Something Awful Forums browser for iOS
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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. There's also a list of issues.

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.

If you'd like to build to your device, set the DEVELOPMENT_TEAM build setting as mentioned in the Local build settings section below.

Optional dependencies

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.
    • There's a Gemfile nearby if you want to use a known working version of 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.
    3. In Terminal, install less: npm install less -g.
    4. Now build the Xcode project and the CSS files will be regenerated.

Local build settings

There are some local build settings that can be useful to include but should not be committed to a public repo. Store those in an Xcode configuration file at Local.xcconfig; see Local.sample.xcconfig for an example. You'll get a build warning until you put a file at that location; it can be an empty file if you just want Xcode to be quiet.

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:

  1. Create an App Group in your iOS Developer account.
  2. Copy Local.sample.entitlements to Local.entitlements.
  3. Copy and paste your App Group identifier into Local.entitlements.
  4. Set the CODE_SIGN_ENTITLEMENTS build setting in Local.xcconfig for the targets Awful and SmilieKeyboard (see Local.sample.xcconfig for a suggested setup).
  5. 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

Handy utilities

If you peek in the Xcode folder you'll find:

  • beta, a script that bumps the build number and then runs xcodebuild to create an archive suitable for uploading to iTunes Connect.
    • If you've released to the App Store, it's time to bump at least the minor version number. Run e.g. bump --minor before making the next beta build.
  • bump, a script that can increment the build, minor, or major version number throughtout the project. See bump --help for more.
  • scale-stickers, a script that turns smilies into 3x images suitable for an iMessage sticker pack. You should probably run this after running the SmilieExtractor app.

And in the Xcode workspace itself you'll find:

  • SmilieExtractor, an iOS app that takes showsmilies.webarchive and extracts resources for both Smilie Keyboard and Smilie Stickers. To update smilies, first save a fresh showsmilies.webarchive from the Forums, then run SmilieExtractor, then look at scale-stickers.


You can help! See our contribution guidelines.

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][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

Alternate App Icons

As of iOS 10.3 alternate app icons are a thing. We have some lovely choices. Since support both iOS 10 and iOS 11, there's some hoops to jump through. Here's a mini checklist for adding a new alternate app icon:

  • Pick a name for the alternate icon. The icon picker in the Settings tab sorts icons alphabetically by this name. (e.g. the :getout: frog is called getout.)
  • Name the image files according to the scheme you see for the existing icons, but using your chosen name.
  • Add new key and values to both CFBundleIcons and CFBundleIcons~ipad. Your added key/values will be identical between those two locations, so go ahead and copypasta.
  • Add the image files to the Xcode project, and double-check that the images get added to the target. Seems like Xcode 9 doesn't always add everything even if you ticked the target on the sheet.

The reason for this silliness: iOS 10 requires alternate icons to be loose in the app bundle, while iOS 11 supports alternate icons in an asset catalog; iTunes Connect requires all submissions built using the iOS 11 SDK to have the main app icon in an asset catalog. It seems like the asset catalog compiler merges any CFBundleIcons values it comes across with its own generated values so it works out ok for us.

URL schemes

Awful answers to a couple URL schemes:

  • awful: opens Awful directly to various screens. This URL scheme is documented at and at Launch Center Pro.
    • awful://forums opens the Forums tab.
    • awful://forums/:forumid opens the Forums tab to the identified forum.
    • awful://threads/:threadid opens the first page of the identified thread. For example, awful://threads/3510131 opens Awful's thread.
    • awful://threads/:threadid/pages/:page opens the given page of the identified thread. For example, awful://threads/3510131/pages/15 opens the fifteenth page of Awful's thread.
    • awful://posts/:postid opens the identified post's page of its thread and jumps to it. For example, awful://posts/408179339 opens the OP of Awful's thread.
    • awful://bookmarks opens the Bookmarks tab.
    • awful://messages opens the Messages tab.
    • awful://messages/:messageid opens the identified private message. (I guess the idea is to handle a link from one message to another? )
    • awful://settings opens the Settings tab.
    • awful://users/:userid opens the identified user's profile. For example, awful://users/106125 opens pokeyman's profile.
    • awful://banlist opens the Leper's Colony.
    • awful://banlist/:userid opens the identified user's rap sheet. For example, awful://banlist/106125 opens pokeyman's rap sheet.
  • awfulhttp: and awfulhttps: handle Forums website URLs to any screens that have a corresponding awful: URL described above.
    • The idea is you take your… URL, put awful in front, and now it opens in Awful.


There's an iMessage sticker pack with all the smilies. From a fresh start:

  • Save a webarchive of the Forums's showsmilies page in Smilies/Tests/showsmilies.webarchive.
  • Build and run Smilie Extractor in the iOS simulator.
  • Tap the Stickers button.
  • Now run make stickerscale in Terminal.
  • You're done.


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License


Awful development is led by pokeyman aka Nolan Waite.

Awful includes contributions from: