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The open source ecosystem is continuously improving.

Many years ago we didn’t have specialized apps for engineering, banking, accounting, designing or other type of use cases, but now we do. Each day, new developers are starting to introduce more niche apps in the open source app catalog.

In the case of UX and UI designers, open source alternatives are extremely important because of factors such as:

  • Cost: Using a proprietary UI/UX prototyping tool could be too costly on the long run, especially if it was one of Adobe’s products where you have to get a monthly subscription or otherwise lose your access.
  • Collaboration: Have a missing feature in mind for that open source software? You can either request it from the developers or create it yourself, if you know how to code.
  • Vendor Lock-in: Since everything is open source, all your data and files are yours. You don’t have to worry about uploading your work on someone else’s servers or be in fear of losing it.

In our article today, we’ll introduce the 5 open source prototyping tools than you can depend on to do your UI/UX work.

Open Source Prototyping Tools

1. Pencil

open source prototyping tool 5
Image via pencil website

Pencil is the most feature-rich and well-known open source prototyping tool that you may hear of. It comes with a very functional and clean GUI to design the UI sketches you may need, and works on all major platforms (Windows, macOS and Linux). The latest release of it was released just around 6 months ago, and its initial development looks like it was started back in 2012.

The program has built-in shapes, icons and other ready types of objects that you can use to supplement your sketches. It also has a built-in browser for grabbing these “collections” from the community for extra addons or from when needed.

You can use Pencil to create user interfaces along diagrams, and each element in your sketch can be “linked” to other pages when clicked.

Pencil is licensed under the GPL 2.0 license.

You can go ahead in downloading Pencil for Windows, macOS and Linux. Or learn more about it from its official website.

2. Alva

open source prototyping tool 7

Alva is another open source prototyping tool in this list. Its development started in 2017, and works on all the major operating systems too (Windows, macOS and Linux).

Alva looks like it is focusing more on simpler user interface and a straightforward workflow for creating UI/UX sketches. It is quite easy to learn and use, and supports a number of ready UI components to use by default.

Alva is licensed under the MIT license, and written in Node.js.

You can download Alva is an already-prepared package for your Linux distribution, or other different operating systems from here.

Note: Alva is no longer under development since 2020.

3. Quant-UX

open source prototyping tool 9

Unlike the other software in this list, Quant-UX is a web-based service; Meaning that there’s no software for you to download and install. Instead, you just use the online service to design and save the prototype you wants.

It is still free (Both as in “free coffee” and as in “freedom), but it being a web service could be a double-edged sword:

  • One one hand, you don’t need to install anything on your device. You can just open the website from any web browser and start working.
  • On another hand, you are restricted to use the website and can not fully put your hands on your data and connections, unless you go in deploying your own instance of the software on your own servers.

However, Quant-UX is a really advanced open source prototyping tool. It supports widgets from multiple famous UI kits, and you can import additional ones from any URL you want. Also, you can link your screens based on a programmatic logic, or directly export them as PNG images once you are done.

To try Quant-UX, visit its official web address. You can view its source code on GitHub.

4. Penpot

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Penpot is yet another open source prototyping tool, can be used either as a self-hosted instance on your machine or directly from their website.

Its developers aim to make it fully SVG-powered, meaning that each component you use in your UI sketches is coming from an SVG file, or at least can be exported to an SVG file. This is especially good in case you want to deploy your website or UI as it is using the SVG supported technologies too. In this way, both your UI editor and your actual designs will be fully open source.

They have an online platform of the app that you can use right now:

It is also worthy to note that Penpot was previously called UXBOX, but the team changed its name a long time ago.

You can track the development progress from the project’s repository on GitHub.

5. Akira

open source prototyping tool 13

Another yet-in-development UI designing tool is Akira.

Akira – unlike the other options in this list – targets the Linux desktop specifically. It is written in both the Vala programming language and the GTK toolkit. It has simple UI sketching features which can be easily learned by any newbie designer.

The list of the software features isn’t complete yet, so you can keep an eye on it until its development is finished.

The software is available for installation as a Flatpak package from Flathub Beta, and you can check its source code page for more information.

The Bottom Line

So you have seen the currently available open source UI/UX designing tools. Some of them are still under heavy development, so this sector in open source is still being gradually improved over time.

If you know any other open source prototyping tool that we forgot to mention in our list, please tell us about them in a comment below.

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