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Need Forum Software Recommendations

I'm looking for some forum software suggestions. Something between vBulletin (costs money) and bbPress (way too bare-bones). phpBB is a little too heavy, but seems to be the best out there. I installed the 3.0B2 version as a test.

I'm not going to list all the features I'd like, but it seems to me that "75% of the features of phpBB" is a good approximation. I don't need 20 different user levels, I don't need a calendar or other tools. I just want forum software that has what I'd call "basic forum features." Users with profiles, individual categories, forums, and threads with titles, the ability to search, and so on. I'd like individual post counts and the ability to have at least four kinds of users: admins, moderators, registered users, and guests. I'd also like software that's reasonably priced (or free) and is in fairly widespread use.

I've used phpBB before and am familiar with it. I'm quite familiar with vBulletin, since The Sand Trap uses it for the Golf Talk Forum.


14 Responses to "Need Forum Software Recommendations"

  1. I've never used it, but I've heard lots of praise for PunBB.

  2. I'd suggest taking a look at punBB, SMF (Small Machines Forum), and Vanilla ( They're all IMO better options then phpBB.

    punBB focuses on simplicity, SMF is similar to phpBB, while Vanilla is a different take on forums. You can see an example of Vanilla at

  3. If it's going to be small and free site, phpBB is great for that. If it's going be be something like the sandtrap, vB all the way.

  4. I had this problem a while back and I almost went to the point of building a nice, light forums package, then realised I was ridiculously underqualified so I went back to complaining about the existing solutions. I've got no real suggestions for you, but having used YaBB (a perl solution, back in the day), phpBB and having trialled a bunch of others, it's all going to be too bloated, or too simple.

  5. I've ran phpBB before and it did everything I needed. If you're expecting anything close to the WordPress plugin system's ease of use, be warned: it is terrible. I hope you enjoy following find/replace instructions on multiple PHP files.

  6. I use PunBB for my company website and it's worked well over the last 45 days since product launch. No complaints. I'm the same way -- I wanted it to be very simple.

  7. I have used phpBB in the past and I liked it, but it seems to be the target of A LOT of spam bots these days. And mabye that is the case with all of the forums now but I had real trouble finding a way to keep the spambots out without serious manual intervention. I've heard a lot of buzz on PunBB myself, seems to be popular. I'll be watching here to see what you decide on. Good luck!

  8. It occurs to me that, while something like "Vanilla" looks nice in theory, the simple fact that it is unlikely to let me export my data in a fashion that could be easily imported later is a major turn-off.

  9. I've had a lot of luck with Vanilla. Sweet and simple.

  10. I'm a big fan of punBB, so another vote for it.

  11. I've been using phpBB for year, and loving it. If you are looking for a simply forum software, punBB is a good choice.

  12. A few latecomer observations/opinions:

    • punBB and Vanilla seem to lack some basic functionality, like next/previous topic links, so usability doesn't scale well.
    • phpBB posts/threads don't format well as plain or rich text (e.g. for basic archival in DEVONthink,; haven't checked that with punBB and Vanilla.
    • phpBB automatically marks unread posts as read between sessions; not sure about punBB and Vanilla.

    From a user perspective vBulletin has a combination of features and usability I like and appreciate, but you pay the price in $$$ and unneeded capabilities. SMF has fewer shortcomings that annoy me with phpBB but its not without quirks.

    I don't have administrative experience with any of them.

  13. What about the possibility of pulling out of Iraq, letting Iran invade and lose resources fighting their own kind,
    and then come in and mop up the dregs?