There was not always a lot of options for any bloggers wanting to integrate a forum with WordPress. When WordPress was in its’ infancy there were a scattered set of forum plugins and bridges to other open source forums like phpBB or even paid scripts like invision board. Now there are solutions that WordPress users can be more comfortable with. In the search for the perfect forum solution for WordPress I have found two very equal competitors that hold the most promise for the WP obsessed.
SimplePress Forum – SimplePress has all of the great features of BBpress (and a slick jquery frontend editor) and all the convenience of installing a simple plugin. It integrates into your normal wp-admin panel seamlessly and gives you all the capabilities of the major open source forum scripts.
Although it is just a plugin, don’t be fooled by thinking there are any limitations to the functionality. The forums have robust front and backend admin functions that make managing forums a snap. I even had an “Oh Wow!” moment at the jquery in-place editing on the front end.
SimplePress forum also has a site set up with an excellent support team who are eager to get you up and running properly.
BBpress – BBpress isn’t a WordPress plugin for a forum system. It is a standalone forum script from the makers of WordPress that shares the famous install and admin panel. But it does have an integration feature for WordPress that allows you to even use a shared login. Though the admin panel remain completely separate, users will only have to login to one or the other when browsing between WordPress and BBpress.
The admin panel is a true homage to the classic wp-admin. It is fun to toy around with even just for nostalgic purposes. Right down to the “Howdy, Admin!” login message, true WordPress fanatics should get a kick out of this.
Automattic have the script up for download and offer support at BBpress.org which is set up pretty much the same way as WP.org with the extend section and all.
SimplePress and BBpress compared
The two solutions each have their pros and cons. BBpress doesn’t have a lot of the core features that SimplePress has nor does it offer the simplicity of editing right from the wp-admin panel. SimplePress also intregrates seamlessly upon install whereas with BBpress integration is separate and shared logins can be a headache to configure.
But with BBpress you have the ability to download new plugins and themes and have the strength of the WordPress development community behind you. Automattic is going to be launching TalkPress, a community much like WordPress.com that will host free forums and this may grow the BBpress community significantly. The development behind BBpress may continue to grow and we could start to see a lot more plugins and themes on BBpress.org
In the end it is going to come down to personal preference and which tasks seem more menial to you. You may even find another forum solution for WordPress that serves you better(if you do, don’t be afraid to share). These are just two that I enjoyed and though might help some people out.