When you’re first starting out with forums, it can be quite overwhelming with the sheer amount of forum softwares out there. This guide aims to cover the mainstream paid and free ones, but like everybody, there is bound to be a few mistakes and softwares I left out. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate in commenting below.
If you’ve been searching for forum softwares – no, if the word “forum” is in your vocabulary, you undoubtedly know vBulletin. The latest version has fixed a lot of problems that rendered the old version very bloated, therefore making it a very worthy forum software.
It includes all the major features including calendars, messaging, threaded / flat views, and more. The addon and modification community behind it is also unbelievably large, with essentially everything from SEO to arcade addons, to even smaller obscure niches.
Pricing starts at $195 for forum software only.
IP.Board is also a paid forum software much like vBulletin, and as far as similarities go, that’s not the end of it. Not only is there a fairly large plugin community behind it, but the theme selection is superb – in my opinion, surpassing that of vBulletin’s (but then again, you can’t generalize across an entire forum software).
I personally started out, a long while ago, with a free forum service that used an IP.Board branch off. While it wasn’t perfect, it brought me into the world of development. A couple years later, when 3.0 came out, I gave the full version of IP.Board a try and loved it. If I were to use a commercial forum software, I would very likely choose IP.Board over vBulletin.
IP.Board also includes all the mainstream features, and on top of all that, is very aesthetically pleasing as well.
Pricing starts at $175 for forum software only.
As one of the biggest open source forum software out there, phpBB user modifications and themes are widely available across the web. While the admin panel is easy to use, for the most part, it can be very confusing and overwhelming at times.
I have never really been a fan of SMF, but judging by the number of users, I’m not in the majority. It is free and has a huge array of plugins and themes, a lot of which are fairly well made. However, the actual software itself can be summed up in one word: clunky.
While bbPress isn’t a full fledged standalone forum software, it is, however, a very well made forum software in its own right. Mainly used as an addon for WordPress, it isn’t suitable for dedicated forums, or as a full feature forum. If you’re looking merely for a discussion board for your blog though, this is it.
I saved MyBB for last for a very particular reason: it’s my all time favorite, hands down. I started out with MyBB in a time where glossy patterns prevailed over gradients and solids.. so, a long time ago.
Everything from the admin panel, to the user panel, to the calendars, is very user friendly and user oriented. While the default theme is horrible, the theme selection is great, as well as the plugins available – though not as much as phpBB or SMF. Despite this fact however, MyBB boasts one of the friendliest communities out there and support is top-notch.
Now that’s pretty much the gist of it, and if I left out any forum softwares, just leave a comment pointing it out.