Simple Machines 1.1 Review

(May 16, 2006 20:28)
Last Version 1.1.12 (November 13th, 2010). Released under Custom License.
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March 3, 2010: Simple Machines 1.1 is outdated and a new version has been reviewed.
Consult the Simple Machines 2 Review »

What is Simple Machines?

Simple Machines Forum, most of the time called SMF is a free software package that supports online communities. It is designed to provide an extensive list of features, and try to be as nice as possible with server resources. It runs on the classical couple PHP/MySQL, and is supported by most web servers (as soon as they run PHP).

SMF History

Please note that Simple Machines Forum was also known as YaBB SE which was initially a PHP port of YaBB Forum (originally in Perl).

Review Updates:

Simple Machines 1.1 is recommended for Huge Community.

(and supports smaller communities perfectly as well.)

Server & Client Requirements

Server Requirements
Programming Language
Required Architecture and Versions.
  • PHP 4
  • PHP 5
Web Servers
How the forum is delivered to users.
  • Apache 1.3
  • Apache 2.0/2.2
  • Microsoft IIS
  • Lighttpd
  • Nginx
Databases
How Forum Data are Stored.
  • MySQL
Operating Systems
Systems Supporting this Software.
  • GNU/LinuxGNU/Linux
  • BSD UnixBSD Unix
  • Microsoft WindowsMicrosoft Windows
  • Apple Mac OSApple Mac OS
Browser & Client Requirements
Compatible Browsers
List of Compatible Browsers.
Mozilla FirefoxMozilla FirefoxInternet ExplorerInternet Explorer
Google ChromeGoogle ChromeOperaOpera
Apple SafariApple SafariKonquerorKonqueror
Mozilla SeaMonkeyMozilla SeaMonkey
Required Plugins/Technologies
Additional or Basic Requirements from Client Side.
Javascript.
Localization
Languages supported by Simple Machines 1.1.
Yes.
Supported Languages:
Albanian Bangali
Bulgarian Portuguese (Brazilian)
Catalan Chinese (Simplified)
Czech German
Danish Spanish
Finnish French
Galician Greek
Croatian Hungarian
Indonesian Hebrew
Hindi Persian
Italian Japanese
Kurdish Macedonian
Dutch Norwegian
Urdu Polish
Portuguese Romanian
Serbian Russian
Arabic Swedish
Slovak Thai
Turkish Ukrainian
English (British) English (American)
Uzbek Vietnamese
Chinese (Traditional)

The full list is available at SMF Language Packs page.

This software is a classical PHP/MySQL Bulletin Board.

It will be installed easily in most dedicated servers and website hosting solutions, Linux distributions and even EasyPHP installation.

Compatibility with Smartphones
Compatible SmartPhones
Compatible Cellphone Brands and Manufacturers.
No.
Application Distribution / Type
How it is distributed / App Store Availability
No.

Forum Threads & Posts

Forum Threads / Topics
Forum Style Flat Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
  • URL Redirection Forum
  • Sub Sections
Thread Icons Yes Topic Tags -
Hot Topics - Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics Yes Sticky Threads Yes
Related Threads - Detect Duplicate Threads No
Announcements -
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • Formatting Buttons
  • Preview Button
Post Editing Format
Supported Markup Language (HTML, Wiki, BBCode,...).
  • HTML
  • BBCode
Spell Checker
Checks typos on posts and topics.
No
Image Attachment
How Images can be Attached and Displayed in Message Posts.
No.
Embedded Videos
Videos and Media Websites Supported in Message Posts.
No.
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box Yes Smileys Yes
Attachments Yes Syntax Highlighting Plugin
Message Rating
Yes Message Quoting Yes

Note that several plugins exist to plug Social Networks into Simple Machines:

More information on SMF Social Modifications page.

