PunBB Review

(June 16, 2006 14:53)
Last Version 1.4.2 (January 10, 2012). Released under GPL License.
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What is PunBB?

PunBB is a fast and lightweight PHP-powered discussion board. It is released under the GNU General Public License. Its primary goals are to be faster, smaller and less graphically intensive as compared to other discussion boards. PunBB has fewer features than many other discussion boards, but is generally faster and outputs smaller, semantically correct XHTML-compliant pages.

About PunBB

PunBB is the most well known forum software in its own category: the search for simplicity. This research of a simple well-written and clear forum software has always been the main purpose of its developer, and people looking for such policy are never disappointed by PunBB.

Review Updates:

  • December 16, 2010: Some fixes from PunBB Official Forum #1 and #2.
  • July 6, 2010: Update with PunBB 1.3.4.
  • Summer 2007: PunBB has been sold to a commercial company. Its main developer, Richard Andersson has now stopped the PunBB development, even if PunBB is still released with the GPL License. Due to these events, an official fork, called FluxBB has been created.

PunBB is recommended for Medium Community.

(and supports smaller communities perfectly as well.)

Server & Client Requirements

Server Requirements
Programming Language
Required Architecture and Versions.
  • PHP 4
  • PHP 5
Web Servers
How the forum is delivered to users.
  • Apache 1.3
  • Apache 2.0/2.2
  • Microsoft IIS
  • Lighttpd
  • Nginx
How Forum Data are Stored.
  • MySQL
  • Postgresql
  • SQLite
Operating Systems
Systems Supporting this Software.
  • GNU/LinuxGNU/Linux
  • BSD UnixBSD Unix
  • Microsoft WindowsMicrosoft Windows
  • Apple Mac OSApple Mac OS
Browser & Client Requirements
Compatible Browsers
List of Compatible Browsers.
Mozilla FirefoxMozilla FirefoxInternet ExplorerInternet Explorer
Google ChromeGoogle ChromeOperaOpera
Apple SafariApple SafariKonquerorKonqueror
Mozilla SeaMonkeyMozilla SeaMonkey
Required Plugins/Technologies
Additional or Basic Requirements from Client Side.
Languages supported by PunBB.
Supported Languages:
Bosnian Bangali
Bulgarian Portuguese (Brazilian)
Belarusian Catalan
Chinese (Simplified) Czech
German Danish
Spanish French
Greek Croatian
Hungarian Indonesian
Hebrew Hindi
Persian Icelandic
Italian Japanese
Korean (South) Kurdish
Lithuanian Latvian
Macedonian Dutch
Norwegian Urdu
Polish Portuguese
Romanian Serbian
Russian Arabic
Swedish Slovak
Thai Turkish
Ukrainian Vietnamese
Afrikaans Chinese (Traditional)

You can download the translation packs on the PunBB website.

PunBB Administration - Settings Setup

It is advised to install PunBB software on Linux box, with Apache web server and a open source database, like MySQL or PostgreSQL.

It would be a shame if a tiny forum software would not work on a tiny web server, but fortunately, PunBB is highly compatible with the small memory footprint webservers, like Lighttpd or Nginx. This combination will therefore be a perfect all-in-one solution for communities with small resources.

One particular feature of PunBB is its support of SQLite database, which does not need any database additional daemon. SQLite is a database API, which uses the SQL query language and that only use one file locally. These is particularly useful for PHP hosting that does not provide any database connection, and again, it's perfect for server hosts with really slow performance.

Compatibility with Smartphones
Compatible SmartPhones
Compatible Cellphone Brands and Manufacturers.
Application Distribution / Type
How it is distributed / App Store Availability

Forum Threads & Posts

Forum Threads / Topics
Forum Style Flat Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
  • URL Redirection Forum
  • Sub Sections
Thread Icons No Topic Tags No
Hot Topics Yes Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics Plugin Sticky Threads Yes
Related Threads - Detect Duplicate Threads No
Announcements Yes
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • Plain Text
  • Preview Button
Post Editing Format
Supported Markup Language (HTML, Wiki, BBCode,...).
  • Plain
  • BBCode
Spell Checker
Checks typos on posts and topics.
Image Attachment
How Images can be Attached and Displayed in Message Posts.
  • Use BBCode or HTML. Need to type the URL of an already hosted image.
Embedded Videos
Videos and Media Websites Supported in Message Posts.
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box Yes Smileys Yes
Attachments Plugin Syntax Highlighting Plugin
Message Rating
Plugin Message Quoting Yes

PunBB - Topic

Of course, a simple forum software also means extensibility, and of course, PunBB has a great possibilities of extensions, that are described above as Plugin.

