SMF Configuration Tutorial

After a successful installation of your Simple Machine Forum (SMF) software, the next steps is to configure the website. These involve the following:

  1. Managing the Core Features in SMF
  2. Configuring the basic options
  3. Configure the SMTP
  4. Install modules
  5. Install Themes


Further reading:

Basic Simple Machine Forum Guide

How to optimize your SMF forum website

SMF Administration

Simple Machines Forum Web Hosting



Managing the Core Features in SMF

In order to access the core features page, you should first log in as administrator of your forum. Then simply navigate to Administration Center. Navigate to the Configuration tab on the main menu and then Core Features.

On this page you will be able to activate or deactivate the included features of SMF. Note that in order to apply the changes, after performing the same, you need to press the Save button.

The available core features that you can use are:

  1. Calendar - This feature can be used to show forum events, holidays, and user birthdays
  2. Advanced Profile Fields - This feature can be used to hide standard profile fields, or add a new one. The administrators can also choose whether or not certain profile fields show up at the registration screen
  3. Karma - This is the SMF reputation system.It is an optional feature that shows the popularity of a certain member.
  4. Moderation, Administration and User Logs - This will log all actions taken as a moderator or administrator. This also allows moderators and administrators look at any actions that a user has done in their profile
  5. Post Moderation - If this feature is enabled, moderators can choose boards in which all posts need to be approved, which membergroups need to have their posts moderated
  6. Paid Subscriptions - This allows users to change their membergroup, get more access, and more
  7. Report Generation - If this feature has been enabled, administrators may generate reports as to how the forum is set up, what features are enabled
  8. Warning System - This functionality allows administrators and moderators to issue warnings to users; it also includes advanced functionality for automatically removing user rights as their warning level increases. Note to take full advantage of this function "Post Moderation" should be enabled
  9. Search Engine Tracking - Enabling this feature will allow administrators to track search engines as they index your forum.


Further reading:

Basic Simple Machine Forum Guide

How to optimize your SMF forum website

SMF Administration

Simple Machines Forum Web Hosting


How to configure basic options in SMF

You need to moderate and customize your installation of the Simple Machines Forum. In order to view the settings you need to login as administrator of the forum and navigate to Administration Center. Click on the Configuration tab and then select the Server Settings option.

These settings allow you to change the basic settings for your forum. Be very careful with these settings, as they may render the forum dysfunctional.

The available options for your SMF forum are:

Step 1: General SMF Configuration
Step 2: Database Paths
Step 3: Cookies and Sessions
Step 4: Caching Configuration
Step 5: Load Balancing SMF Option

Step 1 General SMF Configuration

The general SMF configuration options are:

  1. Forum Title - The name of your forum. This is used in the title and footer of your forum pages, as the name of the sender of email notifications
  2. Enable Maintenance Mode - Sets whether the forum is in maintenance mode. If ticked Maintenance mode will be activated. Thus, only administrators can use the forum. Other users get a “this forum is in maintenance mode” message
  3. Subject for display - Title for the “Maintenance Mode” message. This will be shown to users only if Maintenance mode is on
  4. Message for display - Description of why the forum is in maintenance mode. It will be shown to user only if Maintenance mode is on
  5. Webmaster Email Address - Email address from which to send all topic notifications, personal message notifications, newsletters. This address also receives database error warnings if such occur
  6. Enable compressed output - This option will compress output to lower bandwidth consumption
  7. Disable evaluation of templates - By default, templates are evaluated instead of just included. This helps with showing more useful debug information in case a template contains an error. On large forums this customized inclusion process may be significantly slower. So if you are managing big forum we recommend this option to be disabled
  8. Disable hostname lookups - This will disable the host name lookups. Note that this will make banning less effective

After performing any changes do not forget to press the Save button.

