I have a piece of software that I would like to recommend as a solution to problems. I'm trying to avoid answering with "link only" answers, and so I need help on how I can answer valid questions with software that I know will help the OP.

We do not advocate users asking for software recommendations. However, there are times that an answer will recommend a piece of software. These are the answers we're addressing here.

If you're looking to ask a question that may involve recommending software or tools, please first read "How do I ask a question that may require recommending software?".

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3 Answers 3

up vote 33 down vote accepted

Here are some general rules that should be followed.

Follow this general outline:

BOLD items are required.

  1. Title the product with a link to the download/main page
  2. Quote the site's product summary
  3. Add any pictures that are relevant to the question
  4. If it's not installed using a normal installation file, or package manager, then give instructions on how to install.
  5. Give a brief overview of HOW to use the product OR in cases where it's too long, link to the product's manual pages.
  6. Give any personalized information to the OP regarding how the recommendation solves his/her question.

Things NOT to DO:

  • Post only a link to the site
  • Recommend software that you haven't used personally (there MAY be rare occasions where this is valid, BUT you must let the OP know this)
  • Answer questions that are simply asking "What's the best XX software" or "I need something that does XX"

An example answer should look like this:


I believe that NotePad++ should be able to do the things that you're looking for. Here's an overview from their own site:

Notepad++ is a free (as in "free speech" and also as in "free beer") source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages. Running in the MS Windows environment, its use is governed by GPL License.

enter image description here

It has the following relevant features:

  • Syntax Highlighting and Syntax Folding
  • User Defined Syntax Highlighting and Folding
  • PCRE (Perl Compatible Regular Expression) Search/Replace
  • Document Map
  • Auto-completion
  • Multi-Document (Tab interface)
  • Multi-View
  • WYSIWYG (Printing)
  • Zoom in and zoom out
  • Multi-Language environment supported
  • Bookmark
  • Macro recording and playback

It has great documentation, and support on the SourceForge forums. It's also compatible with a large amount of languages. I personally use it on an everyday basis


P.S. If you are affiliated with the product you are recommending, you must disclose your affiliation in your answer. Answers that seem like unsolicited advertisements will be flagged as spam and deleted, and could possibly cause you to lose 100 reputation. Our advertising rates are reasonable; contact our ad sales team for more information. We also offer free community promotion ads in which you can post a product you like (but are not affiliated with), have it promoted by the community through voting, and have it featured on the main site with enough promotion. For more information, look for the latest meta post tagged .

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6  
I consider 1, 5 and 6 to be far more important than the others. Given a useful website, 2, 3 (general screenshots, not part of instructions), and most of the time, 4, are pretty redundant. It doesn't make it a link-only answer, as you're still expected to explain how to software solves the problem, and when the linked site goes down or the software becomes unavailable, installation instructions and such are useless anyway. –  Daniel Beck Jul 29 '12 at 11:19
    
@DanielBeck I meant to make this answer CW, but apparently forgot to check it :P Feel free to edit, highlight, or add anything that you feel should be done. This was meant to be a community driven answer. –  KronoS Jul 29 '12 at 16:17
    
Do NOT… "I need something that does XX" Read: “Sorry, to do that, you need a program, but we can’t mention programs, so Google randomly until you happen to find it on your own.” Give a brief overview of HOW to use the product OR in cases where it's too long, link to the product's manual pages. Points 4 and 6 are correct, but point 5 is merely advertising for no reason. It seems far more offensive to blather on about all of its features that have nothing to do with the question being asked than a general recommendation. –  Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 19:49
    
@Synetech I'm not sure what you mean by your first statement, however re: step 5 I believe that it's important to show to the user how to use the software (at least briefly) because it can show to the user how it really does solve the problem. –  KronoS Sep 24 '13 at 20:02
    
step 5 I believe that it's important to show to the user how to use the software (at least briefly) because it can show to the user how it really does solve the problem. That’s point 6. –  Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 20:35
    
@Synetech In some (and probably most cases) you're right, but there will be times that they are separate IMO. –  KronoS Sep 24 '13 at 20:37
    
