Install Vanilla forums

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Note: This article has had no material updates since November 30, 2014 and is not currently being maintained. Vanilla forums have had several updates since then, so this article should be used for reference purposes only.

Vanilla forums software is a popular forum software that includes many advanced features not found in other forum software, including automatic draft saving, active notifications of messages and discussion responses, and an overall clean look. This article covers installing Vanilla Forums to a LEMP web server set up according this site's series of articles, which can be reviewed in the Steps to create a UNPM Server.

Nginx configuration

Create package-configs files

vanilla.conf

username@servername:~$ sudo nano /etc/nginx/package-configs/vanilla.conf

Paste into the file, with /forums/ being the site's root subdirectory Vanilla will be installed to:

location = /forums/index.php {
    include global-configs/php.conf;
    fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(.*)$;
}

location /forums/ {
    location ~* /categories/[0-9]*(/.*)?$ { return 404; }
    location ~* ^/uploads/.*.(html|htm|shtml|php|js)$ {
        types { }
        default_type text/plain;
    }
    try_files $uri $uri/ @forum;
    location ~ \.php$ { deny all; }
}

location @forum {
    rewrite ^/forums/(.+)$ /forums/index.php?p=$1 last;
}

vanilla_https.conf

username@servername:~$ sudo nano /etc/nginx/package-configs/vanilla_https.conf

Paste into the file, with /forums/ being the site's root subdirectory Vanilla will be installed to:

location = /forums/index.php {
    include global-configs/php_https.conf;
    fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(.*)$;
}

location /forums/ {
    location ~* /categories/[0-9]*(/.*)?$ { return 404; }
    location ~* ^/uploads/.*.(html|htm|shtml|php|js)$ {
        types { }
        default_type text/plain;
    }
    try_files $uri $uri/ @forum;
    location ~ \.php$ { deny all; }
}

location @forum {
    rewrite ^/forums/(.+)$ /forums/index.php?p=$1 last;
}

Edit sites-available file

Open the sites-available file for the domain:

username@servername:~$ sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/example.com

In the HTTP server block, add:

include package-configs/vanilla.conf;

In the HTTPS server block, add:

include package-configs/vanilla_https.conf;

Test and Restart nginx

Test and reload nginx.

username@servername:~$ sudo nginx -t
nginx: the configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf syntax is ok
nginx: configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf test is successful
username@servername:~$ sudo service nginx reload
 * Reloading nginx configuration nginx                                   [ OK ]

Create Vanilla database and database user

Create a Vanilla database and database user:

username@servername:~$ sudo mysql -uroot -p
MariaDB [(none)]> create database databasename default character set utf8 default collate utf8_general_ci;
MariaDB [(none)]> grant all on databasename.* to 'databasenameusername'@'localhost' identified by 'databasenameusernamepassword';
MariaDB [(none)]> exit

Note that the databasename, databasenameusername and databasenameusernamepassword will be required for the Vanilla installation process.

Vanilla Forums package installation

This install is for Vanilla Forums 2.1.6.

username@servername:~$ wget https://open.vanillaforums.com/get/vanilla-core-3.1.zip
username@servername:~$ unzip -d /var/www/example.com/public vanilla-core-2.1.6.zip
username@servername:~$ mv /var/www/example.com/public/vanilla/ /var/www/example.com/public/forums
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/example.com/public/forums -type d | xargs -d '\n' chmod 775
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/example.com/public/forums -type f | xargs -d '\n' chmod 664
username@servername:~$ chmod -R 777 /var/www/example.com/public/forums/{conf,uploads,cache}
username@servername:~$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/example.com/public/forums

Navigate to the secure https://www.example.com/forums/ and complete the Vanilla Forums online installation.

Note that the 777 permissions are required by Vanilla, so complain to them about this.

Configure Vanilla Forums

In addition to the configurations available from the default plugins located in the Vanilla forums dashboard, plugins may be added to the /forums/plugins/ directory then enabled in the dashboard and configurations may be set in the /forums/conf/config.php file.

