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Review: IB Forums

Want to add community to your site for free? In this article Sebastian reviews IB Forums, the hottest new bulletin board system to hit the (free) market.

Author Info:
By: Sebastian Baciu
Rating: 5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars / 10
August 13, 2002
  1. · Review: IB Forums
  2. · From The Average Users End
  3. · Help Files
  4. · From The Administrators End
  5. · Conclusion

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Review: IB Forums - From The Administrators End
(Page 4 of 5 )

When you first view the IBF Admin Control Panel (ACP), an informative summary screen greets you. Here you can get a quick rundown of how many members you have, how many members are waiting to be validated, the size of the uploads folder, amount of topics and amount of replies to topics. From here you can also quickly edit a member, add a forum and add a category. The IBF CP looks excellent, although it may be a bit overwhelming to a first time user. The ACP is where the whole board is controlled. Here's a screenshot:

The IBF Control Panel

Design, Presentation and Ease of Use
I didn't put too great of an emphasis on the design of the User End because that can be edited easily via the templates. The ACP however, is hard to edit and most users do not have the knowledge required to change the design.

Because of this, the design of the ACP has to be as good as possible. IBF seems to accomplish this nicely. An easy to use frame on the left side of the screen makes the ACP easy to navigate, and provides links to all the important features in one place. The frame is collapsible making it easier to read and easier to concentrate on one category.

The ACP is very streamlined and easy to follow. It also looks good and matches the default IBF skin. All the features and links are grouped categorically and there are no illogical jumps from feature to feature. In addition to this, most features are explained in the CP. The learning curve for the ACP shouldn't be too long even for users that have never managed a BB before. If a user has a problem, the friendly staff over at Invision Power are always be able to help.

Feature Set
If you want to change anything on your board, you can do it from the ACP -- It's a very complete system. I will however run through a quick list of features that should be included:
  • Mass Private Message
  • Mass E-Mail
  • MySQL DB Size
  • Custom Form Fields (Planned for V1.1)
  • Easier To Use Skin System
These 5 things are probably the most important features that are currently lacking from the ACP. Of course, there is an infinite amount of features you could add to the ACP and you can always look forward to the IBF team to come up with something new and useful for future versions. Here's a quick rundown of the main features of the ACP:
  • Add/Remove Forums/Categories
  • Add/Edit/Delete Users
  • Edit URL's
  • Edit Skins, Languages and Templates
  • Manage Emoticons, Word Filters And Help Files
  • Security and Privacy Settings
  • Etc.
The features listed above are standard on most of today's BB systems and most webmasters would not even take a second look at a BBS that doesn't have these features.

One unique feature of the IBF ACP is a category called CPU Saving. This is something that I have not seen on any other board and, as the name implies, it displays all the features that require a significant amount of CPU power, all in one place. This makes it easy to turn off features that require a lot of server power, which is very useful for those sites that do not have top-of-the line web servers.

The template system is an important asset of any BBS. Many board administrators want to blend the board in with the rest of the site. If this is made to be a hard task, they may even switch to another board. IBF has a very versatile template system that lets you do almost anything you want.

In IBF, a template is made of three separate sections: the board wrapper, the CSS file and the actual HTML templates. The board wrapper lets you control how the segments of the main board appear. For example you can opt to place the board stats at the top of the page, and the forums at the bottom, or the other way around. The CSS file lets you control the color and size of all the text on the board as well as the width of the tables, their attributes and so on.

The HTML templates let you modify the design of every bit of your board, including post screens, PM screens and profile screens. Unfortunately, the IBF skin system may be a bit complicated and overwhelming for a beginner.

Not everyone has to make his or her own skin though. Users can download a skin from the online archive and install it on their board in seconds. Installation is a painless process, and any user (regardless of previous experience) should be able to install a skin.

Here's a screenshot of the skin system:

The IBF Skins Page
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