The 5 best open source low-code platforms (tried and tested)

By: Joe Johnston

May 5, 2021 | 7 minutes read

Top 5 open source low-code platforms

Low-code and no-code are the latest phenomena to take over our strategy meetings and development chats. These solutions are not new, but the emergence of new technologies and a shift in how we work has accelerated their need within the workplace.

The statistics below provide an overview of the scale of the low code market:

  • Forrester predicts that in 2021, 75% of application development will use low-code platforms.
  • Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Low-Code Development Technologies Market to Grow 23% in 2021
  • According to the market research study published by P&S Intelligence, the global low code market will witness a 31.1% CAGR during 2020–2030 to reach $187.0 billion by 2030.

With every emerging market comes a plethora of new tools and several open source alternatives. Adopting an open source low code platform takes time and resources. Thankfully, we have gone through this pain for you. As creators of the fastest growing open source low code platform, we have tried and test over 50 other tools. We spent days gathering this knowledge and decided to share our thoughts with the world in the spirit of openness.

However, before we begin, let us make sure we are on the right page.

What is low-code?

Low-code is a visual approach to developing software using a low-code platform. While no-code development involves zero coding, low-code accepts minor coding as part of the build process. It is this balance of abstraction and flexibility that provides the user with a fast and extensible experience.

What is open source?

Open source is a term used to refer to something that can easily be accessed, inspected, modified, and shared. Therefore, the code behind open source software is publicly accessible—anyone can inspect, modify, and distribute the code.

The opposite of open source software is proprietary software. Proprietary software is often referred to as closed source. The primary difference between open source and proprietary software is that the user cannot see the code base and must agree to a license that prohibits them from doing anything to the software that the author has not permitted.

The pros and cons of an open source low code platform

Deciding between open source and proprietary software can be a tricky decision. To help with this, we have listed the pros and cons of open source low-code platforms:

Pros

  • Transparency: Often, with proprietary software, when we request a product change or support fix, we are given a ticket number and little other feedback. These requests often disappear into the abyss with zero to little knowledge of the progress. This lack of transparency is hard to handle when users rely on the requested change. With open source software, users can monitor the progress as the data, code, and software development process is open for all to see - in many cases, users can fix the problem themselves! This is critical for low-code, as the platforms must be flexible in nature, and in many cases, power mission critical functions across a company’s operations.
  • Control: Companies choose open source because they have greater control and can change parts of the software to meet their needs. They can also examine the low-code platform to ensure it is not doing anything they do not want.
  • Reliability: Proprietary software relies on a company updating, patching, and enhancing the codebase. Open standards and peer review ensure that open source code is tested accordingly and often.
  • Flexibility: With open source software, users are not locked into using the code in any specific way. This is critical for low-code as there are a multitude of use cases and all businesses are unique. Flexibility is critical for unique businesses.
  • Peer review: Because the source code is open and accessible by peer programmers, the code base is actively checked and enhanced, leading to a better product.
  • No vendor lock-in: Freedom for the user means users can take the open source code anywhere and use it for anything, at any time.
  • Community: Open source software often inspires a community of users and developers to form around it. This community often produces, tests, uses, promotes, and ultimately affects the software they love.

Cons

  • Support: In some cases, open source software support is either - left to the community or only available at a cost.
  • Orphan software: There is a chance community members move away from the project and officially “orphan” the software. This con is debatable. The counterargument is pretty straightforward - if a proprietary product’s company goes down, so will the product - and this is often the most likely of the two. With open source, the codebase and community live on after the original creating company leaves.

The top 5 open source low-code platform

When selecting my top 5 open source low-code platforms, I deliberately chose different platforms for different use cases. That way, more readers with different use cases are satisfied.

Below are the top open source low-code platforms:

  1. Budibase - best for application development
  2. Huginn - best for automation
  3. WordPress - best for building websites
  4. Node-Red - best for IoT apps
  5. PyCaret - best for machine learning

Budibase - The low-code platform for building business apps

Budibase is an all-in-one open source low-code platform for building business applications. With over 35,000 downloads in 6 months and over 3,000 stars on Github, it is quickly becoming the leading open source low code platform - and for a good reason.

With Budibase, users can design, build, automate and deploy apps on their infrastructure in minutes.

Users can benefit from Budibase’s internal database or connect to their own - Budibase supports multiple external data sources, including; MongoDB, PostgreSQL, MySQL, Elasticsearch, Airtable, and more.

In the design section of Budibase, users can benefit from a catalog of prebuilt, powerful components that they can quickly hook up to their data. Budibase also comes out of the box with prebuilt layouts, user auth, and a data provider component that allows users to filter, sort, and paginate data with just a few clicks!

Users can also access several prebuilt automations, including Sendgrid, Zapier, Integromat, and more, or utilize a webhook. Automations are simple to create and integrate perfectly with data sources. It is also possible to add Javascript to integrations, increasing extensibility.

Budibase is primarily for business apps, and use cases range from admin panels and dashboards to approval apps and inventory lists.

Github Repo
Github Stars - 3.2k
Actively maintained - Yes


Huginn - The low-code automation platform

Huginn is an automation low-code platform akin to Zapier and Integromat. The critical difference is that Huginn is open source. With over 30,000 stars on Github and a very active community, Huginn is a solid bet when choosing a low-code automation platform.

Huginn’s Agents create and consume events visualized via a directed graph.

Some of the things users can do with Huginn include receiving emails with weather updates to connecting to a host of applications, including Basecamp, Slack, Twilio, and more.

Github Repo
Github Stars - 31.4k
Actively maintained - Yes


WordPress - The open-source low-code platform for building websites

WordPress is the leading low-code platform for building websites. Today, WordPress powers more than 41% of the web - from simple blogs to enterprise websites.

WordPress’s popularity is due to its simple, extensible platform and its plugin/template ecosystem. With over 54,000 plugins, the level of customization without writing code is incredible.

The thriving community, famous plugin/template ecosystem, and simple-to-use platform are why WordPress is the world’s leading CMS.

Github repo
Github Stars - 15k
Actively maintained - Yes


Node-Red - the open source low-code platform for build event-driven / IoT applications

Node-RED is a programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs, and online services. It provides a browser-based GUI that makes it easy to connect nodes to create flows that can be deployed to its runtime in a single click.

Node-red is an excellent solution for building IoT applications, and out of the box comes with nodes dedicated to Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Boards, and Androids.

Github Repo
Github stars - 12.1k
Actively maintained - Yes


PyCaret - Open source low-code platform python and machine learning

PyCaret is an open-source, low-code machine learning library in Python that aims to reduce the cycle time from hypothesis to insights.

PyCaret is well suited for data scientists. Developers with no previous data science experience may find the platform challenging to get started. The docs are surprisingly good and contain several tutorials.

Github Repo
Github Stars - 3.4k
Actively maintained - Yes


Final thoughts

One leaving thought or consideration is to think hard about what tools you want to build today and tomorrow with your open source low-code platform. Extensibility is critical and will play a massive role in reducing technical debt in the future. Try to keep this in mind when selecting your tool, and best of luck on your open source low-code journey!