Themes

It is strongly recommended that admins using the default theme create a clone of the default and use that instead. Otherwise all customizations made to the default theme may be lost during an update.

username@servername:~$ cp -r /var/www/example.com/public/forums/themes/default/ /var/www/example.com/public/forums/themes/defaultclone/
username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/example.com/public/forums/themes/defaultclone/about.php

In the line $ThemeInfo['default'] = array( change default to the desired name.

In the line 'Name' => '+Baseline', change +Baseline to the desired name. This will be displayed in the dashboard as the name of the theme.

The Description line is displayed in the dashboard to describe the theme. The Version can be replaced with "" around text that will be displayed as the version - be sure to leave the , at the end of the line. Author, AuthorEmail and AuthorUrl may also be changed as desired.

username@servername:~$ mkdir /var/www/example.com/public/forums/themes/defaultclone/views
username@servername:~$ touch /var/www/example.com/public/forums/themes/defaultclone/design/custom.css
username@servername:~$ cp /var/www/example.com/public/forums/applications/dashboard/views/default.master.tpl /var/www/example.com/public/forums/themes/defaultclone/views/default.master.tpl
username@servername:~$ sudo chown -R www-data /var/www/example.com/public/forums/themes/defaultclone/

The new theme should now be an option in the dashboard's themes menu.

Configuration settings in config.php

To use the following configurations, open config.php for editing:

username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/example.com/public/forums/conf/config.php

Load local fonts and jQuery scripts

The default configuration for Vanilla makes use of Google APIs for loading jQuery scripts as well as some fonts, which will use fewer resources and may load faster than when locally stored. The tradeoff being that Google can track users who use the site by recording the header information sent when requesting the scripts and fonts. To force locally stored scripts and fonts to load, edit the following line:

$Configuration['Garden']['Cdns']['Disable'] = TRUE;

Combine CSS files

CSS files may be combined for faster page loading. Note this is an experimental feature which may cause issues for some setups. Add the following line:

$Configuration['Garden']['CombineAssets'] = TRUE;

Change input method

The input method can be specified by adding a line then specifying the desired method. If not present, add the following line:

$Configuration['Garden']['InputFormatter'] = 'Markdown';

The above configuration sets markdown as the input type. Input type options are case sensitive: Markdown, Html, BBCode or Text.

Enable debug

This will display messages at the bottom of each page that may be useful for troubleshooting. It is different from the Debugger plugin.

$Configuration['Debug'] = TRUE;

Note that when disabling the plugin it easier to change TRUE to FALSE so that when Vanilla overwrites the config file for a settings change made via the dashboard the line will not be deleted, allowing for convenient enabling in the future.

Plugins

The default set of plugins are fairly straightforward. Note that when enabling the WYSIWYG editor, the editor defaults to this mode and some features may not be available without selecting the text button. There are also a lot of great plugins found at the Vanilla forums website.

Enable Debugger

If the forum is not responding as expected, the debug mode may be enabled for troubleshooting by enabling the Debugger plugin. This mode will display information and error statements at the bottom of every page.

Add quote option for comments

The Quotes plugin adds a quote option to more easily quote posts:

username@servername:~$ wget http://vanillaforums.org/get/quotes-plugin-1.6.9.zip
username@servername:~$ unzip -d /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins quotes-plugin-1.6.9.zip
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/Quotes/ -type f | xargs chmod 664
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/Quotes/ -type d | xargs chmod 775
username@servername:~$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/Quotes
username@servername:~$ rm quotes-plugin-1.6.9.zip

The Quotes plugin should now be an option in the dashboard.

Piwik plugin

For servers with Piwik installed, the Piwik Analytics plugin can be used to enable Piwik across the forum. To install, download and extract the plugin to the /plugins/ directory. It is also advisable to make a few changes to some of the files to prevent popular tracker blockers from preventing the code from being loaded.

username@servername:~$ wget http://vanillaforums.org/get/piwik-plugin-2.6.5.zip
username@servername:~$ unzip -d /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins piwik-plugin-2.6.5.zip
username@servername:~$ sudo chown -R www-data /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/Piwik/
username@servername:~$ rm piwik-plugin-2.6.5.zip
username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/Piwik/class.piwik.plugin.php

