Running Commons in a Box (CBOX)

This article will show users how to set up Commons in a Box, or CBOX, using the WordPress plugin with a few additional steps to complete proper configuration.


There are two "flavors" of CBOX for you to choose from when installing: CBOX Classic and CBOX OpenLab. If you're looking to create a general community networking plugin where folks can discuss and collaborate on a particular topic, Classic is your best bet. But, for a more robust, specifically education-centered, collaborative learning environment, OpenLab is a powerful and effective choice. You can learn more about the differences on

Prepping for CBOX

Regardless of which version of CBOX you want to use, the majority of the setup is pretty much the same. However, there is one difference you'll need to know about prior to installing to avoid critical errors on your finished instance. If you're planning on installing CBOX OpenLab, you'll need to make sure that the domain on which you'll be installing it is running PHP 7.4 rather than our current default (as of 2023 this is PHP 8.0). You can learn more about adjusting these settings by referencing our guide, Changing Your PHP Version in cPanel.

Install WordPress Multisite

CBOX runs on WordPress Multisite, so the first thing you'll want to do is install WordPress in your cPanel Dashboard. To do this, you can go to your Applications Browser tab in your MyApps section in cPanel.


From here, select WordPress from the list of Featured Applications.


On the next page, you'll click the + install this application button in the upper right of the WordPress information page.


Follow the setup instructions in Installatron, being sure to install your WordPress application to your desired domain or subdomain in the Domain section.


Also, be sure to tick the Yes, enable multi-site... option, as CBOX needs the multisite infrastructure in order to run.


When you're ready, click Install.

Installing/activating the Commons in a Box plugin

Once your WordPress Multisite is installed, add the CBOX plugin by going to Dashboard > Network Admin > Plugins. Then, click Add New and search for Commons in a Box.

Once you locate the plugin, click Install Now, then Activate.


Once the plugin has been activated, you should see a popup at the top of the Plugins page that will walk you through the rest of the setup process. To get started, click the orange button labeled Click here to get set up.


At this point, you'll reach your crossroad.

You'll have the option to select CBOX Classic or CBOX OpenLab for the remainder of your setup project. We'll go through both options here.


Installing CBOX Classic

If you'd like to choose the Classic package for your CBOX installation, select it from the screen shown above. You'll be brought to the CBOX Classic Installation confirmation page, where you'll see a small preview of how your site will look, as well as a general overview of what theme and plugins are recommended or required. If you're sure, click Install.


You'll then be taken through more installations, starting with installing the Required Plugins.


Once those have completed, you'll be taken to the Recommended Plugins. These are optional, but, when enabled, will provide you with the most robust version of CBOX Classic. By default, all recommended plugins will be checked; uncheck any you don't wish to add to your installation, then click Install.



Once the plugins are installed, click Continue to theme installation.


At this point in the CBOX Classic setup, you do have a choice as to whether you want to select their specific theme or not. This is optional; you can skip this if you'd like. If you'd rather install their theme, click Install Theme.


All done! Check out your awesome CBOX Classic environment on your site's homepage, then get to work making it your own.

Installing CBOX OpenLab

To set up the CBOX OpenLab package, Select it from that initial "Select Package" page upon activating your Commons in a Box install.

This process will be quite similar to the CBOX Classic process, except that the Theme Installation is not optional.


First, confirm your install by clicking Install. You'll be taken through the same Required and Recommended Plugin process, though they are different than the ones in the CBOX Classic install.


When you get to the Theme Installation screen, you will only have the option to Install Theme.


After that, you'll see this dashboard view for your OpenLab instance.


The homepage of your CBOX OpenLab installation will look the screenshot above; it's quite distinct from a typical WordPress page.

For additional resources, reference CBOX's Support Documentation

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