Why upgrade to XenForo 2.1?

By Ian Hitt  06/04/2019

So if you’re reading this article, I think it’s pretty safe to say that you run a forum. A forum that you’ve probably had for quite some time now. And a forum that is probably still stuck on XenForo 1. And if you haven’t upgraded to XenForo 2 yet, well you’ve probably got pretty good reasons.

You may have a nice theme, perhaps even custom made for you, and getting it ported over to XenForo 2 may not be all that easy. And you probably have quite a few add-ons as well, and there may not be versions of those add-ons available yet on XenForo 2. You may have also spent quite a bit of money for all of this as well, and aren’t particularly looking forward to starting some of that over.

Those are all pretty solid reasons for not upgrading yet, which is why you’re still on XenForo 1. But what you may not realize is exactly just how much benefit there is to upgrading as well. And perhaps you don’t fully understand the dangers of avoiding it for too much longer. And you may not realize how many of your old add-ons are redundant in XenForo 2, or how many reasonably priced theme options are available. And between you and me, development projects on XenForo 2 may even cost less than developing them on XenForo 1. Well, that’s why I’m here. Because let’s face it, you don’t want to be stuck on XenForo 1, and I want to help show you why you should stop holding yourself and your community back in the past. So, without too much more rambling, here are some of the biggest reasons I think you should start looking towards upgrading to XenForo 2 now.


In case you haven’t seen some of the scary official XenForo posts about deprecating XenForo 1, I have linked to two that are available as of the time of writing this post. However, if you don’t feel like flipping over to a new article, I’m going to summarize them here for you as well 😀

As of Friday (which inspired me to write this post), official XenForo 1 support is gone. In fact, even the earliest version of XenForo 2 is no longer supported, which means that upgrading to 2.1 is what you’re looking for. If you are curious as to exactly how strict that may be, here is a quote directly from them

“At the time of writing, we will only accept support tickets and bug reports for XenForo 2.1.”

And that’s not all either. While they are no longer going to be helping you with your forum, they are still at least open to security updates when major security flaws are found. But time is running out for that too. As of December 31st of this year, there will no longer be any security updates. This may not sound like a major concern, but if you take a peek back at XenForo’s release history, you’ll see that they generally find large enough security issues to do 3-4 releases a year, and ignoring them is not exactly best for you or your users.

Theming with style

As a theme developer and captain of the UI.X Framework (nobody calls me captain 😔), all of my favorite things about working on XenForo revolve around crafting new themes. And all of that starts with the XenForo default theme. Although it is not particularly stylish (that part is my job) the default theme has made leaps and bounds to provide a better user experience for your community, especially when it comes to the mobile experience.

The default theme comes packed with things like off canvas navigation for mobile, sticky navigation for desktop, member tooltips, support for the iPhone’s nifty new notch, and all around improvements like displaying content in a better and more useful way. Which means that as a theme developer, I get a great theme to start with when building all of my styles, and I don’t have to waste time adding quality of life features that really should have been there even in XenForo 1. (Shameless plug… if you’d like help taking advantage of these features, create a ticket so I can make a theme for you 😀)

Oh, and another cool thing about theming is that they’ve added support for...

LESS is more (and other new features)

The most fun reason for upgrading of course is so you can give yourself and your community all the shiny new toys that you deserve. XenForo 2 comes packed with lots of cool new features. You know, the ones we all wish we had on XenForo 1. Here’s a quick list of the coolest stuff XenForo has added to the platform. I’ve expanded on a couple of my personal favorites, but I’ve also gone ahead and listed out a ton of others as well.


XenForo 2 uses LESS, which is a CSS preprocessor. If you don’t know what that means, here it is in a nutshell. It is regular CSS, but with a bunch of cool programming traits such as variables, functions, mixins, nesting, and more.

And why is that awesome? Because it means we can write incredibly organized, scalable, and powerful CSS, which is a whole lot more fun. If you’ve used the style property system in XenForo 1 (which still exists and is much better in XenForo 2) then you already have a pretty good example of some of the things that LESS can do.

If you’re interested in checking it out, you can do so here.

Navigation Manager

One of the things that I hated most about XenForo 1 was not having a way to manage your navigation items, other than to add them via an add-on. I don’t mean to be judgy, but this is something I feel like we should never have had to go without. And in XenForo 2, we don’t need to.

Widget Manager

Perhaps another feature that felt like we really always deserved was a robust widget manager. In fact, I think I can fairly say that I used the [BD] Widget Framework on almost any site I’ve ever worked on. Well, no more widget framework. XenForo’s widget manager is actually miles better. It is packed with lots of cool widgets, has an easy to use developer framework for creating new ones, and has tons of different positions and pages for locations (and it’s easy to add even more). It’s easy to use, and definitely one of my favorite additions.

What’s New and Find Threads

I’m a big nerd for something you thought you couldn’t even be a nerd about (stop judging me), and that is content discovery. Whether I’m working in XenForo, another software, or a custom platform, enhancing the content discovery experience is always at the top of my list. Which is why these are some of my favorite features.

