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Early phpBB 3 Impressions


By hagrin - Posted on 30 May 2007

Although there are numerous free bulletin board software packages available, ever since Hagrin.com was registered I made phpBB my board of choice. Recently, phpBB announced their version 3 Release Candidate 1 package and I decided that I would give the new version a test run and see how the package is shaping up. Since barring any major bugs this RC would be made the final release, I felt comfortable evaluating the package in a production environment and to evaluate it under the same careful eye I would any production application.

The one area that I will cut them some slack is in the documentation department. Unfortunately, when you're installing and setting up a piece of brand new software you rely on the documentation heavily sometimes - especially, like in my case, where you are upgrading an older system and your main concern is data preservation. Problems started immediately when I went to read the upgrade instructions from the phpBB website and found limited "just point and click" instructions to perform the conversion. What this page fails to tell you is that it's the furthest thing from the truth for completing a sucessful 2.0 to 3.0 upgrade. To actually successfully upgrade, you need to:

  • Do not, I repeat not overwrite your phpBB 2.0 files. You need to keep these in place.
  • Copy phpbb 3.0 files onto your webserver into a directory different than your current forums directory.
  • When creating the database tables, you need to make the new phpBB 3.0 tables in the same database/schema as your old 2.0 tables, but remember to use a different table name prefix.
  • Complete the installation process.
  • Complete the conversion process (the point and click interface mentioned in the link posted above).
  • Move your old phpBB 2.0 files out and move your new phpBB 3.0 files into your old forums directory.

Not so point aned click huh? However, I'll cut them some slack because I was able to find the documentation somewhere eventually and documentation usually catches up over time. Oh, and don't forget to clean out your database of the old phpBB 2.0 tables that are still there.

Once the board is up and running, you do have to marvel out how things have progressed for phpBB over time. Most of the changes you see are on the backend; however, the default prosilver theme definitely gives users a brand new experience when using phpBB 3.0. First, in the prosilver theme, user information for a post is located on the right hand side as opposed to the traditional left hand side. New user options such as reporting posts and being able to grab in-depth information about a poster/poster in a single click proves a worthwhile feature. A "Friends & Foes" option was introduced to give users the ability to create a more social networking/Slashdot like feel to their forums where having friends and foes allows users to filter through data easily. On the admin side of things, phpBB did tremendously great work when handling how bots are able to crawl your site by not assigning them a SID or session ID so that your URLs remain consistent and void of any long, always changing querystrings. phpBB developers also improved the caching system which should help server load in times like the "Digg Effect" and other large sites picking up your site's content. Finally, phpBB finally gave admins the ability to edit templates through the Admin Control Panel as opposed ot having to edit files manually.

However, there are a few missing features from the newest phpBB version which disappointed me. The lack of a RSS feed for the user's board really seems the biggest missing feature especially with the advent of iGoogle, Netvibes, RSS readers, etc. In addition, especially with the explosion of CSS layouts, I'm surprised that users do not have the ability to move poster information from the right to left side in the default prosilver theme and that type of functionality isn't introduced.

Overall, I give phpBB a thumb up on their newest release, but would still like to see some very rudimentary improvements and features added to bring the board more inline with how users are using the web these days.

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