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Drupal 8 Module (Distro!) of the Week: Lightning

What does the Lightning distribution do?

“The Lightning Distro gives developers a starter kit for building great authoring experiences in Drupal 8,” explains product owner, John Kennedy. “By combining Layout, Media, Workflow and Preview capabilities into a single distribution, we’re able to offer a simplified, consistent authoring experience. By making choices about how these features are implemented, commitments to maintaining the distro, upgradability, and a suite of automated tests, we also offer an easier build and a reduced maintenance burden for developers.”

As of Lightning’s 1.0 GA release in June, 2016, there are nearly 400 sites running Lightning including, appropriately, the Acquia Lightning homepage! Visit lightning.acquia.com for instructions on installing Lightning with Composer, upgrade documentation, roadmap information, and more.

Acquia Lightning's homepage: lightning.acquia.com

Why is the Lightning distribution important to developers?

“Lightning gives developers a fast onramp to Drupal 8. Choosing modules can be time-consuming; it can be hard to decide which technical approaches to take, especially while also learning a new system like Drupal 8. Lightning gives you a minimal, pre-selected set of authoring functionalities, powered by a carefully chosen, pre-configured and documented set of modules to include in your build.”

Beyond this, Lightning provides a lightweight framework for further extension that is tightly coupled with Drupal 8’s design patterns and functionality. John continues, “We don’t try to provide absolutely everything out-of-the-box. This is a faster way to a great authoring and publishing experience built with Drupal.” Lightning comes ready to be used in continuous integration workflows. It includes more than 60 automated tests covering its major functionality. This gives developers a much more solid base to work with than an entirely custom, one-off selection of contributed modules with limited or unknown test coverage. It makes Lightning a ‘safer’ environment for further extension and development.

According to John, Lightning is somewhere in between the framework- and the product-distros of the world. Panopoly, for example, is more of a foundation for site building that specifically addresses layouts. While Thunder, built and maintained by Hubert Burda Media, is an example of an “out-of-the-box” product distro for publishers.

“We focus on developers first,” John is adamant, “This is our advantage … and yours as a developer or content author. Authoring experiences in Lighting, even complicated or sophisticated ones, will be easier to configure. And developers can focus on what their authors and businesses need.”

“We try not to put anything in Lightning that needs to be undone by a developer.” That’s a frequent concern of developers when they approach distributions. Some distributions have (or have had) certain modules or burdensome configurations that developers have to undo before they can use them. “We try to stick to Drupal and the modules contained in our distribution. This is Drupal, great Drupal, faster … That’s our hope.” Furthermore, John clarifies that Lightning won’t interact “destructively” with other modules. For example, the Display Suite Module isn’t in Lightning even though the team expects many users of the distro to use it.

What value does the Lightning distro provide to site owners and businesses?

When you work with a site built on top of Lightning, you get the extensive functionality and flexibility of Drupal 8 core, with the added benefit of great working experiences in the following areas … and Lightning even lets you activate and use only a selection of its functionality. If you don’t need it all to start with, it’ll still be there for you if and when you do.

 

 

 

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