Simple Machines 2 Review

(March 3, 2010 01:54)
Last Version 2.0.6 (November 12, 2013). Released under BSD License.
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If we had to sum up Simple Machines, the first expression that would come to our mind is that it's a pillar for the world of forum software. This famous product has always indeed guaranteed an high level of quality and has always delivered a complete forum solution. This has to be compared with some of its competitors, that prefer providing an huge list of features, not always well integrated with each others.

It's now time to discover these domain, step by step, with this review

Review Updates:

  • August 10, 2011: Update review to SMF 2.
  • April 3, 2011: Features updates.
  • March 26, 2010-: First Review.

Simple Machines 2 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
How Forum Data are Stored.
  • MySQL
  • Postgresql
  • SQLite
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.
HTML, Javascript, AJAX, CSS.
Languages supported by Simple Machines 2.
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)

Full list available at the SMF Language Packs page.

SMF Installer - Step 5 Database Population

This new version supports the Postgresql and the embedded SQLite database, in addition to the MySQL database, already supported since SMF 1.0.

The SQLite solution is perfectly suited for small web servers that do not have any database server installed. Indeed, the SQLite database is only based on a local file, that will be used to store the entire SQL database.

Compatibility with Smartphones
Compatible SmartPhones
Compatible Cellphone Brands and Manufacturers.
  • AndroidAndroid
  • iPhoneiPhone
  • BlackBerryBlackBerry
  • Windows Phone 7Windows Phone 7
  • Symbian Phones <em>(Nokia)</em>Symbian Phones (Nokia)
  • HP WebOS <em>(ex-Palm)</em>HP WebOS (ex-Palm)
Application Distribution / Type
How it is distributed / App Store Availability
  • Android Market
  • Apple Store
  • Nokia Ovi Store
  • BlackBerry App World
Tapatalk - Favorites
Tapatalk - Favorites:

Bookmark your favorite topics

Tapatalk - Latest Topics
Tapatalk - Latest Topics:

Latest Topics Page

Tapatalk - Online Users
Tapatalk - Online Users:

List of connected users

  • Most of smartphones operating systems are supported via the Tapatalk application.

Forum Threads & Posts

Forum Threads / Topics
Forum Style Flat Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
  • URL Redirection Forum
  • Sub Sections
  • Trashcan Forum
Thread Icons Yes Topic Tags Plugin
Hot Topics Yes Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics Yes Sticky Threads Yes
Related Threads Plugin Detect Duplicate Threads No
Announcements Yes
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • WYSIWYG Editor
  • Formatting Buttons
  • Preview Button
Post Editing Format
Supported Markup Language (HTML, Wiki, BBCode,...).
  • HTML
  • BBCode
Spell Checker
Checks typos on posts and topics.
Image Attachment
How Images can be Attached and Displayed in Message Posts.
  • Upload via Classic Attachments. Images are all at the end of the post.
  • Use BBCode or HTML. Need to type the URL of an already hosted image.
Embedded Videos
Videos and Media Websites Supported in Message Posts.
  • YouTube
  • Dailymotion
  • Vimeo
  • Attachment
  • HTML 5 <video>
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box Yes Smileys Yes
Attachments Yes Syntax Highlighting Plugin
Message Rating
Plugin Message Quoting Yes

SMF 2 - Answers to a Topic

Several plugins to integrate Social Networks are supported into Simple Machines:

Those plugins will be also available with SMF 2.0.

More information on SMF Social Modifications page.

A Tagging System for Topics is also available separately as a SMF Mod.

Embedding videos on a post can easily be achieved through a plugin.

Additional & Technical Features

Additional Forum Features
Poll Creation Yes
Private Messages
Users Can Communicate using an Internal Messaging System.
Instant Messaging
Discuss with Visitors and Members in a Chat Window.
Topic, Member Birthdays, Events are available from the perspective of a calendar.
Online Users List
Connected User List (Often Found in the Forum Footer).
Members List
Search and Consult the List of Members.
Technical Features
Bundled Software
Additional Software Available with the Forum.
  • Portal
  • Blog
  • Downloads Manager
  • Gallery
RSS/Atom Syndication
Posts and Threads Exported to Feeds Aggregators Syndicate.
Friendly URLs
URLs are clear and contain information about the topic (title, message,...). Highly recommended for SEO purposes.
Post by Email
Post Directly From your Email Box.
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).
  • Custom Template Engine

SMF 2 - Member List

The Quick reply is quick, of course, but it is also quite powerful, as it embeds the spell checker and you can directly quote a specific message from it.

Of course, the Portal Bundled Software is now provided by default, you will have to install a dedicated plugin for this.

