SMF is about community and communication. And there are many ways to communicate, such as posting to the boards, personal messaging, email, ICQ, AIM and YIM. But SMF's own personal message system, as available to registered members in most forums, is sometimes a more suitable option than any of these.
While email is a good way to correspond directly with members, it also has several drawbacks for forum purposes: you must open your email application to write and send the message, the recipient must open his/her email application and check his/her mail, your message will be mixed in with all the other mail and it can sometimes take several minutes to an hour for mail to reach the recipient.
As an alternative to email, SMF offers a faster, more private method. Personal messaging on the boards provides instantaneous delivery to the recipient's private mailbox. The mail is sent and received entirely through SMF, so neither you nor the recipient have to open another program or leave SMF. Personal messaging also offers both the sender and the recipient greater privacy because no-one's real email address is revealed. Personal messages show only the handle and name of both parties.
If a recipient isn't online, personal messages wait in the member's PM box until the next time he/she logs in and reads and/or deletes them. SMF Personal Messages is a self-contained, highly private email system.
Reading Your Messages
To read your personal messages, you need to be logged in, then follow the link that says something like 'Hey, [username], you have x messages, x are new'.
The PM Interface
The PM interface is similar in operation to that of the message index. While we are showing the inbox interface here, the outbox works in much the same way:
Some forums show the navigation tree at the top in a space-saving horizontal mode.
The main Delete button deletes all messages in your inbox (or outbox if open). Note that the checkbox and lower Delete button also allow you to delete selected messages, with the top checkbox selecting all.
The Outbox button toggles to your outbox, where it obviously becomes an Inbox button.
The New Message button enables you to start a new message, which is similar to starting a new topic but adds 'To:' and 'Bcc:' (blind carbon copy) fields and the option to save to your outbox.
The Reload button checks for new messages by refreshing the page.
The Date, Subject, and From links enable you to sort the columns by these parameters (with Date also toggling between descending and ascending order as indicated by the little arrow).
The main subject title links to the start of the message, which will be further down the same page.
The page numbers link to further pages of messages as applicable.
Starting or Replying to a Message
There are actually several different ways to start a new personal message, but all require you to be logged in:
You can follow the link that says something like 'Hey, [username], you have x messages, x are new', then click the New Message button in your inbox.
You can click another member's name, followed by Send this member a personal message from his/her profile summary screen.
You can start a new message direct by clicking the IM on/offline icon from the user info accompanying all of his/her posts.
You can start a new message direct by clicking the PM on/offline icon from the Current Status in his/her profile summary screen. (This icon/link is often duplicated in the user info described above.)