Evaluating two Open Source Apps: Vanilla Forum & CraftySyntax

First one that I was looking at was Vanilla forums by Lussumo. What I was looking for was a forum that was different from all of the others out there. A looong time ago, I played with SnitzForums and phpBB. They seem to be ok, full featured, highly configurable…there are many others out there but they all look the same. Then a few months ago, I stumbled across Vanilla. They are currently at a 1.0.1 release. What I really like about it is its simplicity and clean elegance. It is extendable with user-developed add-ons and fully compliant to the major browsers out there. Best, I think, is how clean it looks. There is something to be said in that. You go to a forum to discuss things, not to be bombarded with lots of configurations and such. I’m not downplaying the importance of the other promitent boards out there (I may review some others later). I have it linked to my blog under the Forum link or here. Test it out and let me know what you think!

The second one will probably deserve a more detailed analysis. Over a year ago (or more), when LiveHelp started getting more “airplay,” I started looking for other alternatives to Live Operator online help chats. I came across BoldChat as well (which seems to be doing well now). The great thing about OpenSource is that if someone is successful with a software solution, someone within the OpenSource community will try to emulate it (e.g., activeCollab and BaseCamp). So, using a little Google magic, I search for “OpenSource Live Help” and the number one hit was a company called CraftySyntax. I remember (from the eyes graphic on their home page) that I looked at this product a long time ago. Since then it has evolved nicely and richly. I was able to successfully install and integrate into several environments. It provides all of the functionality of the “big players” mentioned above but stands out in that it is OpenSource. I was able to install the buttons for live help, test the chatting, test the various operator modes as well as use the additional windows application (developed by a third party). I’ve probably spent only 3-4 hours on this so I plan on doing more (and integrating with my Support/HelpDesk implementation) in the next few weeks. I will provide more details on this really nice application then.

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