I have a problem that I need solved, and it may require the recommendation of software. How do I ask these type of questions so that they aren't closed?

Note: This is for reference to point users who ask questions that will incite recommending software. We generally do not advocate users asking for software recommendations, however there are times that a question requires the recommendation of a piece of software.

If you're looking to answer a question that may involve recommending software, please read this post first.

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    See the new (still in Beta) site at softwarerecs.stackexchange.com Software Suggestions - it is getting off to a very good start. Be sure to read the guidelines, though. Don't just ask "what's the best program to XXX?", describe your requirements in as much detail as you can in order to help others to help you – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jun 13 '14 at 3:27
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    @Mawg: Software Recommendations has fully launched. – bwDraco Apr 26 '16 at 4:00

There are two ways to generally ask questions of this nature. The Good and the Bad.

How NOT TO ASK questions that may require a software solution:

  • "What the best <X-Category> software?"
  • "Can you recommend me a program that does <x-action>?"
  • "Give me a list of pieces of software that do <x-action>!"
  • or this question's sister: "Is there something that does <x-action>?"
  • "What is an alternative to <x-software>? I don't like it."

These questions are not useful to the general community and lead to "fluffy" link only answers. They really don't solve any problems (the main focus of this site) and it's hard to filter what is good and what isn't when there are 10+ answers all at the same rough vote count.

How TO ASK questions that may require a software solution:

First of all: Do your research. Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before? Do you even have a real problem you need to solve? And if so, have you attempted to solve the problem yourself? Instead of assuming a solution, ask about your problem instead.

So, if you did your research and you can describe the problem to us, then here's how to ask:

  • "I have <problem-x> that I don't know how to solve. I've already tried X, Y, Z, but those programs don't work because this or that. How do I do this?"

  • "I have <program-x> that doesn't work anymore. How do I troubleshoot or fix this?"
    With these types of questions, make sure that you're as detailed as you can about the issues. If you just say "My program doesn't open!" and that's it, it will be closed. Also, be open to other pieces of software that may solve your problem.

These questions are problem-based, and lead to useful answers. There may be the recommendations of software in the answers, but those answers should also show you how to solve the problem as well.