User Profiles & Options

Some details about Simple Machines 2 features regarding members.
Member Options & Features
Bookmark Threads
User Profiles Keep a List of Followed Posts and Topics.
Email Notifications
Receive Emails When New Messages are Posted in Followed Threads.
Export private messages
Private Messages can be Downloaded by Users.
Payment Subscriptions
Paying Membership Subscription.
User Profiles
User Profile
User Information and Settings.
Pictures of Members, Useful to Easily Identify their Posts.
Signatures Added at the Bottom of Each Message.
Tags and Labels Identifying the Members, based on specific criteria (Total Posts Count, Credits, Moderation Level...)

SMF 2 - Profile

Moderation & Users Management

SMF 2 - Security and Moderation - Settings

Moderation & Threads Management
Pre-Moderation In pre-moderation, every post needs to be validated by a moderator before being published.
Post-Moderation The moderation is done afterwards, if an administrator notices a problem or if a member reports something wrong. Each message is therefore directly published.
Reactive Moderation By reporting any problems, members are reactive against moderation problems. Moderators' main objective is to regularly check user reports, without having to follow each threads.
Distributed Moderation By organizing the forum around moderators, who are usually power and experienced users, moderation is self-powered and only depends on the community.
Moderator per section Yes
Global Moderator Yes
Move Threads
Move Threads from Topics
Shadow Topics
When a thread is moved, the previous position is kept in order to inform users of this modification.
Close/Lock Threads
Close/Lock Problematic Threads
Users Management
User Groups
Organize and define groups of users, and apply different actions and settings on them.
Common Groups: Guests, Members, Moderators, Administrators,...
User Registration
  • Free Registration
  • Registration needs Approval
  • User Account created by Administrator
  • Confirmation sent by email for validation
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.
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.
User Banishment Yes

SMF 2 - Manage Members

Managing members and promoting them are just simple tasks with SMF, and you will quickly get used to this user interface, nice and efficient.

Administration & Support

SMF 2 - Administration Center

Note that it is possible to export the entire content of the database into an XML format, that could be useful if you want to integrate this feed to a third party tool.

For more details about the upgrade process, we advice you to read the How The Simple Machines Upgrade Process Works? guide.

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
Administration Tools
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
Yes Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
Yes Mass Mailing
Send an email (newsletters, advertisements, information,...) to all users.
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.
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to Simple Machines 2.

Converters provide a perfect way to migrate an existing forum to SMF, and you have plenty of them (currently, 48 forum software are supported!)

Here are an highlight of most famous software that could be converted:

  • Invision Power Board
  • PhpBB
  • vBulletin
  • MyBB
  • Ikonboard
  • Burning Board
  • bbPress
  • Advanced Electron Forum
  • PunBB
  • Drupal
  • YaBB / YaBB SE (old name of Simple Machines)
  • Simple Machines 1.1 (obviously)
  • ... and many others

Scripts in charge of migration are called "converters", and are available on the SMF Converters page.

Security & Spam Protection

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

Vulnerabilities Advisories Criticality

Secunia Criticality

Secunia Advisories severity affecting Simple Machines 2.

Vulnerabilities Impact

Secunia Impact

Secunia Advisories impact affecting Simple Machines 2.

Customization & Social Networks

Add new features to your forum installation.
~1883 Available Plugins.
Installation: [++[ Very Easy
Modify the style of your forum easily.
~1326 Available Themes.
Custom BBCodes Yes Smiley Packs Yes
Thread Icons
Yes Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
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,...).

SMF 2 - Board Permissions

Facebook Connect can be integrated using a dedicated module: SA Facebook Connect Integration.

The Caching system is more powerful than any other forum software, because it does not consist only on storing output HTML files in a cache folder, but also integrate wrapper to the following PHP caches system:

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

Those cache systems store the PHP OP Code, and drastically improve performance, as the PHP scripts do not have to be compiled and interpreted each times that a page is read.

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
XHTML 1.0 Transitional.
XHTML 1.0 Transitional
Click to see if it respects HTML norms.
CSS Stylesheets
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.
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does Simple Machines 2 correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?

SMF 2 - Theme Settings

The default theme, called Curve, has been vastly revamped, and is now really more clear, beautiful and powerful. By the way, it is really easy to customize it.

Recommended Books

Unique Features

Key points and major differences that make Simple Machines 2 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.
  • Single Sign One Capabilities, really useful to integrate SMF 2.0 in an enterprise environment, or with an existing CMS solution.
  • Support of Postgresql and SQLite databases.
  • Settings for Load Balancing.
  • Huge List of Converters

Final Words


Simple Machines Forum team is one of the rare developers team that releases a version of their product only when everything is done. Everybody knows that SMF 2.0 was developed in more than 5 years, but SMF 2.0 was announced only when the developer team was sure everything was implemented.

Direct consequences of such policy is that Simple Machines 2 quality is really impressive and that this software has been polished 2 times more than its main competitors. This is the reason why Forum Software Reviews is proud to give the perfect score of 10/10 to the Simple Machines forum software, congratulations!

