By default Vanilla is set up to run in what could be considered a ‘closed’ or ‘private’ mode where you must be a registered member even to read the discussions. You can define how users get approved for membership into your closed forum using the “Registration Settings” form in the settings tab. There are more explicit instructions for how to use that form here.
By default, new users are assigned a special “Applicant” role that does not have any access in Vanilla. If you have administrative permission to be notified of new applicants, you will receive email notification whenever anyone new applies to your forum. If you go and look at the Roles & Permissions form, you will notice that an Applicant role does not exist. By default, the Applicant role has zero permissions for the sole purpose of having to be approved by an administrator when the forum runs in ‘private’ mode.
When you as the administrator manually approve a new member, they are then bumped up from that New member role (Applicant) into the Membership approval role (Member). You can always move a user to a different role from their account page.
To have Vanilla operating entirely on it’s own and approving all new members for you, you can grant everyone member status by setting the New member role to match that of the Membership approval role. Now after applying this to your forum, everyone should now be automatically assigned that member role.
To open up your forum so that the public can read discussions, you must perform the following tasks:
In older versions of (Vanilla 0.9.2.x and below) you may encounter a problem where non-members still cannot view either some or all categories of discussion without first being a member. If you’ve added any new categories prior to the opening up your forum you might notice this problem on your own if you aren’t alerted to it later. To remedy this, you’ll have to go back and edit each of those new categories added and double check each of their role settings for roles allowed to participate in that category. You want to make sure that all roles below the minimum level (including banned member roles) can view that category.
How this works: Leaving out the banned role makes your category and all discussions in that category unviewable to a non-member. Even if that forum is open for non-members, that banned member role still out-ranks applicants and non-members in the given hierarchy. So in other words, if the banned can’t view the category, then no one else below them can.