Hi all! We are finishing our series of articles on the best open source projects for web development. If you haven’t seen our past articles about Vue, React, Angular, Node.js – they’re strongly recommended.

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Here’s what this last one is about: projects we included in our collection, criteria we grouped them by, and how to choose an open source project in order to make a contribution to it.

Note that under open source projects we assume the following:

  • Node.js frameworks;
  • Tools which can be used in Node.js;
  • Node.js server applications;
  • Fullstack applications (Vue, React, Angular etc. on the front-end and Node.js on backend) which use Node.js on the server side

What is Node.js?

Node.js is a cross-platform, open source runtime environment for executing JavaScript code outside of the browser. It is event-driven and works on a non-blocking I/O model, making it lightweight and efficient for building web applications. Node.js is just another way to run code on your computer, being just the environment for running JavaScript.

With Node.js, you can run your code simultaneously on both the client and the server side, speeding up the whole process of development. Node.js’ rising popularity has also produced a wave of open source projects and tools to help developers work with the environment.

Pros and Cons of Node.js

Pros

  • Uses JavaScript, which is easy to learn;
  • Shares the same codebase with both server and client side;
  • It has seamless JSON support;
  • Node.js has active community, with lots of code examples.

Cons

  • It is very to hard to deal with relational databases when you use Node.js;
  • Callback hell;
  • Performance bottlenecks with heavy computation tasks.

Reasons to use Node.js in projects

  • You can build very fast useful tools like chats, fileuploads etc;
  • Non-blocking code. This approach helps the application not to pause or sleep, but to become available for other requests;
  • Fast processing. Node uses V8 JavaScript Runtime engine, the one which Google Chrome uses, and – believe us – it is very fast;
  • One environment; 
  • A great number of tools that can help in everyday development – CMS, chats, spreadsheets, form validation and other libraries;
  • Larger community that can provide support for free or on a commercial basis.

How to choose an open-source project to contribute to

Number of github stars and npm downloads

This is the most valuable criteria (joking!). Obviously, just because the repo is popular/widely used, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be useful to contribute. Still a good sign, though.

Documentation

Documentation is probably one of the most important things to look for when you’re assessing a project. Docs are like entry points to the project.

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Good documentation will usually include:

  • A README.md file in the root of the project. This should have the public API/functions listed, as well as what they do and how to use;
  • Examples in the documentation or a separate folder containing multiple examples;
  • Contribution guide;
  • FAQ.

Recent development and open issues

You should look at the recent issues and bugs, how they’re organized. By checking these items you can know if the project is still maintained. If it’s not, you may run into the issue of some things not working that may affect your understanding of how the project works.

On the other side, if a project has a lot of open issues, don’t disqualify it: these might be questions from users, ideas or non-critical bugs.

Tests

Having a test would be a great addition to good docs and good code structure.

Structure/Code organization

How well the code is organized shows the quality of the project. See the name of the folders, comments and index.js file.

Other criterias

  • Project size;
  • The project needs to be something you use;
  • Something you’re interested in learning;
  • Something that your team does use.

Best node.js open source projects

We tried to select the projects along several lines:

  • more than 5,000 github stars;
  • solving one specific problem very well;
  • being super useful in developing web and mobile applications.

SheetJS

Web-site:https://sheetjs.com/
Github page: https://github.com/SheetJS/sheetjs
Demo: https://sheetjs.com/demo
License: Apache License 2.0
Github stars: 21.7k
Contribution guideline: Yes

SheetJS logo

SheetJS is a node.js library that lets you manipulate spreadsheets in Excel format. It lets you do lots of things with Excel, such as creating exporting workbooks from scratch and converting HTML tables, arrays or JSON into downloadable xlsx files. There are two versions of this tool – Community and Pro, which has extended features. The library has a large community, extensive documentation and well documented contributing guide. Overall it is a dream library: being good for just one thing, it works really amazing. Please consider it for contributing.

Cytoscape.js

Web-site:https://js.cytoscape.org/
Github page: https://github.com/cytoscape/cytoscape.js
Demo: https://js.cytoscape.org/#demos
License: Private license
Github stars: 6.8k
Contribution guideline: Yes

Cytoscape.js screenshot

Cytoscape.js is an open-source graph theory library written in JS. You can use Cytoscape.js for graph analysis and visualization.

It allows you to easily display and manipulate rich, interactive graphs. Cytoscape.js includes all the gestures out-of-the-box, including pinch-to-zoom, box selection, panning, and more.

Cytoscape.js also has a graph analysis. The library contains many useful functions in graph theory. You can use Cytoscape.js headlessly on Node.js to do graph analysis in the terminal or on a web server.

