Citation format: The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition

Generation R. ‘Open Science Top Ten Tools – All Open Source!’, 2019.

A list of general purpose tools for researchers compiled by Generation R which can be used with no additional learning other than standard user interface familiarity.

There will be an advanced ‘Data Scientists 4 All’ Top Ten coming soon 🙂

This top ten index is part of GenRs theme Integrating Open Science Learning into Higher Education (Jan/Mar 2019).

The tools have been selected using the following criteria:

  • That they are general purpose and so can be used by as many researchers as possible.
  • The tools ease-of-use is based on graphic user interface (GUI) learning, so the users simply learns how a tool works by using it — the GUI is at least one good learning invention from the 1970s.1 
  • The tools allow researcher focus on their work and help them do things in a speedier, and more efficient and reliable way.

There are many other tools that could be in this ‘top ten’ and the full list can be seen here and on our Twitter list – Open Science Index.

Thank you to everyone that suggested tools and the list will be kept up to date as new releases come along.

To stay updated you can sign up to the Generation Research email newsletter or follow the Twitter hashtag #opensciencetop10.

Open Science Top Ten Tools

  1. CryptPad – online rich text pad. Cryptpad takes the plain text collaborative pad — like Etherpad — one step higher with word processor like formatting. A perfect replacement for Google Docs. The tool is built with privacy and security at its heart and offers a range of other productivity tools: spreadsheets, presentations, Kanban boards, etc. Currently (April 2019) CryptPad have an active community funding round so please go and support them 🙂 @cryptpad
  2. Zotero – this is the go to citation manager. For anyone who is not using a citation manager then this is a 100% must-have! You can organise and cleanup your citations for a paper in a fraction of the time than if you were doing it manually. To quote Zotero, “I’m the free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources”. @zotero
  3. Zenodo – the free and easy way to get DOIs for citing your research. DOIs are a scholarly standard for IDs for scholarly research resources of any type. Using Zenodo you can deposit most anything in its research repository — a paper, blogpost, research data, or Git repository — and get a free DOI. @ZENODO_ORG
  4. ORCID – get your free researcher personal ID. The IDs are especially useful for connecting your research work with you as a researcher. The ID system will automatically collect research publications, etc., from repositories where the ID is used, or you can upload your own research records. @ORCID_Org
  5. – online diagram drawing tool. Sometimes the most simple things are the most difficult to accomplish and finding a tool that can help with making diagrams and flowcharts is one of those difficult tasks. Not only does solve this problem — for good — it also does it in super smart ways: your storage can be most anywhere, like Google Drive; it provides great templates; and you can run your own instance of the software through GitHub pagesvoilà@drawio
  6. GitLab and GitLab pages – your own free personal online time machine — almost. GitLab is an online storage site with versioning, so it keeps a record of changes to your files that you can recover to any point in time — hence being time machine like. You can use it as public or private collaborative workspace, or for sharing final versions of data or papers. @gitlab
  7. RDMO – is an online tool for making Data Management Plans (DMPs). Research Data Management Organiser (RDMO) has examples and explanations of the factors involved and importantly it will walk you through a Q&A to build your own custom Data Management Plan. Grants, research programmes, as well as papers needing data deposits all need a DMP which means having a guide you can trust to make your plan is invaluable. @rdmorganiser
  8. Unpaywall – a browser plugin that will legally and for free download copies of papers behind paywalls — magic! @unpaywall
  9. Atom – plain text editor for all your coding needs. What is special about Atom is its packages, previewing, and integrations. Packages like ‘teletype’ that allow for real-time collaborative editing. For previewing you can check your Markdown editing, edit your diagrams like or Graphvis, or preview your Python code in-line with the ‘Hydrogen’ package. With integrations you can have your edits go straight to the source, for example with GitHub or GitLab. @AtomEditor
  10. Matrix on Riot – private and secure chat. You can organise your project or work with colleagues and collaborators with the secure chat protocol Matrix on clients like Riot or with many other client made by different providers. This is the whole point of Matrix is that its a protocol which many different suppliers can use so you can avoid nasty lock ins — like on Slack — that prevents you sharing files once your over your bandwidth quota. Available on all devices. @matrixdotorg  @RiotChat 

Suggestions or questions please DM the GenR editor-in-chief Simon Worthington @gen_r_ on Twitter.


1. The GUI was invented 1973 Xerox PARC when developing the Alto personal computer as a way to use computer intuitively and learn through exploration (use) as opposed to be trained. It was developed by Alan Kay, Larry Tesler, Dan Ingalls, and the Alto team. The precursor was invented by the Stanford Research Institute led by Douglas Engelbart and can be seen in this YouTube video in what is know as ‘The Mother of all Demos’ made in 1968.