XF 2.2 Forum and thread types

Forums contain threads and threads contain posts. It's been the essential framework of forums on the Internet since the public migrated from usenet to the web.

The structure is well known and well understood - though the origins of some of the terminology are lost in the mists of time. Who ever came up with the notion of your site being a forum, but these separate containers for related threads also being forums? 🤷🏼‍♂️

But back on topic, and we all know that visiting a forum (the second type) will usually show a list of threads ordered with the most recently updated near the top, and that clicking on any of those threads will show a page with the oldest post first and newer posts underneath and on subsequent pages.

Bending discussion forums to varying purposes

Over the years, forum administrators have been inventive and used the simple messages-in-named-containers structure of forums to build all sorts of content - let's look at the XenForo community as an example.

First, we have announcements and these "Have you seen" threads. These are quite focused on the initial post (or first few posts in some HYS threads), with these posts containing a lot of information... a bit like an article with subsequent comments.

Then we have the suggestions forums, where we ask people to up-vote the ideas they're interested in.

There are also support forums where people are looking for answers to questions or solutions to problems.

And of course there are also forums for general chat and discussions, which most closely fit the original notion of a discussion thread and where you can't really say the threads fit the same model as the other types.

Up until now, these forums and the threads within have all been displayed the same way.

But not any more

With XenForo 2.2, we are introducing the concept of Forum and thread types. This is a massive change with enormous ramifications for forums. Today, we're only really going to talk about the admin and user experience of the new systems, but in a few days we're going to follow up with a developer-focused HYS where we will talk about what's going on behind the scenes here, because we're really rather excited about the potential it unlocks.

There is a lot to talk about, but let's just dive into some examples...


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Question threads

Question threads can be used when the poster is looking for a definitive, crowd-sourced answer to a question, unlike a poll where opinions and preferences are expressed, but no single response would be considered the 'best' answer. If the user is looking for a solution, the question thread type is a good place to start.

Question with a few (unselected) options, with page nav and voting enabled

Here we see one of the most serious and important questions asked in the history of the internet. Let us take a moment to ponder the question, but also to note some differences to a normal thread.

While it's not immediately clear from a single screenshot, the question itself is pinned so it displays at the top of each page of the thread, unlike a discussion thread where the original post is only seen on the first page.

Navigating between pages will automatically take you past that post, but anyone that might come into another page will get the context of the original question.

Each of the answers can be upvoted or downvoted. (yes, oh eagle-eyed reader, this is the content voting framework that we managed to inadvertently reveal in a handful of screenshots and videos over the last few weeks.) The vote score for an answer is distinct from reactions and reaction score. While a post being funny might be a good thing and would warrant a high reaction score, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good answer to the question.

In addition to the usual date ordering, answers can be sorted by their vote score. This lets you see the best answers before more questionable ones.

The screenshot is shown from the perspective of the poster of the question in the screenshot, so you can see that the original poster has the option to mark the post that answered the question, allowing it to become the solution.

picking a solution

As it turns out, the solution wasn't any of those shown above.

Accepted answer placed next to question on every page

The solution has been highlighted and is now brought up out of the melee of the other answers and the is placed next to the question, regardless of where it might've come from in the thread. Clicking "view full post" will take you to the solution in its original position where it can be interacted with like any other post.

Accepted answer in its original location within the thread

Of course, we track the number of solutions a user has provided so that members can build prestige and gain rewards such as trophies for having their answers accepted by questioners.

Member card showing the number of solutions provided by this user

And as you might expect, you can also display your most helpful members via the member statistics system or reward them with trophies based on the number of solutions they've provided.

List of most helpful members
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Question forums

XenForo 2.2 question threads make a lot more sense when they live inside a XenForo 2.2 question forum, so what does one of those look like and why would you use it?

A question forum on the forums listing

Question forums look fairly similar to discussion forums but they add some extra controls to allow for easier filtering of question-related attributes, like a set of tabs to facilitate accessing different sets of questions.

