Vbulliten if you want to pay.
I'm not really sure what I like with for free. But phpbb is to easy to hack.
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I like SMF the best and use it for most random projects I have. PHPBB is easy to hack you are right and for that reason I will not use it, I also really do not like the ACP. VB is okay, but I am not willing to pay for something I do not need, I am sure it suits many just not me. As for the others, none are really pleasing to my eyes.
Please your clients & thank them from time to time.......they are just like groupies that keep the band going strong.
I used to use punbb but they seem to be dropping off abit & updates & support can be slow.
Now I use MYbb, they are fresh on the updates & the tech support on the forum is busy & helpful.
When I look for forum software Im always looking at the one with a strong development team & following which is unlikely to fold & leave me with an out of date forum.
For this I now choose MY bb.
The person who knows 'how' will always have a job. The person who knows 'why' will always be their boss.
We are currently using Vbulliten which is best for for a large community, however anyone looking for free version, I would recommend phpBB 3 because we have used it earlier and found it best among other free forum software's.