The original article I was looking at (see the first post) covered WordPress as a forum, it made no mention of addons, plugins, themes or anything just what a great forum WordPress makes, so let's clear things up a little here.
WordPress is not a forum it does not come with a forum plugin of any kind and in terms of built-in features and the concept of a traditional forum, it is not one. However for those curious I made an effort to cover a few of the WordPress plugins that introduce forums to them... sadly going into this I was quite unsure how many options WordPress offered .. and it's a few so I have attempted to be as brief as I can for each forum plugin.
bbPress has been around for quite some time and I did go back through the release announcements and found the 0.72 release of bbPress being pushed out in what may be the first public release, correct in response below if this is incorrect.
bbPress which is now part of automatic is often thought of as the default forum for WordPress, bbPress does credit phpBB and MyBB for ideas and inspiration on its about page.
As easy as any other WordPress plugin, go to plugins, add new, it's on the first page and installs, activate.
bbPress in fairness does what I wish more WordPress plugins would do and fades into the existing install of WordPress and gives off the impression it's always been installed, you just didn't notice it.
After install, you're presented with 3 new main menu options, Forums, Topics and Replies. One new setting is added to the settings section called Forums and a new section also called Forums under the Tools menu - it's very well contained within WordPress and really very straightforward sometimes to its own detriment as it lacks a lot of features so fans of forums with the kitchen sink built in won't be a fan of bbPress but for those willing to start with a solid base setup with good core features - then bbPress can be a little powerhouse.
Extensions / Themes
Extension wise the official site lists 203 extensions specifically for bbPress but due to the weird nature of WordPress the number of extensions and plugins is likely a lot larger as many of the thousands of commercial themes bundle in not only theme files for bbPress but also a ton of little tweaks, changes and fully fleshed out features.
bbPress is great for those willing to put in a little work and beat it into the shape you want it to be, however for most it may become across as a little feature lacking, tags management for topics is in a weird place (centralised tags perhaps?)
- Looks like it belongs in WordPress
- Simplistic and easy to set up and use.
- Lots of plugins and supported by lots of themes
- Ugly out of the box
- Needs a lot of work to make it look good
- Lack of initial features could scare some off
- Many themes with awesome bbPress demos tend to require you to install the massive demos to get the same look then work backwards.
I could not find much of anything on the wpForo website, but after a little digging on the plugin releases and then their own forums, it seems wpForo started out life in 2013 as an internally developed forum for support issues.
The first public release I can find was on June 13th, 2016 with the release of beta-1
Installation was as easy as any other WordPress plugin and did not require any additional post activating steps to complete the install.
wpForo opts to place itself under one admin menu item, named Forums so it's much easier to find more so when you have a ton of Forums, while the bbPress method of placing items in logical places according to the WordPress layout does work, the wpForo concept may work better, again more so when you have a lot of plugins or menu items to deal with.
This is my first time installing wpForo so I could be way off on some thoughts so just know these are mostly initial impressions.
What I would expect a WordPress plugin to call Tools are on the dashboard under "forum maintenance" which makes sense it is what they do, but a Tools sub-menu item exists, could have easily pushed those tools into a tab on the Tools page.
The configuration page itself does use tabs and it is laid out very well, I cannot fault the configuration page all that much at all but if I was too it would be the lack of categorization on the features tab, it has a lot of smart features including the option to disable WordPress... wish Woocommerce had this!
Given it's just a quick look, I really do see a lot of potential in wpForo, it's quite flexible and offers a lot more than I expected in the free core, many developers I think would have sneaked a few of the features into commercial plugins.
Extensions / Themes
This is a little hard to nail down, it's clearly well supported by its own developers and they do offer commercial plugins. I also did spot a few other developers supporting intergrations with but it's clearly not as large as bbPress and that's a bad thing at all.
- Ability to disable WordPress and act as a standalone forum. (I tested and it appears to be visual, duh what did I expect, still a great option)
- Feature complete out of the box.
- very flexible in terms of configuration, phrases and colour options.
- Very easy to get up and running quickly
- Built-in profile looks great
- Dashboard could be much more
- Didn't like the default click to expand forums
- Don't like socials on by default - trackers.
Simple : Press does market itself as an enterprise forum and according to its about page was started as a project towards the backend of 2006.
Unlike previous forum plugins, this one did require an additional step, which takes you to another page with 3 settings to define, after working with those 3 options it's onto another screen which looks like it's doing all the database building and then onto the Forum admin - it sounds like a lot but just a few extra clicks and it's all presented in a neat and easy to follow set of screens.
