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Comments August 18, 2008

Smackdown Round III – phpBB3 versus phpBB-Dave

Filed under: phpBB, phpBB3 — Dave Rathbun @ 12:40 pm CommentsComments (7) 

In the first two 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 1-1, based only on my needs and use of the code. This is the third post in that series and I will cover the Posting, Attachments, and Caching feature 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.


Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
Topic Display Method: Flat Flat Flat, but with “Reply to Post” option
BBCode: Yes Yes No changes
Custom BBCode Buttons: No Yes No, but I never felt they were needed
HTML in posts: Yes No Disabled at the board level so a non-issue for me
Smilies/Emoticons: Yes Yes No changes
Quoting: Yes Quoting Nested Yes Quoting Nested, Configurable maximum nested depth Standard works fine for me, never saw a need to fix it
Quote Multiple Posts: No Yes Quote Multiple Posts Multiple post quoting through Topic Review The quoting from topic preview is nice. :) I have not implemented it yet.
Formatting Toolbar: Yes Yes No changes
Word Censors: Yes Yes No changes, but I have zero words on my censor list anyway
Syntax Highlighting: No Yes Not needed
Attachments: No Yes (Multiple) Yes, via Acyd Burn’s MOD
Post Drafts: No Yes No
Polls: Yes Yes Poll expiration dates are displayed
Multiple Poll Option Voting: No Yes Not needed
User based Poll Tracking: No Yes Yes, custom
Allow/Disallow Vote Change: No Yes See above
Beaten-to-Posting Review: No Yes Not needed
Posting Preview: Yes Yes Yes
Flood Control: Yes yes Yes, custom

One of the first MODs I wrote was a “Reply to Post”. People were not used to having to scroll up or down the page to find the reply button, so I added code that made it possible to click “reply” on each post. That saved a lot of quoting. :lol: This did not change the display from flat to threaded, but it was a well-received feature. It’s still not in phpBB3 and is something that I would have to create before I could switch. The custom BBCode feature is nice, but we don’t really need more formatting options on my board. I do have attachments (via Acyd Burn’s MOD, see below for more comments) so that’s a toss-up as far as features go. I have customized the poll handling and include all of the features present in phpBB3 and some additional options as well. I have tweaked the flood control as mentioned in a prior post.

And there are new features as well that I have created. I have a MOD called the “Bump Warning” that displays a red band at the top of the posting screen if a user attempts to reply to their own post before 24 hours have elapsed or someone else has posted in between.

I have also implemended Topic Prefixes, which allows a user to tag a topic within a forum. Board members can then filter the forum to show only topics with that specific tag. I use this to create one large forum for user groups, and then create tags for each regional area. I also use it to allow users to tag technical support questions with the version of the software they’re using. I understand this is under development for 3.2, but it’s not there yet, so I win. For now. :)

Bottom line here is that while there are some new options for phpBB3 there is nothing compelling, and I do have the “reply to post” feature which is now a requirement for my board. Based on this and the other new posting features I have added I think I clearly win this category.


Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
Automatic Image Thumbnails: No Yes Yes, via Acyd Burn’s MOD as noted previously
Attachment Types: No Yes Attachment Types Images, Documents, Audio Streams, Video Streams, Archives See above
Multiple Attachments: No Yes See above
Attachment Placement: No Yes Attachment Placement Inline and/or standard Don’t have this as it’s part of phpBB3 rather than the MOD, and I do like it, but it’s not a compelling feature

I installed the Attachment MOD from Acyd Burn some years ago. It has worked very well for our needs. From the outside looking in the only real upgrade provided in phpBB3 is the option to do inline attachments, It’s nice, but not a compelling reason to upgrade.


Feature phpBB2 phpBB3 phpBB-Dave
Database Query Caching: No Yes Yes
Template Caching: No Yes Yes
Arbitrary Data: No Yes Not sure what this means
Manual Cache Refreshing: No Yes Yes

I started working on a caching routine during the development of the Page Permissions MOD. It’s probably primitive compared to what is in phpBB3 but it’s functional. I have tweaked it over the years so that now I am caching all sorts of different parts of my board. And to save time, cached files (and language files too) are only read from disk when they are required. At one point my lang_main.php file was HUGE beyond belief. :lol: Now it has been put on a diet, and there is code inside lang_main.php that only loads additional language files based on the calling page. It’s much faster, but I don’t think that I can assign a point either way for this category.