Step 2 Database Paths

This is an important information about the database set on your SMF installation. This could come handy if you are generating or restoring a backup of your website, or you would like to make changes on your database directly. We will review the important options that you have:

  1. Database Server - Hostname or IP of the database server. If the database server is on the same machine as the web server we should use the 'localhost' for this setting. Otherwise enter either an IP address or a hostname
  2. Database Username - Name of the user connecting to the database
  3. Database Password - Password for access to the database server
  4. Database Name - The name of the database. This database must exist, and have SMF's tables and data in it
  5. Automatically fix broken tables - This will automatically fix broken tables. This can be useful, because the only way to fix it is to REPAIR the table and this way your forum would not be down until you notice. If this happens you will receive a email
  6. Forum URL - The URL to your forum directory without the trailing slash (/). This URL is used via SMF for dynamically generated URLs
  7. SMF Directory - This sets the directory where SMF is installed. It's used to locate files like Settings.php, SSI.php, agreement.txt, and the Packages directory
  8. Sources Directory - The path to where the source files are stored. No trailing slash (/) is allowed. It does not need to be the same as the above path. You can have your SMF Directory in one place and Sources Directory in another place if you want. For security, you may wish to place your Sources directory in a location that is not accessible by the web server
  9. Cache Directory - The path to the directory that is used to store cached files generated by SMF

Step 3 Cookies and Sessions

The configuration of the cookies and sessions is important in SMF. Using the options below, you will be able to set that up per your needs:

  1. Cookie Name - Name of the cookie to set for authentication purposes. Changing this value will cause everyone to be logged out
  2. Default login cookies length - The amount of time in minutes that the login form will use if no other amount is selected
  3. Enable local storage of cookies - SMF uses cookies to store login information on the client computer
  4. Use subdomain independent cookies - Makes log in cookies available across subdomains
  5. Force cookies to be secure - (This only applies if you have installed SSL certificate – do not use otherwise!) Enabling this option will force the cookies created for users on your forum to be marked as secure. Only enable this option if you are using HTTPS throughout your site as it will break cookie handling otherwise!
  6. Use database driven sessions - This option makes use of the database for session storage
  7. Allow browsers to go back to cached pages - Turning this on will decrease the bandwidth your forum uses, and make it so clicking back will not reload the page - the downside is that the (new) icons won't update, among other things unless you click to that page instead of going back to it
  8. Seconds before an unused session timeout - This is the number of seconds for sessions to last after they have not been accessed. If a session is not accessed for too long, it is said to have "timed out". Values higher than 2400 are recommended

Step 4 Caching Configuration

On this page you can setup caching of your forum. This is an important configuration that can speed up your website significantly so we recommend to test it extensively for better performance.

If you would like to optimize your forum, check our detailed tutorial on how to optimize SMF for better performance.

Step 5 Load Balancing SMF Options

The settings below are to be edited with big care. Setting any of them too low may render your forum unusable. The options that you have for load balancing your SMF forum are:

  1. Enable load balancing by load averages - by enabling this setting, SMF will begin checking the load of your server. Once the load reaches the thresholds you set in the following settings, SMF will begin showing an error message instead of the appropriate page. When the load lessens, the page will be usable again
  2. Threshold to disabling automatic database optimization - stops the forum from performing database optimizations at this threshold
  3. Threshold to disabling search - stops the forum from allowing searching at this threshold
  4. Threshold to disabling all unread topics - stops the forum from allowing members to view their unread topics at this threshold
  5. Threshold to disabling unread replies - stops the forum from allowing members to view their unread replies at this threshold
  6. Threshold to disabling showing user posts - stops the forum from allowing users to view all member's posts at this threshold
  7. Threshold to disabling the forum completely - completely shuts down the forum. It will immediately show an error page and nobody will be able to do anything.


Further reading:

Basic Simple Machine Forum Guide

How to optimize your SMF forum website

SMF Administration

Simple Machines Forum Web Hosting


Configure SMTP

Set the SMTP protocol for your Simple Machines Forum application. This is a useful setup, as it will allow you to send all system emails on your website through a specifically created email account on your hosting plan. It will also make sure that all system emails are properly delivered to your clients.