So I did not like the Simple: Press approach to set things up, it is not complex nor is it difficult to follow but it makes use of the WordPress admin menu for all settings, then repeats that same menu on its inner page - granted in a fancier manner but still taking up screen real estate with reproduction.
Out of the box visually it doesn't look great - comes across as very boxed and the alternative theme looks like a Phorum/PunBB but of course, visuals are subjective and with the right amount of work, a good theme or a good designer you can make this look great.
I really disliked the vision of options in this plugin, I should stress this is the free version and the commercial offering may change things up but it felt like given the wealth of options a horizontal organisation, as well as a vertical one, would have aided in breaking things up - similar to what wpForo does.
It's not all bad however, the ranks page is very clean and very neat, similar story with user groups - that entire section is very clean and easy to follow while some are just dual columns filled with tick boxes which a novice may spend time looking up - a wider page could accommodate some helpful tooltips or information on what specifics do and while they may or may not be important.
I really did like the user groups and user permissions, although reset should require another type 'reset' option in my opinion - flashing alarm bells and all that.
Extensions / Themes
Simple : Press does have 70+ commercial plugins, most of which are developed by the people behind Simple : Press, you could use the free version and simply pick up the commercial add-ons you wish or just buy the commercial version and get all the addons bundled with it, this is likely the best option for anyone that wants more than 5 addons (purely based on addon prices vs bundled pricing)
Outside of this I only found one other developer with a plugin for Simple😛ress
It's not a bad forum, but it could do with some polish, more so in the admin side of things with the UI/UX needing some overhaul as it feels like new stuff has been dropped in weird places, some screens are very busy others are not - I've not tried the commercial version which may be completely different in this regards so I could only speak on what's offered via the wordpres.org plugin site
- The frontend is quick, nimble and clean
- Despite clunky admin UI, it does have a wide range of options
- Themes allow for simple:press to look like many other popular forums with little effort.
- admin UI/UX was a letdown
- does not offer any form of toolbar or WYSIWYG editor, this is for premium only
I could not locate an about page for this one but checking on the github releases page we can find the 1.0.0 release came out on December 29th 2015 .. something about December and forums... a little further digging and apparently the release was called mingle-forum-lite on 15th of November in 2015, 2 days later it picked up its current name and dropped the lite.
Install was as easy as any other WordPress plugin with no additional steps or prompts.
Asgaros initially does not look to offer a lot and I will admit that I was confused as it only offered 5 options.
Not exactly swimming in options compared to some of the others, however it's very well contained and fairly obvious what everything does and settings offer a huge range of options spread across a vertical tab layout and a good deal of the options offer helpful hints.
At least based on initial look over and without going too deep of all the WordPress forums this is perhaps the one I would opt to go with, it has enough options to get going without being overkill and the front end looks great even on the basic theme I chose to use.
The theme system is as good as the one offered by wpForo and offers all you need and not much more.
Extensions / Themes
The official community forums do have an add-ons section but at best it contains about 20 ish extensions, I didn't see any signs of alternative themes.
A few extensions can be found on the Wordpress Plugins site too
I really do like Asgaros, it's clean, simple and offers a lot of the basics without a lot of the junk and the flexibility expands beyond just the style/theme manager allowing notification texts to be customized.. it does surprise me this only has 20'000 installs.
- In active development
- Clean, simple and flexibile
- Profile is great, subscriptions manager is excellent.
- Ads management in my opinion should be an add-on
- Not a lot of add-ons
- Features section could do with the division of features by type.
A few items of note
- I opted not to include Buddypress as I felt it fell more into the social spectrum of things and it does integrate with bbPress, likewise I opted to leave out a ton of the QnA plugins, social plugins and probably lots more if I missed one you feel is important for the list, leave a reply and I'll look it over.
- Please also note that I tested each plugin with the default theme, but nothing at all looks good with the basic WordPress theme, it's a bit of a dumpster fire when it comes to forum plugins at least so I did go back and retake screenshots with a template I found simple yet still presented a more fair look at the forums.
- I used WP-Reset after each install to nuke things back to normal.
- WordPress is massive and has a ton of plugins, I did try to cover what "the internet" told me was the most popular ones, however, I only included WordPress as the original article did, if you need a blog/cms on top of/beside your forums then WordPress is a decent option despite what you may conclude from the above.
This post is part of our "best forums 2022" series, you can see the hub post here and you can also use that post for suggestions on other forums we should look into.
Otherwise, let us know what you think of our review of this forum in a response below, did we make a mistake? has it evolved in some massive way so needs a re-review?