I know that many new mod features were added, but for us users, there really is very little new.
There's a ton of new stuff. Did you see this list
? Granted, some of that stuff I have disabled, but there's far more to phpBB 3 than just moderating tool improvements. (And actually, the mod tools don't add nearly as much as the new admin tools. The things I can do with permissions are amazing.)
Now it is much harder (for me at least) to discern stickies/announcements/new posts,
Stickies are the same, just a different icon. I guess they also got rid of the "Sticky:" text at the beginning. Announcements are FAR easier to discern since they are completely separate from the rest of the threads in the forums. New posts are difficult if you've got red/green colorblindness like yourself, but those are standard phpBB 3 icons.
the icons for PM and such got moved. The links for 'view new posts' etc got moved.
Not sure what you mean about PM icons. If you mean the link to your PM box, that just went from the center to the left. The 'view new posts' just went from the right to the left. Those are standard to phpBB 3. I honestly have a hard time understanding why this is a big deal. I was more disappointed in how they changed the 'view new posts' page, since the forums that the threads are in are more difficult to identify than before.
No more html.
That was a security decision by the phpBB developers. The need for it isn't as great as it was, since the BBCode for links and images was improved. If there's a must have html feature, we can always add custom BBCodes. I can actually do that from the admin control panel.
Links and stuff just don't make sense, layout-wise.
I mean, on the threads with polls, there is no dividing between the poll and the post. Not very easy to read, IMHO.
The polls could use a bit more contrast between the poll and the first post.
The layout seems really bulky with lots of wasted space.
Again, that just seems to be the way phpBB 3 was made. If you check out polls on the CBE forum, the spacing is exactly the same.
I know that a large part of that is theming,
Actually, my opinion is that very little of it is the theme. But Steve and/or Cyril would know more about that since they've been in the code.
but I'm still in the camp that something isn't functional until the potential has been realized.
Other than the new post issue, which I would think you'd experience on any phpBB 3 forum if they used the standard icons, I don't see anything here that has to do with function. Perhaps we define function differently? HTML too, I guess. But what part of HTML are you missing that you can't do with BBCode?
Once we have our blue theme back that makes reading easier then we'll see.
The gerbils and blue, poor Scott just can't escape it.
EDIT: and I just got hit with the 'at least one new post' thing that didn't post my comment. Is there a way to turn that annoying 'feature' off?
That' one of the best features, IMO. Completely prevents posting something in a thread, only to find out that someone beat you to it. I think the option to turn it off is a global setting for all users, but I can't seem to find it at the moment.
Being right doesn't matter if no one listens.