Flarum is a new open source PHP forum system developed by Toby Zerner and Franz Liedke. Toby and Franz both have history in creating forum software and with Flarum they decided to join forces and reimagine the forum landscape.
Gone are the days of the old style forums that has been popular for the past 20 years. With Flarum, it takes a fresh look and is both nice to look at and fully functional.
Let’s take a quick look at these new forums and see what all the excitement is about. Just note that Flarum is currently in beta, and any of this information can change.
The installation was simple. I am using Homestead, and all I had to do was create a new site and adjust the default Nginx vhost. Flarum’s documentation outlined what all I needed for Nginx, plus it also ships with a .htaccess file for those on Apache.
Once you have the site setup when you load the site you will see the simple installation screen:
After entering the details here, you just hit the “Install” button and it setups everything. As simple as it can get.
The administration is probably the next place you’ll want to visit to start setting up the forums.
The dashboard pane as shown just shows a general overview of the version currently installed, and I’m sure more will be coming in the future.
Basics and permissions are pretty self-explanatory. These two include forms to edit your title, description, and set user levels.
The Appearance tab features simple methods for you to customize the design.
I love the simplicity here. With two color input fields and two checkboxes you customize it enough to match your existing site easily. Then the power user can even add custom css or less. Here is the modal window for adding custom styles:
Extensions are next, and a default install comes with eleven different ones.
As you can see from the screenshot, Flarum includes a lot of powerful extensions out of the box, and developers can even create their own. As a developer, markdown and Pusher both stood out to me as worth installing.
Tags are the last admin section, and these are Flarum categorizes topics and discussions.
Tags are represented by either primary or secondary, and this is where I found the first bug with the beta. I was unable to add additional primary tags but could add as many secondary as I wanted.
These tags are also draggable so you can move them into any order you prefer.
The discussion area is slick. Starting a topic or replying is all done via a bottom of the screen overlay much like discourse.
This feature is best when replying to an existing discussion as you can see the preview as you are writing your response:
However, the reply textarea does feel cramped and the longer your response, the more it’s noticeable. You can open in a full-screen reply area to have plenty of room, but then you lose the instant preview ability.
The software is filled with nice touches that make me immediately feel comfortable with the UI. An example of this is the follow button on a discussion:
I’m very impressed with Flarum and even more so that this is the first beta. The install was flawless, and the only bugs I encountered seemed to be minor.
The UI is minimal, yet fully functional. They have managed to make managing the forums easy and it shows they thought about the end user.
What I’m most excited about is Flarum is built with PHP and will be easy to install anywhere. I think by sticking with good old PHP it will have a huge adoption and a bright future.
If you are in search of new forum software give Flarum a try, once it’s out of beta of course.