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An Introduction to Creating a bbPress Theme From Scratch

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As stated in the article preview, bbPress is a plugin that provides forum functionality to WordPress. It is released and maintained by the creators of WordPress, so it is under active development.

In part one of this series, I will be providing an introduction to bbPress, its features, how to install it and configuring it, and then how to create forums and forum categories.

Ultimately, this series seeks to be a guide for anyone who is looking to get started with bbPress both from an installation and configuration perspective, and from the perspective of those who want to develop compatible themes.

What Is bbPress?

There is a lot of forum software that's already available - phpBB, vBulletin, and so on. bbPress is a forum software that adds forum features to WordPress. It comes as a plugin that you install and activate in your WordPress installation. bbPress is created and maintained by the same people that develop WordPress.

What Are Some of the Features of bbPress?

Before we jump too far into why we're actually taking a look at bbPress as a viable alternative for forum software, as well as how we can develop compatible themes, let's take a look at some of the features that make this a viable choice for WordPress:

  • it's lightweight
  • supports the creation of multiple forums
  • allows the creation of multiple forum categories
  • users can subscribe to individual forums
  • support for many forum converters 
  • abilities to view who started each topic (and in which forum they started it)
  • view the number of people engaged in conversation
  • view the number of replies to the topic
  • and more!

We'll be covering more throughout the remainder of this series, but that's a survey of some of the things that we'll be covering.

Installing and Configuring bbPress

If you have installed and activated a WordPress plugin in the past, then you'll have no problem downloading and install bbPress. There is no need you install any special software to use bbPress. All you just need is to search for bbPress right from your WordPress admin area under the "Add New" sub-menu located under the "Plugins" menu in your WordPress dashboard.

Once you have installed and activated the plugin, you might need to configure some basic options to get started with using the plugin. This is not a must, but I highly recommend checking out the bbPress settings page located under the "Forums" sub-menu located under the "Settings" menu in your WordPress dashboard.

Here's the initial bbPress settings screen within the WordPress dashboard:

Visit this settings page to change the basic options that comes with the plugin.

Creating Forum and Forum Categories

To get started with creating our bbPress theme we need to have some basic data with which to work. This includes multiple forums, multiple forum categories, and multiple forum posts.

So let's go ahead and create some of that data to get started with our work. 

To create a new forum, you need to click the "New Forum" sub-menu located under the "Forums" menu in your WordPress admin area.

Clicking on that option will displaying the following forum:

  • To create a new forum category, you need to select "Category" as the type on the right-hand side of the dashboard.
  • To create a new forum, you need to select "Forum" as the type at the right-hand side of the dashboard.
  • To assign a forum to a category after creating the category, under "Parent" select the category to which you want the forum to be assigned.
  • Other options that are available include "Status" which allows you to choose whether the forum is open or closedm and "Visibility" which allows you to choose whether the forum is public, private or hidden.
  • For a "Public Forum" anyone can see the forum, for a "Hidden Forum" only site Moderators/Admins can see them while "Private Forums" can only be accessed by registered users.

After creating our forum and categories the only thing left is to add posts to these forums.

What's Next?

Thus far, we've introduced bbPress, covered many of its features, how to install and configure it, and how to setup forums and categories.

In the next part of this series, we'll get out hands dirty with by starting to create our first bbPress theme from scratch.

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