Getting started

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Getting Started

So, you have arrived at a forum powered by SMF! Perhaps you've been looking at the board index or a screen telling you that you need to register before you can access the forum.

Some forums permit guests to read posts or even post their own messages, while other forums only allow registered members to see the posts. At some forums, many of the most useful features will only become available to you when you become a registered member. Because SMF is such a flexible system, permissions will vary considerably between forums. Here are four key areas that normally are available for you.

Main Menu

You've arrived here as a guest (or have registered but are currently logged out). The Main Menu (which appears on every page) should normally contain five or six buttons (or text links): Mainbuttons.gif

  • Home, this takes you back to the board index.
  • Help, this takes you to a guide to learn how to use the forums.
  • Search, this allows you to search the forums for whatever posts/topics/information that you're looking for.
  • Calendar, links to the forum calendar (if enabled).
  • Members, this displays the complete list of all the registered members on the forum.
  • Login, this allows you to log in if you're already registered.
  • Register, this button allows you to Register (or sometimes apply for registration) when you wish to do so.

However, once you've registered and logged in, the main menu should look a little different: Mainbuttons 02.gif

  • Home (as before).
  • Help (as before).
  • Search (as before).
  • Profile this allows you to make changes to your profile settings.
  • My Messages this takes you to personal message area (if enabled).
  • Calendar (as before).
  • Members (as before).
  • Logout, this allows you to log out again if desired.

Forum administrators should also note the presence of an additional "Admin" button, which will lead you to a page where you can manage and administrate your community.

Board Index

While the board index (forum home page) is full of information and links, the core of the interface (at least in the SMF default theme) normally looks something like this:

  • The forum name links back to the top of the board index.
  • If the category is collapsible, clicking the category name collapses or expands the forums in a category, enabling you to see the category name but not see the forums within the category when collapsed.
  • The board name links to the message index for that board.
  • The board description describes the board's content, and may also include links to child boards and/or specify the board's moderator(s).
  • The New Posts and No New Posts icons, usually in the leftmost column, show registered members whether there have been any new posts to the board since they last read it. Most forums also use another different icon to indicate that there are new posts in one or more child boards of a parent board without the parent containing any new posts of its own. By clicking the New Posts button, a registered Member can view all of the latest unread posts of that board.
  • The Mark as Read button enables registered members to mark all posts in the entire forum as 'read'. This will clear the list of posts in the Unread Posts section.

Message Index

Like the board index, the message index interface is quite straightforward when reduced to its essential components.

  • Some forums show the navigation tree at the top in a space-saving horizontal mode.
  • The page numbers link to further pages of the board, and may be accompanied by Go Up and Go Down buttons linking to the top and bottom of the current board's page.
  • The Mark as Read button enables registered members to mark all posts in this board as "read".
  • The Notify button enables registered members to subscribe to email notification of replies to topics in this board.
  • The New Topic and New poll buttons are for starting new topics and polls, as described in the posting article.
  • The Subject, Started by, Replies, Views and Last post links enable you to sort the columns by these parameters (with Last post also toggling between descending and ascending order as indicated by the little arrow).
  • The Topic icons in the leftmost column are explained by the key below.
  • The Post icons in the next column are sometimes used to draw attention to the mood or purpose of the topic.
  • The Topic subject links to the start of the topic, with extra links for subsequent pages and new buttons to take registered members straight to their first unread Post of the topic.
  • Double clicking on the topic subject column will allow you to edit the title of the topic straight from the message index, as long as you have quick-moderation enabled in your profile and that you have permission to edit your own posts - to edit your topic titles, and permission to edit everyone else posts - so you can edit titles of topics not started by you.
  • Where the Topic has been started or last replied to by a registered member, their names link to their respective profile.
  • The Jump to menu provides a convenient quick method of navigating the forum. It will allow a user to quickly "jump" to any Board that they have access to view.

Topic Display

Sometimes referred to as threads, topics are actually where you find posted messages:

  • Some forums show the navigation tree at the top in a space-saving horizontal mode.
  • Some forums may also be configured with previous' and next Topic links.
  • The page numbers' link to further pages of the topic, and may be accompanied by Go Up and Go Down buttons linking to the top and bottom of the current page.
  • The Reply button enables you to Reply to the topic.
  • The Notify button enables registered members to subscribe to email notification of replies to the topic.
  • The Mark Unread button enables registered members to mark the Topic as 'unread', which means that it will still be listed as new and can be effectively 'saved for later'. Note that this button changes to Add Poll in the bottom button set for users with permission to add polls to existing topics.
  • The Send Topic button enables registered members to send a link to the topic by e-mail.
  • The Print button creates a simplified, printer-friendly rendering of the page.
  • The author name links to the author of the post's own profile.
  • The author details in the left-hand column may be accompanied by further personal information.
  • The topic subject links back to the start of the topic.
  • The Quote button enables you to quote the post.
  • Furthermore, Modify and Delete options are normally provided to enable registered members to edit their own posts.
  • Report to Moderator enables you to report abusive or wrongly-placed posts to the forum staff.
  • "Logged" indicates that the IP of the author has been logged. The actual IP is only available to board administrators or those that have the permission to manage members of a forum.
  • The "Jump to menu" link provides a convenient, quick method of navigating the forum. It will allow a user to quickly "jump" to any board that they have access to view.
  • The "Quick Reply" section at the bottom of the topic's page allows members to post in a posting box located at the bottom of every page in a topic as an alternative to clicking the "Reply" button that leads you to a new page to submit a message.

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