What’s new is a nifty new portal page that shows you all of the new content from the site, no matter what that content is. Out of the box you get tabs for new posts, profile posts, your news feed, latest activity, as well as media, media comments, and resources if you use the official add-ons. And best of all, it is totally extensible, meaning you can expect all of your favorite add-ons to be putting their content there as well.

Furthermore, they’ve added Find Threads as well, which let’s your users find unanswered threads, threads they’ve started, and threads they have posted in. Between these two features, finding new content on your community is markedly simplified.


Yes, again with the content discovery. Bookmarks are an important tool for users to save and go back to the content they anticipate engaging in later. Bookmarks is only available in XenForo 2.1, so make sure to upgrade all the way.

Alright, one last favorite feature, and we can move on 😀


I imagine this is one of everyone’s favorite new features based on the popularity of Post Ratings for XenForo 1 and our very own Reactions for XenForo 2. In case you aren’t familiar, this essentially adds Facebook-like functionality to the “like” system. It comes pre-loaded with a ton of reactions and also allows you to add your own.

Oh, You Thought I Was Done?

Not quite. Here’s the rest of the features XenForo added:

  • Custom thread fields
  • Generic payment framework
  • Media embed improvements
  • Quick thread
  • Emoji support
  • Retina avatar and smilie support
  • Enhanced message editing
  • Alerts in favicon
  • Member tooltip
  • CSS transitions replace Javascript animations
  • Customizable member stats
  • Attachments shown in previews
  • Enhanced code block syntax highlighting
  • Thread prompts
  • Keyboard shortcut system and enhanced keyboard navigation
  • New custom field options
  • HTML 5 input types
  • Developer / designer mode
  • CLI tools
  • BB code and rich text editing for profile posts and comments
  • One-click upgrades and add-on install/upgrade from ZIP files
  • Push notifications
  • Markdown support
  • Editor button management
  • BB code tables

For more on these features, check out the official XenForo thread for 2.0, and the Have you seen forum for 2.1 and beyond.

Old add-ons begone!

If you are one of the many people concerned about losing some of your XenForo add-ons, that is definitely understandable. Many add-ons do have XenForo 2 versions, but many add-ons do not. Luckily, there is also a third category of add-ons, and that are those that are simply no longer needed.

Now, I am not claiming that every feature from these add-ons exists of course, but the base feature set does. And in some cases, the XenForo 2 functionality is even stronger than the add-ons from XenForo 1. Here is a list of some of the most popular XenForo 1 add-ons that are now included in XenForo 2 out of the box.

  • [BD] Widget Framework
  • Xen Notices
  • Nodes As Tabs
  • Bookmarks
  • Post Ratings
  • Prefix Essentials
  • Add-on Install & Upgrade (install via zip uploading)
  • [AD] Monetize (basic ad manager with ad locations, user permissions, and template conditionals)
  • [BD] Paygates
  • CTA Table BB Code
  • [BD] API
  • Ad Manager
  • [TH] Last Post Avatar
  • [TH] Custom Fields
  • Siropu Custom Tabs
New technology = more possibilities (and maybe even less cost to do it)

XenForo 2 uses a ton of newer technology that puts XenForo 1 to shame. This is very good for the obvious reason that there is so much more you can build when you have the updated tools available.

Not only are the tools available, but XenForo has taken extensibility greatly into consideration, meaning that they’ve made it as easy as possible for the community to add new features to their boards. Add-ons and themes for XenForo 2 will have lots of cool new features that simply were not realistic for XenForo 1.

But there is another pretty nifty bonus as well. Do you remember at the beginning of this article when I said “development projects on XenForo 2 may cost less than developing them on XenForo 1”, and you laughed to yourself and called me crazy (that’s right, I heard you)? Well, now I’m going to explain why.

You see, having all these neat new tools for developers means that we can develop smarter and faster. It lets us code with efficiency and ease. And why is that cool for you? Well, the easier the task is, and the faster it can be done, the less money you have to spend to have it. Some add-ons that took 20 hours on XenForo 1 may only take 10 hours on XenForo 2.

Now, this is by no means a blanket rule, and I’m clearly generalizing to make a point. But I think you can see where I’m coming from, so let's move on.

“Where do I sign up?”

If you’ve read my ramblings for this long it probably means that you’ve made the conscious decision to move to XenForo 2. Congratulations! You and your community both deserve it and you’ve already made the first step to accomplishing that goal. So what’s the next step?

Well, for the most part upgrading to XenForo 2 is just like upgrading major releases back in XenForo 1, but with a few new caveats (most of which you already know about). I also have a few cool resources for you to help you get started. You can check out the XenForo 2 Manual and my associate Jessica’s Tips for a smooth upgrade to XF 2.1.

If you’re feeling a bit out of your element and would like someone to do the whole thing for you, we’re just one ticket away 😀

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