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    Be prepared that some of the recommendations will perfectly answer your question as stated to conform to the rules of the site, but still not be right for you. That alone is no reason to mark them bad answers by downvoting. This site is not your personal computer troubleshooting service, but a public Q&A site where your question will help many others as well in finding a solution to their similar problem, including those willing to install third party software, to run the solution in a virtual machine or emulator if absolutely necessary, or to pay for software, possibly unlike you. – Daniel Beck Aug 8 '12 at 4:57
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    Related: What is the XY problem? – kinokijuf Aug 19 '12 at 12:21
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    So basically just rewrite it to be syntactically much longer, but semantically identical? Isn’t being unnecessarily verbose undesirable? – Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 19:44
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    @Synetech I think you're missing the point here. The goal is to stray away from Opinion based questions/recommendations (i.e. reddit style) and migrate more towards questions that ask for technical details. These question may illicit actually recommending something, but if done right, it's not in the form of "Hey What's the Best Software that I can use to turn my kitty into a magical .gif that talks and wrestles with godzilla"? – James Mertz Sep 24 '13 at 19:55
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    Who you kidding? The contrived example in your comment aside, the before and after examples in your posts above are the same question; one is simply longer than the other. Voting to close simply because of their word choice when you clearly understand what is being asked is silly and pedantic. If you don’t like the words they used to phrase the question, then you can edit it. – Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 20:39
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    I’m suggesting the argument against them is specious, and moreover, discussing how to work-around the policy against them is a waste of time. Like I said, if you don’t like the wording of the question, you’re free to edit it; there’s no reason to close it and force them to edit it, and waste time for no reason. If they’re someone who will stick around and learn how to ask questions “properly”, then they’ll learn better from seeing how you edited their question. If they aren’t the type to stick around and learn, then telling them to edit it is pointless and helps no one else with that question. – Synetech Sep 24 '13 at 22:27
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    @Synetech The idea here however isn't just to 're-write' the question with a different wording, but rather looking for the root problem, and ask about that instead. Hopefully that's clear in the post, but if not feel free to edit it. It is community wiki after all :) – James Mertz Sep 24 '13 at 23:05
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    @Synetech I'm of two minds. Editing the question to an "I have a problem to be solved" variant is positive if you have some grasp on what the actual problem is, but it is possibly a waste of time. The other side of this is that the user should be sufficiently competent to read the rules and be capable of self-editing, and if they can't, screw 'em. A lot of the time, I will convert titles from statement/whatever to questions, hoping that the user will understand that using not-a-question as a title was an error. Retooling an entire software recommendation is wasted time. – killermist Oct 23 '13 at 21:55
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    Here is an example of the bad way this policy is used: superuser.com/questions/656100/… I know of no pieces of software that solve this problem. Do they exist? How would I go about finding the solution? What are the search terms I would use? I have done my homework on this question and searched the web in vain. Closing these types of questions doesn't help SuperUser, it just shuts down the info trail. – Jess Riedel Apr 25 '14 at 17:41
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    And to be clear, the unnecessary specialization suggested in this answer would make the solution in my example less useful to others (who will avoid a question that looks hyper-specialized). Contrast this to "shopping questions" (blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping) which are problematic and are improved by specialization. – Jess Riedel Apr 25 '14 at 18:26
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    Exactly. Peopels' time are wasted to the point where they are discouraged to use the site. The fact that you have to break out into sub-sites in order to create places where mods don't ruin it for the public just spreads things out more - when I search here, does it also serach Softwarerecs.stackexchange.com? I have no idea. I'm less likely to bother coming here these days because answers are more likely to not exist because everything gets closed. – ClioCJS Oct 5 '15 at 8:51
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    It is perhaps time to write all these rules in Super User Tour. Because on this page (Tour page) it is only written "Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users". Sorry but now I'm totally unenthusiast to continue to do something on SuperUser site. A good think to do on this site is to implement an unclose feature that allows to reactivate a question and that removes some reputation point to all users responsible of closure. The responsability of closure must have a cost ... not only for author of question. – schlebe Dec 8 '19 at 22:29
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    This rule is absolutely ridiculous and seriously makes me think twice, or three times, about using StackOverflow or any associated sites. I spend time writing a well-thought-out question, posing my problem and asking for solutions -- not necessarily just a list of software names -- and the question is closed almost immediately because of this stupid, pedantic, inane rule. Meanwhile across the site, hundreds of shit-tier "questions" about simple programming tasks remain open despite barely being written in coherent English. I know many people feel the same way about SO because of this crap. – WackGet Jan 21 '20 at 3:14
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    @WackGet, I agree with you. I forgot to post an answer to my question before I went away for a while, so I figured I'd go and share just now. Nope. Someone changed the premise of the question to be about a specific tool. And then it got deleted. Did I ask about software? Yes, because all the things I had tried/listed/considered didn't work for me. This nonsense is exactly why I don't come on SE anymore, and why most questions go unanswered in today's world. Nobody will know how I solved my problem and nobody will know how others solved theirs, either. SE has become the tool of its own mockery. – Stigma Aug 22 '20 at 20:10
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    There is too much "refereeing" on certain sites and not enough room for "players" to play the game by the "rules". If voting is important, then moderation shouldn't happen until a question(player) can actually get enough traction to demonstrate it's worthiness or rule-breaking by other players on the platform(game). For a single moderator(referee) to deem a question is unsuitable to ask immediately after it's posted doesn't exactly allow a player to play in the game in the first place. Why are we blowing a whistle calling a foul before the game starts? – Jon Douglas Jan 2 at 16:07

You can go to http://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com and ask!

Software Recommendations is a Stack Exchange QA site designed specifically for this type of questions. Questions should include as many requirements as possible, be sure to also describe exactly what you want to achieve, your final goal.

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    The website is in beta and most of the recommendations questions Superuser wouldn't be acceptable even on that website – Ramhound Apr 2 '14 at 19:56
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    Yes, such questions should be asked there. Be sure to read the guidelines, though. Don't just ask "what's the best program to XXX?", describe your requirements in as much detail as you can in order to help others to help you. – Nicolas Raoul Apr 13 '15 at 9:24
  • @NicolasRaoul, See here for a user guide. – Pacerier May 21 '15 at 6:58
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    This is, imo, a truly useless website for that kind of task, as nobody really visits it on the same frequency basis as they visit the specific stack exchange of their interest. Like, people who do programming require a recommendation from someone who actually understands their algorithmic needs deeply on StackOverflow in order to recomend them the right library for the task. Or someone who does signal processing will most likely find the most useful software suggestions from fellow scientists actually visiting SignalProcessing. There's a pityful chance to find specific software recomm. there. – user1916182 Feb 14 '18 at 19:54
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    It become really complecated to post a question on StackExchange site. You must first find on which site you can post the question and take a decision about the site and post the question on this site. And then, somebody with enough reputation can close your question WITHOUT help or comment. The decision is immediate and you don't have the possibility to change the question. There is something that go wrong on StackOverflow ! It is pure censorship. – schlebe Dec 8 '19 at 22:21
  • @schlebe, it's a pity, but it seems that you are quite right((( I've the situation. Looks like refuse in possibility to answer. May be not every question can be answered the same day, and those questions can be worth of answer weeks and years later – WebComer Nov 13 '20 at 9:47

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