What are Drupal 8 distributions anyway? Why bother using one: what would you gain by using one instead of building your Drupal 8 site from scratch? And, most importantly: which are the best Drupal 8 distributions to choose from?

… the top-rated ones, both by other companies already using them and by Drupal experts, as well?

There are lots of different Drupal Distributions: Commerce Kickstarter, Open Atrium, Drupal Commerce, etc. build for different versions of Drupal. Which ones are the best?

Let's jump straight ahead to the answers you're looking for now, shall we?

First Things First: What Is a Drupal Distribution After All?

“A Drupal distribution packages a set of contributed and custom modules together with Drupal core to optimize Drupal for a specific use case or industry." (Dries Buytart, Distributions Remain a Growing Opportunity for Drupal)

Take it as an all-in-one-place or a conveniently quick and easy-to-install package.

One which, once “unwrapped”, delivers you all the site-specific features and business use-case/industry-specific functionality that you need:

  • Drupal core
  • precisely those contributed and custom modules that you need 
  • themes
  • predefined configuration
  • installation profiles
  • libraries

Bottom line: it's Drupal + additional software components (strategically assembled and preconfigured) that you get with a Drupal distribution software.

One that will turn setting up your use-specific Drupal 8 site into a breeze! “How to install a Drupal distribution?” quickly turns from a hard nut to crack into nothing but a child's play.

Just imagine how much time and valuable resources you'd otherwise invest in:

  • scanning through the overwhelmingly rich collection of Drupal modules
  • figuring out which are THE ones catering to your specific use case or industry
  • installing all the needed elements (and here we're not referring to Drupal 8 modules only) one by one

And here we can talk about 2 types of Drupal distributions:

  1. the full-featured ones 
  2. the quick-start tools

Key Advantages of Using One Over Building Your Site From The Ground Up

Before we push forward, into the spotlight, the best Drupal 8 distributions to choose from, let us outline what you'll gain, precisely, from making this decision:

Using a Drupal distribution over setting up your website from scratch.
  • launching your website turns into a matter of a few... hours; instead of delving into a load of thousands of modules yourself, the preconfigured site that you get by choosing a software distribution delivers you everything you need in a single download: wrapped up in one installable package! 
  • by comparison, the “traditional” way of setting up your site would grant you access to Drupal core only; any additional functionality needed calls for... additional downloads
  • maintaining your whole ecosystem of modules and other site components becomes less time-consuming: one single update is enough for all Drupal modules and features (vs “hundreds” of them in a conventional Drupal site build scenario)

And now since selecting the proper Drupal distribution, the one that best suits your specific type of site, your business use case, and industry, is key, let us reveal to you the top-rated ones to consider choosing from:

And Here Are The 7 Best Drupal 8 Distributions

1. Lightning

Empower your editorial team and you'll get (even) better content on your Drupal 8 site!

With the Lightning Drupal distribution for enterprise, you get to turn crafting, adding, editing, and publishing content into a rich authoring experience!

How does it work you say?

Practically Lightning's built to "fuel" the editorial experience with these 4 modules' powers combined: Workflow, Media, Layout, and Preview.

Hence, content editors get all their feature/functionality needs satisfied for creating great content (and handling content editing operations) with great ease.

2. Varbase

The "nitty-gritty" of any Drupal web project!

This is what you'll get once you "unwrap" your package with the "Varbase" name tag on!

Basically, the essential modules, configurations, features, and functionalities that any Drupal 8 site needs are all bundled up in this starter kit, at a click's distance!

Get all these necessities downloaded and installed and give your site's development a major speed boost.

3. Contenta

Planning to jump on the decoupled Drupal bandwagon? To progressively decouple your Drupal 8 site maybe?

Then Contenta, the API distribution for Drupal 8, makes your best "ally" in turning your decoupling Drupal project into a success story!

What it does, precisely, is it eases the overhead of making a decoupled architecture work (or simply “trying it on”, to see first whether it fits you or not):

  • it provides you with an API-ready platform (admin configuration here included)
  • ... demo content
  • ... and even example front-end applications

4. Reservoir

Here's another API-first Drupal distribution, (still) an experimental one, that you can rely on for supporting your Drupal decoupling initiative. 

... if you were looking precisely for a flexible and easy to use tool for building a Drupal content repository that your front-end app could easily access via HTTP APIs.

But what makes Reservoir one of the best Drupal 8 distributions?

  1. it takes the burden of modeling and managing content off your shoulders 
  2. it enables your team of developers to set up a basic, yet functional content back-end, all while preserving the rich content editing experience (with all the functionality and features that editors get "spoiled" with) that Drupal 8's well famous for 

Note: surprised that Contenta and Reservoir have made it to our "best Drupal 8 distributions" list? Don't be! The 2 API-first distributions might still be community-driven experiments. Yet, all the potential they "promise" to unlock in a digital landscape where the channel/device/design-agnostic trend and the API-first approach rule is not to be underestimated.

5. Thunder

Out-of-the-box publishing technologies (Riddle Interactive Content, Facebook Instant Articles) and modules from industry partners (Valiton, Nexxt.tv, Acquia) is what you'll get along with your Thunder "package".

In short: all you need in an all-in-one the bare necessities and more addressing all your professional publishing needs!

6. LISSA Kickstart

A Drupal distribution built to help you streamline your events and client notifications management and publishing process. 

What you'll get specifically is a Drupal-based technology stack for real-time messaging in second screen apps. One which, as a media company, you get to leverage for:

  • pushing notifications to your clients
  • publishing video stream (live or on-demand)
  • ... with convenient ease

7. Open Social

By far one of the most popular Drupal distributions, Open Social couldn't have possibly missed from our top including the best Drupal 8 distributions.

Go for it if it's a:

  • social community platform
  • intranet solution
  • portal
  • or any other Drupal-powered social project that you're planning to build

It will dramatically speed up the development process as it provides you, right out-of-the-box, with all the elements that your social community site could need:

  • Notifications
  • Timeline
  • Events
  • Follow
  • Groups

And this it IT! Our own selection of the very best Drupal 8 distributions to consider as "candidates" for your own specific Drupal project. Select the one that best fits your project's specific use case, then weigh its advantages and... decide how you'll invest the time that you will have saved using it (instead of building your site from scratch).


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