Another update from our forums team shows how committed they are to rolling out user-driven improvements on a consistent basis. Believe it or not, this was a "between release" release. These guys are cranking hard. Here's the announcement, but I'll quote Andrew and expand on the new features here:

  • Persist Expand/Collapse on forums home – This was a common customer request. When you visit the forums home page (MSDN | TechNet | Expression | Microsoft), we remember which categories are collapsed and which are expanded. That means the next time you go to the home page, you’ll see the forums you use the most, and not the ones you don’t.
  • Visual Updates – After listening to your feedback, we have made some enhancements for usability and accessibility to make our forum pages easier to read.
    • Forum view – Moved “New Thread” to filter bar, moving messages higher up the page, and added the number of results being displayed.
    • Proposed Answer UpdatesProposed answers are more clearly differentiated from the true answer. I actually like the "blue" checkmark, but I think enough color-blind people wrote in that it wasn't working for them :)
    • Browse Users Updates – I was looking for a user this morning, and this is what tipped me off that the update was live. Updated to include avatars and user badges. Nice look to this page, finally.
    • List of Threads - I like the update to the look of the list of threads. More readable.
  • Threaded View – Switch your thread preview mode from the flat “list” view to a hierarchical “threaded” view. The setting is persisted and applies to all forums.

    This was a huge discussion internally back when we were first building the platform, and the fact that they retained which messages were being replied to, even when we were launching a flat "list" view, shows how deeply our team was thinking about the forums experience.

    Interestingly, as a side note, we're hearing from our heavy users that they are using preview mode much more than than the full-page thread view.
  • Mark all as Read – If you want to start fresh and mark all threads as read, you can do so by selecting “Mark All Read”. After that the “unread” filter will only show new threads or threads with new posts since they have selected the mark all read option.
  • Categories in Breadcrumb –This adds an extra level in the breadcrumb, so you can navigate up from a forum to a group of forums (ex. Windows Server forums), without going all the way to the forum home page. This helps users who come in to a forum thread from a search engine, navigate “up” to find the right forum for their question. A small thing that can make a huge difference. We see that most of our users rely on breadcrumbs for navigation.
  • Mobile Support (Preview) – This is an initial release of support for mobile devices. You can view forums, threads, and messages, post new messages and reply. You must have already created a profile (you can sign in, but can't create a profile on the mobile site yet). The mobile version can be accessed by simply adding “mobile” to the url as in http://forums.msdn.microsoft.com/mobile/en-us/forums/.

    Would love feedback on this. We need to know what the critical scenarios are here: which filters should we make available? Is search important, or would you just be using this to reply to 1-2 of the latest threads during 10 min of downtime? What about paging?