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Awful is an iOS 9 app that's Better Than Safari for browsing the Something Awful Forums. Its story is told in its thread (and its older thread (and its first thread)).

Development talk usually ends up in the project.log thread, but we're not fussy.

Screenshot of Awful as it appears on an iPhone

An unofficial app

This app is not endorsed by Something Awful.


  1. Clone the repository: git clone --recursive Awful-app
  2. Open Xcode project and build away: open Awful-app/Awful.xcworkspace

There are no required dependencies for building Awful; all third-party libraries are included, and files generated by other utilities are included in the repository. The only submodule is the thread-tags repository, which is not strictly needed for building; if you don't need it, you can leave off the --recursive part from step one.

There are optional dependencies for building Awful. You only need them if you're working on the relevant part of the app.

  • CocoaPods manages dependencies. If you're updating, adding, or removing a dependency, please install CocoaPods.
    • Even if you add a dependency directly to the Xcode project, please update Source/Settings/Acknowledgements.mustache with the name and license of the dependency. We do not use the CocoaPods-generated acknowledgements.
  • LESS helps us write CSS. If you're modifying the themes for displaying posts (these are files like posts-view*.less), please install LESS:
    1. Install homebrew.
    2. Open Terminal and install node: brew install node (prepend sudo to avoid permissions errors).
    3. In Terminal, install less: npm install less -g (prepend sudo to avoid permissions errors).
    4. Now build the Xcode project and the CSS files will be regenerated.

Awful uses an App Group to communicate and share data with the Smilie Keyboard. Unfortunately, App Group identifiers must be unique, so I can't simply set it up and have everything work. By default, Awful builds without an App Group configured, which means that the Smilie Keyboard won't be able to download new smilies, remember recent smilies, or store favourite smilies. If you like, you can create an App Group in your iOS Developer account, then simply place the identifier in a file called app-group in the root of the repository. After a build and run, full keyboard functionality should be yours.

There are unit tests for the HTML scraping, to help us find problems when markup changes, running continuously via Travis CI.

Build Status


You can help! Head over to Awful's thread and tell us about any issues you're having. Send in some lovingly crafted thread tags. Or fork the code and send pull requests. Once a pull request is accepted, you get the commit bit!

If you're curious about anything at all, stop by the thread and say hi.

Project Structure

Awful is broken down somewhat:

  • Awful is the iOS app.
  • AwfulCore is a framework that does the scraping and networking with the Forums. It's meant to be compatible with both iOS and OS X, but nobody's actually tried on OS X.
  • Smilies is a framework that downloads smilies and presents them as a keyboard. It's meant to be compatible with both iOS and OS X, but nobody's actually tried on OS X.

Data Flow

The HTTP client connects to the Something Awful Forums and parses its contents, saving those contents as entities in a Core Data store. Various screens show the forums, threads, posts, private messages, and users saved to the Core Data store.

Awful's Core Data store is a cache of content from the Forums. Any user info specific to the app is stored in user defaults. The Core Data store may be (and can be, since it's stored in the application's Caches directory) deleted at any time.


Awful's posts view is fully customizable using CSS. There's a default theme, as well as themes for specific forums such as YOSPOS and FYAD. Internally, we use LESS to generate our CSS, so if you are editing built-in themes please edit the .less files. (LESS installation instructions are above.) Then commit both the modified .less files and any resulting changes to .css files, so others don't need LESS to build Awful.

The rest of Awful is themed in a a big plist. If you can't find a theme key you'd like to use, ask and we'll add it!

Thread Tags

Diabolik900 and The Dave have fashioned Awful with its own set of thread tags that look great on the iPhone and the iPad. They're distributed with the app. New thread tags can also appear in Awful without us having to send an update through the App Store. This is done by hosting the icons via GitHub Pages.

To add a new thread tag you just made:

  1. Add it to the thread tags repository and push.
  2. Update the repository repository per its README.
  3. In this ( repository, update the Resources/Thread Tags submodule and push:

    cd path/to/awful-app/repo
    cd Resources/Thread\ Tags
    git pull origin master
    cd ..
    git commit -am "Updated thread tags."
    git push

Assembling the AwfulPostsView

The posts view uses zepto.js. Awful uses the Touch module which is not part of a standard build, so a custom build is required. (It also uses the Core, Event, and Ajax modules.)


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License


Awful development is led by pokeyman aka Nolan Waite.

Awful includes contributions from: