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Author Topic: Intro to SMF: The Bare Bones  (Read 4118 times)
Star
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« Topic Start: February 21, 2007, 01:53:29 pm »

I know that many of us are so completely used to Beehive, or another system, that we'll find some things difficult to find or understand here on the new SMF forum.  I thought I'd post this announcement in an attempt to give you a brief overview of some of the very basics.  This isn't intended to be comprehensive; it's just a few pointers.  If you need more information, I strongly suggest you check out the Help section.  Unlike Beehive's, it's...  actually helpful.  Smiley  You may also find even more detailed help on the SMF web site.

Some Terms

SMF talks about things in a little different way from Beehive.  "Boards" here are the equivalent of folders.  "Topics" are threads.

There are also a few things SMF has that Beehive didn't.  "Child Boards", for example, might best be thought of as sub-folders, folders within folders.  "Avatars" are the small personalized pictures in the user info section to the left of each message, as opposed to signature graphics that appear at the bottom of your messages.

Finding New/Unread Messages

There are three ways to find topics containing messages that you haven't read yet.

First, you can browse to them.  Any board with a dark blue icon has at least one topic with new messages in it.  If you click on the board, it will open up the topic list for that board.  Threads with new messages will be on top, just as they are in Beehive folders. 

Second, if you just want to see unread topics and not the whole list, you can browse as described above, but click on the dark blue icon next to the board's name instead of on the board name itself.  This should give you a list of all topics on that board that have new posts in them.

Third, if you look at the very top of the page, in the box that says hello to you and displays your avatar (if you have one), you'll see a link that says "Show unread posts since last visit."  If you click on that, you'll get a list of all topics that have new posts in them, regardless of what board they're in.

Either way you go, you'll notice this icon to the right of titles of topics that have new posts:    If you click on that icon, you will be taken to the first unread post in the thread.

Starting a New Message

At the top and bottom of each page of topic titles on every board, over to the right-hand side, is a small menu.  In this menu, the second button from the right is "New Topic".  Click this to start a new topic/thread.  (If you don't have a "New Topic" button, you probably don't have permission to post on the board you're in.)

Polls

To start a new poll, click the "Post New Poll" button in the menu to the right of the "New Topic" button (described above).  You will then be allowed to enter your thread title, poll question, possible answers, and a message to kick off the poll thread as well as set some poll options.  If you need more than five answers, click the "(Add Option)" link to the right of the final answer to increase how many answers are available.  If you need less than five, only enter the answers you want to use; just like in Beehive, blank answers will be ignored.

Voting in a poll where you can only choose one option is pretty much the same as on Beehive.  However, if you are allowed more than one option, you will notice that the answers have square checkboxes instead of round radio buttons.  (The poll should also contain a message telling you how many options you may choose.)  Check all of the answers you want to vote for at once and then click the "Submit Vote" button.

Formatting Messages

Beehive used HTML for formatting.  SMF uses BBcode; HTML won't work here.  For messages, the easiest thing to do is just to use the toolbar above the area where you type in your message.  It will automatically insert the right BBcode for you.

The following BBcodes are available to use here:
abbr
acronym
amazon
anchor
b
black
br
code
center
email
ftp
hr
img
i
li
list
left
nobbc
pre
quote
right
s
sub
sup
tt
table
tr
td
url
u

(Nope, no font colors, faces, sizes, etc.  So many of our members find text outside of the default difficult to read that we've disabled that functionality.)

The "amazon" code is a special BBcode that can be used to link to items on Amazon using the Cauldron's book browser.  When someone buys from Amazon using one of these links, the Cauldron receives a small donation.  The code is as follows, with the number being the ISBN of the book:
[amazon=1234567890]Item Title[/amazon]

Attachments

When writing a message, you should see the text "Additional Options" with a plus sign next to it below the area where you type.  If you click this, you will get a few more options, including a place to add attachments.  Currently you are allowed four attachments per post with a maximum of 128KB.  Important:  Image attachments will display as part of your post, so if your image is particularly large, consider uploading it to something like PhotoBucket and linking to it instead of attaching it.

Replying to Messages

To reply to a message, click the "Reply/Quote" button at the top of the specific post you're replying to:    This will quote what you're replying to (you can delete anything not relevant to your reply before posting, even the whole text of the message--just be sure to leave the actual quote code in for the link) and automatically insert a link back to the post it came from.  (You then start your reply after the last [/quote] tag.)  These links are the closest we can get to Beehive's "2331.52 in reply to 2331.49" link-back system, and they will be of great help to anyone who is trying to trace the thread of the conversation backward through the topic.  It also allows moderators to trace a problem situation backward through a thread to review it if necessary.

If you are making a very general reply to the thread at large, the sort of thing you'd set the To line to ALL for on Beehive, you may delete the quote code entirely.  However, remember that this gives no indication of who or what you are replying to, meaning we will have no specific context for your words, so please only do this if your message really is a very general reply.  (This is not just a polite request; this is a rule on The Cauldron due to the importance of those links for following the conversation and for moderation.)  This is a lot more important on SMF than it was on Beehive because without a quote there is no "in reply to" link and no "To" line, so if you make a general reply with no quote we will not be able to tell who you are talking to or what they said to prompt your reply at all.

If you don't have "Reply/Quote" buttons on a particular topic, you probably don't have permission to post on the board you're in.

After Posting a Message

By default, SMF will return you to the message index after posting (whether you're starting a new topic or posting a reply).  If you prefer to return to the topic you were reading, like Beehive does currently, you can change this from your profile.  To get to it, click on your name next to any post you've made, or "Profile" in the menu attached to the bottom of the box at the very top of the page (the one that greets you and shows your avatar and gives you the link to see new messages since your last visit).  Once you're in your profile, go to "Look and Layout Preferences" under "Modify Profile" in the menu to the left.  On this screen, you'll want to check the box that says "Return to topics after posting by default".  Then click the "Change profile" button at the bottom to save the change.

Cancelling a Message

If you decide you don't want to post something after all (after you start writing, but before you hit the Post button), simply navigate away from the page.  Hit the Back button on your browser, or click on a menu option somewhere else, anything like that.  There is no real Cancel button in SMF, but if you just go away from the page it has the same effect as cancelling.

PMs and Email From the Board

To the left of each message is a space with a little information about the person who posted it.  In that space you may see two icons, one like an envelope: and one like a speech bubble: (The speech bubble may have a sort of pale dot on it.  The icon still functions the same way in that case; it's just telling you the user is currently online.)  Clicking the envelope will allow you to send the user an e-mail.  Clicking the speech bubble will allow you to send them a PM.

To check your PMs, go to "PM" in the menu attached to the bottom of the box at the very top of the page (the one that greets you and shows your avatar and gives you the link to see new messages since your last visit).  It's maybe halfway over, between "Profile" and "Calendar".

Ignoring Users or Boards

You can control which boards you are ignoring by going to your profile.  Click on "Profile" in the same menu bar you use to access your PMs.  (You can also access your profile by clicking on your name next to any message you've posted.)  Under "Modify Profile" in the menu on the left, you should see "Ignore Boards Preferences" at the bottom of the list, and "Ignore user options" a couple of items up from that.  User these sections to ignore other users (except for staff!) or boards that you don't want to read.  You can also stop ignoring them here if you change your mind.

In addition, you can put non-staff posters on ignore directly from their posts.  Under the user information on each post, you should see a button like this:    Click it to ignore the poster.  Their posts will be replaced with "This user is currently ignored" and the image will change to this:    Click the unignore button to stop ignoring the user.

Avatars and Signatures

Avatars are a new thing for TC.  They give you a way to express or represent yourself in a graphic, much the way a sig does, but in a way that doesn't take a lot of screen space away from your messages.  Since we have this option now, we are encouraging (but not requiring) members to make use of avatars rather than having graphics-heavy signatures. 

Signatures, like messages, use BBcode for formatting.  There's no handy toolbar to help you out here the way there is on a message, though.  The simplest way to get around this if you don't know BBcode is to start a new message and use the toolbar there to work out your formatting.  Copy the code, cancel the message, and then paste the code into the signature area.  (If you use Firefox, you can also get extensions that will help you write BBcode.) 

Avatar and Signature settings can both be edited through your profile, which can be accessed as described above in the information about ignoring users and boards.  They're under the "Forum Profile Information" section.  (Full rules and guidelines concerning signatures and avatars can be found on the Rules board; please read them before setting up either item.)

On that page, Avatars can be set in the first section at the top of the page.  You have two options:  to use one of the avatars we provide, or to use an avatar you have elsewhere on the Web.  If you're using one of ours, click the circle next to "Personalized Picture" at the top to make sure that option is selected.  Then choose a category from the list, and a list of specific pictures will appear beside it for you to choose from.  If you're using an avatar that's stored somewhere on the Web, you'll want to choose the option below all that marked "I have my own pic" and enter the address of your avatar in the box provided.  When you've chosen your image or entered its address, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the "Change profile" button.

You can edit your signature on the same page, about halfway down.  (It's in the fourth section of options.)  Simply enter the text and/or BBcode for your signature, and then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the "Change profile" button.  Then you can go check it out in the Testing Signature thread on the "Test Board" board.

I hope this helps get people started!  If you have any questions, as I said, I suggest you check the Help section and SMF web site first.  If you still can't find the answer, please feel free to post in the "Board Questions, Suggestions and Feedback" folder.  The staff will be happy to help you.

(Edit #1 3/2/07:  Getting more specific with the sig/avatar instructions.
Edit #2 3/5/07:  Fixing a typo.
Edit #3 3/21/07:  Clarifying the quoting process slightly.
Edit #4 5/14/07:  Changing section on replying to match new procedure.
Edit #5 6/19/07:  Clarifying new/unread options.)
« Last Edit: June 19, 2007, 01:31:52 pm by Star » Logged

"The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced."
-- Aart Van Der Leeuw

Main Blog:  Star's Journal of Random Thoughts
Religious Blog:  The Song and the Flame
I can also now be found on Goodreads.

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