Additional & Technical Features

Additional Forum Features
Poll Creation Yes
Private Messages
Users Can Communicate using an Internal Messaging System.
Yes
Instant Messaging
Discuss with Visitors and Members in a Chat Window.
No
Calendar
Topic, Member Birthdays, Events are available from the perspective of a calendar.
Yes
Online Users List
Connected User List (Often Found in the Forum Footer).
Yes
Members List
Search and Consult the List of Members.
Yes
Technical Features
Bundled Software
Additional Software Available with the Forum.
  • Portal
RSS/Atom Syndication
Posts and Threads Exported to Feeds Aggregators Syndicate.
R
Friendly URLs
URLs are clear and contain information about the topic (title, message,...). Highly recommended for SEO purposes.
Yes
Post by Email
Post Directly From your Email Box.
No
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
No.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
Yes
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).
  • Custom Template Engine

Plugins in the Simple Machines syntax are called packages or mods. You can view an interesting list of them here :
Mods List.

Themes are also available in the official website, even if it's not the only way to get additional themes :
Themes List.

You can find in Simple Machines all classical bulletin boards features, like poll creation, user profile, etc...

The security and access rules are quite powerful because administrators can easily group users to prevent them accessing private forum places.

About bundled software, please note that a portal management could be added with the SimplePortal modification. You should consult the SimplePortal website if you are interesting in such feature for your forum.

User Profiles & Options

Some details about Simple Machines 1.1 features regarding members.
Member Options & Features
Bookmark Threads
User Profiles Keep a List of Followed Posts and Topics.
Yes
Email Notifications
Receive Emails When New Messages are Posted in Followed Threads.
Yes
Export private messages
Private Messages can be Downloaded by Users.
Plugin
Payment Subscriptions
Paying Membership Subscription.
Plugin
User Profiles
User Profile
User Information and Settings.
Yes
Avatars
Pictures of Members, Useful to Easily Identify their Posts.
Yes
Signature
Signatures Added at the Bottom of Each Message.
Yes
Ranks
Tags and Labels Identifying the Members, based on specific criteria (Total Posts Count, Credits, Moderation Level...)
Yes

The message creation forms is really useful and is easily understandable for people who do not use forum software regularly. We can just regret that the style is not directly applied to the current view (a preview is needed).

Smileys can be added from Administration interfaces, like themes.

Moderation & Users Management

Moderation & Threads Management
Moderation No.
Moderator per section Yes
Global Moderator Yes
Move Threads
Move Threads from Topics
Yes
Shadow Topics
When a thread is moved, the previous position is kept in order to inform users of this modification.
Yes
Close/Lock Threads
Close/Lock Problematic Threads
Yes
Users Management
User Groups
Organize and define groups of users, and apply different actions and settings on them.
Common Groups: Guests, Members, Moderators, Administrators,...
Yes
User Registration No.
Limit Features For New Users
Features are limited if a user has created a small number of posts.
-
Guest Posting Yes
Multiple Administrators Yes
Send Warnings to Users
Inform users by email or PM that they infringe the board rules, and could be excluded for such behavior.
No
Forum/Section Restricted Access
ACL could be use to determine if a user or a group of users can access (in read only, post message) to some sections and topics.
Yes
User Banishment Yes

Administration & Support

If Scheduled Tasks are mandatory for your community forum, then you will need to migrate to Simple Machines 2.0, because it's a built-in feature, that is unfortunately not present in the Simple Machines 1.1 branch.

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
Yes
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
Yes
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
Yes
Administration Tools
Statistics
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
Yes Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
Yes
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
No Mass Mailing
Send an email (newsletters, advertisements, information,...) to all users.
Yes
Installation & Upgrading
Installation Method
How this forum software could be installed.
Installation Wizard
Upgrading Method
How this forum software could be upgraded.
Upgrade Wizard
Updates Notifications
The Admin Panel informs you when a new version is released.
Yes
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to Simple Machines 1.1.
Yes.
  • Invision Power Board
  • PhpBB
  • vBulletin
  • YaBB / YaBB SE

Many additional converters are available on the SMF Official Converter Topic.

