Simple Machines Forum
This is an extremely powerful and easy-to-use forum, probably one of the more robust systems I’ve come across. Considering the price — FREE — you can’t beat it.
The plugin system as a whole, and the installation procedure in particular, is very good in SMF. There is nothing any webapp developer could teach the SMF people about plugins – the entire system here is excellent. There is even a pre-install test run that tells you if a new plugin is likely to cause problems, and what those might be. The SMF plugin system scores 9 out of 10 and is a joy to use compared to some webserver software. Plugin numbers have about doubled in the last year or so, with around 1,000 available now.
There is only one glitch in the install and admin procedures worth mentioning; the common situation which all forums seem to suffer from, that there is no working board after installation. Trying to set up the first board, on a new forum program, by a new forum owner, will be the most difficult task faced in connection with forums. This seems common to all forums, and of course should be fixed, but usability is never a priority.
In conclusion, the negatives are common to all forums. This is a very smooth forum solution that deserves its tag as the benchmark in freeware forums. It looks simple, but does many complex things so smoothly it is deceptive. The good points are SMF’s mature status and smoothness; its superb plugin system; the vast range of templates; its easy LAMP install; the attractive page layout; the good ACL; the good visitor experience – and of course its notably good security record, in marked contrast to one or two other big-name forums.
The bad points are the Stone Age SEO; the complete lack of any on-page assets; the tricky first board set-up; the occasional session IDs; and the lack of an included manual with the basic download.
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