About the forum global organization, the Subforums are not available by default, you need to enable them through a specific plugin.

Additional & Technical Features

Additional Forum Features
Poll Creation Plugin
Private Messages
Users Can Communicate using an Internal Messaging System.
Instant Messaging
Discuss with Visitors and Members in a Chat Window.
Topic, Member Birthdays, Events are available from the perspective of a calendar.
Online Users List
Connected User List (Often Found in the Forum Footer).
Members List
Search and Consult the List of Members.
Technical Features
Bundled Software
Additional Software Available with the Forum.
RSS/Atom Syndication
Posts and Threads Exported to Feeds Aggregators Syndicate.
Friendly URLs
URLs are clear and contain information about the topic (title, message,...). Highly recommended for SEO purposes.
Post by Email
Post Directly From your Email Box.
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).

PunBB - User List

Once again, minimal forum features are implemented. However, these features are technically sufficient to support a classical forum. These lacks have however a very interesting positive point: PunBB is very fast, and does not need T1 connection for every members of your community.

If you want other information about plugins (plugins are limited to admin interface) and modifications (for the forum itself), please consult these links to the PunBB community :

User Profiles & Options

Some details about PunBB features regarding members.
Member Options & Features
Bookmark Threads
User Profiles Keep a List of Followed Posts and Topics.
Email Notifications
Receive Emails When New Messages are Posted in Followed Threads.
Export private messages
Private Messages can be Downloaded by Users.
Payment Subscriptions
Paying Membership Subscription.
User Profiles
User Profile
User Information and Settings.
Pictures of Members, Useful to Easily Identify their Posts.
Signatures Added at the Bottom of Each Message.
Tags and Labels Identifying the Members, based on specific criteria (Total Posts Count, Credits, Moderation Level...)

PunBB - User Profile

User Profile follows the classic guidelines of the product: clean and simple. Editing his profile is so easy, and consulting others is at least as convenient.

Gallery of PunBB Themes

Moderation & Users Management

Moderation & Threads Management
Post-Moderation The moderation is done afterwards, if an administrator notices a problem or if a member reports something wrong. Each message is therefore directly published.
Reactive Moderation By reporting any problems, members are reactive against moderation problems. Moderators' main objective is to regularly check user reports, without having to follow each threads.
Moderator per section Yes
Global Moderator Yes
Move Threads
Move Threads from Topics
Shadow Topics
When a thread is moved, the previous position is kept in order to inform users of this modification.
Close/Lock Threads
Close/Lock Problematic Threads
Users Management
User Groups
Organize and define groups of users, and apply different actions and settings on them.
Common Groups: Guests, Members, Moderators, Administrators,...
User Registration
  • Free Registration
  • Registration needs Approval
  • Invitation Only
  • Confirmation sent by email for validation
Limit Features For New Users
Features are limited if a user has created a small number of posts.
Guest Posting Yes
Multiple Administrators Yes
Send Warnings to Users
Inform users by email or PM that they infringe the board rules, and could be excluded for such behavior.
Forum/Section Restricted Access
ACL could be use to determine if a user or a group of users can access (in read only, post message) to some sections and topics.
User Banishment Yes

PunBB Administration - Users Bans

About way of register a new account, admin can create them alone using a dedicated plugin.

Administration & Support

PunBB Administration - Dashboard

PunBB administration interface is as simple as it should be. It perfectly reflects the purpose of this forum software.

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
Administration Tools
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
No Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
No Mass Mailing
Send an email (newsletters, advertisements, information,...) to all users.
Installation & Upgrading
Installation Method
How this forum software could be installed.
Installation Wizard but manual database setup
Upgrading Method
How this forum software could be upgraded.
Upgrade Wizard
Updates Notifications
The Admin Panel informs you when a new version is released.
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to PunBB.
  • PhpBB 3
  • PhpBB 2.x
  • SMF 1.1
  • Invision Power Board

Good thing is that as PunBB supports phpBB and that most softwares could be converted to phpBB, then most of them could be indirectly migrate to PunBB.

