A little over a month ago, I decided to improve the look of the forums on this site. I had customized flatforum for my Coulee Region community forums and figured I'd just copy it over here and tweak it a bit. Well, I'd forgotten what a mess I had to integrate flatforum into my site and get it looking decent. I figured if I was going to try and rip that all out I might as well straighten it up while I was at it. So, rather out of the blue, I suddenly found myself creating a forum enhancement module.
The idea is pretty simple: the core Drupal forum module in conjunction with various contrib modules and some theming makes a decent forum. But putting that all together is time consuming and difficult for people new to Drupal. So I'm taking the work I've done, making it more generic, and bundling it together in a "glue" module. In addition, I'm pulling together various code snippits that add bits of functionality that are found all over drupal.org and related websites and adding them in here. The result will be a module that transforms the core forum module and contribs into a cohesive forum with as little work as possible on the part of the admin.
The Advanced Forum module is still in its early stages but is already usable (IMO) as a flatforum replacement. I do, however, caution you to not use it on a live site unless you have some php/css knowledge and are able to merge in any changes you make with newer versions of the module as it is far from stable. Also, it has not been tested very thoroughly so make sure you test it on a copy of your live site first. I realize this is fairly standard advice for all modules but I wanted to emphasize it since this is such early code. I wouldn't recommend using it at all if it wasn't for the fact that so many people are chomping at the bit to pretty up their forums. :)
If you maintain a theme on drupal.org, please consider making your theme "advforum-ready". All you need to do is copy the advforum folder out of the module and into your theme and tweak it to match your theme. Add in the function call to template.php and then all a user of your theme needs to do is install Advanced Forum and they will have a forum themed to match their theme automatically. To see an example of this, check out Jacine's Sky theme. I used that theme only slightly modified for this site and you can see Advanced Forum in use here.