One of the most common hurdles that Drupal beginners face is learning to navigate the modules area on Drupal.org.
We often hear questions like, "There are over 10,000 modules! How we do know which ones to use and in which combinations?"
The answer is often to use a distribution.
Building your own e-commerce, intranet or a social networking site in Drupal can be intimidating. Imagine how much easier it would be if an expert had found all the best modules for your purpose and had combined them into one package. Imagine that you could download and install that package as easily as a normal copy of Drupal. That's what distributions can do for you.
Where to Find Drupal Distributions
Drupal distributions are considered important enough that they have two areas on the Drupal.org homepage.
Examples of Drupal Distributions
Here are five examples of Drupal distributions that are designed to meet a specific need:
Installing a Drupal Distribution
In most cases, installing a Drupal distribution will be exactly the same as installing a plain copy of Drupal. We're going to use the example of Drupal Commerce to walk you through installing a typical distribution. You can download this package from http://drupal.org/project/commerce_kickstart.
The main difference during installation is that you will be given the option of choosing an installation profile during install.
The installation profile might also offer you the choice of some additional features. In the case of Drupal Commerce, you have the option of installing sample content:
This is the how the Drupal Commerce distribution looks like after install. You'll see that some sample content is in place. You'll also notice that the admin menu bar has been replaced and enhanced.
If you want to actually give Drupal Commerce a try, start with our tutorial http://www.ostraining.com/blog/drupal/drupal-commerce-first-look/
Things to Note: The File Structure of Distributions
When you install a distribution, you'll see the phrase "installation profile" used. This can cause confusion, so let's explain the difference.
A distribution is not an installation profile. The installation profile is underneath the distribution and site in the /profiles/ folder.
Take a look at the image below which is a screenshot of the Drupal Commerce distribution. All of the extra modules and themes are in the /profiles/ folder. They are not in the /sites/all/modules/ folder as you would expect.
Notes of Caution on Using Distributions
Although distributions are powerful time-savers, it's worth being aware of some potential drawbacks:
Drupal.org gives a list of time when it is really useful to use a distribution on http://drupal.org/node/1089736.