Threads in a question forum

Because we know each thread in a question forum is a question, we can easily do things like filter to questions without a selected solution or questions with no answers at all.

Question forum filtered to show unsolved questions

You might also note the small check mark on threads that have been solved.

Solved questions are marked with a check

Control panel options

Of course, a full set of options controlling how your question forum operates is available in the admin control panel, so you may have multiple question forums that all work with different options if that suits your use case.

Question forum ACP options

Existing functionality remains

Remember, this is still a forum and these are still threads rather than some half-baked new add-on content type, so things like prefixes, custom fields, tags, forum SEO controls, forced manual approval and every other feature you normally expect from XenForo threads and forums is present regardless of the specific thread or forum type.

All your usual thread tools

Article threads

We've had one or two requests for article support in XenForo over the years. Maybe three.

As with articles published elsewhere on the web, article threads appear as a major piece of content followed by far less emphasised comments.

The first post is given an alternative styling to make it stand out from the comments, and we automatically allow more characters and images to reflect the fact that articles will often be longer and more complex than your average forum post.

Article thread

As with question threads, articles pin the first post to the top of each page of the thread, though on subsequent pages we automatically collapse the article into a more compact form so it doesn't take up too much space, though it is easily expandable.

Article pinned and collapsed on page 2

We've seen various sites turn XenForo threads into articles with a combination of extensive styling and a handful of add-ons, and now we hope that the new article thread type will make this job significantly easier.

Article forums

While there's nothing stopping you listing your articles ordered by the date of their last comment, article forums can be set up to have a very different look from a traditional forum.

Screenshot 2020-06-17 at 15.54.12 article forum.png

Ideal for site news or a blog, using the additional navigation options, you can easily set this up to display as the "home" part of your site or in another navigation section entirely.

And in the control panel

Article forum ACP options

And as before, articles are threads, so again, all your regular thread management tools and meta-enhancements are present.


Unlike the previous sections, we're going to talk about suggestion threads and forums together because they only work that way.

A suggestion thread

Suggestions make use of upvoting and downvoting like questions, but in a different manner. Instead of voting on the answers, we're voting on the thread itself. This is important when we look at the thread list in the forum:

A suggestion forum, ordered by suggestion votes

The score for each suggestion is clearly visible and like in question forums, we've added tabs to quickly access other views.

Discussion forums

And then we have our classic forum, which works just as it always has, but with a few enhancements.

If you're been running a forum for some time, you probably have your node tree organised in such a way that you have questions, discussions and more all cohabiting in the same forums. In designing the thread and forum types system for XenForo 2.2, we felt it was important to allow you to continue to do this rather than forcing question threads exclusively into question forums and article threads exclusively into article forums, etc.

Therefore, unlike the previous examples, discussion forums can contain threads of multiple different types. A new set of options is available for each forum in your node tree to allow it to contain any thread types you choose, though some of the filtering and sorting benefits of having them live in dedicated forum types will not be available.

Screenshot 2020-06-17 at 16.19.13 discussion forum options.png

When creating a thread in a discussion forum that allows multiple thread types, you just need to pick the type of thread when you're creating it, which will update the thread creation page with the necessary controls.

Choosing a type when creating a thread

And, tada! When you're in that thread, it'll have the special type-specific behaviour we talked about earlier, but back in the containing forum, it'll look like the forum you're used to.

Mixed thread types in a discussion forum

In conclusion

Screenshot 2020-06-17 at 16.31.43 php sneak.png
We're really happy with the thread and forum types system. It's something we've been discussing amongst ourselves for a long time and it's great to see it finally ready to roll. We're excited to keep building with this system, as we have only scratched the surface of its full potential so far.

We're also very eager to talk about some of the architectural changes we've made in order to have this system, along with some of the other technical updates changes in 2.2. Look out for a technical post and a tl;dr video to accompany this thread in the coming days.

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