Been playing around with Simple Machine Forums (SMF) — it’s a cool forum software that’s robust and well-supported by an active online community.
For those who are unaware of this software, SMF is a free open-source forum application that can be installed on web servers. In contrast to paid software such as vBulletin and Invision Forums, SMF is available for free.
I didn’t want to shell out any money for vBulletin, so this will suffice. If it grows, I might have to migrate the forum to vBulletin though. Each vBulletin license is USD $160, but well worth it — it’s the holy grail of forums!
Summary of New SMF Features:
* * Database abstraction – with support for PostgreSQL and SQLite planned alongside that of MySQL.
* * Automatic installation of packages into themes other than just the default.
* * Email templates to simplify customization of forum emails.
* * Moderation center including post, topic and attachment moderation – to allow approving of user content before it is made public.
* * User warning system.
* * Additional group functionally including group moderators and requestable/free assignable groups.
* * WYSIWYG editor to provide an intuitive user interface to those users not familiar with BBC.
* * Permission improvements such as group inheritance and permission profiles to further reduce the complexity of the permissions system.
* * File based caching for a performance increase on all forums regardless of whether an accelerator is installed.
* * Mail queuing system to stagger the sending of emails to improve performance on large forums.
* * Advanced signature settings to allow the administrator of a forum to more tightly control the contents of users signatures.
* * Personal messaging improvements including ability to automatically sort incoming messages and a variety of display options.
* * Improved upgrade script with better timeout protection and simpler user interface.
* * Custom profile fields to enable administrators to add additional member fields from the administration center.
* * User configurable posts and topics per page; an improved calendar interface.
* * Option to allow guests to vote in polls.
Installation of SMF is a breeze! I only had to make sure that I had a database created, but other than that, SMF’s installation wizard guides you through everything, and tries to fill in whatever it can find out first. Pretty nifty!
Installing a Custom SMF Theme
SMF supports custom themes, and there’s a whole bunch of themes available at the SMF Theme Site, all for free! I found some that I really liked there, and installed them.
Installation of SMF themes is fairly straightforward. You’ll need to upload your theme files to the SMF themes directory, and then install them using the link in your Admin panel. After which, you have to remember to reset your forum’s default theme to that if you’re only planning to have one look for your forum.
Installing SMF Photo Gallery
I got the lite version of SMF Gallery and installed it. Installation of a SMF package (or SMF mod) is not that straightforward because packages only install to the default SMF theme. I installed a custom theme, so I had to manually create the link to the photo gallery.
This means that you need to edit the custom theme’s index.template.php file. To get to that, go to your Admin menu, click on Configuration >> Themes and Layout >> Modify Themes.
Then look for this line of code:
// the [member] list button
Found it? Mine was in the code block beginning from line 463. You’ll find a small chunk of code following that line, and right after that, paste the following code, and you should now see a link that says “Gallery” on your forum!
// the [SMF Gallery] button