Ever been curious about Drupal? Ever wanted to try it out? Are you introducing someone else to Drupal development?

Or perhaps you're neither curious nor wanting to try it out because you're already seasoned and experienced in Drupal, but you want to be able spin up a dev environment quickly to try out a new idea or create a proof of concept?

Enter Acquia Dev Desktop. I must admit I’ve always been skeptical of pre packaged solutions as opposed to installing the stack (Apache/Ngnix, MySQL, PHP) myself. It feels purer and more under my control if I do the installation and configuration of each component in the stack myself. Call me old fashioned and square headed – because I am. But the last few weeks I’ve tried out Acquia Dev Desktop when training developers and designers new to Drupal and I’ve reluctantly come to the realization that it’s pretty awesome. I guess the key moment was when I could get my 9 year old daughter without previous experience in development to host her own local development environment and Drupal project within the space of 5 minutes. We could immediately get to the ”fun stuff” and create her own custom theme and do some CSS.

When I work with Drupal development I usually try out concepts and ideas in a ”vanilla” Drupal before trying them out in a more complex existing project. That way you can separate the specific and often complicating factors of your existing project from the ”clean” bare bones principles of ”would this concept work” in Drupal if I combined these customizations, contributed modules and Drupal core to build something in this way?

It’s a lot easier to ”see clearly” when working with a site that is not weighed down by all the often times strange configuration and code that an existing project has accumulated. And if you do this – once you establish that your concept and principles are sound and viable – you can tackle the more daunting task of implementing them in an existing project with the knowledge that your concept in itself is sound.

"Yada yada yada – so Leander likes Acquia Dev Desktop" I hear you say? Correct – so let’s get to it.

How to install and run Acquia Dev Desktop

  1. Visit https://dev.acquia.com/downloads and click ”Download”
  2. Run the installer
  3. Once the installer has finished you’re prompted to choose a distribution. At the time of writing this the second and third alternative gives you the lates versions of ”vanilla” and ”standard” Drupal (v8.3.2 and v7.54). These are the versions I would recommend if trying out Drupal so that you build your knowledge from a standardized and neutral base. There are of course many more options such as ”Lightning, Acquia Drupal and Drupal Commerce”. I must admit that except for Drupal Commerce I know next to nothing of these distributions, but I ’m sure they’re excellent in their own right. However I feel you learn the most and get the most value out of installing a ”regular” Drupal and then adding functionality (i.e. modules) to that, rather than using a distribution. However that is just my personal opinion
  4. Once you choose a distribution – the installer installs your actual Drupal site.
  5. Now you have Drupal in a local development environment to play with! Typically this should take no more than five minutes and all you’ve been required to do is click ”ok” and ”continue” a few times.

Choosing a distribution in Acquia Dev Desktop.

What do I do now?

The beauty of it all is that you only have to click to browse you new Drupal development environment.

Acquia Dev Desktop – browse local site, local files or use terminal (drush).

Click on (1) "local site" to browse your local development installation.

Click on (2) "local code" to open the local directory containing the site root and start coding.

Click on (3) the terminal icon to open a terminal where you can run drush commands such as "drush dl module_name" or "drush cr" (drupal 8) or "drush cc all" (drupal 7).

Update 2018-01-18: If you're using Drupal 8.4 adn Drush, you may have to manually update Drush in Acquia Dev Desktop.