Finally the much awaited PHPBB Olympus is out as a public beta. In this review i am gonna list my experiences as i test fire the new beta. History : I first tried phpbb 2 years back and i didn't like it at all. There were hardly any features at the user level and the admincp was cramped and featureless. Hacking was a real pain. It was just a plain bb with no real features(not even attachments was supported) Needless to say i have been on vbulletin for close to 4 years now and all this while it has enjoyed the best in the market tag. Now with Olympus i reckon we have some real good competition. It might still not face up feature to feature with vbulletin, but its no pushover either. Considering its free and considering that it enjoys the support of an extensive modding community, i see great things happening with Olympus. Ok enough of talking.. lets hit it with whats new and hot in this release. Features : Starting with a link to the features list: Olympus Feature Highlights Key areas to note : Attachment support Caching support Many new features in private messages and ability to save drafts of messages and posts Huge management permissions to manage usergroups to users. Report and warn system Unlimited sub forums and custom profile fields. IM integration with jabber network Mail print topics. and many more... we will discover some more in following pages... lets start the preview..... [break=Install and Registration] Installation : No crappy text based screens. its all clear and properly shown. Just make a db, enter the details and it checks up the write permissions and system requirements first and shows you a summary. plus the config file can be set from install panel which was nice. the install itself was fast and easy. Imo this should be easy for anyone doing it for the first time even or one who has not much experience with installing scripts. Some of the install screens are shown below: after install you are asked to delete or rename the install folder as a security precaution Member Registration Again its there as it should be. its simple and basic. it could have done with some live feedback imo. like just check up the username if it exists or not. best is to use ajax but a simple popup would do also. Unfortunately nothing of that sort exists. While here i might add that the image verification is a torture. its a torture on vbulletin also. just to keep bots away i don't know how many genuine users are also driven away. make your own decision about whether to enable this. My take : Install 8/10, Registration 5/10 [break=User Control Panel] User Control Panel : Overview page -> The information that you would have to see from your profile in vbulletin. I reckon this is better approach. you get to see where you are active in both for forums and threads... Bookmarks and Subscribed threads -> Innovative idea. I would personally want threads where i am expecting a reply to be put as subscribed but an interesting thread tht i want to track as bookmarked. a very nice addition. Saved drafts -> Wow.. how many times did you start writing a message and then tht you will complete it later. well there is save draft option for both threads and private messages. Give it 10/10 for this feature. this is very cool. Private messages -> Nice layout and option added for bcc. Very good Profile options -> Well nothing much to talk about here except to say it has all the features that vbulletin has as of now. creation of custom profile fields is supported. Unlimited amount of such fields can be created from admincp. Signature and avatar -> NO URI upload supported. Not that it really matters but its there in vbulletin. the sig template is good but basic. Unlike new vbulletin there are no sig controls at user level. So its upto the mods to carry out signature rules enforcement. Preferences -> Quite a few gems here. I am impressed by the level of control that has been given to the user. eg he can decide as a default how threads are sorted(replies, creationm time etc.) again very good attention to detail. Buddy management with friend and foe -> It just looks and feels better and is conveying much better info about the users on your face.. whos online and who's not online. A very nice feature on par with buddy management in vbulletin. If not better actually Group join request -> Don't use this too much but it exists in vbulletin, needless to say it exists here Final take on usercp -> very good. Its clean and looks organized. the sig fields could use some permissions and URI upload would be nice but otherwise this has everything you would want or expect. My Take : 8/10 [break=admincp-1] Admin Control Panel : My fav page The power of any BB or cms is decided by the admincp backend and how many controls exist there. I am happy to say phpbb admincp is far improved and easy to navigate now plus it has some kick ass features and controls for the power user. OverView Page Lets come to the main area of admincp now.. first thing that you notice when you come here is how clean it all looks. Nice buttons at top for easy navigation. imo for starting users this interface looks easy and cool. whats even better is that it feels to be easy and does not require too many clicks to navigate around. in tune with the forums layout. alas that notion is soon gonna be spoiled when we see permission manager. we will come to that in a few mins. Start of with the overview page -> Very nice. The content is presented in a well thought up manner. Instead of showing you credits(ok i am taking a dig at vbulletin, it shows the admin log. for a board with multiple admins this is very nice feature to see what the other guy has done. The sidenav shows the most used quick links. again instead of filling it with links, it is nice to see only the important ones shown at start. Forum Management Some basic features you expect it to have are there. lol. i don't know how to phrase this as coming from a vbulletin experience i see it has almost ditto features for making new categories and settings per forum. There are two new things i notice though. Per forum image(any image including gif) that can be specified. and a forum rules as link and ones which show at top of the page. the latter is superb feature for people running political boards imo. from my own experience a line at top of forum and new post interface in that forum about "no flaming here" would be cool. Permission Setup What the hell is this. This is not at all good. i don't know if they wanted to make it feature rich or something but its hard as hell to get accustomed to. It requires far too many clicks to get what you want to do.