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Comments September 22, 2008

Smackdown Round V – phpBB3 versus phpBB-Dave

Filed under: phpBB, phpBB3 — Dave Rathbun @ 7:19 am Comments Off 

In the first four posts of this series I went through the feature list comparing phpBB2 with phpBB3 from the list posted at phpbb.com. I then included notes discussing which new features for phpBB3 I had covered already by adding MODs. At this point the score is 4-1 in my favor, based primarily on my needs and use of the code. This is the fifth post in that series and I will cover the User Control Panel, Usergroups, and the Moderator Control Panel categories.

As a disclaimer: this post is not intended to be a criticism of phpBB3 in any way. It is simply a way for me to formally review the features provided by the latest version as compared to what I am currently using, and help evaluate whether I should prioritize an upgrade or remain happy with what I have.

User Control Panel

User Control Panel
Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
User Signatures: Yes Yes Yes
User Avatars: Yes Yes Yes
User Ranks: Yes Yes Yes
Users Online List: Yes Yes Yes
User Preferences: Yes Yes Yes, extended
User Profile Settings: Yes Yes Yes, extended
Manage Saved PM/Post Drafts: No Yes N/A
Manage Bookmarks: No Yes Yes
Manage Attachments: No Yes Yes
Manage Subscribed Topics: No Yes Yes
Custom Profile Fields: No Yes See Notes
Friends/Foe List: No Yes No

At face value the feature list seems quite similar between phpBB2 and phpBB3 in this area. Of course the interface is completely different. The tabbed interface of phpBB3 makes much better use of screen space and presents profile options in a concise and organized fashion. The screen used by users to update their preferences in phpBB2 simply displays everything in a table that stretches down the screen. But this isn’t about interface as much as it is about features.

My users have the ability to set up signatures. I only allow moderators to select avatars (custom code). I have created an extended preferences screen that lets users pick whether they want to view signatures, view avatars, view images, or even what format they want to use to view smilies. They can opt for the graphical display like this :-) or they can view all smilies as their text equivalent like this : – ). That, believe it or not, was one of the first requests that I got when I opened the board. Most of my members will be working in a corporate environment, and having the smilies dancing around was either listed as a distraction or as an indication that something “fun” rather than work was going on. I can understand that. :)

I have had code for years that allows users to create “favorite” topics which work the same way as bookmarks in phpBB3. I have even created a nice interface using the search screen that allows users to do mass updates to bookmarked topics (mass removal is really the only option that makes sense). In fact, I have three different classifications that users can assign topics. They can identify a topic to watch (standard phpBB2 feature), a topic as a favorite (a bookmark), or a topic as being particularly useful (assigning a topic point). All of these features can be added individually and removed individually or in bulk.

I also have a number of custom profile fields, but I don’t have a custom profile field feature. I simply create each new field as an entry in the phpbb_users table and add it to the proper forms. I don’t need an interface to manage custom profile fields because I know how to modify the code. And frankly it’s probably more efficient to have it done that way.

I don’t have a friends / foes list feature, and nobody has asked for it. One boards with a different subject matter I can see where it would be useful. I don’t need it right now, so I won’t deduct a point here.

I am going to call this a tie because I have all of the features I need, and I’m quite happy with them. Remember that a point means that there is a compelling reason to use one version over another, and I don’t think that’s the case here. I have what I need, and phpBB3 doesn’t provide a significant advantage to upgrading.

Private Messaging

This feature has been completely removed from my board, so it’s rather pointless to review. I’m going to skip it and move on to the next category. I should point out, however, that this is one area where phpBB3 far outshines phpBB2 with the ability to send to multiple recipients, the ability to use the “bcc” feature, use forwarding, sending to groups… they have basically created a private email system for phpBB3. It’s nice, but I don’t use it. Why not? That’s a subject for another blog post. :)

User Groups

Here’s the summary for this category:

User Groups
Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
Group Types: Yes: Hidden, Closed, Open Yes: Hidden, Closed, Open, Request As phpBB2
UCP Group Management: Yes Yes Yes
UCP Manage Group Memberships: Yes Yes Yes
Multiple Group Leaders: No Multiple Group LeadersSingle Group Leader/Moderator only Yes Multiple Group LeadersMultiple Group Leaders No
Custom Group Colours: No Yes No
Group Ranks: No Yes No
Group Avatars: No Yes No
Group-based Memberlist Display: No Yes No

I don’t have any of the new features from phpBB3, but as with some other areas, I don’t need them. Remember I am looking for compelling reasons to upgrade. I don’t see one here, so no point will be awarded.