Security & Spam Protection

Security & Spam Protection
CAPTCHA
Captcha protects your forum against spam bots.
e.g., Syndicate
Yes
Abnormal Behavior Detection
Detect users or request strange behaviors, and try to process proactive actions.
-
Words Filtering
Offensing Words are automatically replaced.
Yes
User Blacklist
Prevent specific user accounts to register (based on email address, name,...) and disable potentially harmful members.
Yes
IP Blocking
Prevent access to spam robots and other scripts that could attempt DDOS or Brute Force attacks on your forum.
Yes

Vulnerabilities Advisories Criticality

Secunia Criticality

Secunia Advisories severity affecting Simple Machines 1.1.

Vulnerabilities Impact

Secunia Impact

Secunia Advisories impact affecting Simple Machines 1.1.

Customization & Social Networks

Customization
Plugins
Add new features to your forum installation.
Yes.
Themes
Modify the style of your forum easily.
Yes.
Custom BBCodes Yes Smiley Packs Yes
Custom
Thread Icons
Yes Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
Yes
Integration with Applications, Social Networks, Intranet...
Social Networks
Users can share information from their social network account...
CMS / Blog Bridges
Integration with existing Web publishing tools.
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Mambo
  • WordPress
  • e107
  • XOOPs
  • iGaming CMS
User Accounts Integration
Do users be able to log in with their corporate, Google, Facebook,... accounts?
Content Aggregation
Forum allows to integrate news and content from other website, using an aggregation protocol (RSS, RDF, Atom,...).
No.

Simple Machines has been developed to one goal : provide a forum with PHP/MySQL technologies. Some Joomla plugins have integrate it directly to this famous CMS.

Please also note that the Wordpress and Drupal bridges are not officially supported. Use it at your own risks.

The Facebook Connect integration is provided through a module, called SA Facebook Connect Integration.

About Caching system, Simple Machines de facto supports the following PHP caches:

  • APC
  • eAccelerator
  • Turck MMCache
  • Memcached
  • Zend Platform/Performance Suite (Not Zend Optimizer)

Those cache mechanisms are particularly useful on small size servers, that need an high source code optimization to counter-balance the slowness of the hardware.

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
HTML / XHTML Markup
XHTML 1.0 Transitional.
XHTML 1.0 Transitional
Click to see if it respects HTML norms.
CSS Stylesheets
CSS 2.
CSS 2
Click to see if it respects CSS norms.
Accessibility (WAI)
Web Accessibility ensures that the forum is usable by people of all abilities and disabilities.
Conformance to AA level.
AA
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Yes
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does Simple Machines 1.1 correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?
Yes.

Simple Machines Forum uses a XHTML 1.0 Transitional Doctype by default, and its HTML syntax is based on a table layout, that is not really useful for CSS theming.

The general interfaces contains a lot of images, which is a little bit difficult for quick and dirty theme modification (color scheme modification for example)

However, it is clean and sympathetic to use.

Recommended Books

Unique Features

Key points and major differences that make Simple Machines 1.1 unique:

  • Upgrade process is really clean and powerful. Simply overwrite your SMF installation by the last upgrading package, and simply go to <your-website>/upgrade.php page to update your forum.
  • A really good updates, themes and plugins (called modifications) system. See How The Simple Machines Upgrade Process Works? for more information.
  • Many features

Final Words


Great!

Simple Machines Forum is one of the best forum software ever tested here, and it really deserves a good score.

Several years of intensive development and a really important community help this software to be a direct competitor of other most famous forum softwares like : PhpBB, vBulletin...

The integration to Joomla, Drupal and so on are a really plus for webmasters who would like to create a community around a CMS software.

The Modifications and Themes lists are simply huge and you will always find what you are looking for inside this. More over, the community worked hard to provide converters, that make the transition and the migration from an old forum software to SMF really easy and smooth. A really good way to increase the market share Wink

Additional Resources:

Found a Mistake? Tell us »
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Comments (12)

lastnico's picture

This forum is really powerful

It's a must have in forum software world.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.

Top

SMF Online Manual

Easy to install for a techie, but as a non-techie I found the installation instructions quite confusing. I got it to install mostly by trial and error.
Good support from the community though.

Top

The Feature-List is very old

The Feature-List is very old and should be updated.