(that is after you can figure out how to do it) imo a simple forum access mask with usergroup permissions shown on single page would have been better than this. Ok you get used to it after a while but i am not too sure new guys are going to find this easy at all. this is one thing i just don't like. My take : OverAll Rating for these sections 5/10 (the permissions really made me rate this low) [break=admincp-2] Admin Control Panel 2 : User management Nice set of tools to manage users. you have option first to search users as per multiple searching criteria. then on user level alone you can have user based permissions(user forum masks etc) set up. There are standard set of features for user management like ban by ip, delete sig, avatar, send email, pm etc. i think the biggest negative i see(atleast i haven't found the feature if it exists...) is i don't see an option to add a user from admincp. i would think this should be there. From the user security options i see a neat option to ban by email. eg some of the domains which are known to block activation emails or any other emails from the board can be added here. Plus it also has a field to list why tht domain has been banned. very cool. In same way there is option to ban by ip and username. again with a field to show why its banned. imo this is very important as it just tells the guy what the problem is. instead of just showing no permission or choose new. Posting control some standard options that should exist are there eg smiley control.. basic features. But i liked the install smiley pack thing. very good for lazy admins bbcodes options to set up custom bbcodes for forums. Apparently this is a new feature. I can't believe why it was not there from the start...nothing much to talk about here so lets move on PM settings -> Some nice controls over here. i notice a rather cool one as to what to do when pm box is full. it can withold pm or delete it. In former case the newset pm is held back. in latter the oldest is deleted. there are other config options that are there here. topic icons - same as setting topic images per topic word censoring - well you know what this is so move on Attachment Control Ok this is major feature in this release. and i can say its really very good, the level of control is awesome with some superb grouping features added. eg it can play wmv files inline and there is option to add streams in there. lets break this down.. under general settings we have options of how many to allow and related ones of total attachment quota and all.some nifty options for thumbs and what to do when attachments are above certain dimension(show as link instead) are there. the biggest features are the manage extension groups with what to do per extension group. see screenshot. there are options to show images/content inline and set per category max file size. Considering this was a new feature, i am really impressed by the level of control here.even leaves vbulletin behind which is saying something... My Take : Rating for these sections -> 7/10 [break=admincp-3] Admin Control Panel 3 : Another cool feature added in phpbb is the template caching system and better handling of themes. Plus the all important module support which holds great things as far as hacking community goes. Styles what refreshing change finally. first and major thing is that there is support for template caching.. yay..now knowing vbulletin this is an awesome feature and removes the compile time performance impact. (apart from caching queries btw that support also has been added) The template editing seems to be a breeze. quite a few options exist to integrate the code. I am not going into much detail here cos if i do i guess thats the only thing i will write about. you can check more about the template engine from the official support site Maintenance and system options Some very good controls have been added in this section. Notably backup has been streamlined and search index spider tracking. Read More below. Maintenance Options logging options -> extensive logging options are shown on one click and i love them. there are separate options to show logs for users, admins, mods and an error log. Backup and restore -> options to run a gzipped backup from within admincp and restore it exists. the interface is nice and easy(like everything )options to store and download, store only or download only. (I am just impressed by the attention to detail here. There are somethings you realize once you use a software, phpbb has it from the start which is quite grt. search index options exist to to build your backend index. System options First thing you notice..there are options to track search spiders. shows the last visit time plus it has settings to what to show to what spider. extremely good control options. Then there is mass email option(per usergroup or per persons. I haven't been able to test it but i reckon html is not supported? (or is it?) report manager exists for pre defining report post templates. a very nice feature this. And finally the biggie,,, the module support. Making it easier to write modules and extend the features of phpbb. I see module approach being followed by almost all products coming out and is really grt to see it here also. Again i ahven't really tested it enough to comment anymore on it. It just looks good that its there. My Take : Rating for these sections -> 8/10 [break=Posting and View] Posting and View : I would look at this section with mixed feelings. While it has much improved there are still some features that are lacking and missing. If they had been added, this would have been a killer release for almost all paid software around. Forum View Clean layout. as i mentioned before there are options to set category images. phpbb now supports unlimited subforums and options to show active topics(although i couldn't get thelatter to work somehow) forum stats are shown along with whos online and legend. well so does any board for that matter Forum Display Again simple straightforward layout. topic icons and normal icons showing new posts or not. Plus a nice little icon for mods if a thread has been reported.(very nice) BUT? where are thread ratings... Thread View Some new changes and features added over here.The postbit has rank tag and rank name for user. plus thumbs for attachments support is there with description for each thumb which is very nice in post display. Message posting interface has all the basic features you would need. see screen.There is this cool integration with jabber network for im messages to be sent. Very nice feature addition The attachment upload facility is very cool and gives you an indication of how much upload has been done and left. (unlike vbulletin.. )plus attachment comments are cool addition. Again somethings that should have been there and aren't.. thread ratings karma rep? inline moderation does exist but i would have liked to see ajax here. But it is still quite good with most of the options given. There are also additions like mail to friend and print topic. [/b]Reporting options Users can send reports for bad posts etc. the option is neat and easily handled. On the same lines a warning system exists. Both of these are very good features and even vbulletin has been forced to include them now in 3.6X. My Take : 6/10 Apart from attachments nothing much [break=Conclusion] Conclusion : Ok here it is then.. the long awaited olympus. I have just given you my experiences after using it for a few hours. What has struck me is the amount of work that has gone into this and that its no longer a crappy free alternative. Yes it still lacks some features as compared to professional paid bulletin boards like vbulletin and ipb(ajax??) but considering this is a free product, you have to be amazed. The biggest feature i have been impressed by is the attachment handling. Plus caching and usercp/admincp enhancements are all brilliant. Knowing the mod community out there, there is going to be extensive module development for this and i am sure that will extend its features to any paid system(if not better) I am off to test it more. I will do another review when it goes live and out of beta. Till such time give us what you tht of the beta and your take. Download Beta Here -> phpBB.com :: Development Official Site -> area51 @ phpBB.com Enjoy!!