The software development area is one of those that most benefit from the use of open-source tools. After all, it was there that the first open-source solutions emerged. Even though the variety of options has increased exponentially, development continues to take advantage of this tool the most.
And no less. For each step of the process (analysis, design, implementation, testing, and maintenance), there is a huge range of tools for optimizing time and resources. Even IT management takes advantage of this.
Other open-source solutions also help with modeling, agile development tools, diagram creation, and numerous related activities. It is worth mentioning that these tools can be applied to optimize the creation of different products and services, not just software.
In this article, you will see the advantages of using open source tools that provide greater quality in the software development process.
But first, let’s understand a little bit about open source.
Open source is any computer program that can be used, copied, studied, modified, and redistributed without any restrictions.
The term open source is used to refer to all software whose source code is open to anyone. This means that third parties can analyze, audit and in some cases even make changes to meet your needs or make improvements. Open source should not be confused with Free Software, which has similar characteristics: basically all free software must be open source, but the opposite is not always true.
But open source doesn’t just mean access to the source code. Below we list some criteria to define an open-source solution or tool:
- Open source code;
- Possibility to create derivative works;
- The integrity of the author’s source code;
- No discrimination against people or groups;
- No discrimination against fields of action;
- License distribution;
- The license must not be specific to a product;
- The license must not restrict other software;
- The license must be technology-neutral.
In the beginning, the main open-source software created was focused on software development, C compilers like GCC, text editors like Emacs, among others. Subsequently, complete operating systems and other tools emerged, but the development area continued to be one of the areas with the greatest free resources in the software market.
In the topics below, we will see options that can help developers to develop software with the support of open source tools, which will enable the delivery of software with more quality and agility.
A common way to use open source in development is the inclusion of standard routines, already developed and tested in the market, which because they are ‘open source’ can be incorporated into your software code to avoid the need to develop it internally.
These components are used, for example, to transfer information between databases, do some image processing, perform a validation routine, etc.
The resources of open source databases have reached a high level of use thanks to the growing number of companies that use them for large-scale projects.
MySQL is one of the most widely used open-source relational databases. Another example is PostgreSQL, an object-relational database that supports macOS Server, most Linux, and also Windows distributions.
Talking about automation options in the quality control process, there are a few options on the market. One of them is Selenium, formed by a set of open-source software testing automation tools. It supports mobile testing, several programming languages, different operating systems, and browsers. Watir (an acronym for Web Application Testing in Ruby) is an open-source Ruby library for performing simple automated tests. It works with browsers like Edge, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. These are valid resources, but there are other, far more complete and efficient solutions on the market, provided by companies specializing in software quality – for example, which scan all open software components used in coding an application, and which then list all the vulnerabilities,
With all this, using tools that help to monitor the open software components that are used by the company, ensuring that they are in their appropriate versions and covering security issues properly, is essential.
After all, it is practically impossible to work with software development without having the support of at least one open-source tool.
Over the years, several companies have found business models that fit the open-source paradigm. The most famous example is perhaps that of Red Hat, which decided to offer support services at the enterprise level for the use of GNU / Linux distributions and worked very well: After years of work and adjustments to its business model, in 2019 Red Hat was acquired by IBM. In addition to Red Hat, other companies operating in the open source ecosystem are on the same promising path, such as Elastic, MuleSoft, and MongoDB.
Following the principle that open technologies ended up becoming of higher quality due to the organic performance of the open-source community, several companies decided to open the code of their tools in order to develop them better instead of selling use licenses and limiting the growth of products. The most notable examples would be Facebook with ReactJS, Google with TensorFlow, and Microsoft with .NET Core.
Currently, in the context of tools for software development, we can already say that open source has become the standard. Especially for developers, who daily use software libraries that have been developed openly by other programmers (NPM packages, Maven, etc).
It is very important to understand how these solutions were developed, how to make changes to them, and how to adapt them to your specific needs. Without a doubt, any developer who has a history of significant contributions to open source projects will have a much more attractive curriculum, as the ability to contribute demonstrates consolidated technical knowledge and commitment to the growth of the software development community and ecosystem.
As the last few years have shown, the joint creation of software brings excellent results: more reliable solutions, of the highest quality and open for use. Even the giant tech companies have realized the benefits of the model, which despite being counterintuitive at first, is consolidating itself as the standard in the community.
It was realized that there is no point in developing a solution and hiding it behind a patent or something similar because over time it is inevitable that the community develops a better alternative in a collaborative way. Therefore, it is much more intelligent to “surf the wave” and gain a leading role in the open-source scene, so that both the community and the creators of the software can benefit.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: open source software is more secure. When many people work on the same source code, there are many more eyes checking and correcting security holes. When one is discovered, it doesn’t take long for one of those thousands or millions of developers to find the solution.
Developers rely heavily on open-source software and companies are comfortable with the main open-source projects that have large groups maintaining them. This is the great advantage of using open-source software because in addition to being less expensive, there are more people working to maintain and evolve it.
Another security advantage of open source is that, if there is a problem, a company can open and fix it immediately. If the code is licensed under proprietary agreements, they generally need to wait for suppliers to respond.
The community behind open source software is often participatory and collaborative – there are answers to any question.
But if this open documentation is still not enough, there are companies that specialize in supporting open source. That is, you can use the money saved with the license to guarantee the availability of your system.
While open-source tools are becoming more and more popular, still there is a large portion of software developers who are not quick to adopt such tools for various reasons. Some of those reasons are due to lack of awareness (they do not know they exist), or they don’t know how to install, integrate, maintain or use them due to lack of technical knowledge and lack of time.
For example, you may find a very knowledgeable C/C++ developer who has excellent experience and knowledge with software development with C/C++ on windows. However, a huge portion of open source tools out there are developed on Linux and are offered to those who develop on Linux. The windows software developer might come across a very attractive open-source tool he might want to use that was developed on Linux but is now facing the need to learn how to use the tool on Windows. More than often such developers won’t bother to use such a tool. This is an example of the exclusion of an entire segment of software developers.
Although not said or announced anywhere, the writing on the wall is basically “learn Linux, spend hours learning each new open-source tool and get your hands dirty”. That’s fair, but if you think about it, most tools are installed, integrated, and rarely modified afterward. It seems like a HUGE waste of time and efficiency to repeat this learning curve again and again from one developer to another. That is why SoftaCheck was created. This is an online tool that makes open-source tools accessible to all developers while preventing time wastage and letting developers focus on what they like and do best – developing. SoftaCheck, for example, lets software developers run static analysis on their code with clang-tidy and cppcheck – both open-source static analysis tools. SoftaCheck also offers doxygen which lets you generate documentation for your code automatically. SoftaCheck does all of this in the cloud through a GitHub integration which can be installed with only a few mouse clicks.