A first look at the Flarum Forum Software

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.

Installing Flarum

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:

Flarum Install Screen
Flarum Install Screen

After entering the details here, you just hit the “Install” button and it setups everything. As simple as it can get.

Flarum Administration

The administration is probably the next place you’ll want to visit to start setting up the forums.

Flarum Dashboard

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.

Flarum Appearance

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:

Flarum Custom CSS

Extensions are next, and a default install comes with eleven different ones.

Flarum Extensions

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.

Flarum Tags

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.

Flarum Discussions

The discussion area is slick. Starting a topic or replying is all done via a bottom of the screen overlay much like discourse.

Flarum New Post

This feature is best when replying to an existing discussion as you can see the preview as you are writing your response:

Flarum Reply with Preview

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:

Flarum Follow Topic

Final Thoughts

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.

A first look at the Flarum Forum Software

0 thoughts on “A first look at the Flarum Forum Software

  1. Hi,

    I found this article, because I was curious who the guy behind Wardrobe CMS could be. Well, this new forum software seems very interesting in deed, I will install and test it. What I like (in general) is simplicity, or even minimalism. I don’t want to read manuals before being able to use a software.

    Years ago, I used Vanilla forum and liked it very much, but this Flarum could be even better. So thank you for writing about it, I had not heard of it before.

    Anyway, I will also try Wardrobe, it looks like a nice blogging system.

    Best,
    Torsten

  2. This new forum engine is really great. What I like more is that it is totally free and open. Great news for forumers. I created several forums on platforms like Proboards or Forumotion but their design is quite old school. A migration on Flarum would be current design level.

    For cons, the forumers and communities like to customize the forums. I find Flarum may be a little too perfect.

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