Security & Spam Protection

Security & Spam Protection
Captcha protects your forum against spam bots.
e.g., Syndicate
Complexity: [++[ Normal
Abnormal Behavior Detection
Detect users or request strange behaviors, and try to process proactive actions.
Words Filtering
Offensing Words are automatically replaced.
User Blacklist
Prevent specific user accounts to register (based on email address, name,...) and disable potentially harmful members.
IP Blocking
Prevent access to spam robots and other scripts that could attempt DDOS or Brute Force attacks on your forum.

Vulnerabilities Advisories Criticality

Secunia Criticality

Secunia Advisories severity affecting PunBB.

Vulnerabilities Impact

Secunia Impact

Secunia Advisories impact affecting PunBB.

Customization & Social Networks

Add new features to your forum installation.
~447 Available Plugins. More info »
Installation: [++[ Very Easy
Modify the style of your forum easily.
~199 Available Themes.
Custom BBCodes Plugin Smiley Packs Plugin
Thread Icons
No Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
Integration with Applications, Social Networks, Intranet...
Social Networks
Users can share information from their social network account...
CMS / Blog Bridges
Integration with existing Web publishing tools.
  • WordPress
User Accounts Integration
Do users be able to log in with their corporate, Google, Facebook,... accounts?
Content Aggregation
Forum allows to integrate news and content from other website, using an aggregation protocol (RSS, RDF, Atom,...).

PunBB Administration - Settings Features

As explained by the former PunBB author, PunBB's aim is to be as simple as possible and implement the features a forum software needs, not more, not less. Indeed, it's not a surprise if PunBB cannot easily integrate to existing user database or existing CMS software.

However, it is quite easy to integrate your PunBB website in a common PHP architecture (own web site, blog software,...) by including the include/common.php to any PHP scripts. See the PunBB documentation for more information.

You should also consult the community forum of PunBB for any question about integration.

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
XHTML 1.0 Strict.
XHTML 1.0 Strict
Click to see if it respects HTML norms.
CSS Stylesheets
CSS 2.
Click to see if it respects CSS norms.
Accessibility (WAI)
Web Accessibility ensures that the forum is usable by people of all abilities and disabilities.
Conformance to AA level.
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does PunBB correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?

Norms respect and accessibility are one of the best point of PunBB. The themes are only simple CSS files, easily modifiable (webmasters should learn and understand CSS W3 norms, but modifying an existing CSS file is generally the best way to progress).

This styling is really easier to modify and use instead of dozen images to modify, table layout, and other things that make forum theming difficult. Having no background images, buttons and other noisy features are very important for people looking for simple forum softwares.

The forum itself could easily be localized by adding translation packs, but the admin part can be translated only by a specific installation (for example, French translation is only contained in a specific archive, see http://www.punbb.fr for more details).

Unique Features

Key points and major differences that make PunBB unique:

The main difference between PunBB and PhpBB is the size of the package: 300k lines of code of PhpBB vs. 20k lines for PunBB, moreover written in a really simple way. These two softwares do not serve the same purpose, and this is also true in the manner they are coded.

Final Words


PunBB is a really good and simple forum software. It implements minimal features a forum needs and these features are sufficient to support an important community.

Of course, webmasters that are looking for much features will not find their happiness with PunBB, but those with minimal requirements or that need to install and customize quickly their forum will be simply delighted by PunBB.

For intermediate needs, a classic PunBB installation, upgraded with some plugins and modifications will perfectly suit the general needs of users, and, this time, they won't be annoyed by tons of useless sub-modules. As usual, please however note that you need to be careful by using plugins, because they are never officially supported by the software team, even if most popular ones are carefully followed.

About the FluxBB fork, it seems that it has its own life now, and is clearly separated from its ancestor. Both softwares are really good, so your choice is just a matter of your own feeling about the two projects. Anyway, we, here, really like those two great projects. Congratulations!

Additional Resources:

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Comments (4)

Currently version is 1.4.2,

Currently version is 1.4.2, not so many changes since 1.3, but now it looks very well Smile.

lastnico's picture

Updated, thanks.

Updated, thanks.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.


You can update? Spanish

You can update? Spanish language of PunBB 1.3.6 is supported for v 1.4.2.

lastnico's picture

Updated, thanks.

Updated, thanks.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.

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