8 Ways to Help Open-Source Projects If You’re Not a Coder

Chris Hoffman 26-03-2012

We’ve covered why it’s important to contribute to open-source projects Why You Should Contribute To Open Source Projects [Opinion] The concept of open-source software is not new, and with huge, successful projects such as Ubuntu, Android, and other Linux-related OS's and apps, I think we can safely say it is a proven model for... Read More , but what if you’re not a coder? You don’t have to learn how to program How to Learn Programming Without All the Stress Maybe you've decided to pursue programming, whether for a career or just as a hobby. Great! But maybe you're starting to feel overwhelmed. Not so great. Here's help to ease your journey. Read More  to help your favorite open-source projects. Many non-programmers volunteer some of their time to help their favorite open source projects – and you can join them.


Some open-source projects are backed by corporations, but many aren’t. Many are labors of love for all involved. If you have some free time – or money – you can give back to your favorite open-source projects Free Open Source Counterparts of Windows Software Read More and help them grow.

See What the Project Needs

Your favorite open-source project may have a page laying out exactly what it needs. Do you love the VLC media player 6 Cool VLC Tips & Tricks You Might Not Know About VideoLan's VLC media player is a real box of tricks and is just as effective on a Windows operating system as it is on Mac or Linux. Those of you who are already using VLC... Read More ? Check out the Contribute page on its website.

contribute to open source projects

You’ll get the best idea of what your favorite project wants from the “Contribute” or “Getting Involved” page on its website, if it has one.

Donate Money

Open-source software may be freely downloadable, but most projects could still use money. Money pays for servers, bandwidth, and the myriad of other expenses open-source projects face. In VLC’s case, some money also goes to buy hardware for the developers to test against.


You’ll often find a donation button on open-source project pages. Most projects will appreciate anything you can give them – think of how much value you get from your favorite software.

open source projects

In VLC’s case, the project could also use donations of hardware to test against. If you have some hardware lying around that you no longer use, you may be able to donate it to a project.

open source projects


Help Other Users

Open-source projects usually have mailing lists and forums where users ask questions. You can take a load off the developers and help out by answering these questions.Firefox fans can help people with their Firefox problems on the official Firefox support forum.

open source projects

Write Good Bug Reports

If you run into a problem with an open-source application, you should report the bug on its bug tracker.

Don’t just head to the bug tracker and immediately post a new bug saying “it crashed“; follow good bug-reporting guidelines. Do a search and verify the bug hasn’t already been reported. If it hasn’t, report it with a clear summary and straightforward steps that will allow the developers to reproduce the bug. Don’t report the bug if you’re using an old version of the software – the developers may have already fixed the problem.


help open source projects

Writing bug reports is particularly helpful if you’re testing the latest development version What Does "Beta Software" Really Mean? What does it mean for a project to be in beta and should you care? Read More of the software. You can help catch bugs before they make it into the stable version.

Triage Bugs

With all those bugs getting filed, someone has to handle them. You may be a bug-reporting genius, but not everyone else is. Consider getting involved in triaging bugs, if your favorite project is looking for help.

Triage is the first line of response to bugs. Bug triagers make sure bugs are properly categorized, ensure bug reporters supply enough information, confirm the bugs, and verify they’re not duplicates. This allows developers to focus on fixing the bugs instead of sorting through them.


If you’re an Ubuntu fan, check out the How to Triage page on the Ubuntu wiki to get started triaging issues for Ubuntu Ubuntu: A Beginner's Guide Curious about Ubuntu, but not sure where to start? Everything you could possibly need to get started with the latest version of Ubuntu is right here, written in easy-to-understand, plain English. Read More . Over a thousand people are part of the Ubuntu Bug Squad, although you don’t have to join it to get started.

help open source projects

Write Documentation

Most projects need some form of documentation written, and you can be the one to do it – assuming you’re a decent writer. Depending on the project, there may be a guide to getting started, like GNOME has, or you may have to contact the developers directly. You can also get involved in the project’s wiki, if the project has one. Contributing to a wiki is an easy way to get started.

