Setting up your forum, part one

(Note: this post was edited on August 26, 2019 to bring it up to date.)

Installing a phpBB forum is pretty straightforward, particularly if you use the option available from many web hosts and install it in the web host control panel scripting center. I won’t get into how to install phpBB in this post, assuming that you have done that already. If you haven’t installed phpBB, there is an official guide published by the phpBB group for setting up and administering a forum. However, it’s a lot to parse through.

Since I do a lot of these for a living, you might want to follow some of my steps after installation. ACP means select the link for the Administration Control Panel (ACP).

  1. Change the name of your forum. ACP > General > Board configuration > Board settings. “” is obviously not very helpful to a visitor. This does not have to be a domain name, but something textual that briefly describes the purpose of your forum. Also change the default site description or leave it blank if it’s not useful.
  2. Review the board settings. ACP > General > Board configuration > Board settings. Make sure they are what you want, but you can defer installing styles until later if you don’t like the default prosilver style. The guest timezone is also the board’s timezone so make sure that is the way you like it. If your board is regional, you might want to set it to your local timezone. I discuss adding and changing styles here.
  3. Add language packs. If you need to support a language other than British English, follow these instructions. Generally you don’t want to support more than one language on your forum. If you do the expectation is that users are fluent in both languages and can post in either language.
  4. Change the name of the default category. ACP > Forums. A category is a collection of forums that have a similar theme or content. Manage forums is highlighted by default. Click on the green wheel next to ‘Your first category” and change the name of the category. You can have many forums inside a category but you cannot create posts under a category, only under forums inside the category.
  5. Change the name of the default forum. Again, ACP > Forums. Click on the link for your newly renamed category. Then click the green wheel next to “Your first forum” and change it to an appropriate forum name for your category.
  6. Edit or delete the default post. You can’t do this in the ACP, but on the forum index select the links for the category, topic and post and look for the edit icon. Edit the subject and content if you want or delete it altogether. Look for a little button with an X on it to delete the post.
  7. Add additional forums. Most likely you will want to add additional forums and may need to create more than one category. ACP > Forums. This part can be a little confusing but to start off it’s important when creating a forum to copy the forum permissions from the default forum. You can change these permissions later if needed. If you don’t do this, no one can access the forum until you explicitly add them later on. This can be very confusing if you are not familiar with phpBB. This video may be of help.
  8. Create and set an effective spambot countermeasure. The defaults is “Simple image” which has been thoroughly hacked. This means you could get spam registrations. You have two logical choices: the Question on Registration and (for phpBB 3.2 only) reCaptcha.
  9. ACP > General > Board configuration > Spambot Countermeasures
    1. For the Question on Registration:
      1. Under installed plugins, select “Q&A”
      2. Press the Add button and create one or more questions.
    2. For reCaptcha:
      1. Go to the reCaptcha site and generate a public and private key for your site. You must select a set of keys for ReCaptcha V2 Checkbox.
      2. Under installed plugins select “reCaptcha” (it is greyed out on first use) and press Configure
      3. Copy and paste the public and private reCaptcha keys from the reCaptcha site and press submit
    3. You will eventually find yourself back on the Spambot Countermeasures page. You must now enable your selection, so pick either Q&A or reCaptcha (depending on which one you setup) then press Submit. This will enable the spambot countermeasure.
  10. Review your server settings. ACP > General > Server configuration > Server settings. The main setting to check here is server protocol. If you use https to encrypt traffic, specifying it in the Server protocol field. Set up SMTP for email if you have Windows hosting or will send board emails through a SMTP server. Here’s why it may be a good idea to use SMTP.
    1. ACP > General > Client communications > Email settings
    2. Under SMTP settings select Yes for “Use SMTP server for email”
    3. Enter the SMTP information provided by your host or mail provider
    4. To test SMTP, ACP > System > General tasks > Mass email. Enter the username you created for admin when you set up the forum (it may be “admin”) and send yourself a test email. If it doesn’t work repeat these steps until it works correctly.
  11. ACP > General > Contact page. Disable the contact form. Since it has no Captcha, it will probably attract spam. There is a Contact Admin extension with Captcha you might want to install later.
  12. Create a link to your site’s home page. ACP > General > Board configuration > Board settings. If your forum is part of a larger site, you might want to fill in the URL field on this page for the home page of your site. It will add a Home link on the navigation bar.

This is enough to get your started with a useful, bare bones forum for public access.

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