Change the following lines:

<!-- Piwik -->
<script type="text/javascript">
  var _paq = _paq || [];
  _paq.push(['trackPageView']);
  _paq.push(['enableLinkTracking']);
  (function() {
    var u="$PiwikInstall";
    _paq.push(['setTrackerUrl', u+'js/']);
    _paq.push(['setSiteId', '$PiwikSiteID']);
    var d=document, g=d.createElement('script'), s=d.getElementsByTagName('script')[0];
    g.type='text/javascript'; g.async=true; g.defer=true; g.src=u+'js/'; s.parentNode.insertBefore(g,s);
  })();
</script>
<noscript>
<img src="$ImageTrack/randomsymlinkname2.php?idsite=$PiwikSiteID" style="border:0" alt="" />
</noscript>
<!-- End Piwik Code -->

For an explanation of secondrandomsymlinkname, see the Piwik article.

In the Vanilla Forums dashboard, navigate to Addons -> Plugins and enable Piwik Analytics. In the plugin's settings, set PiwikInstall to //www.example.com/randomsymlinkname/ (again, see the Piwik article for an explanation of randomsymlinkname) and set PiwikSiteID to the Id of the website.

Making nice code blocks with PrettyPrint

If the forum being made is expected to make regular use of code blocks, users may not like the default code blocks created by Vanilla. The PrettyPrint plugin can be installed and configured to greatly enhance the forum's code blocks.

username@servername:~$ wget http://vanillaforums.org/get/prettyprint-plugin-1.2.zip
username@servername:~$ unzip -d /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins prettyprint-plugin-1.2.zip
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/PrettyPrint -type f | xargs chmod 664
username@servername:~$ find /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/PrettyPrint -type d | xargs chmod 775
username@servername:~$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/PrettyPrint
username@servername:~$ rm prettyprint-plugin-1.2.zip
username@servername:~$ mv /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/PrettyPrint/prettify/prettify.css /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/PrettyPrint/prettify/original.prettify.css
username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/PrettyPrint/prettify/prettify.css

Paste into the new file:

/* Pretty printing styles. Used with prettify.js. */

pre, code {
   background-color: #fafafa;
   border-color: #aaa;
}
pre code {
   background-color: transparent;
}

/* SPAN elements with the classes below are added by prettyprint. */
.pln { color: #000 }  /* plain text */

.str { color: #080 }  /* string content */
.kwd { color: #00d }  /* a keyword */
.com { color: #800 }  /* a comment */
.typ { color: #606 }  /* a type name */
.lit { color: #066 }  /* a literal value */
/* punctuation, lisp open bracket, lisp close bracket */
.pun, .opn, .clo { color: #660 }
.tag { color: #00d }  /* a markup tag name */
.atn { color: #606 }  /* a markup attribute name */
.atv { color: #080 }  /* a markup attribute value */
.dec, .var { color: #606 }  /* a declaration; a variable name */
.fun { color: red }  /* a function name */

/* Use higher contrast and text-weight for printable form. */
@media print, projection {
  .str { color: #060; }
  .kwd { color: #006; font-weight: bold; }
  .com { color: #600; font-style: italic; }
  .typ { color: #404; font-weight: bold; }
  .lit { color: #044; }
  .pun, .opn, .clo { color: #440; }
  .tag { color: #006; font-weight: bold; }
  .atn { color: #404; }
  .atv { color: #060; }
}

/* Specify class=linenums on a pre to get line numbering */
ol.linenums { margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0 } /* IE indents via margin-left */
li.L0,
li.L1,
li.L2,
li.L3,
li.L5,
li.L6,
li.L7,
li.L8 { list-style-type: none }
/* Alternate shading for lines */
li.L1,
li.L3,
li.L5,
li.L7,
li.L9 { background: #f0f0f0 }

To make in-line code a lighter shaded background:

username@servername:~$ nano /var/www/example.com/public/forums/plugins/PrettyPrint/default.php

Remove the following code:

{background-color:#ddd !important}

External links

Vanillaforums.org

Form the forum | Ars Technica

Vanilla Community Wiki Project

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