The project is good for the people who are interested in science and data. It has great docs, contribution guide and a roadmap.

PDFkit

Web-site:http://pdfkit.org/
Github page: https://github.com/foliojs/pdfkit
Demo: http://pdfkit.org/demo/browser.html
License: MIT
Github stars: 6.3k
Contribution guideline: No

PDFKit screenshot

PDFkit is a super useful PDF generation library for nodes that help to create and download complex PDFs. The library supports font embedding, text, vector graphics, annotations and other features.

However, the project does not have the contribution guideline and extensive documentation, making you guess how to contribute to it.

ESlint

Web-site:https://eslint.org/
Github page: https://github.com/eslint/eslint
Demo: https://eslint.org/demo
License: MIT
Github stars: 16.7k
Contribution guideline: Yes

ESlint logo

ESLint is a linting tool for coding, which means it performs a static analysis of the code and finds errors, patterns and lines not fitting conventional style guidelines. This adds an extra level of checking that the code works before executing it. ESLint comes with a default set of rules, but you can change them however and whenever you want. Such big names as Facebook, Netflix, Atlassian, Zendesk, Box, and PayPal – all use ESLint.

This tool is essential for web developers: it helps to fix issues even before they happen. The project has extensive documentation, contributing guide, as well as huge community and even sponsors interested in the development of this useful tool.

Axios

Web-site:
Github page: https://github.com/axios/axios
Demo:
License: MIT
Github stars: 74.9k
Contribution guideline: MIT

Axios screenshot

Axios is one of the most popular projects on Github that uses node.js. It is a Promise-based HTTP client for the browser and node.js. It can help you do all of these things:

  • Make XMLHttpRequests from the browser
  • Make http requests from node.js
  • Supports the Promise API
  • Intercept request and response
  • Transform request and response data
  • Cancel requests

Express.js

Web-site:https://expressjs.com/
Github page: https://github.com/expressjs/express
Demo:
License: MIT
Github stars: 49.2k
Contribution guideline: Yes

Express node.js logo

This is one of the trending modular open source projects on Node.js. Express offers tremendous value since it makes HTTP requests efficient even when you are working with JavaScript, an out-of-browser and server-side language. Also, Express is a non-opinionated framework.

Express is helpful with fulfilling the tasks related to app security and speed.

It is very often associated with the MEAN (MongoDB, Express, Angular, Node.js) stack used to build web applications.As a part of the MEAN.io framework stack, Express.js is also the optimal choice for building enterprise-size applications.

Notable features:

  • URL-based routing mechanism using the HTTP methods;
  • Various plugins and extensions support;
  • Easy database integration.

The tool has a very robust website with a lot of examples. Documentation is translated into several languages. Additionally, the community is strong and ready to help. A good choice to contribute to, if you’re an experienced developer.

Socket.io

Web-site:https://socket.io/
Github page: https://github.com/socketio/socket.io
Demo:
License: MIT
Github stars: 50.1k
Contribution guideline: No

Socket.io logo

Socket.IO enables real-time, bi-directional and event-based communication.

It works on every platform, browser or device, focusing equally on reliability and speed. A popular way to demonstrate the two-way communication Socket.IO provides is a basic chat app. With sockets, when the server receives a new message, it will send it to the client and notify them, bypassing the need to send requests between client and server.

Notable features:

  • Real-time analytics;
  • Binary streaming;
  • Instant messaging and chat;
  • Document collaboration (like in G Docs).

Date-fns

Web-site:https://date-fns.org/
Github page: https://github.com/date-fns/date-fns
Demo:
License: MIT
Github stars: 22.8k
Contribution guideline: Yes

date-fns logo

Date-fns provides the most comprehensive, yet simple and consistent toolset for manipulating JavaScript dates in a browser & Node.js. It works well with modern module bundlers such as webpack, Browserify, or Rollup. Date-fns is built using pure functions and always returns a new date instance instead of changing the passed one. With the support of an amazing community, date-fns has dozens of locales.

Every function has a detailed description with examples. The documentation is accessible both online (at the website) and offline thanks to JSDoc annotations. Also the community is really, really strong and supportive. It is totally worth investing your time in development of this tiny but helpful library.

Strapi

Web-site:https://strapi.io/
Github page: https://github.com/strapi/strapi
Demo: https://strapi.io/demo
License: MIT
Github stars: 27k
Contribution guideline: Yes

Strapi screenshot

Strapi is an open-source headless content management system (CMS). It is a backend-only system that functions using RESTful APIs.

Strapi’s goal is to fetch and deliver your content in a structured manner across any device.

