bbPress, which is a popular forum management plugin for WordPress, is relatively simple to install and run. However, if you are not familiar with the WordPress installation environment, it could be a bit daunting. This chapter will serve as an introduction to bbPress and will guide you through the installation of bbPress onto your WordPress-based website.
By the end of the chapter, you will have an understanding of bbPress and will have learned the following:
What bbPress is, its history, and why it is popular
The prerequisites for installing it—what you need to have on your website before installing bbPress
How to install bbPress
How to log in to the administration area of bbPress
bbPress is a template-driven forum management plugin built to be used with WordPress. It is designed to be a light plugin, with additional features being added through extensions known as plugins should you want more functionality.
Forums have been around for almost as long as the Internet and are a great way for people with similar interests to connect over the Internet. Examples of the types of sites that can benefit from a forum include:
Community websites such as local news portals, where members can discuss pressing issues
Computer software that requires an area to provide technical support
Clubs, such as sport clubs or youth clubs
Educational websites, where students can get extracurricular support
Forums can be a lot of work to get started but can eventually become a valuable asset to your website and often will drive a lot of traffic to it. Furthermore, forums can also be a great asset to your online presence, building a community around your services.
bbPress was created when the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, was frustrated with the forum management software that ran the official WordPress support forums after a hosting upgrade broke them. Due to this, a WordPress-based forum software was proposed and coded. On December 28, 2004, new forum software was rolled out to the official WordPress support forum; this was later released as bbPress v0.7.2.
Originally, for most of its development, bbPress was a standalone piece of software with its own database tables and was a fork (making a copy of the code and starting independent development on it) of WordPress's source code. This meant that it was relatively stable, but as bugs were discovered in WordPress, it became harder to maintain. With the release of bbPress 2.0 on September 12, 2011, a decision was made, that bbPress 2.0 would change from being a standalone piece of software to a plugin for WordPress. This generated a few problems; one in particular was that many plugins were designed with early versions of bbPress, and are now incompatible with bbPress 2.0 and many others are no longer maintained. However, an entire library of WordPress plugins was now available from within WordPress.
Today, the project is maintained by the bbPress community and owned by the WordPress Foundation, a charitable organization founded to maintain the interests of open source software. Ownership of the project was given to the WordPress Foundation by Automattic, a commercial development firm, on September 9, 2010.
It is free, meaning you never have to pay a penny to use the software.
It is open source, meaning that all code associated with the software is available for you to download and modify.
It is a community project, rather than having a small team of developers working on the project, a large number of people can be working on it, from commercial developers to hobby programmers.
It is light. Out of the box, it can be seen to be lacking features, but it has relatively little code to run the forum, which makes it faster and more secure than many of its competitors.
It is extensible. There are over 100 dedicated bbPress plugins currently released adding functionality to your site. Furthermore, many WordPress plugins are also compatible with bbPress.
It is modular. When you install bbPress, it creates all the pages you need, meaning you're ready to run your forum straight away. However, if you decide you don't want to run a bbPress forum anymore, deleting the plugin will not break the rest of your site.
If you wish to see examples of what you can create in bbPress, bbPress keeps examples of quality, active forums that run on their software on their site. You can see this list at http://bbpress.org/about/examples/.
Have you decided to use bbPress then? Great! Let's get started!
PHP Version 5.2.4 or higher
MySQL Version 5.0 or higher
It is also recommended that a server has Apache with mod_rewrite installed; however, this is not a necessity. Don't worry too much about these requirements as an e-mail to your web host, or any potential web host should give you this information. However, many Linux-based web hosts run these services as standard.
At the time of writing, the requirements for bbPress are exactly the same as WordPress, so if you are running the latest version of WordPress, you can run bbPress.
This book assumes you already have WordPress installed; however, if you haven't gone through WordPress's Famous 5-Minute Install article, which you can read at http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress.
In your WordPress installation, visit your login page, which will look similar to http://www.yourwordpressdomain.com/wp-admin/. Log in with your username and password, and you will be taken to the WordPress Dashboard.
On the Dashboard screen, down the left-hand side, you should see a menu titled Plugins. If you hover over Plugins, a pop-up menu should appear, with one of the options being Add New. Click on this option.
You will be taken to a screen that has a search box. This will allow you to search the WordPress plugin repository for any plugin that is present within it. As bbPress is a WordPress plugin, we can find bbPress using this method. Type in
bbPressand click on the Search Plugins button.
From here, you should see a list of plugins returned in the search for
bbPress. One will be the proper bbPress plugin. It should be fairly obvious; however, it looks similar to the following screenshot:
If the plugin name is bbPress, and its author is The bbPress Community, you have found the correct plugin! Click on the Install Now link beneath the plugin name, and the plugin will be installed.
