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Best current forum software?

Question

Nagisan    248

Last time I built a forum was 10+ years ago so I've been out of that front for quite awhile but a friend wants help building a website for a business venture he is getting started on.

 

What I need is a free forum package with a front-end page (a portal page or w/e the term is now) that can show a variety of things (such as product info, common inquiries as well as a place to submit inquiries, etc). Ideally the forum (along with all the other pages) will load inside the portal so you never lose the primary look of the site. Eventually (but not initially) a shopping cart system will be added so it should be a forum package that can easily support a cart system.

 

I am aware of the names and basic features of the forum software out there but do not have any recent experience with any of them. The last one I used was SMF and it seemed quite easy to get similar to what I describe above (portal page, content loads in the middle while keeping the header and sidebars loaded so everything looked integrated), but there are many other forum packages out now that I have never heard of and have zero experience with.

 

That being said, based on my (somewhat) vague description of what's wanted, what forum packages would you guys recommend?

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Anibal P    2,055

You could go with say a Squarespace site and discussions, Wordpress and a full forum or roll your own, fairly sure all current CMS platforms have forum capabilities or a plugin to create one, boils down to how much work you want to invest into it

 

Based on your wants, Wordpress or any CMS with a builtin forum plugin would be the easiest way to go 

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abecedarian paradoxious    326

What is the hosting environment?

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Nagisan    248

What is the hosting environment?

Probably Linux, Windows is a possibility too but I have more experience with PHP than ASP (granted that experience is years old).

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proit    6

Well, if you are looking for something free and PHP is your thing, Im thinking your choice would be phpBB.

Is there some kind of reason you want a "all-in-one" package? You can have a portal and a forum separate....

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remixedcat    2,778

Premium: xenforo

Free:phpbb or vanilla

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HawkMan    5,232

best free is probably still SMF unless the spinoff that was created after the internal drama has starred bearing fruit, it's arguably better than most licensed forums as well.

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Nagisan    248

Is there some kind of reason you want a "all-in-one" package? You can have a portal and a forum separate....

Just for ease of use and eventual management. If other routes are cleaner and easier to manage feel free to point them out.

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farmeunit    699

Joomla with Kunena, maybe? That leans more on the portal side, but Kunena is a decent forum as well. We use a lot of Joomla, so use Kunena as well for ease of integration.

SMF is what I used to use, but not sure about the Portal part. It's been a while since I've set one up, also.

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HawkMan    5,232

there used to be a super simple but pretty damn good portal for SMF that you just dropped in the root folder and it used your SMF accounts and stuff, no other complicated setup or stuff outside of themeing and sections and stuff.

 

unfortunately it was dropped a long long time ago, and all alternatives are separate portal systems that require linking plugins and setup :(

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+InsaneNutter    1,403

Paid for:

 

vBulletin - Comes with a CMS / Portal out the box, allows users to have their own blog and is very well supported. Example: Digiex

XenForo - Built by the a lot of people who used to work on vBulletin, i don't believe it has a portal / CMS out the box, however you can see GBAtemp have done a pretty good job customising it to their needs using XenPorta. (I'd personally be worried how long the author of the mod is going to support it for thinking ahead, something to keep in mind).

 

Free:

 

PHPBB - Has various portal mods, from my experience can be a bit of a pain to setup and then break when you need to perform updates at a later date.

 

I would honestly spend a bit of money up front and do it right first time, rather than switch from one system to another totally different system later down the line.

 

On my site I started with vBulletin 3 in 2004 (after messing about with free alternatives and various mods, which are no longer supported), upgraded to vBulletin 4 in 2010 and am currently at vBulletin 4.2 at the moment. I know the vBulletin mod community is not as active as it once was, but then again forums are not a popular as they used to be thanks to the rise of social networks, however which ever you decide you want something with good support, especially as this is for a business.

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remixedcat    2,778

VB is dead and IB is planning on nuking it.

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HawkMan    5,232

phpbb is horrible to setup and maintain.

 

SMF is awesome since after you set it up updates are practically automatic, updates through the admin panel like WordPress, installs mods through the admin panel like wordpress as well. generally I find the forum config, themeing and management better to

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proit    6

Just for ease of use and eventual management. If other routes are cleaner and easier to manage feel free to point them out.

As a personal opinion, I would go with something for your "frontpage" (products, shopping cart, etc.) and then go with something else for the forums. USUALLY forums use a portal mod and its sketchy at best (there are exceptions)

Simple Machines Forum is a lot more simple but that is a pro and a con. I think phpBB would be a better choice.

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pqt    275

Free:

 

MyBB

 

G4fTDQ1.png

 

MyBB is very, very, very feature-rich and manipulable. With the right modifications you can completely restructure the URLs, design it to be whatever display you want and it comes with a portal.php out of the box which is relatively easy to make your index landing page, it retains the forum global design and also comes with it's own template right in the ACP. I've used it a number of times, the only thing I think would be an issue is the eCommerce solution, I don't recall ever seeing a quality store that's really worth looking into further.