SMF has many of the features with status "unknown" or "no".
You should review it again and you'll see the difference.
Thread Icons, Sticky, Users List, Online List, Unread Topics, Captcha Protection, Guest posting are build-in features.

Export PM, Bookmarks are available as Plugins.

CMS / Blog integration is possible with Joomla, Mambo, Wordpress, Drupal and many others.

Top

Feature list is really old,

Feature list is really old, smf has user-list, subscription, google-map and much much more very good features

Top

The owner of this site should

The owner of this site should look again at SMF, SMF 2.0 doesnt use tables, but semantic coding also support more db types

Top

SMF User for 2 years I've

SMF User for 2 years

I've been using SMF for almost 2 years and have had zero complaints with the software. This was after using phpBB for 15 months and having a complete database shutdown not allowing anyone to post messages. After struggling with phpBB for that amount of time, I tried SMF by converting the databases and found that SMF is leaps and bounds over phpBB for eas of use, modifications are easier to do (click and smile vs. manual edits all over the place). I'm now using a very nice theme combo, SimplePortal and a number of other mods for arcade and quizzes and a chat software add-in that is working well. This software is very easy to install, setup and maintain. I'm glad I spend less time keeping it running and more time enjoying the site.

Top

Thanks SMF User for sharing

Thanks SMF User for sharing your informative perspective. It's clear that SMF is a superior forum product but I would have preferred an application that supports some blogging/content management features because I would also like to post documents and info for the membership - not just have them post questions and comments. It seems like you have added a few add-ins that are really working well. What's SimplePortal - is it a standard mod? If there was a way, I would be interested in seeing what you have done.

I am also taking a look at drupal which is very powerful but with a steep learning curve and I am absolutely no techie. Thanks a lot for the headsup about phpBB. I liked the simplicity of bbPress and integration with word prss but it lacks e-mail notification which I consider essential.

Top
Oldiesmann's picture

There are several bridges

There are several bridges available to integrate SMF with other systems. Official bridges are available for e107, Mambo, XOOPs and iGaming CMS. There are also some unofficial bridges to integrate SMF with other systems such as Wordpress and Drupal.

SimplePortal is a portal mod for SMF (one of several such mods). See http://www.simpleportal.net for more details.

The Oldiesmann
Webmaster
Simple Machines

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In reference to the other

In reference to the other comments here about features that SMF does have...

Keep in mind that the only version of SMF that can be truly evaluated for the purpose of a review are the 1.1.x versions. These are also the only versions that should be considered by a potential user of this software at this time.

The 2.0 version of SMF has been in beta since 2008... and can not be considered as a viable choice for a current live/production forum. This is not an opinion. It is the official statement of the SMF development/support team.

Sadly... despite being a potentially competitive (if not superior) product in almost every way, the absurdedly long (IMHO) period to develop a new, modern version of the software takes it out of the running as a viable choice for for the new forum user at this time.

During the several years SMF has taken to develop a new version, their primary competition have developed multiple new, modern and stable releases. The competitors have dedicated their resources to producing a new and better product... while SMF has split their resources between new development and updates to their outdated 1.1.x versions. The slower development cycle, combined with internal fracturing of the development team and disputes over copyrights, should be taken into consideration about how well this product will be supported and updated in the future.

Another issue to consider is a recent trend by developers of SMF add-on mods to charge money for full working versions of their products... or to require cash donations to have access to new updates of existing mods or themes. When the primary, core product is free, its actually a slap in the face to those who developed it when 3rd party mod developers attempt to profit from it. The old expression for that is... "Like flies around an elephant's butt!"

Bottom line: If you are looking for new forum software to use in 2011, then SMF may be worth waiting for. But if you need a modern forum product now, you should seriously have a longer look at the other products listed and reviewed here.

Top

In SMF 2.0, support for

In SMF 2.0, support for multiple databases are introduced. This was implemented by the developers as a new layer of database functions along with a new security model that provides a fast and reliable method to work through database systems.

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Normally I do not learn post

Normally I do not learn post on blogs, however I
wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do so!
Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great article.

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I absolutely love SMF and so

I absolutely love SMF and so I am enjoying my time at the free host freesmfhosting.com

Top
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