Viper Guestbook is a nice looking freeware PhP and MySQL based program that provides a rich, spam resistant guestbook addition to your web site. As long as you have PHP and MYSQL activated in your web server, you can easily download and install the program from the main site at http://www.vipergb.de.vu/. UPDATE: April 2007: Unfortunately it seems that the creators of this fantastic program have taken it off the web. So, unless you have access to it through a Fantastico package in your web hosting plan, you are not likely to be able to access it anymore.
Introduction to ViperThis freeware program is really quite impressive: it gives commercial guestbooks a definite run for their money for a variety of reasons. The layout is attractive, and can be customized using a diverse choice of skins to match your guestbook with the rest of your site. The administration area is very well set up with full control of who can post to your book, who needs to be moderated, and which messages actually show up in your guestbook for all the world to see. This is a distinct plus, since spammers and other rude people love to target innocent web owner's guestbooks and use them as a trash display. But with a click of a button, you can set up moderation on all entries, so that you get to approve each message before your other visitors actually get to read it. You can also easily ban the ISP address that spammers are posting messages from. Another nice feature is that the guestbook will screen multiple postings. It only allows people to post once on any given day, which also seriously deters multi-spamming from the same web address.
TAKING A LOOK FIRST & INSTALLATIONTo view the program in action, the main Viper site features screenshots of the guestbook features. and installation guidelines. You can also look at how I applied the program on one of my sites, Rajunas Refuge. A number of decorative skins are available to give your site guestbook a customized look that matches your web site. The look is so versatile - I highly recommend that you take the time to browse through their skins to get a feel for what is possible before you choose a final one. The guestbook is also available in a number of languages, including English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Flemish, Slovenian, and Chinese.
HOW IT ALL STARTEDThe Viper team is led by Marc Stein with a number of support people responsible for the various language versions. Marc presents a reliable, easy to use software that will allow you to receive feedback, messages, and kudos from visitors who wish to get in touch with you, all for free without unslightly ads or banners, or invasion of the spammers (well, you may still need to deal with spammers in your admin area but they can't break through to mar the appearance or functionality of your guestbook unless you allow free access). The current version of Viper is vX.1.2 which has been continuously improved by the author. A Visual Guide and incredible Support Forum to help you to configure and implement your guestbook is available as well.
THE ADMINISTRATION AREAOnce you have installed the program files successfully onto your web server, it is quite easy to set up your skin, and message handling functions. As you can see in the graphic below, the administration area is well laid out, with easy navigation, and full control of the guestbook functions. You decide the labels for the input fields and the maximum length of characters for each, so that your visitors can leave the information you would like to gather. Some examples of input fields include: name, comment text area, gender, e-mail, homepage, ICQ number, MSN identity, AIM identity, YAHOO identity, Skpe identity, Jabber identity, Gadu-Gadu number, country, picture, and ratings. You can also add custom fields that match your site topic, e.g. Software interests; Dog Breed; University, and so on.
Click for larger view
To protect your guestbook from the inevitable spammer who likes to post Viagra, and other obnoxious, rude, and sometimes, downright pornographic entries, you need to activate the "moderate all entries" function. Just click on "Setup" in the admin area's left column, then scroll down to "Moderator mode", and click on the checkbox beside it. Of course, you will need to check your guestbook admin area every so often to activate the real entries from your guests, the ones you DO want to show in your guestbook. This is very easy to do, by clicking on "Manage entries" in the main left column, then viewing and reacting to each message. You can choose to Delete the entry, Add the entry, Edit the entry, Leave comments on the entry, or ban the ISP address that the entry was initiated from.
Other supportive administrative functions include, statistics (which are fully manageable), use of BBCode (including toolbar settings and WYSIWYG editor), bad word filters, emails and notifications, backups, restores, and emoticon control. As well, a robust error log function is readily available to help you with any setup or server problems. All of these are organized very neatly with full intuitive access.
This program really is a great application that will please many web site owners looking for a reliable and professional looking, and worry-free guestbook for their site. I highly recommend it, and encourage everyone to check it out, and make a donation if possible, if they choose to use the software. The author deserves both kudos and a reward for such an awesome program..especially since he is offering it as free software.