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Comments September 27, 2008

Smackdown Round VI – phpBB3 versus phpBB-Dave

Filed under: phpBB, phpBB3 — Dave Rathbun @ 2:25 pm Comments Off 

In the first five 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 sixth and final post in the series and I will cover the Administration Control Panel, Styles, Permissions, Notifications, and Localization.

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.

Administrator Control Panel

As I mentioned in the last post I clearly realize that the UCP / MCP / ACP of phpBB3 are very far ahead of phpBB2 as far as interface, layout, and usability. However I am focusing on specific features. To be honest, once things are set up and running how often do you need to visit your admin panel? I know I spend very little time on that screen, so the new interface is not a clear and compelling reason to upgrade. That being said, here is the comparison matrix.

Administrator Control Panel
Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
Founder Status/Board Creator: No Yes No
Load Settings: Yes Yes Yes
Prune Inactive Users: No Yes Yes via cron job
Manage Ranks: Yes Yes Yes
Manage Groups: Yes Yes Yes
Manage Group Memberships: Yes Yes Yes
Manage Attachments and Settings: No Yes Yes via Attachment MOD
Manage User Attachments: No Yes Yes
User Editing: Yes Yes User EditingAdvanced Interface — Complete User Administration: Overview, profile, preferences, permissions, groups, avatar, signature, and settings Yes
List Groups on Index: No Yes No
Topic Icons: No Yes No
Mass e-mail: Yes Yes Yes
Manage report/denial Reasons: No Yes Yes, via custom MOD
Module Management: No Yes No
Custom BBCodes: No Yes No
Custom Profile Fields: No Yes Yes, via custom MOD
Custom Profile Fields Placement Options: No Yes Custom Profile Fields Placement OptionsRequired fields, Optional but fields shown on registration, Field shown in Profile, Field shown in Memberlist, Field shown in Topics, Moderator/Admin Profile Field (hidden from user) N/A
Custom Profile Fields Data Types: No Yes Custom Profile Fields Data TypesDates, Integers, Text Fields, Textareas, Menu lists, Toggle (on/off, yes/no), Radio Buttons N/A
Manage Bans: Yes Yes Manage BansManage Suspensions (Temporary Bans), Permanent Bans, plus reason for ban[?] As phpBB2
Banning by Username: Yes Yes Yes
Banning by E-mail Address: Yes Yes Yes
Banning by IP Address: Yes Yes Yes

One of the more useful (and very often requested in phpBB2) is the ability to prune users. I have two solutions already in place for this. First, I have a perl script running as a weekly cron job that removes any user that registered 30 or more days ago that has never registered. The same script is also designed to remove any user that registered and activated but has never logged in over the past 90 days. What this means is you get 30 days to activate your account and another 60 days to log in and use the board at least once or your account is removed. The best part of this solution is that everything is automated via cron jobs so I don’t have to remember to do anything myself.

As already mentioned I have been using the Attachment MOD from Acyd Burn for many years so I already have an attachment feature for my board. Granted it’s not as integrated as the option in phpBB3 but it’s certainly functional.

I don’t have topic icons but don’t see a need for them. I don’t have the ability to list groups on the index and again don’t see the need to do so. I have written my own “report a post” MOD and it includes the ability to configure and report on report reasons via the ACP.

I think the custom profile fields MOD is a great feature for people that don’t know how to edit code, as it lets them set up special fields for their board (like shoe size, eye color, favorite sports team, and so on) without altering the core code. In my case I simply add the field to the database table and alter the profile screen with the new field. I’ve added tons of new profile fields in this way and it works fine. It’s not something I change every day, so having an admin interface is not really that useful for me.

And finally, I’ve talked about the banning process in several prior posts in this series, so I’ll skip it here.

Since I’m not really missing anything, there isn’t a compelling reason to upgrade. On the other hand, I haven’t added any features that are not present in phpBB3 either. Thus, this category ends in a tie.


I’m basically going to skip this entire section, because I don’t do styles management via the ACP. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to offer more than one theme / style for their site… something I had posted about before. I also recently posted about getting a mobile style for phpBB2, but in that case I would use a separate URL, which is not really the same as having two styles on the same board.

