A Newbie’s Guide to bbPress

If you’re brand new to bbPress, you may not know about some of the ways it can be extended beyond being a simple forum. Additional functionality can be added with plugins, its output can be manipulated through CSS, and development is easy to keep up with. Even though bbPress has a getting started guide available, I came up with my own mini guide. Here are some tips to get you started on building a bbPress forum.

Where to Find Plugins

bbPress is a plugin that was designed to be extended by other plugins. Once installed and configured, simply browse the plugin directory from the backend of WordPress and search for bbPress. There are at least 314 plugins that show up in the search results, not including the ones hosted on Github.

bbPress Plugins in The WordPress Plugin Directory
bbPress Plugins in The WordPress Plugin Directory

Even though bbPress.org has a section dedicated to plugins, it’s essentially an alternative to browsing the WordPress plugin directory. Instead of being able to view all of the plugins available, the pages only list bbPress specific plugins.

Similar to WordPress, bbPress has a list of feature plugins that may one day, be merged into core. The list contains plugins that offer features found in most forum software out of the box, so it’s a good place to start when adding features. Pay close attention to the Last Updated: information as I encountered a lot of plugins that haven’t been updated in over 2 years.

Altering The Look and Feel

bbPress comes with built-in theme support where all required elements such as front-end editing are included. If a WordPress theme doesn’t have support for the various elements that make up bbPress, you’ll still be able to use it. The built-in support makes it compatible with nearly every WordPress theme. However, I strongly encourage you to use a theme that is bbPress compatible as it almost always looks better than the default.

Free bbPress Compatible Themes
Free bbPress Compatible Themes

A search of the theme directory indicates four pages of free WordPress themes that are explicitly compatible with bbPress. If you’d simply like to override the default markup to give it a custom look, check out this Codex article.

How to Keep up With Development

While WordPress releases three major versions a year, bbPress averages two a year. So far in 2014, there have been no major versions released. Compared to WordPress, bbPress development occurs at a slower pace due to a smaller number of people contributing and spending time on the project. Not only does this make it easy to keep up with changes, it increases the opportunity to influence the project.

bbPress Development
bbPress Development

bbPress uses Trac for development where user’s can submit bug reports and patches. If you use Slack, you can join the #bbPress channel where core developers and contributors hang out. This is a great way to get in touch with people and communicate in real-time.

Where to Get Support

The best way to get support is through the official bbPress forum. While not as active as the WordPress support forum, there’s still a good amount of activity that takes place. It’s also monitored by all of the core developers.

bbPress Support Forum
bbPress Support Forum

The bbPress support forums follow the same rules and guidelines set forth by the WordPress support forums. There are two documents you should read to familiarize yourself to how it works. Using the Support Forum and the Forum Welcome message.

bbPress Nomenclature

bbPress has a set of nomenclature that is different from forum software you may have used in the past. This small guide explains what each term means.

  • Forums – Are segments of the main forum similar to categories.
  • Topics – Topics are created within forums, they are the issues that are being discussed.
  • Replies – Replies are made to topics, this is the actual discussion.
  • Voices – Voices represent the number of individuals participating in a conversation

The Next Six Months

Although development has come to a crawl in recent months, it’s encouraging that John James Jacoby successfully reached his crowd funding goal as bbPress will likely experience a surge in development and community based contributions over the next six months. Hopefully, the next six months are among the project’s brightest.

Codex Volunteer

The documentation and organization of documents on the bbPress.org website leaves a lot to be desired. Several links point to placeholders or the incorrect pages. I’m working with the team as a Codex volunteer to try to clean up the mess so others can benefit by finding the information they need.

This guide is a Cliff’s Notes version of what’s available on bbPress.org. I hope it helps you as it did me when putting it together.


7 responses to “A Newbie’s Guide to bbPress”

  1. Thanks, this is useful. I’m currently investigating forum plug-ins with an eye to a new project in the new year. Since WPTavern has had some articles about BuddyPress recently, do you have any opinions on how bbPress and BuddyPress compare? (Maybe that’s a future post?)

  2. I am so glad to have found this! You have located resources I need. Thank you for links to themes and anything about customizing – the codex. I’ve done searches and ended up all over.

    My experience as a bbPress newbie:
    I am not tech literate in WP – I can’t create, but I can add/delete, copy/paste, code anywhere. I don’t touch databases. bbPress is simple to use but tricky to fine tune. I have had no issues at all with function. The Forum people are great – very responsive. Documention is thorough and seems well written. I’ve read a lot. I don’t have a basic grasp even to use it, so it has not been very helpful.

    Great advice in this article. Do follow it. Stick to bbPress themes for example…unless you are adept with WP.

    I am having a rough go. I do not know how bbPress is supposed to work, architecture and look, by default – so I can’t tell what’s right or wrong. I have spent a couple of months wrestling with bbPress to get it to look sane – legible font, layout, and to nav sanely – breadcrumb nav weirdness with blank page, crazy style blowouts on one page but not others, pages I can’t access to edit, don’t show up in the WP menu. Plus, click “Forums” in the breadcrumb to go to a generated page with the header “Archives”. It’s crazy. All of which seems to relate to, because they change completely with, themes.

    Thanks again for the ground work.


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