 

Paid

 

Invision Power Board (Neowin runs on this in case you're unaware)

 

7qclWo1.png

 

Alright, here's the thing. I've used both of these, as well as a plethora of other forums software(s) for a lot of client-based projects. Invision Power Board has without fail been the best all around, in your case you'd be looking at purchasing IP.Board, IP.Nexus and IP.Content.

 

3PGRnbX.png

 

I'll admit $300 right from the get-go is a bit of a red flag because that's a significant amount of money, but it's worth every dime and if you're stuck, the community can help; I'd be happy to personally help, and you get included support directly in the client area which means all of your problems will be handled, Invision Power Services does an excellent job of taking care of their community and often receive praise from happy clients.

 

Here's a good topic to take a look at right on their community forum (my response as well)

 

This is my personal forum solution in most cases, it covers a wide spectrum and they want to make that even easier in the future with their new version 4.

 

Other Opinions:

  • I'd never go back to vBulletin because of the amount of security exploits they've been subjected to, there's vulnerabilities in vB that friends and I have reported that have yet to be fixed but do penetrate the security of the board and offer access to locations and information that should not be public.
  • I've touched based on XenForo and it's really nice, really early stages of development but I see a lot of potential out of what they have to offer and I wouldn't quite disregard it yet, there's a lot in store for that relatively new forum.
  • SMF I started my forum ventures with, creating a good design is very difficult and their templating structure is weak, it's no longer an active project from what I understand, they've moved onto Wedge but I don't like how it's being put together so I have taken no interest in it myself.
  • Discourse is a Ruby on Rails forum system that I have personally started using, it will be the solution for my company forum and it's used by some of the larger developer networks as well, it's really nice, clean, simple and has a unique approach at community discussions which I like. (Twitter Developer Community Forum).

 

It really grills down to what you want out of the forum and what features are available out of the box. Hope this helps though :)

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roosevelt    22

Hi Nagisan,

 
From my expeirence, vBulletin, Invision Power and phpBB are the leaders when it comes to choosing a forum software.  Obviosuly, new plugins have appeared for most frameworks nowadays but I would easily recommend phpBB if you wish to take the free route. My experience with vBulletin and Invision Power has been equally good. Personally, I feel Invision Power is faster to adopt changes but vBulletin seems to take more of a conservative approach.
 
I agree with Mur, the security exploits does make me frown upon vBulletin but they are excellent at patching them up too. Also, considering the amount of community support, themes, mods and integrations available, phpBB, vBulletin and Invision Power are way ahead of the game. I'm sure either one will satisfy you.
 
My recommendation would be to go with either phpBB or Invision Power Board for now.

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+Kyle    98

I've always been a fan of Invision Board because I used them when they were open source. If you don't mind the price tag as Mur provided and fees then go with them.

If you want to be a baller and build custom mods I wouldn't recommend them though. The way Invision writes the software can be confusing at first.

I second Mur's recommendation of MyBB. It's easy and good for writing mods based on what you need. The community is nice as well.

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superj707    4

I know this thread is a bit old but I would like to throw in my vote based on experience.

 

FREE

SMF

I have used SMF for years as a free solution (switched to it from phpbb). For a long time SMF really fit the bill. However, as things went on SMF seamed to come to the table with less frequent updates and less innovation. They have really fallen behind and no longer offer the latest stuff that my users demand. SMF 2.1 looks promising but it's been in beta for literally years. They are progressing at a snails pace.

 

PAID

IPS

Due to this, I bit the bullet and went for PAID software. I started out going with VB5 because from what I knew they were the best game in town for years. To keep it short I will just say that this was a huge mistake. Their converter had not been updated in years... like 5+ years. The guy that was working on it long ago has left and they still market their product as though it has full conversion support.  This instantly made them a non starter as I needed to convert from SMF. They tried to avoid giving me a a refund but wouldn't provide any support. Horrible support!!! It was basically "well, good luck buddy"

 

So I decided to switch to IPB which has the fairly new IPS4 now available. Let me tell you, this company is worth EVERY cent. Their customer support is the BEST in market. The community is fantastic and they work really diligently have providing cutting edge, flexible software.  Please feel free to ask questions because I could go on and on about how great IPB is.

 

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BinaryData    777

I know one of the Devs on SMF. But there are a handful of Free to use boards.

phpBB, SMF(Simple Machine Forum, iirc), I saw one recently that i want to say was called Wuxura or something like that.

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HawkMan    5,232

SMF development is slow because of the hostile takeover by someone of the code and domains and the whole organization a few years back. most of the good developers left to start their own project, but I think that whole thing fizzled out and died, that or they completely changed names and removed all the websites and references to the original project... 

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