Creating Groups for bbPress Forums using bbp Private Groups

    Praveen Chauhan
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bbPress GroupsYou know the thing about bbPress plugin, is that it is light-weight. You can quickly setup a forum without investing a lot of effort. There aren’t many setting options to navigate through, because the features are limited, only required features are provided. Don’t get me wrong, bbPress provides you a foundation. You can easily customize the forum the way you want. There are several plugins available to extend the features, or you can build your own, if you find the needed documentation.

A really great plugin we found through the bbPress support forum recently, is the bbp Private Groups plugin, which allows you to create groups of users, and group specific forums. This article will explain the use of this plugin and it’s benefits.


bbPress Forums and the Need for Groups

All forums present on a website, need not be available to everyone. May it be to protect the credibility of answers, or hide certain content altogether. In such cases, there is a need to limit access.


Don’t User Roles Help?

bbPress provides five roles (Keymaster, Moderator, Participant, Spectator or a Blocked User) which control user access and participation in forums. These roles overrule the capabilities of WordPress user roles (Subscriber, Contributor, Editor, Author, Administrator), when it comes to forums. A user role set for a particular user, is same across all forums. For example, a user set as a Participant, can post in any forum.

  • Although permissions can be set an at individual level, groups can allow you to grant permission for a set of people, rather than having to go to individual profiles to grant/prevent access.

  • Also, roles do not help much, when we want to completely prevent a user from accessing a subset of forums.


How about making a Forum Hidden?

There is this option in bbPress to create a ‘Hidden’ forum. Making a forum ‘Hidden’, limits their access to only Moderators, Keymasters or site Administrators.

Again, this does not help us, when we want to prevent a certain set of people, from accessing certain groups, irrespective of their roles. For example, say there are four users: userA, userB, userC and userD. And three forums: forum1, forum2 and forum3. We want to allow userA access to forum1, userB access to 1&3, and userC and userD access to 2&3.
















In such a case, even if any of the users were Moderators, neither of the forums can be made hidden.


How can Groups Help?

bbPress by default does not have user groups of it’s own. Groups can help divide users into sets. And access permissions can be set at the group level, which makes our task simple. In the above example, we need to create three groups. Considering of course, that each user can belong only to one group.

To create user groups many suggest using BuddyPress. But using BuddyPress is like hiring an elephant to crush a peanut. We do not need the extra weight. We can do with a simpler, more dedicated plugin. Enter bbp Private Groups plugin – the right plugin for the job.


Using the bbp Private Groups Plugin

The bbp Private Groups plugin, is meant to create user groups. You can then limit access to forums by adding them to groups. Thus only users belonging to the group have access to the forums (which have been added to the group). Users cannot access other forums which do not belong to the group (although there are exceptions for Moderators and Keymasters).

To list out the uses, the bbp Private Groups plugin provides the following options:

Create Groups

The main purpose of the plugin is to create Groups. Creating a group structure makes it fairly simple to solve our task at hand.

  • You need to create Groups depending on the permission options you want to provide.

  • For public groups accessible to all, we do not need to restrict them to any groups

bbp Add Private Groups

Add Users to Groups

Users have to be added to groups under individual user profile settings.

  • A user can be added only to one group

  • The role of the user will remain the same across all groups

  • User can be added to no group, which gives them access to forums, which are not restricted to any group

Add User to Group

Restrict Forum Access

Forum access can be restricted by assigning groups to forums.

  • Forums which are not under any group can be accessed by all

  • Forums can be assigned to several groups at once

  • Visibility of forums can also be changed for groups which do not have access to the forums

Add Forums To Groups

Forum Roles and Access Restrictions

But what happens when a moderator is added to a group? Can keymaster be added to a group? The point in question is what about forum user roles, how do they play a role in the group and forum dynamics. The plugin sets the following restrictions:

  • Keymaster has the access to all forums

  • Moderators can view all forums. If no group is set for moderator, he can moderate any forums. But if a group is set, forums under the group, or without any group, can be moderated.

  • If a Participant is not set to any particular group, he can only participate in forums which do not belong to any groups. But if he group is set, he can not only participate in the said forums, but also in the forums belonging to the group.

  • A Spectator can view forums which do not belong to any group, or forums which are assigned to the group the spectator belongs to. If the spectator is not assigned to any group, he can only view forums, which are not restricted by a group.


The bbp Private forum plugin, is relatively new. But it is a great substitute for BuddyPress plugin or other membership plugins, you would want to use, just for the option of creating user groups. The UI is sort of work in progress, but that’s fine, because the functionality is all in place. Have you used the plugin? Or thinking of using it? Let us know your thoughts, in the comment section below.

Praveen Chauhan

Praveen Chauhan

9 Responses

  1. I have tried using the plugin.
    Its a great plugin but I found it hard to work when your doing memberships with subscriptions.
    It lacks auto assignment to groups and removing them when subscription expires.
    You need to manually set it and remove it for members, specially when your limiting access to limited time members only.
    But all in all, its a great plugin in progress.

    1. Hi Jherson,

      Thank-you for your feedback about the plugin. The plugin is a simple solution for users looking to create user groups for forums. An option to integrate it with subscriptions could be a really good feature to have.

  2. Just began to use it. So far so good. It would be great if I could automate the process to add users. Right now I have to do each one individually as people get added to an email segment.
    Also, is there a way to search for a user in the user management control panel?

    Thank you 🙂

  3. Can you add a user to more then 1 group and can you send mass e-mails to say group a or group b for example?

  4. I just started using it and really like it, but today have discovered a problem. I have set my forum to “public” visibility on the forum page, checked the “click to activate forum visibility” under bbp private group forum visibility settings, and restricted content to group 2. It is doing what I want: showing the forum topics to all 3 group members without access to group 1 & 3 members, but when a group 2 member tries to open the forum, they are redirected to the membership levels page (which is what should only happen for the other two group members). I’ve tried changing everything, but it still isn’t allowing access. Can you please give me some ideas of how to fix this? Thanks

  5. What about assigning a default role – you can have the user’s role change with membership which will automatically change the forum access when the subscription changes.

  6. What about if a user should be granted “Participate” in one forum and just “Spectator” in another forum.

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