phpBB review – Slowly Becoming One of the Best
Disclaimer: I haven’t used phpBB in a long while so I decided to use the phpBB demo offered on phpBB.com. This gave me access to my own forum and its ACP for a while.
There was always something about phpBB that I liked, I’m still not sure whether it was the way that it’s structured or simply the way it looks. It might just be something to do with it being the first forum software that I came across. I feel like phpBB has come a long way since I first used it. The admin control panel feels a lot easier to navigate and so far I’ve had no trouble installing a new theme. All seems to be going well for me so far. Now it’s time for me to give phpBB another go after spending so much time with MyBB.
My biggest pet peeve with phpBB was the difficulty of adding plugins (or extensions as they are called on phpBB). Back then I knew about another extension called autoMOD which was meant to make installing other extensions a lot easier and automated. No matter how many tutorials I read I could never get the autoMOD extension to work at all. And that of course meant that other extensions were also a difficulty for me to install onto my forum. Another issue I had with the old phpBB was that for some reason importing a style (theme) onto my forum always caused errors. I would love to be able to see these errors now as I’m a lot more knowledgeable about these types of things and could work out if it was something I was doing that was causing an error. These two problems were the main reason I ended up going to MyBB. In my opinion I think MyBB has always been more popular especially with users that have never hosted their own forums or users that have never administrated a forum before. MyBB is just so simple while phpBB was always considered as being a bit problematic and a lot more advanced.
The first thing I tried to do with my installation of phpBB was import a new theme. Easy. I’d even go as far as saying it’s easier than MyBB. All that is required is uploading a file containing everything for the theme to a “Styles” folder and then you import it from the phpBB admin control panel. That’s literally it. Of course I haven’t tried/have no clue about how I can edit templates as I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere in my admin control panel. MyBB has always had an extremely easy template editor so it would have been nice to compare the two and see which comes out on top.
Next I went ahead and read an installation guide on how to install an extension for a phpBB powered forum. Easy. From what I can remember in the older phpBB versions it was quite complicated and required some template edits as well but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. A simple upload of the files to the web directory and then activation of the extension is the only steps required. A quick browse through both the phpBB extensions directory and Google shows a wide choice of extensions available for almost everything that a basic forum would need such as a points system etc. Another great thing that stands out for me is the notifications feature that comes straight out of the box. I know it’s a basic and simple feature. But most forums tend to have a notifications feature but with MyBB that requires a separate plugin.
However there was one thing that disappointed me. There is a real lack of free themes for phpBB 3.1. Considering it came out around October 2014, the fact that there are only 31 free themes for this version of the software is extremely disappointing. And personally, out of those 31 themes only 1 comes even close to even being used. The rest were bland, old and just plain boring. Compare this to MyBB which has hundreds of themes both on the MyBB site and around the web and you realise that phpBB is quite far behind from ever catching up to MyBB. If you want a proper theme then you will have to dish out around $17 for a premium phpBB theme. I have seen some great modern looking themes available on ThemeForest although the fact that there are only around 10 premium themes mean that most likely most forums powered by phpBB will have similar themes that you’ve seen before. Another issue that I noticed with phpBB is a lack of support around the web. Apart from the phpBB community I haven’t really come across any places that have experienced users that are able to help other users with any phpBB problems that they may be having. I’m sure there are some forums out there that concentrate on phpBB support but personally I haven’t come across any that stand out. No matter where you look, you will always seem to find someone on any forum that has some sort of experience with MyBB and can help you out. The same cannot really be said for phpBB.
phpBB is a great forum software. It always has been behind MyBB in terms of ease of use, functions and extensibility. But it is growing and recent updates have brought some great functions and improved the software overall. This should hopefully make phpBB a more attractive software to beginners and experienced webmasters. Of course a few things still need to be improved, the lack of proper free themes for phpBB 3.1x is a real turnoff. However, I will definitely be trying out phpBB more thoroughly after this experience as I feel like it is much improved since I last used it as a forum administrator.