At one point I wrote my own MOD to allow users to use custom image sets. After several years of use less than one percent of users on my board had made use of the feature so I dropped it.

I’m not going to offer a score in this category because I don’t really use it, and won’t use it in phpBB3 either once I upgrade.


This is another category where I have not done anything to MOD how phpBB2 works. I guess I could say that the Page Permissions MOD was related to permissions, but it doesn’t alter how permissions are assigned, managed, and processed. It simply extends the permissions checking to pages rather than forums or groups. As a result, I won’t bother posting the grid for this category either as everything for phpBB-Dave is identical to phpBB2. What are the enhancements that I’m missing?

phpBB3 introduced the concept of Roles for security. This is a concept that I’m certainly familiar with as having security roles mapped to user groups is a very common structure. phpBB2 has some group-type security but it’s clearly not the same at all. However, I have extremely basic security needs for most (if not all) of my boards and have been currently able to do everything that I need with the current security model. Thus, no points for this category.


Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
E-mail: Yes Yes Yes
Instant Messaging: No Yes Instant Messaging Jabber Support No
Bookmarks: No Yes Yes

phpBB3 introduced the concept of being notified of topic replies via IM. I’ve never used it at any of the phpBB3 boards that I go to, and it’s never been requested as a feature on one of the boards that I own or manage. I do offer bookmarks via a custom MOD, but I already talked about that in a prior post. It seems that there are quite a few features that pop up more than once in the comparison grid as published on phpbb.com. :)


Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
Support for Multiple Language Packs: Yes Yes Yes, but not used
Languages: 50+ 61+ N/A
Right to Left Support: No Yes No
Language Pack Web-Editor: No Yes No

My board is an english language board. I don’t envision that changing. I have not installed any language packs for phpBB2 and would not for phpBB3. Therefore improvements in this area are not really useful to me.


The score was 4-1 coming into this post, implying five feature categories had a clear winner and the all of the others had inconsequential differences. For reference, here are the five categories where I declared a “winner” in comparion phpBB3 with phpBB-Dave:

  • Basic Features – This category includes the “Unread Posts” feature, and that is probably the most important feature that I’m lacking in phpBB2. I know it’s available as a MOD, and I could probably come up with something myself. I also recognize that this feature would be extremely popular if I could make it available. Of all of the things offered in phpBB3 this is one of the most compelling reasons to upgrade right away. Thus the first point awarded in this comparision went to phpBB3.
  • Spam Fighting Features – I have made a number of tweaks over the years to fight spam on phpBB2 and I think I have a very good set of options to use. I have code in the Prevention area (Checkbox Challenge), Detection (Report-a-Post), and Elimination (Spammer Hammer). I am quite happy with where my board stands in this category, and in fact believe that some of my options are superior to what is in phpBB3. As a result, I awarded phpBB-Dave a point in this category.
  • Post Handling – With the MODs I have added to the posting process I decided that this category shows one reason I would want to stay with phpBB2 for the time being. These new features include bump warning, reply to post, topic prefixes, and a number of other smaller tweaks. I could include my own Report-a-Post feature here too, I guess, as I do prefer it to the one found in phpBB3.
  • Page Permissions MOD – I can’t imagine running a board without it, and won’t be upgrading until I get a chance to rewrite this for phpBB3. This impacts security on both the profile and memberlist pages but can be extended to any php page that references the phpBB session.
  • Search System – I have spent a lot of time playing with and tweaking the phpBB2 search system. I have optimized stopwords handling, decoded the regex used to split off words, added code to tweak the search terms to help prevent server loads… I have also added a “Search this Forum” and “Search this Topic” feature that are provided in phpBB3. I am very comfortable with the search system that I have in place today. I think instead of spending time reviewing the process to upgrade to phpBB3 I think I will figure out how to integrate sphinx search into phpBB2 first.

The net score after reviewing the appropriate categories was 4-1. Is that the end of the comparison, or are there other features that phpBB-Dave offers that would be required before I upgrade? What would it take to turn this score around and swing the balance over to phpBB3 instead?

I am going to save that for the next post in this series. I will list out additional MODs that I have written that are not covered under the phpBB2 to phpBB3 comparision list, mainly because neither version has these features. :)

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