Translate The Software

Open-source software is used by people from all over the world. To meet everyone’s needs, the software must be translated into different languages. If you know another language, you can do some of the translating. Most big projects need translators. Here’s GNOME’s translation project page.

contribute to open source projects

Help With Graphics & Design

Designers can get in on the action, too. Projects generally require some design work, whether it’s graphics creation 5 Free Awesome Graphic Design Tutorial Sites You Should Check Out Read More or user interface design 3 Tools to Create Mock-Up Designs and Wireframes Online Read More . Check out your favorite project’s Contribute page to see how you can get involved – Ubuntu advises people to join the Unity Design mailing list to help with the Unity desktop Ubuntu 11.04 Unity - A Big Leap Forward For Linux It's here. The newest version of Ubuntu sports an entirely new user interface: Unity. It also includes a much-improved Software Center, alongside the usual updates for the thousands of free programs Ubuntu offers. Canonical decided... Read More .

How have you contributed to open source? Leave a comment and let us know.

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  1. Ernesto Lee Ruíz
    May 5, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    All those who have needed to make a Gantt chart (to plan and manage our projects in time) we thought of a specific tool, MS project, very good as it pertains does, besides performing at the same time allow the mesh pert, others. However, payment, license microsoft office, even comes in the basic pack of Office, so if you've already paid $ 150 for office, you have to pay another 100 for having project.
    But there is an alternative, this is called (very original) OpenProj, with an interface similar to MS project, you can perform the most basic Tares, such as Gantt chart or pert mesh (personnel only mind is what I do with these programs ) also is cross-platform as it is developed in Java, runs on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X and can export and import formatted documents. mpp (MS Project) and displays graphical Gantt or PERT charts quite dignity. Most importantly, if you can use MS project, then you are an expert in OpenProj.
    Adalberto de la Toba y Ernesto Lee

    • green
      June 4, 2012 at 9:16 am

      Thanks for this comment. ;) I have been looking for a planning software since a long time. I personally believe in being different and use Ubuntu, which has no default project management program like suppose say KOrganizer in Kubuntu.

      My needs were sort of fulfilled without paying a bomb or burning a hole in my pocket. I love open source and will continue to contribute in every way I can.

      Thanks, Ernesto, buddy. ;)

  2. Joel Lee
    March 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    As an ex-programmer, I'd like to support open source software but haven't really had any ways to go about that. Thanks for writing this article. I can't do most of the suggested actions, but at least I can spread the word. :)

    • Chris Hoffman
      March 29, 2012 at 11:56 pm

      Way #9: Write an article telling people what they can do.

  3. Jouni "Rautamiekka" Järvinen
    March 26, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    While it is useful in some degree to translate, it makes the language barrier issues tonfolds bigger issues cuz you don't have to learn a global far more useful language, English. This problem is rather big here in Finland cuz most shit are translated but some aren't so those wannabe skill-less translators are joining the force to make shit worse.

    Personally I have what it takes to translate, more than that, but I don't get any money and I have targets of spending.

    • Jouni "Rautamiekka" Järvinen
      March 26, 2012 at 11:39 pm

      Add': shit should be translated so that you can understand it fully when you can't but then you have to continue to reading the English text.

    • Chris Hoffman
      March 27, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      Interesting point! There's definitely value in learning a widespread language like English. On the other hand, it depends what the project's target audience is -- if it's the general public, there are lots of people who could benefit from the software but wouldn't want to learn a new language.

      • Rivercrone
        March 30, 2012 at 5:16 pm

        Then of course there is the continual problem of documentation "translated from the Chinese". I'm not a coder, but I am a writer. Guess i need to pick an OS project.....:D

        • Chris Hoffman
          March 30, 2012 at 11:20 pm

          Yup, there are definitely projects that could use your help!