By: Akanksha Mehta
March 24 2021

Major Drupal Distributions in 2021

Distributions are pre-made bundles of utility tools that greatly simplify web developers' work by cancelling out the time spent on creating Drupal websites from scratch. These are complete Drupal copies that consist of Drupal core along with some additional software such as a theme or an installation profile, with a specific purpose in mind.

There are two kinds of distributions -

(A) Full featured distributions that provide everything that you will require for specialised use cases.

(B) Other Distributions comprising quick start tools to simplify the work of developers starting to build a website. 

Why use Drupal Distributions?

Drupal distributions are an extremely convenient way of starting a website, as one does not need to build everything from scratch. 

  • Launching your website becomes a matter of hours instead of weeks. 
  • You don't need a resource with a specific skill set for the different elements of your website.
  • Maintenance on the site becomes even easier as the whole set of modules and on site components can be upgraded in one single Drupal update. 

Major Drupal Distributions 

Let's have an overview of some of the top Drupal distributions and the function that they serve. 

For starting a new Drupal Website

  • Commerce Kickstart is a great distribution for businesses looking to get started with Drupal Commerce, being great for creating online stores. Customised templates, themes and modules in this distribution are specifically set to create an e-commerce website with ease. The new Commerce Kickstart 2.x also provides a demo store to serve as a starting point for new websites, fully stacked with features like search configuration, promotions engine, analytics and reporting tools, marketing tools, payment options and a lot more. 
  • If you are about to work with a lot of repetitive work, consider working with Varbase. Its underlying idea is DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), as it automates a bulk of your work through the use of a vast majority of modules, features and configurations.                                                             
  • One of the best Drupal Distributions that can be used as a base for a Drupal site is Panopoly. It is designed to be a general foundation for site building and also to act as a base framework upon which to build other distributions and components. Open Atrium, Open Church, and Web Experience Toolkit are some major public distributions that are using Panopoly.
  • Base can also be used for a simple installation procedure in a new website. In addition, if you want to relieve yourself of the burden of detecting initial configuration settings, go in with Hostmaster (Aegir) distribution as it does the job for you. DevShop Devmaster can also be used to develop and host Drupal sites.
  • If your website is potentially scalable and you want a distribution that supports the idea, Drutopia would be a wise choice as it supports multiple other distributions. It needs to be built using Composer. Scalability is also provided by Drustack’s highly customisable environment. 

If you’re dealing with Media and Publishing

Thunder and Lightning are distributions meant for the media and publishing industry. Thunder consists of a lot of handpicked publisher centric modules meant for professional publishing. It also offers custom regulations and makes it easy to install and use new functionalities, hence keeping up with adaptability and personalization. Along the same lines, Lightning aims to empower developers and editorial teams to create professional authoring experiences by providing a framework that is both lightweight and documentation friendly for a smooth publishing process. Using Composer is recommended to build the codebase for a project based on Lightning.

For official usage

  • Brainstorm is a distribution best suited for corporate use by companies that wish to display their best features and services to the customers. With its engaging User Interface, it enhances the User Experience manifold. Hence, Brainstorm is perfect for making a good first impression, as one can also upload their portfolio and create blog posts on the site, thereby putting their best foot forward. It performs well across mobiles, laptops and tablets owing to its adaptive and responsive design.

Similar distributions that provide for a digital display of a corporate’s services are Multipurpose Corporate Profile, Corporate Profile and Commerce Profile. Along similar lines, if your company is looking to recruit, the Recruiter distribution is perfect to set up a recruitment platform.                                                                        

  • While Droopler is also meant to provide an enterprise with an all inclusive and attractive corporate website, an additional feature of Droopler is that it can also be used with Drupal commerce to kickstart a related project. It also provides custom theming and colour palettes to suit one's requirements.
  • If you are a startup or a small business, Druppio might be a better choice for you owing to its modern flat design and easy configuration. Seeds is a great starter kit for small and medium enterprises too.  
  • If you have an active client base your business interacts regularly with, you could utilise OpenideaL, which is described as an innovation management system to share strategic decisions regarding one’s future products and services with the clients.

