This review gives a classification of the excitation kinetics ruled by electrons in plasmas. It is a study on the atomic state distribution function (ASDF) and its relation with underlying processes, which, for the case of an electron excitation kinetics (EEK) plasma, is merely a competition between free and bound electrons, the same particles in different circumstances. In a quasi steady state the population density of an atomic state results from production-destruction balances in equilibrium. If all balances are proper, i.e., consist of each other's inverse processes, then the ASDF is described by the Boltzmann-Saha relation. In other cases the balance will be denoted as improper, the ASDF will deviate from the equilibrium shape, but reflecting the underlying improper balances, it may give information about the plasma. Four improper balances and their impact on the ASDF are dealt with. An important feature is that improper balances are associated with particle transport. Special attention is paid to the distribution function of the excitation saturation balance in which the overpopulated bound electrons are subjected to frequent interactions with free electrons and the energy distribution of the free electrons is taken over. This distribution, denoted as the bound Maxwell distribution, is experimentally found in several ionizing plasmas. Its recombining counterpart, the deexcitation saturation balance, creates under certain conditions inversion in the ASDF, the basis for the recombination laser.