Alternatively, if you click on Return to Plugin Installer, you'll be taken back to the Plugin Installation Screen. From here, click on Plugins in the left-hand menu, search for bbPress in the list, and click on Activate to activate bbPress.
Visit the URL http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bbpress/ and click on the download button; you will download the latest version of bbPress, which you should save to an easy-to-find location, such as the desktop.
Then, log in to your WordPress administration site, and in the left navigation hover over Plugins and select Add New; you should be taken to the Add New Plugins screen. Along the top, you should see a link called Upload; click on this, and you're taken to the upload screen shown in the following screenshot:
Click on Choose File, and then navigate to where you saved the
bbPress.zipfile. Make sure the ZIP file's name is in the box (as seen in the preceding screenshot), and then click on Install Now. If successful, you will be given the choice to activate the plugin as described previously.
Before beginning with this installation method, you'll need the following:
A file transfer protocol (FTP) program such as FileZilla, available to download for free at http://filezilla-project.org/.
The FTP address for your website
Your FTP username
Your FTP password
You should have received these details when you signed up for your hosting package; however, if you don't have them, speak to your host and they will provide these details.
The following are the steps to be performed while uploading the unzipped bbPress plugin via FTP:
Visit the bbpress plugin URL, http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bbpress/ and download it to an easy-to-find location.
You should have a folder now with the following files inside it:
Download and install FileZilla.
When you open Filezilla, you should be presented with a screen similar to this:
In the Username and Password fields, type in your FTP username and FTP password, respectively.
Ignore the Port field and click on Quickconnect.
In the left window of the screen will be the files on your computer (Local site), and on the right-hand side will be your server navigation (Remote Site).
In the Local site window, navigate to the folder that contains the
bbPressfolder, which you extracted earlier. When found, navigate to the
pluginsfolder in the Remote site window. This will be located in the
wp-contentfolder, which will be in the folder where WordPress is installed.
bbPressfolder into the
pluginsfolder, and when fully copied over, log in to your WordPress Dashboard and click on the Plugins page. If bbPress is listed among the plugins, click to activate it.
If you notice three more menus appearing in the sidebar—Forums, Topics, and Replies, congratulations, your installation of bbPress was successful!
There isn't a menu titled Plugins !
If you don't have a menu titled Plugins, your account with which you log in to WordPress isn't the administrator of your site. There will be a login with the level "administrator", every WordPress site requires one. Speak to anybody who could have had access to your site, for example designers, as to what the administrator login could be.
Dialog box asking FTP details on clicking Install Now ?
Depending on how your host has set up your server, you may not have the ability to install plugins over hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), which is the method of installation that WordPress uses to install plugins. However, it does have a backup method, which requires you to authorize WordPress to install the plugin on your behalf. To do this, you will need three pieces of information:
The FTP address for your website
Your FTP username
Your FTP password
All of that you can obtain from your host. Repeat the installation process, and then type in your FTP address, username and password into the relevant textboxes, and the installation should continue as normal.
White screen on installing and activating the plugin, and the site doesn't work. Help!
Most of the time when installing plugins, there aren't any issues. However, there are occasionally conflicts that occur. For security reasons, WordPress usually hides these conflicts but displays a blank white page instead. The only way to fix this is to log in to your server through FTP and delete the bbPress plugin, which will automatically remove it from the site. To do this, perform the following steps:
Log on to your FTP server (as described in the Method 3 – uploading the unzipped bbPress plugin via FTP section) and navigate to the
bbpressfolder and right-click to delete it. Then, return to your WordPress administration page and go to the Plugins page.
You should see the following message appear in red:
You will have to reinstall bbPress, but before activating the plugin, deactivate all other plugins that you have running on the site. One by one, activate each plugin until you activate the one that breaks your site again. This will be the plugin that is conflicting with your site; either find a fix or find a replacement for that plugin.
My question wasn't answered here: Luckily, there is a dedicated bbPress forum available, where people can answer questions to issues you are having. Many people volunteer to provide help on these forums. You can visit them at http://bbpress.org/forums/.
Congratulations! You have taken the first step in activating your bbPress forum. By now, you should have an idea of the benefits of using bbPress to run your forum along WordPress. You should also be competent in installing bbPress on any WordPress installation. It may be confusing for the first time, but the more number of installations you do, the easier it gets. You can also spot common issues that could be affecting your site.
In the next chapter, we will look into setting up forums for you, encouraging people to register, and how to create, edit, or delete posts.