So far I have covered nine of the categories from the feature comparison list at phpbb.com. The score was 1-1 coming into this post, where do I think I stand now?

As mentioned above, I get a point for posting improvements that I have made. There are a few things missing (multi-quote from topic preview as one example) that I like, but others (poll vote tracking / changing, poll expiration date display, reply to post option) that make up for that. With the “bump warning” and the topic prefixes added to the mix, and the fact that the “reply to post” option is missing from phpBB3, I will award myself a point for the posting category. The score is now 2-1 in my favor.

Attachments is essentially a tie, primarily since I’ve added Acyd Burn’s Attachment MOD to my board. We have included this feature for several years now and it has worked very well. I like the inline placement from phpBB3 but it’s not a compelling reason to upgrade. Score remains 2-1.

As stated above, I am giving not going to give myself a point for my caching system only because it is reasonably equivalent to what is in phpBB3. Since we both have it, there’s no clear winner.

So that makes the score 2-1 at this point in my favor as I score it. I decided that the added features for posting in phpBB3 were counter balanced by my own customizations. The other two features are a toss-up, so no points were awarded. It’s probably not surprising that my points are pulling ahead since I have written the things that I want, and made them work the way I want them to work, for my own purposes. phpBB3 has to be all things to all people. I only have to please myself.

Next time I will cover Profiles/Memberlist, Search, and Forums.

Related Links

  • phpBB2 to phpBB3 Feature Comparison


  1. Two of my favorite enhancements to the posting screen are:

    1. “Beaten to posting”, if someobody submits a post before you do, you’ll get a notification + preview.

    2. Javascript quoting, in the topic review section you can click the “quote” button and it will make a new [quote] block in the textarea with the text you selected (or the full post of nothing is selected).

    Just thought i’d mention them, since they’re not listed in the comparison.

    Comment by eviL3 — August 18, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

  2. Hi, evil, thanks for the comment. I polled a group of my users about the “beaten to posting” feature and the overwhelming response was a yawn. I personally don’t particularly care whether it’s there or not. I certainly feel like I could live without it. And for smaller boards that are less active it’s even less of a compelling reason to upgrade.

    I do like the javascript “multi-quote” option provided by phpBB3, and you’re right, I probably should have mentioned that. However I think even with that I would still give the point to phpBB-Dave because of the number of additional features that I’ve added. And I suspect if I really wanted it this would be really easy to retrofit back to phpBB2.

    Keep in mind that this is not an in-depth technical review. If it were, then the attachment MOD might get a closer scrutiny since from what I understand it was completely rewritten for phpBB3. Same for the caching system… I have one, but it’s something I wrote and I don’t claim to be at or anywhere near the skill level of the folks that are coding phpBB3. It’s functional, and it’s certainly helped on my board, but it is probably far from optimal. But from a feature-to-feature comparison from the front end (as a “user experience” point of view) the speed increases are noted and appreciated from both, thus it’s a toss-up and no points are awarded.

    Still, after reviewing 9 categories there are only 3 points awarded (and 6 ties).

    Comment by Dave Rathbun — August 18, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  3. I agree that the beaten to posting feature isn’t very fundamental. I could easily live without it too, but it’s nice to have. The quoting has really changed my experience a bit though. No longer do i have to open several “quote” tabs just to get the content in a [quote] tag. It’s somewhat useful when replying to multiple support requests in my MOD topics at phpBB.com.

    I don’t consider those two features very technical, they’re very much user-oriented. No question that most features would be pretty easy to backport. Well… for you. :-P

    Comment by eviL3 — August 19, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

  4. Very nice series and an interesting read!

    I’m going to remake that “Bump Warning” mod for phpBB3 (if it hasn’t been done already) and wanted to inform you about me shamelessly quoting you in the respective Development thread :)

    Comment by MartectX — August 25, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

  5. By all means! :) I just had a look at your topic, and you’ve already got a beta out. That was quick.

    It’s a feature that I expect many board owners will be interested in, so best of luck with your MOD. 8)

    Comment by Dave Rathbun — August 27, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

  6. MOD Validation was very quick, too; here’s the Release thread. :D

    Comment by MartectX — September 28, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

  7. Congratulations on the released MOD! :-D

    Comment by Dave Rathbun — September 29, 2008 @ 8:00 am

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