vBulletin 4.0 Forum: First Impressions

I mentioned back in a post about the release of vBulletin 4.0 that it was a different animal and I didn’t expect to be migrating anytime soon. So much for famous last words, after having spent the better part of last week upgrading my Carrie Underwood forums to vBulletin 4.

I did get one thing right in that post, VB4 is definitely a different animal and after working with it on the dev board the default theme has grown on me. It’s simple and after 5 years of messing with forums, I’ve come to the real conclusion that splash does nothing but get in the way when things get busy.

If you’ve been using VB4 them you’ll be happy to know that the forum part of the software is still rock solid as ever. There’s a few things that have been changed or removed with the new templates but most seem to be oversights and simple plugins or template mods have been released to address those issues.

One of the big pluses I found is the theme editor has some incredible potential. If you’re big into creating or manipulating your own themes then it’ll take a bit of getting used to, but I was able to do the conversion with a minimal amount of template edits which should make upgrades a good bit smoother.

The upgrade process was really smooth. I jumped from VB 3.8.1 and it went as smooth as upgrades typically do.

The major stumbling block with the forum portion of the new software is the lack of available themes. vBulletin.org has a bunch of simplistic themes that are VB4 ready, but most of them are the typical gaudy things you’d expect (honestly I’m not sure why some people think a fire engine red forum, with a red background and orange fonts looks good).

If you’re waiting for your favorite premium theme to be converted and made 4.0 ready, plan to wait a while. From what I can tell with the ones I’ve used in the past, the developers are trying to stay with the tableless concept and I think that’s going to be a futile effort for some of them. Some themes out there just have to have tables in order to function properly across all browsers and while it’s great to not have to use them, does it really matter? Probably not. So my expectation is a few will get converted to tableless version but in the end most themers will simply convert their existing skins to work with the new templating system.

Feature wise, not a great deal has changed. There’s some advancements like the ability to embed video without the need for a plugin now, but the calendar still isn’t integrated into the forums. The new class structures also means major changes for plugin developers. Very few, if any existing plugins will work in VB4 and while a fair amount have been converted, I suspect that most are either still struggling grasping the new methods or just not bothering to. So if you’re planning to upgrade, you have to consider what plugins you have, which of those have been converted and which haven’t (and may not be).

Overall though, I am pleased with forum product. I have the CMS and blogs turned off at the moment but I hope to play with them a bit this week. The reviews in that area are all over the board so I’ll just to test it and see if it’ll do things I’d like to see it do.

Incidentally, vBulletin announced they are planning a scheduled release of VB 4.0.1 sometime later today. Hopefully this will address some of the little things that I had to chase down or that got left out. We’ll see.