The first thing to do is to login as the administrative user on your SMF website. Then, you need to navigate to Administration Center. Select the Mail option and then Settings. On the following page we are able to notice three sections. We need to set only the following options:

  1. Mail type - from this drop down menu we should choose SMTP
  2. SMTP server - here we will input the SMTP server name
  3. SMTP port - the port used by the SMTP protocol
  4. SMTP username - the SMTP account username
  5. SMTP password - the SMTP account password
  6. SMTP password (confirm) - confirm the password for the SMTP account password

After all of the options are set properly do not forget to press the Save button to keep your changes

4. Install Modules

Now we look at how to install additional packages on your SMF website. The default installation may be missing functionality that you need on your website. In such situations, the best way to extend your website is to search for additional SMF packages that will match your needs.

The installation of modules in SMF includes:

Step 1: Upload the Installation Package in SMF
Step 2: Install New Package in SMF
Step 3: Review the Installed Packages in SMF

Step 1 Upload the Installation Package in SMF

In order to manage the packages you need to login as administrator. You can use the login form which is placed at the top left corner of your forum.

Log Into Admin Area in SMF

After you login to your admin account you should hover on the Admin button and from the dropdown menu to choose the Package Manager.

Access Admin Section in SMF

In order to install a new package open the Download Packages tab. After the tab loads scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Choose File button, which is positioned in the Upload a Package section. Navigate to the folder on your local computer where you have already downloaded the package. After the package is selected press the Upload button on right bottom corner of the page.

Step 2 Install New Package in SMF

After the package is successfully uploaded you should press the [ Install Mod ] link in order to install the package you have just uploaded

On the following page you will see several sections. They will provide more detailed information about the module you are about to install. Read this in full so you can understand what changes are about to be performed on your website. After you check everything press the Install Now button in the lower right corner of the page.

After pressing of the Install Now button you will be redirected to a page with status message for the installation.

Step 3 Review the Installed Packages in SMF

From the Browse Packages button between the Package Manager and Extracting section you will be able to check the installed packages. On the bottom of the page you will see the modules on your website and perform various manipulations on them such as:

  • Uninstall the package
  • List files of the package
  • Delete the package

Also we are able to check the version of the package and if it is up to date.

5. Install Themes

You will need to review the installation of a theme on Simple Machines Forum (SMF) application. The process is easy and you can easily complete that following the steps outlined here.

To install a new Theme in SMF, you will need to follow these steps:

Step 1: Download New SMF Theme
Step 2: Install New Theme in SMF
Step 3: Activate Theme in SMF

Step 1 Download New SMF Theme

The first step is to download a theme for your SMF website. The best place to do that is the official SMF Themes Directory. You can browse through different themes and when you find one that you like, you can download it on your local computer easily.

Step 2 Install New Theme in SMF

In order to install the theme we should login to the admin area of your SMF installation. You can do so, using the login form in the top left corner of the main page of your forum.

After the successful login as admin we should navigate to Admin -> Configuration -> Themes and Layout… -> Manage and Install.

On this page we should scroll to the bottom in order to access the installation menu. We can see that the SMF provide us with two methods to install a new theme. The first method is to upload a theme from our local PC and the other method is to upload the theme via FTP on the server and choose the path to the theme. If you are not quite familiar with the FTP service you can check our tutorials on how to use FTP client.

To install a theme, after we select the theme we should press the Install button which is placed in the bottom right corner of the page, a conformation box will ask us if we really want to install the theme, press OK.

On the following page you will receive a message that the theme was successfully installed.

Step 3 Activate Theme in SMF

After the theme is successfully installed we need to activate it so the SMF could use it as a default theme. First, you need to access the Admin section of your website. Click on the Configuration tab and then Manage and Install. Locate the Themes and Layout Settings section. After you access this page, youe should select the name of the theme from the dropdown menu for the Overall forum default: and click on the Save button in the right bottom of the section.

Now you understand the fundamentals of configuring your SMF tutorial.

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