Moderator Control Panel

Moderator Control Panel
Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
Global Moderators: No Yes No
Forum Moderators: Yes Yes Yes
Topics/Posts Moderation Queue: No Yes See Notes
Manage Reported Topics/Posts: No Yes Yes
Topic History: No Yes
Forum/Topic Logs: No Yes Yes
Localised Moderator Logs: No Yes No
Post Editing: Yes Yes Yes
Post Locking: No Yes Post Locking prevents user from editing post No
Post Details: Yes Yes Yes
Change Post Author: No Yes No
Quick-Mod Tools: Yes Yes Quick-Mod Tools Expanded Yes
Moving Topics: Yes Yes Yes
Move Multiple Topics: Yes Yes Yes
Merging Topics: No Yes Yes
Merging Posts: No Yes In Development
Merging Multiple Topics: No Yes Yes
Split Topics: Yes Yes Yes
Locking Topics: Yes Yes Yes
Deleting Topics: Yes Yes Yes
Copying Topics: No Yes No
Global Topics: No Yes No
Announcement Topics: Yes Yes Yes
Sticky Topics: Yes Yes Yes
Manage Bans: No Yes Manage Bans Manage Suspensions (Temporary Bans), Permanent Bans, plus reason for ban No
Manage User Warnings: No Yes No
Banning by Username: No Yes Yes
Banning by E-mail Address: No Yes Yes
Banning by IP Address: No Yes Yes
User Notes: No Yes No

This is a very long category, so I will only comment on those areas where phpBB3 and phpBB-Dave are different.

I don’t have a global moderator role. I simply have one group of moderators that has power over the entire board. The function is there, it just doesn’t have a fancy name. I really have two types of moderators on my board. The “global” moderators are members of the Forum Moderators group and they have moderator abilities everywhere. Then there are “Group Moderators” who have moderator powers in only one forum where regional user group topics are discussed. The reason they have moderator status is so they can add their topic / event to the board calendar.

On my largest board I do not have a topic moderation queue, but I have written a MOD for that and use it on a smaller board. I could install it on my larger board if I needed to, but after I figured out how to block the spammers from registering I haven’t needed it.

I have written my own report-a-post feature which, frankly, I like better than what’s in phpBB3. At Londonvasion the developer team asked the moderator team to provide feedback or suggestions on how to improve anything related to the MCP, and I have provided some input based on how I wrote my own code. That might sound conceited, and I don’t mean it to be. :) I wrote my code based on input from my own moderator team as well as from my own experiences as a board moderator, and I think it’s quite useful. It’s not perfect; there are certainly things that could be improved.

My report-a-post code logs all actions to a database table. The same table is also used to log moderator actions like splitting, moving, and merging topics. Essentially everything done to a topic (or post) is logged in the same place. I don’t really offer a fully local moderator log, but I don’t need it because I don’t really have local moderators. All of my moderators (as already stated) are global.

I don’t have a post-locking feature. I have never needed it, and it would be simple to write if I did. The lack of this feature doesn’t make a compelling reason to upgrade.

Change post author? I think I’ve needed to do that twice in six years. :lol: I just update the database rather than wasting time writing code to do this. For some folks this might be important, but not for me.

I’ve already written a merge topic feature that I really like. In fact I have posted on this blog about it. I don’t have a merge post feature, but I can see how it would be useful and have started developing it.

I don’t have a copy topic feature, and have never even noticed that it’s available in my role as a moderator on phpbb.com. Why would you want to do this?

I don’t have global topics. What I have instead is an admin panel interface that lets me enter board announcements, and they are displayed at the top of every page in a special box. They’re not topics at all, but a specific data structure just for announcements.

The banning features of phpBB3 are nice. :) I like the ability to do temporary bans and let people cool off before they come back and post again. But I have already posted that – other than spammers – I have only used the ban feature once in over six years of managing my board. At phpbb.com this feature is awesome, but it’s not something that I truly need to continue running my own boards. I don’t have warnings either, but that feature falls into the same situation as banning.

I like the user notes feature. I have already written a post notes feature, and am in development for a user notes feature for phpBB2. I suspect that if it ever got completed :lol: it would include temporary bans and warnings too in order to make a complete package. But for now, I don’t need it.

Basically after all of that I can honestly say that the moderator control panel is nicer looking and has more features for phpBB3, but I’m not missing any features that are critical to my boards success. At the same time while I have added some of my own MODs, they are things that could be converted to existing phpBB3 features after an upgrade. So there is no compelling reason to stay either. Thus, no points awarded in this category.


So far I have covered fifteen (and ignored one) of the categories from the feature comparison list at phpbb.com. The score was 4-1 coming into this post, implying five feature categories had a clear winner and the ten others had inconsequential differences. Where do I think I stand now?

The same. :) Some of the features in this post have major interface differences, but from a feature-to-feature standpoint they’re not that different. The UCP and MCP are displayed using a substantially improved interface. User groups are a fairly basic feature as far as how I use it, and I don’t need to display people in different colors. The score remains 4-1 with 11 category comparisons resulting in no points awarded. As a reminder, the main reason for the point advantage to phpBB-Dave are the Page Permissions MOD and the search changes that I’ve made. The other points are for

Next time I will cover all of the remaining categories which include Administration Control Panel, Styles, Permissions, Notifications, and Localization.

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