And in those times, you specify how to use the program to do what they are trying (assuming it’s difficult enough that they can’t figure it out for themselves), but simply listing a bunch of features that have nothing to do with the question is just advertising. –  Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 20:40
    
I think that you should clarify about disclosing whether or not you are affiliated with the product in question. –  gparyani Jan 21 '14 at 22:40
    
Thats explicitly stated in the rules, I believe, along with the need to also answer other questions –  Journeyman Geek Jan 24 '14 at 10:28
    
@Jawa I've rolled back your edit due to keeping the answer more generic. Thank you for the suggestion however. –  KronoS Mar 17 at 1:33
    
Actually not my edit, but no matter. –  Jawa Mar 17 at 7:34
    
@KronoS: I don't understand your rollback. Your example does not include a solution to a problem, it only contains a general description of a product. –  fixer1234 Mar 17 at 21:01
    
@fixer1234 I'm just a little hesitant in giving specific examples as not every case is the same. –  KronoS Mar 18 at 19:10
    
@KronoS: What about an "insert solution here" placeholder? –  fixer1234 Mar 18 at 19:17
    
@fixer1234 I'd be more willing to support that. BTW I thought I had alerted you of the roll back via my comment above. I realize now I tagged the wrong individual. –  KronoS Mar 18 at 19:18

The existing wiki answer has great discussion and comments, but I believe the embedded example conflicts with current site standards. The example would be a response to a request for a software list, which would be off-topic (it is a long general description of features and benefits but does not provide an actual solution to anything). I would like to offer a different example that would apply to an on-topic, "How do I solve XYZ" question:


I believe that NotePad++ should be able to do the things that you're looking for. Notepad++ is a free source code editor and Notepad replacement. It has great documentation, and support on the SourceForge forums. It's also compatible with a large number of languages. I personally use it on an everyday basis

To use it to solve your problem of replacing part of a URL in an XML file, you can use the syntax word1.*.word2 to replace anything between two words, like so:

enter image description here

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Dictatorial rules kill progress

After a series of bad PC problems (in 2 weeks my laptop and my desktop both badly crashed, no reboot, no simple recovery - just the sort of things that routinely happen "by chance" to ancient French survivors and other people of my sort), so I googled for my good old utility named IIRC "Pixel Measurer":

No need to say, this page's unbelievable strong stances against freedom of expression, innovation, or any sort of progress or evolution, makes quite clear that nothing helpful can be expected from this site. I regret now to not have taken seriously the previous experiences of this.

Oh, I know, this message is NOT "in line" with The Party, so I may very well get (verbally at least) lynched, or even censured, or even worse, banned.

Versailles, Tue 12 May 2015 11:50:00 +0200

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The reasoning behind such a strong stance here is that 99% of the time when a question asked for specific software the answers became outdated and were just links or very low quality answers. More importantly asking for software that does XX doesn't really solve the root issue the OP has. The idea here isn't to be a dictatorship but rather to adhere to a level of quality unmatched anywhere else. –  KronoS May 12 at 12:43
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If your car needed its transmission fixed, would you take it to a tire store? Each SE site is a specialty shop. Defining the scope of what is on-topic at each site & having quality rules is part of what make the sites a place to go for information in an efficient form. If what you're looking for is unrestricted brain vomit so you can wade through it looking for useful nuggets, there are plenty of forums. SU is not a forum. The model is more akin to creating a textbook. When is the last time you saw a textbook packed with random thoughts and graffiti to promote free expression? –  fixer1234 May 12 at 17:44
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I'm not entirely sure what you are saying. You seem to imply that we are intentionally persecuting you because we have rules on topicality and do not want the site to degrade into a mash of "what's your favourite tool to do X?" type questions. Would you expect to go to a site about cookery and be welcomed with open arms as you spoke about Bose-Einstein Condensates? No, the site would tell you to look elsewhere, just like we have decided that software recommendations are off topic. We are not persecuting you, we are just asking you to look elsewhere to ask that sort of question. –  Mokubai May 12 at 22:39

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