5 Open Source Tools Every Digital Nomad Needs

May 8, 2020

So you consider yourself a digital nomad. You live your life on the go and every tool you use is geared toward that lifestyle. You need to be mobile, agile, and as efficient as possible. These choices are never so apparent as when you wind up having to use a tool that doesn’t make your on-the-go nomadic tendencies as fluid as need be.

But don’t think for a second that the only tools you can get are proprietary software. In fact, there are plenty of open source tools that can help you achieve nomad nirvana. And because these tools are open source, they have no associated software cost, making them even more appealing to those attempting to carve out a living in a non-standard fashion.

What are these tools? Let’s dive in and find out.



We’ll start off with a tool you’ll probably need to enable collaboration as a part of your daily grind. Even though you might have chosen to go solo, chances are at some point you’re going to have to work with others. On top of that, you’ll probably want a cloud server that isn’t directly tied to Google, Apple, or Microsoft. So why not have your very own cloud solution, one that gives you full control over every aspect?

That solution is Nextcloud. With the latest release, Nextcloud includes more tools than you’ll probably need as a digital nomad. In fact, once you have this cloud-based server up and running, you’ll find most everything you need is at the ready. And with Nextcloud 18, you’ll also enjoy a fully featured office suite included, so you can take care of all your writing and collaboration tasks within a single web-based tool.

The only caveats to using Nextcloud is that you’ll have to pay for hosting the service and, depending on your skill level, you might have to hire an IT outsourcing company like BairesDev to get the server up and running. So even though you’re not going to be paying a single dime for software, you do have to host that free software somewhere.



Part of your digital nomad existence is probably spent blogging. And what better blogging tool than the world’s most popular solution, WordPress. However, I’m not talking about making use of a WordPress.com subdomain. Instead, why not install the open source WordPress blogging solution on that same host that houses your Nextcloud?

WordPress is actually an open source blogging server tool that is the same backend/frontend used on WordPress.com. In fact, because you’d be hosting it yourself, you’ll enjoy even more features found on the free site. This allows you to install any one of the thousands of WordPress plugins and themes, so you can customize your blog site to exactly meet your specifications.



At some point, you’re going to need to create PDF documents. But you’re a digital pro and converting from a LibreOffice .odt file to a PDF doesn’t give you enough control. Instead, you need the power of a full-blown desktop publishing software title, such as Scribus.

With Scribus, you can create professional-quality PDF documents with ease using CMYK colors, spot colors, ICC color management, and more. With this desktop layout software, you can generate everything from pamphlets, flyers, and novels. If you have a need to get seriously creative with your page layouts, this is the tool you’ll need.



Speaking of books, if part of your digital nomad life is that of an author, you’ll want the right tool to convert your manuscripts into publishable ebook formats. The single best tool for this job is Calibre. With Calibre you can easily convert MS Word files, open document format, PDF, and HTML files into either .EPUB or .MOBI files that can then be uploaded to any of the digital bookseller sites.

And for those that really like to have full control over how their ebooks look, you can use the built-in editor to make changes to those manuscripts in real-time.

But Calibre isn’t just a converter. With this tool, you can also organize your own book library and even serve that library up over a local area network.


Orbot VPN

There may come a time when you’re going to need a VPN, especially in certain countries or regions around the world. This requirement might also come about when you’re unsure how secure a local area network is. Why trust that to corporate solutions that’ll cost you money? Instead, opt for the TOR-based VPN solution, Orbot VPN.

Orbot VPN is a free proxy app for Android, that allows other apps on your phone to use the network more securely. Because Orbot VPN works as a standard mobile app, it’s incredibly simple to use (so you won’t have to turn to that IT outsourcing service). The only caveat to using Orbot VPN is that network connections do tend to be a bit slower than usual. However, when anonymity and security are key, that lack of speed won’t be an issue.



This only scratches the surface of the tools you’ll need as a digital nomad. But as for those tools you can use that have open source options, this list will go a long way to getting you started. With a foundation tool like Nextcloud, you’ll find that adding a few more pieces to the puzzle will perfectly round out your nomad toolkit just fine.