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phpBB3 Mobile Style / Theme

By hagrin - Posted on 15 June 2010

Update 4/3/2012 - So, it looks like phpBB Mobile's website now HTTP 500s and there are much better options for phpBB3 now. Check out these mobile phpBB themes here.

One of my users pointed out to me while phpBB 3 renders fine on mobile browsers with the default template, there's too much pinching and zooming and the such to read a phpBB forum effectively. Therefore, he wondered if there was a style I could implement with some browser detection so that mobile users would have a better phpBB experience. To my surprise, phpBB 3 has no inherent support for mobile browsers and it doesn't seem as if phpBB 4 has any plans on implementing a mobile style/theme/MOD by default. After a lot of searching and some trial and error, I finally found a working solution and wanted to write out that post here so people could follow.

I found phpBB Mobile which was only just recently developed (good timing) less than a month ago. It is a MOD for phpBB that allows for user agent detection so that if one of your normal users browses from their mobile phone, their browser's user agent is detected and a mobile style is used to display your forum. While there is some documentation and a forum dedicated to this MOD, I wanted to add some notes to their documentation.

  1. Download the phpBB Mobile MOD.
  2. Extract the archive locally before uploading to your server for easier manipulation.
  3. Inside the archive open /phpbb_mobile_(version)/install_phpbb_mobile.xml in a browser so that you can read the instructions.
  4. The first "step" you are presented with is a SQL CREATE TABLE command to create the phpbb_mobile table. Note, if you used a different table prefix for your phpBB 3 install, you need to change the table name in this SQL query (for instance, I used phpbb3_*). Run this SQL command on your database server.
  5. The next section is a "File Copy". Copy the files from your extracted archive in the /phpbb_mobile_(version)/root/ folder to the root section of your forum installation on the web server.
  6. The next section is called "Edits". Download the /includes/constants.php and /includes/session.php files from your web server and make the necessary edits locally and then re-upload back to your web server.
  7. You will be at the "DIY Instructions" section. Log into your Admin Control Panel, Click on the System tab, click on "Administration Control Panel" link on the left side vertical menu, click on Styles, click on Style management, click on Styles, and then in the drop down to the right select phpBB Mobile and click Add module.
  8. You should now click "Enable" to enable the module.

At this point, the MOD is installed, but still doesn't do anything "useful" for your mobile users. You still need to install your mobile styles and then create the browser rules and associate them with your mobile styles. You might be wondering if anyone has developed any good mobile styles. The best one I found was an iPhone style also made by phpBB Mobile.

  1. If you need to install a new mobile theme at this point, you must go back to the System -> Admin CP -> Styles -> Style management -> Styles page and Delete the phpBB Mobile MOD. Why? Because, if you go to the Styles tab when this MOD is installed (doesn't matter if Disabled or Enabled), you can't properly install new styles/themes. After this is done, install your mobile style as normal. After you are done installing the style, re-add/re-enable the phpBB Mobile MOD.
  2. At this point, you need to know what your mobile style's Style ID is. If you go to your database, browse the data in the phpbb_styles table (replace phpbb with whatever prefix you used) and you'll want to take note of the ID for your mobile style.
  3. In the Admin CP, click on the Styles tab. You will now notice that phpBB Mobile options are displayed right there on the Styles page. Here, you will add the rules for which style is shown for which browser. The way the rules work is that the "Browser" box should include some unique text string found in a specific browser's User Agent and then the ID for the style you want should go into Style box. So, for instance I added the following - "Android", "iPhone", "webOS" all pointing to style "5" which is my mobile style.

That's all you need to do! Now, obviously, with every upgrade you make to the core phpBB installation, you will have to make sure that this MOD doesn't break. Good luck.

Test from the LIRR

By hagrin - Posted on 07 August 2006

Well, I have to say that I am highly impressed with my Blackberry's ability to post new content to my new Drupal CMS. The Drupal developers should be commended for creating a highly functional, yet easy to use mobile interface.

The most impressive functionality has to be the taxonomy dropdowns. I was skeptical that they would work on my Blackberry, but after selecting the dropdown you are prompted with a "Change Option" choice. After selecting that option, you are then technically navigating only the dropdown options. In order to allow users the ability to select multiple dropdown values, checkboxes appear to the left of each value. This functionality really demonstrates how SELECT tags are actually rendered separately from the rest of the page's HTML (you may have noticed this when your dropdowns rendered on top of DHTML menus.

So, my first mobile blog post seems to be a success (although I just noticed that posting markup might prove difficult if not impossible). Once I get the redesign completely done, expect more mobile posts in order to utilize my commute time.

Personalized Mobile Google Home Page

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Google announced the initial offering of their personalized home page for mobile users. Now, the same content you could get on your personalized IG page, you can now get on your mobile device.

This announcement comes with great timing for me since my Blackberry 7290 is waiting for me at home. It's been a while since I have had a cell phone (I feel like I waste so much time just talking), but the 7290 will allow me to use it more as a data device than a cell phone. Hopefully (this is the plan), I will be able to do more updates during my travel times on the train and really become as efficient as possible.

Google Talk for Blackberrys

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

The Google Talk blog announced the release of Google Talk for Blackberry devices. Since Blackberry users are usually very tied into their real-time communications device, releasing Google Talk for Blackberrys should open up a whole new user base previously untapped.

Although only available to US and Canada residents, the new GTalk application allows users to chat and still check email and use other Blackberry applications. This definitely is a step in the right direction; however, GTalk still needs some additional features such as file transfer to really make this applitcaion a contender in the IM market.

Google Mobilizer

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

The Google Mobilizer utility allows you to plug any web page URL into their form and you will see exactly what your page looks like on a mobile device. This is a great way for web developers ot see if their pages look appropriate on all types of platforms and devices. All web developers should have this bookmarked.

AJAX for Mobile Devices

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

The Open Gardens Blog (yeah, who?) has a very interesting piece on AJAX implementations on mobile devices such as cell phones. Most web developers don't even put mobile development in their mind and a lot of these newer Web 2.0 websites are not mobile device capable.

However, as the article states, Opera has made AJAX advancements possible on mobile devices by offering a SDK to developers through the Opera Platform page.

Google and Opera Mobile

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

BetaNews reports that Google has teamed up with Opera to be the default search engine of choice on their Opera Mobile and Opera Mini applications. Even though Opera trails dramatically in the desktop browser race, Opera does have a strong foothold in the mobile arena and Google, recognizing that mobile computing through cell phone usage is the future, has already staked their claim. However, the partnership very wisely for Opera, only is for a single year. 2006 should hold a lot of ad

Mobile Web Design

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

With the new wireless technologies being adopted by the masses, it's important to make sure your website displays properly on the different wireless devices. IBM has written a guide to retrofitting your web pages to display correctly and aesthetically pleasing on wireless devices.

As a side note, the Opera browser gives you the ability to view a website in "Small Screen" mode by choosing View and then Small Screen. Thsi will give a web developer some insight as to how their site will view on a wireless browser.

Gmail for Your Cellphone

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Google has announced that Gmail can now be accessed by your cellphone or mobile device. This is a very key service and one that could open up doors to many other opportunities for Google. Although the desktop war is in full swing between Google and Microsoft, Google doesn't have that "super giant" like Microsoft (and their 40 billion dollars in cash reserve) to contend with in mobile Internet delivery. I would look out for more mobile related releases from Google in the near future.