Additional Resources:

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Comments (38)

I told you before that SMF

I told you before that SMF rocks
the Only Bad Thing Is The Editor
Hs Some parse errors

lastnico's picture

Yes, but the editor can be

Yes, but the editor can be improved using additional modules, so, it's something fixable.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.


Message Rating can be added

Message Rating can be added from the Admincp
image attachments
well there is attachments so...
There Is Gallery
Download System
All in bundled software
Connection might be done using Open-ID
thats All
Regarding The Editor
There is NO mod To fix it till now
Good Work Maintaining this great website
love ya pale
Best Regards

Best Regards
Sadaoui "SAFAD" Abderrahim - Lead Developer AEF Group


can smf be implemented into a

can smf be implemented into a drupal website like this one?


The chart is wrong, 2.0 does

The chart is wrong, 2.0 does not support posting or replying via email. There was a MOD for the 1.0 version but it has not been maintained or updated in some time

lastnico's picture

Hi, Thanks for the info,


Thanks for the info, this is fixed.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.


I tried SMF. I migrated close

I tried SMF. I migrated close to 15,000 posts from phorum.
I was besieged by spam posts, that got through the captca form, almost immediately.
I fought back by editing IP ranges (West Africa, etc) with their ban list.
But still had trouble.

I went back to phorum.
Discussion forums at SMF attempted to blame spam on "paid humans who register for a login,"
which is not stoppable. But that was not the case. I replaced the SMF index.php with
on of my own, which appended a symbol to a log file, so I could count login attempts.
This was bot behavior. I had hundreds of login attempts per hour. And I don't have that much
traffic. I went back to phorum, and redirected login attempts to smf to the site.

So. Several questions. How do the spammers find out about brand new SMF sites within
minutes of their coming online? They did mine. And why do so many of those bot login attempts
succeed? Perhaps there is an SMF exploit they are passing around. Or perhaps their
captcha is week. I had thousands of bot login attempts. But maybe 2-3 successful
spam posts appearing on the forum per day. With phorum I have no troube at all.


Correction to the above: RE>

Correction to the above:

RE> " I had thousands of bot login attempts. But maybe 2-3 successful
spam posts appearing on the forum per day. With phorum I have no troube at all."

Actually I had 2-3 successful spam posts on the SMF forum within the first 12 hours.
Just a few hours into the following day (even after fiddling with ban lists) I had a half a dozen.
That's when I gave up.


Just so you know, SMF 2.0 has

Just so you know, SMF 2.0 has all these moderation features:

Reactive Moderation
Distributed Moderation

lastnico's picture

Indeed, it has, I actually

Indeed, it has, I actually have no idea why this wasn't ticked. Anyway, thanks for reporting it!

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.


RC5 is out

RC5 is out

Best Regards
Sadaoui "SAFAD" Abderrahim - Lead Developer AEF Group


August 10, 2011: Update

August 10, 2011: Update Hosting Plans according to IPS Post.
Are you sure that this is related to SMF ?

Best Regards
Sadaoui "SAFAD" Abderrahim - Lead Developer AEF Group

lastnico's picture

Definitely not... a failing

Definitely not... a failing copy/paste from IP.Board review for the review change history, that I didn't have here before. Thanks for noticing it, this is fixed.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.



O_O >= YOU
thanks for quick fix, going to test out if they fixed the editor or not.
HARDCORE SMF FAN \m/(^0^)\m/

Best Regards
Sadaoui "SAFAD" Abderrahim - Lead Developer AEF Group


Quote:Simple Machines 2.0,

Simple Machines 2.0, that is not yet released (actual version is Release Candidate 3 - meaning that the release is going to happen soon).

SMF is 2.0 Gold and is now also on the BSD Liscence Tongue

P.S. - What is this Editor that people are complaining about?


Also, a FULL list of forum

Also, a FULL list of forum convertors is available here:

lastnico's picture

Thank you so much! It seems

Thank you so much! It seems my SMF small description was lost somewhere, and kept this old version. I more or less restored it, you can now correctly read SMF 2.0 is gold since 2 months now.

Forum Migration section has been updated as well with the official SMF converter list (thanks too).

Regarding the Editor, I don't know which one @SAFAD is talking about. Do you have more details?

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.


Thanks for the info, I am

Thanks for the info, I am trying to decide on which forum I should go with...I am leaning towards simple machines 2 because of the facebook connect and blog bridges.

lastnico's picture

This is typically a good

This is typically a good reason for choosing SMF, which supports these two features particularly well.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.


BUT . . . has there been any

BUT . . . has there been any resolution to the spamming issue? And can anyone answer that question as to how the spammers' bots discover a new forum so quickly?