For People’s Participation

  • Open Atrium is one of the best Drupal Distributions if you’re looking for something meant for collaboration and engagement of the community to develop solutions and discuss issues together. In addition to this, Open Atrium also helps systematise bug resolution and other tasks by providing features like document and event management, issue tracking, media management and also a work tracker to monitor everyone's tasks - hence leading to a transparent work culture and accelerated organisational growth. 
  • As Drupal is a community driven software, user engagement holds a significant place in the functioning of the platform. Open social creates digital spaces that enable the members of the community to use the distribution's out-of-the-box feature for knowledge sharing, and discussing ideas and solutions. Open Social is used by governments, NGOs and a number of big and small organisations. Extensions to the distribution that expand the use case even further our Real Time Chat, Webinar, Native App, Forms and Surveys, etc.
  • Alternatively, you could also use Open Outreach for public engagement, as it comes loaded with features like event calendars, image and video sharing, and contact management for better collaboration.
  • If the focus is on a productive social engagement, OpenLucius is a great distribution for the purpose with its utility features like social intranet, collaboration toolkit, document management system, real time chatting, notebooks, etc.The usage for OpenLucius is open to both formal and informal sectors.
  •  If your social or official setup requires frequent conferences, Conference Organising Distribution is great for the purpose as it comes loaded with features like event suggestion, selection and scheduling for the event - and social networking for afterwards.
  • For systematic community engagement, the Local Baha'i Community Website Incubator can be used. Its in built features include a multi user site, wherein each member can have their own profile, a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, a news column and an events calendar. 

For hospitality purposes

Easy Booking offers the user to set up a website that includes every feature that is needed to manage a hotel, inn or a hostel online. Functional both from the owners’ end and towards the visitors' convenience, Easy Booking offers a bunch of options to the guests to facilitate a good User experience like contacting hotel administration, following the hotel's newsletter, or simply being acquainted with all the special offers and discounts. 

For online education

  • The ongoing pandemic has made online learning the new normal, and Opigno is a distribution that works towards bringing to life this new reality. It contains all the features required to create engaging learning paths by first assessing the innate knowledge of the users, and then monitoring their achievements by using reporting dashboards. While ensuring skill addition, Opigno also awards certificates to legitimise the acquired knowledge. Opigno is, hence, a great distribution for universities and e-learning organisations. 
  • Vardoc is another distribution meant for knowledge seeking purposes. It is built using Varbase, and is perfect to host a huge amount of content arranged in a structured manner, streamlining the content in an easily navigable layout. 

Specialised for Governmental organisations

  • deGov is a Drupal distribution meant for addressing the needs of government organisations at different levels. It is used for managing the working of official websites and publishing information. It also provides for citizen engagement portals and civic issue tracking portals for greater transparency.
  • While deGov was developed keeping in mind the needs of the German government, the distribution aGov was created according to the guidelines of the Australian government with the purpose of smooth transition of Federal, State and Local government agencies' websites to Drupal while retaining complete control of their codebase and choice of hosting provider. GovCMS was also created for the Australian government for ensuring a seamless workflow within the government's digital functioning.  
  • Another distribution meant to simplify the working of the public sector is Dimpact WIM. It is used by a municipality to state an online presence and to remain connected to other municipalities of certain regions in The Netherlands, in order to discuss queries and solutions among themselves. This is aimed towards bringing out an integrated public framework. Drupal voor Gementeen is also used by the Dutch government for the same purpose.
  • Also aiming at transparency and citizen participation in organisations is OpenPublic. Open Public makes it convenient for open governments to function with features focusing on providing open government requirements, such as improving citizen services, providing public access to data and providing a public forum for two way communication with agencies, without compromising accessibility, security, or usability. 

For an engaging and innovative website

  • Web Experience Toolkit is a distribution meant to create innovative websites that are usable, accessible and interoperable. It is led by the Government of Canada for free use by its departments, and even external web communities. 
  • Speaking of innovative websites, a responsive, clean and trendy website template is provided by BigVideo Installation profile. The X-factor in this distribution, however, is the ability to attach videos to the background of the site. 

Other important Distributions  

  • OpenChurch is a much thought about distribution that eases the working of churches and ministries by providing them a bunch of utility organisational and developmental tools online. Among the various features of OpenChurch are a blog page, bulletin board, events calendar, and a gallery for uploading pictures on the site. One can also easily integrate the rest of their social media with the website. 
  • farmOS is quite a popular distribution for record keeping and management of farm activities. The modules included in this distribution are efficient in managing all tangible objects in an agricultural farmland - like trees, animals, crops, etc. The functionality of farmOS can also be extended using additional modules
  • Crypto is a distribution for analysing live market market data of over 800 crypto currencies. It uses react.js to list top 4 currencies and coin listing, extracting data from a headless Drupal website. 
  • OpenFed is a distribution created by the Belgian Federal Public Service Policy and Support, as part of the Fast2Web offering. Major functionalities include advanced search, modules for customising layout and modules for enhancing security. 
  • Apigee Developer Portal Kickstart is used to build new Developer portals for Apigee, a platform for managing several APIs. 

All in all,distributions are a great way to simplify one’s work. They also make it much easier to stay up to date with the ongoing trends and developments all around the world.