SMF is about community and communication. And there are plenty of ways to communicate, such as posting on the boards, personal messaging, email, ICQ, AIM and YIM. While these methods of communication are only available to members, the forum staff may allow guests to post on the boards, in which case the only things unregistered users are not allowed to do is to view the member list and send personal messages to members.
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.
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 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:
There are actually several different ways to start a new personal message, but all require you to be logged in: