Choosing Open Source Libraries

Confused how to choose an open source library? Read on.

Nowadays, the barrier to entry for creating open source software has come down; this has lead to a boom in open source libraries. When it comes to picking one, there are tons of options; it can get confusing. Here are some simple and actionable tips to help you choose one.


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Start with the documentation. More precise the documentation, the higher the chances of the library being the right choice. I feel Hashicorp has set the standard here; the attention to detail in their documentation is impressive.

Look at the Github issues. Browsing through the issues gives you a good understanding of the strengths and weakness of the project. An important tip here is to look at the closed issues too, do not restrict yourself to only the open ones.

If the project has a mailing list, lurk around the ongoing discussions. Go through old threads too. Usually, projects have two mailing lists – one for the users of the project and the other to discuss development. The latter gives you a good sense of the direction of the project.

Go through the past releases and the release notes, get a sense of how the project has evolved.

Combination of issues, mailing list, and release history paint the right picture of the evolution of the project, it’s velocity, maintenance, and the responsiveness of the community. All these are very important to a project’s success and durability.

Peek through the source code. More idiomatic it is, the better the chances that the library is well written.

Browse the test cases, the more comprehensive it is, the better the quality.

Following the above will enable you to make an informed decision.

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

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