 

Further considerations – This works with apps supporting copy/paste functionalities.  

2. Cerebro Opens a new window

Overview – Cerebro is an advanced search tool that can look up anything on your workstation or the internet, letting you interact with files (e.g., opening a file, copy-paste, see Google suggestions, etc.). It also enables you to translate text, search for map locations, and find files from inside the app. 

Additional features – Cerebro’s plugins and API lets you insert more functionalities into this powerful search aid and productivity tool. 

USP – You no longer need to open a browser or a file explorer to look up something, getting distracted from your task. 

Further considerations – It is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.  

3. ExcalidrawOpens a new window  

Overview – Excalidraw is a web app that lets you conduct collaborative whiteboarding sessions. Simply open the app, share the session link with a collaborator, and start drawing or writing down your thoughts to get started – no installation required. It is best suited for freehand drawings and annotations, but you can add PNG and JSON files locally.

Additional features – There is an Excel sheet plugin to create charts from your data, as well as multilingual support. 

USP – It is refreshingly simple to use and requires absolutely zero technical expertise to give you a rich collaboration experience. 

Further considerations – Every session has an encryption key that isn’t shared with the Excalidraw server, ensuring security. 

Learn More: Top 7 Collaborative Online Whiteboard Tools in 2020 

4. MailspringOpens a new window  

Overview – Mailspring is an open source email client that comes with advanced search and translation capabilities. It has various themes to suit your aesthetic preferences and integrates with your existing IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) and Office 365 email accounts. 

Additional features – There is a powerful signature editor that lets you create custom signatures, complete with images and links. You can also set up automation rules to act on a specific type of email without your intervention.

USP – Mailspring is excellent for power users with multiple email accounts, looking to cut down on manual email response/action times. 

Further considerations – Mailspring is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, with the option to upgrade to a Pro edition for $8 a month. 

5. Pile Opens a new window

Overview – As the name suggests, this open source productivity app lets you pile all your work into a single place, including files, apps, and entire folders. You create a board that acts as your resource repository for a project, and inside the board, you can add different hubs for apps/files, random notes, and to-do lists. 

Additional features – A board can be pinned to your desktop for easy access. Pile also supports markdown capabilities, handy if you are a developer. 

USP – Pile’s drag and drop user interface (UI) makes usage a breeze, fitting into your existing workflows. 

Further considerations – It comes in Windows, Linux, and macOS versions, and a portable zip file.

6. Sandstorm Opens a new window

Overview – Sandstorm is a platform where you can perform basic productivity tasks collaborating with others, and host your own web apps. Startups and small IT teams can use Sandstorm as an internal application marketplace with consistent access control. 

Additional features – It comes with a few built-in apps like Rocket Chat for instant messaging, Davros for file storage, Wekan for project management, and Etherpad for document editing. 

USP – Sandstorm containerizes any element you create (e.g., a document, a chatroom, a blog, etc.) in a secure sandbox, keeping them private until it is ready to be shared. 

Further considerations – Sandstorm can be deployed on the cloud or self-hosted servers.

7. Super Productivity Opens a new window

Overview – Super Productivity is a task management application that connects with Jira, GitLab, and GitHub to fetch emails and tickets. There is a timer to track your own productivity, as well as timesheets and full-fledged work summaries to maintain visibility across the team. It also creates monthly logs of productivity efforts. 

Additional features – Super Productivity has features to help you focus, a reminder for regular breaks, and an anti-procrastination page to reduce non-productive hours. 

USP – Super Productivity is a simple task and project management app that fits into both team and independent workflows. 

Further considerations – There is a desktop version downloadable via GitHub, and a web appOpens a new window (no account or registration required).  

8. xLayers Opens a new window

Overview – xLayers is a productivity enabler purpose-built for design teams but can be leveraged in a variety of use cases. Using xLayers, you can import a SketchApp design file, and the tool will automatically convert it into a programming language of your choice to be imported into an application. 

Additional features – xLayers has a 3D viewing mode to inspect the different layers that make up a design element. 

USP – Small companies and startups getting started with application development will find XLayers incredibly useful, thanks to its clean UI, export options, and collaborative viewing mode. 

Further considerations – You cannot directly draw within the app. xLayers is available as a no-installation web application. 

Learn More:  3 Actions Leaders Should Take To Build a More Productive Workforce 

Why Open Source

Despite there being several free apps available in the market, open source still has an edge. Unlike most “free” productivity apps, there is no paywall for premium features, ad-sponsorships features, or data sharing with the company server. Open source productivity apps are backed by a community of developers and users, who only ask that you contribute, if you are able, to help the project progress. There is no fear of lock-in if (or rather when) a seemingly free app decides to monetize. 

These eight applications are easy to deploy and require little to no technical knowledge to get started, solving a wide variety of productivity problems – from effort duplication in typing out repetitive code snippets to manually converting a design to application code. 

Is there another open source productivity app you want to recommend for this list? Comment below or let us  know on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We would love to hear from you!