It provides a lot of features, including file upload, a built-in email system, JSON Web Token (JWT) authentication and auto-generated documentation.

In addition, the content structure built through Strapi is extremely flexible: you can create and reuse groups of content and customizable APIs.

Nest

Web-site:https://nestjs.com/
Github page: https://github.com/nestjs/nest
Demo:
License: MIT
Github stars: 28.4k
Contribution guideline: Yes

Nestjs screenshot

Nest is a progressive Node.js framework for building efficient, reliable and scalable server-side applications. It uses TypeScript, combining elements of Object Oriented Programming and Functional Programming. Under the hood, Nest uses Express, but also provides compatibility with a wide range of other libraries. Nest gives you true flexibility by allowing use of any other libraries thanks to modular architecture.

The tool is very mature and useful, with a good documentation and contribution guide.

Cube.js

Web-site:https://cube.dev/
Github page: https://github.com/cube-js/cube.js
Demo:
License: MIT
Github stars: 8.2k
Contribution guideline: Yes

Cube.js screenshot

Cube.js is an open source modular framework to build analytical web applications. It is primarily used to build internal business intelligence tools or to add customer-facing analytics to an existing application. Cube.js was designed to work with Serverless Query Engines like AWS Athena and Google BigQuery. Multi-stage querying approach makes it suitable for handling trillions of data points. Most modern RDBMS work with Cube.js as well and can be tuned for adequate performance.

It is essentially not a monolith application, but a set of modules, each doing one thing really well. Cube.js provides modules to run transformations and modeling in data warehouse, querying and caching, managing API gateway and building UI on top of that.

We at Flatlogic even built a demo and wrote an article on how to build an application using Cube.js: you can check it out.

Meteor

Web-site:https://www.meteor.com/
Github page: https://github.com/meteor/meteor
Demo:
License: MIT
Github stars: 48.1k
Contribution guideline: Yes

Meteor logo

Meteor is designed as a full-stack JavaScript platform for developing apps and solutions for web and mobile. Meteor supports all three major JS frameworks: React, Vue and Angular. The main advantages of the Meteor framework are:

  • The same code supported across different devices; 
  • A number of ready-made modules in the default package accelerating the development;
  • Large community offering dozens of reusable packages and modules.

Giants like IKEA and Mazda use meteor for their needs.

The project has an excellent web-site and documentation, feeling very mature. It is totally a good choice to contribute for professional developers.

Electron

Web-site:https://www.electronjs.org/
Github page: https://github.com/electron/electron
Demo:
License: MIT
Github stars: 84.2k
Contribution guideline: Yes

Electron logo

If you are making client-side or web-based apps, Electron will simplify the development process in a great way. It uses the same codebase for web apps and desktop apps.

If a graphical user interface (GUI) is imperative for your app or product, Electron will be perfect for you. Since it deploys web technologies, it works very well even with complex UI/UX modules. Electron uses JavaScript and Node.js, as well as HTML and CSS.

Electron provides great assistance when there is a need for building cool cross-platform Node JS projects for Linux, Windows or MacOS.

Notable benefits:

  • Compatibility with most platforms including Mac, Linux and Windows; 
  • Using Chromium engine enables all the best features of Chrome and the ability to use developer tools, storage access, etc.;
  • It can be used without utilizing much of the computational power.

There also are a great website, comprehensive docs and a large active community.

Hackathon starter

Web-site:
Github page: https://github.com/sahat/hackathon-starter
Demo: https://hackathon-starter.walcony.com/
License: MIT
Github stars: 30.3k
Contribution guideline: No

Hackathon starter screenshot

This is a boilerplate for Node.js web applications. The project is as generic and reusable as possible to cover most use cases of node.js web apps, without being too specific. You can even use this as a learning guide for your projects, if, let’s say, you’re only interested in Sign in with Google authentication and nothing else. It was built using a simple bootstrap theme and has dozens of API examples, including Instagram, Facebook etc.

Features:

  • Local Authentication using Email and Password;
  • OAuth 2.0 Authentication via Facebook, Google, GitHub, LinkedIn, Instagram;
  • Flash notifications;
  • MVC Project Structure;
  • Bootstrap 4 + Extra Themes;
  • Contact Form;
  • Account Management;
  • Password Management.

The authors welcome others to fix issues and contribute to the project with the new use cases.

Conclusion

We’ve mentioned some of the most popular and useful open source products developed on node.js. We also tried to be helpful with choosing open source projects for contribution. We hope you’ve found some interesting Node.js open source projects to try, or actively contribute to. If you found this article interesting, please share it and give us feedback!

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