SMF is really good for

SMF is really good for beginners, its easy to use and I think it loads quite fast. The only problem is that a big part of the plugins don`t work with the new version.





I'm looking for a good forum

I'm looking for a good forum software to support 100K+ users, and this seems like the best bet, but I'm hesitating because 771 user reviews have it sitting at 3.7/10 stars. However, other than the one person posting about getting spammed, and a few people saying it's ugly, I haven't seen any reason for the terrible reviews (and in fact, everything else has been positive). Anyone have insights?

lastnico's picture

Yes, it's true that much

Yes, it's true that much people complain about SMF look or missing features, but the best example I can give you is the SMF Support forum, that proves it can definitely live with many threads/topics/users:

Hope it helps you making your choice. If not, you can also count on phpBB to do the job really properly.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.


Been browsing this site for

Been browsing this site for the last couple of hours as i'm planning to create a forum. My choices are, obviously, SMF, myBB and phpBB. But i still have some (TBH, a lot!) doubts.
First off, i feel SMF has everything i need but i would like to troll something: Y SMF HAZ NO GUD LOOKS! I love phpBB looks and its layouts but i've come across many phpBB forums getting hacked/defaced. :/ Not to forget spams love phpBB forums (or am i wrong?). Security is important and i feel that phpBB lacks something here. Having said that i love the layouts of phpBB.
Going back to SMF it does have a very good support community. Has the issue reported by one Pittendrigh fixed?
Also, is it possible to make SMF look like a phpBB forum? Is there any nice theme? Like i mentioned before, i like phpBB looks and page layouts but i'd like to have the functions of SMF. Is there any solution?
If there is no theme/mod to make SMF be user friendly or look 'pleasing to the eyes' like phpBB then i'll have to avoid SMF which i don't want to.
About myBB, i've read your reviews and a friend of mine is using it but i'm still not sure if its that reliable. I can convert the forum software if i wish to but that would too much of a hassle.
So once again, for me its phpBB vs myBB vs SMF. I only hope that SMF community will do something to make the forum more attractive and neat.
And as for me i haven't decided what to use.


hello, there are many themes

hello, there are many themes and mods available for smf . you can see the designers' adverts on the site itself.
can any one answer about the spam issue with smf?


Hi I just use SMF from week

Hi I just use SMF from week ago and it was shock how I didn't know about it before
This is amazing board everything I was looking for . Comparing to Private software Like VB and IP board . I found it here Plus that it's light Easy to customize that remind me to WordPress Smile
I already try " MyBB an phpBB3 YaBB " . and always have issue with .
But SMF like it name Simple install Simple visitor registrant Simple Mods Install in few seconds Fast search response Page loading .
SMF just need more Mods and bigger Community ...


SMF is the worst BB after

SMF is the worst BB after PHPBB!


smf is the best FREE

smf is the best FREE software.


I just installed Smf forum on

I just installed Smf forum on my new site Fifa Srbija Forum
and I so happy its best forum for linux hosting but, for windows...not good. If you have windows hosting don't install smf forum, that is my honest opinion.


I'm about to install SMF on

I'm about to install SMF on my site.


Pretty amazing software! Easy

Pretty amazing software! Easy to customize and comes loaded with many useful plugins. Laughing out loud


I am going to install it on

I am going to install it on my sub domain and let see how it goes.

hitechito's picture

SMF is ideal for beginners,

SMF is ideal for beginners, easy to use and I think it recharges quickly. The only problem is that most plugins do not work with the new version.


There's no restore database

There's no restore database option in SMF.


Current SMF version is 2.0.5

Current SMF version is 2.0.5 not 2.0.4

lastnico's picture



FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.


Current Version is 2.07 If

Current Version is 2.07
If you are paying for Xenforo or VB you are paying to much.

SMF is free and the misconception is free = crap. SMF was not always great back 10 years ago
it was cool, but subjected to hacks, and security issues it was down right scary.
2.0+ seems to have continued to get better and better.

In a side by side

SMF vs Xenforo and VB's paid software. There is just no comparison at all.
SMF is easy, has a friendly community, XF &VB do not. Xenforo is so out of touch with its customers
it ridiculous. I use XF only because after forking out 200+ just to even get it close to what SMF does free
I do not want to be out 200+. So grin and bare it with XF.

The best thing you can do is get a good hosting company and install SMF if you get a reliable server
you will be happy with SMF. The problem and only problem is SMF is harder to modify if you have over
the top modification. And over modded themes they often will require code modification to do this.
Xenfor and VB have easy upgrades but over complicates everything. SMF keeps it simple and intuitive.

I think SMF stand up to being the best, and at free it just does not get any better.
Paid software has the misconception its better cause its paid, not true in Xenforo's case they barely keep up with
SMF and to keep up you must pay pay pay . SMF is Free free free.

Class Dismissed.

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