One of the most common questions we get from new Drupal users is, "Which modules do people normally use?"
That's a big question, with over 20,000 modules, but some are far more popular than others.
Webchick, one of the Drupal core developers, has used the statistics available on Drupal.org to make a list of the most popular Drupal 7 modules. This is different from the public stats on Drupal.org module pages, which show the popularity of modules across all versions.
Here's an introduction to the 20 most popular Drupal 7 modules:
#1. Chaos tool suite
Chaos tools suite is the most popular Drupal 7 module but it's not one you're likely to interact with directly.
Chaos tools (or CTools) as it's often known, is a set of APIs that assist other modules. In this top 20 list alone, CTools is used by Views, Views Slideshow, Webform. It's also required by popular layout modules such as Panels and Display Suite.
Views the most popular module when you count all Drupal versions. Why? Because Views is the way to organize content in Drupal. It's so essential to so many sites that it will be part of the Drupal 8 core.
Here's a presentation I gave explaining what Drupal can and can't do without the help of Views:
Token allows you to create re-usable patterns across your site. For example, the Pathauto module (#5 in this list) uses Token to create URL patterns. Here are some examples of Token in action:
#4. Libraries API
Libraries API is similar to Chaos Tools in that it is a foundational module. It's an essential part of the WYSIWYG and Colorbox module and powers several Views Slideshow features.
Libraries API works to connect Drupal to external scripts so if a module asks you to install Libraries API you'll probably need to download and install a 3rd party script also.
Pathauto creates clean, keyword rich URLs in Drupal.
Pathauto, together with the core Path module, is the difference between having URLs like this /?q=node/3 or this /node/3 on your Drupal site, and having URLs like this /about-us/. Pathauto combines with Token (#3 in this list) to allow to create default patterns for your URLs.
#6. Entity API
Webform is the best module for accepting any user submissions, from contact forms to event registration.
#8. Administration menu
The normal Drupal 7 toolbar can require several clicks to get to parts of the admin area. As a result, many developers find the Administration Menu module to be a great help because they can jump to any administrative task much more quickly. Here's how to use the Administration menu module.
The Date module allows you to add Date fields to your Drupal content. It also has an API so that other modules can more easily handle the complexity of dates (timezones etc)
IMCE is a great module that will give you file management capabilities while editing your articles in Drupal 7.
You can add various WYSIWYG editors to Drupal to allow you to have advanced editing capabilities. Among these are TInyMCE, CKEditor, BUEditor and more. However, while you get a great toolbar, these plugins don't natively allow you to search your file system to find a picture to insert in your page.
WYSIWYG fits alongside Chaos Tools, Libraries API and Entity API. By itself, WYSIWYG doesn't do anything but it allows Drupal to connect to external text editors such as CKEditor and TinyMCE.
#12. Google Analytics
The Google Analytics module does allow you to add the basic tracking code, but it's the most popular analytics option because it also provides a wide range of more advanced settings:
One thing that many people notice when they use Drupal for the first time is that there's no WYSIWYG editor. CKEditor is one solution.
CKEditor provides a WYSIWYG editor and also integrates with modules to improve Drupal's image, file and link handling.
Link is possibly the simplest module on this list. It allows you to add a field with links to external websites. This will be part of the Drupal 8 core.
#15. jQuery Update
It's not easy for the Drupal core and all the contributed modules to standardize on one version of jQuery. If your site needs a more recent (or even an older) version of jQuery, this module can provide it for you.
#16. Backup and Migrate
Backup and Migrate simplifies the task of backing up, restoring or moving your Drupal site. You can schedule your backups and and send them to a variety of destinations.
#17. Views Slideshow
Views Slideshow can be used to create a slideshow of anything that can be displayed with Views (#2 on this list).
Colorbox allows you show media inside a pop-ups. Using pop-ups can make it easier for visitors to quickly browse through multiple images or videos.
Rules is a powerful module that is used to automate actions on your Drupal site. You can make site changes automatically, based on "rules" ... if X happens, then do Y.
Rules is a vital component of many Drupal features from e-commerce to access control.
#20. Module Filter
The Drupal modules page can become very long and difficult to navigate once you've installed a lot of modules. Module Filter provides a much better interface for navigating through a long list of modules.