Here are some of our favourite open-source tools to make working from home that little bit easier!
It is undeniable that Covid 19 has forced many of us to Work from Home. However, even before this pandemic, more and more employers have been offering WFH as part of a flexible, inclusive and agile employment package.
Working from Home requires discipline, motivation and excellent time management. If you are used to a working home environment and this is your usual working model, you are likely skilled in making sure you get your to-do list done without giving in to everyday distractions. If however, you are a WFH newbie, this may be more of a challenge.
Some of you will be lone – workers with no need to collaborate with a team. This too is less of a challenge. Most of us though need to continue to work alongside others to make sure we continue to hit our targets, meet our goals and get the job done.
These are some of our favourite open-source tools to make collaboration and teamwork part of our every day if working from home has become your new normal.
Jitsi Video Conferencing.
When you are away from your colleagues it’s important that you can still connect and maintain some sort of contact. Not only do we all need that human touchpoint, but it is also crucial to maintain motivation and make sure you are all on the same page. This is where our first open-source tool comes in handy!
Without any need to register, it is incredibly easy to begin an impromptu meeting with open source and webRTC standards-compliant, Jitsi.
To use it, simply go to meet.jit.si and grab a conference room with a human-friendly, randomly generated URL.
If you like it, and it suits your needs there is an option to register. If you chose to, there are calendar options available to make sure you, your guests & colleagues are there when your meeting is scheduled.
Brainstorming is such an effective tool if you work in a team. A whiteboard, flipchart and a set of pens are office staples. No idea is too silly, out there or off-piste. Brilliance comes from collaboration and discussion. Working from home makes this sharing of ideas almost impossible.
This is why we love Drawpile whiteboard, the second of our open-source tools. A digital whiteboard, Drawpile is a real-time collaborative drawing application. Users can host drawing sessions on their computer and invite other users. Alternatively, you can host a session on Drawpile’s servers.
One of its huge benefits is that it’s incredibly easy to use. It is minimal enough to allow it to be intuitive, yet powerful enough to make it a viable artistic application. So important! Those rough ideas will likely develop into something genius!
Taiga – Kanban board for project management.
Our third open-source tool, Taiga is a virtual “post-it note” board to help teams keep track of individual tasks – so important if synchronicity and organisation are vital to your department.
This method of organisation and project planning is called kanban, and is particularly highly used amongst software development teams.
Taiga is an online shared space. Anyone who you happen to collaborate with can share and keep their tasks on the board. As tasks are completed or progress is made, the owner can simply move their post-it note left to right across the columns. Who doesn’t love that satisfying feeling of moving your task over to the finish line?
Of course, Taiga is not the only Kanban tool out there. It is, however, a great option. It is easy on the eye, has great graphics and is highly interactive.
Joplin Personal Notes.
Jotting down notes and ideas is part and parcel of most of our jobs. Some of us prefer the simplicity of a pen and pad, some of us prefer a digital notes function.
Joplin falls into the latter category and is one of our favourite open-source tools for keeping yourself organised. Joplin allows you to create virtual notebooks and each notebook can have any number of entries. These entries can be simple text or they can be complex, dynamic documents complete with graphics, to-do lists, hyperlinks and much more.
You are also able to synchronize Joplin to all kinds of online storage services, including the open-source Nextcloud service. This means that your notebooks are available to you on any device or computer.
It is a great way to keep on track and your workday organised.
Riot team chat.
What do you use when your task doesn’t quite require an email or a phone call, yet is too important to wait? That is where a team chat is great: one of our favourite open-source tools for this is Riot.
Matrix is an open standard and lightweight protocol for real-time communication, and if you run into problems typing your messages, you can switch over to VOIP quickly using the same protocol.
Matrix is the protocol and many applications hook into it.
One of the most popular clients is Riot.im. You can download Riot for your desktop and mobile and connect to it through a web browser in just a second.
A good group chat function needs to be multi-featured. It should have instant messaging, emoji support, GIF and image support, on-demand chat rooms or “channels,” widespread compatibility, and of course privacy.
Using Riot, your colleagues are always close at hand.
Etherpad shared documents.
You need to look no further than Etherpad if you are looking to collaborate on a document or work on meeting notes with someone. The sixth of our open-source tools, Etherpad, is a real-time shared word processor in which you can invite one or more people to a document. The shared document is visible and allows you to watch as each invitee adds and edits the document.
It is both fast and efficient and facilitates a way in which you and your team can get ideas down on “paper” and to work on revisions together.
If you have good IT support, you can ask your IT department to host an instance of Etherpad for your organization or there are public instances online from open source supporters such as RiseUp and Etherpad itself.
Ethercalc shared spreadsheets.
Ethercalc is similar to Etherpad, only the ‘calc’ version allows teams to work on a shared spreadsheet remotely across a shared screen. Ethercalc also allows you to import data from existing spreadsheets and delimited text files.
So the next time you need help with a complex formula or function, need receipts input for the latest budget or just need input on layout, we’d recommend using Ethercalc.
Nextcloud shared storage and calendar.
As the name implies, Nextcloud is your own, personal cloud. In its most obvious form, it is an online shared storage space that syncs itself with a folder on your desktop and mobile device. Users add files, the files get uploaded to your storage space, and because everything is synchronised they appear on all of your devices.
If everyone on your team has an account then suddenly you have shared storage space with the ability to point-and-click to share files and folders with or without passwords.
There is so much more to Nextcloud however than just to be a dropbox for shared data. Its plug-in structure means there are countless web apps you can install into Nextcloud; chat clients, email clients, video chat and much much more.
Not all plug-ins are official though, so support may vary here. That being said, many plug-ins are official and are very good. Notably, there is a calendar app so you and your colleagues can schedule meetings and keep track of important upcoming events. The calendar here uses the CalDAV protocol and as such everything you do is compatible with any CalDAV client.
If your native environment is an office, you are most probably used to using a 360 office suite. These all-inclusive packages often have all these features as standard.
In the opensource world, this office suite would be LibreOffice and has everything we have come to expect from an office suite. A word processor, spreadsheet and slide presentation functions are joined by a vector-based drawing application that can also edit PDF files, and a relational database complete with a graphical interface builder.
If you are searching for a great 360 open-source suite, you will need to look no further than LibreOffice.
If you are new to working from home then maybe this change is indicative of something wider and bigger in terms of your employment journey and entire working lifestyle.
If this is the case, then it may be an opportunity to switch things up entirely and review your entire operating system. This is where the last of our open-source tools, Linux, comes in.
Mac or Windows may have been your ‘home’ so far, but if you are looking to make the switch from non-open software to open source, why not change the platform upon which all those apps run?
There are lots of very effective and Linux distributions designed and built for serious work, serious autonomy and serious advancement of skill.
Why not grab a copy of Linux? Give a free and open-source OS a try by adopting Fedora, Elementary or a long-term support subscription of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Not only will you be a fully-fledged, all singing, all dancing remotee, but you’ll also be a Linux pro before you know it!
If you are new to at-home working you may be feeling a little lost without your in-office team. All these are workable solutions that hopefully will stop you from feeling quite so remote while making sure that you continue to hit those KPIs and team goals.
Perhaps, you could use this as an opportunity to earn some extra brownie points from your line manager. By suggesting one, some or all of these as a solution, you may help them navigate and lead their team as we all find our way through these unusual times.
We hope this helps you with working from home!
We work within the tech space here at Ignite, and although all these are digital solutions they are not exclusive to the tech ecosystem. So many of these open-source tools can be used across every industry. Why not try them out? We would love to hear how you get on!