This question is closely related to:
- How to handle low quality software recommendation answers
- How do I recommend software in my answers
- and others
I thought the requirements for software recommendation answers were clear (at least to me), but a comment on a recent moderator flag leaves at least my own understanding in doubt:
its a web based tool that solves the issue so should be treated as a software rec. it tells us why the tool might solve the problem so its maybe okayish. delete it when link becomes dead.
Addendum: The second link is to our canonical answer. The answer discussion and comments talk about the need to provide a solution. Although the answer has been heavily upvoted, the example it contains is basically just an advertisement for the software. It is loaded with general information unrelated to a specific question, and lacks a solution to anything. I added a sample solution to the example so that it meets what we say is the minimum requirement. However, the edit was rolled back. So our canonical answer is apparently that a solutionless answer is the goal.
Let me re-frame the issue and see if there is consensus.
Software lists are undesireable
Q: Name an application that has this feature.
That would be off-topic because the answers would be a list of software titles. Many questions worded "How do I solve XYZ" are intended or interpreted in exactly that way, and the result is a list of software titles.
Is it only such a question that is off-topic, or does an answer that is nothing more than a response to that question meet the definition of an answer on SU?
From the first link, above, my impression was that a software title alone, or with a nebulous assertion of applicability, would not be considered an answer.
However, we routinely advise questioners, whose desire is a software list, to circumvent the system by asking a "How do I solve XYZ" question, anticipating a software list for answers.
These seem mutually exclusive. Which one reflects SU policy?
Answers should be solutions
Q: How do I solve XYZ?
the question has an [Excel] tag.
Nobody would accept as an answer, "You can solve that with Excel, here's a link to where you can buy it, and it has these other great features."
If the same question lacked an Excel tag, someone could recommend a solution using another application. That answer would need to contain a link to the software and probably some general information about it, but the primary thing it would still need is the solution to the question. And yet, we seem to routinely make an exception that lack of an application tag eliminates the need for an actual solution.
Is an answer that just recommends an application, even with an assertion that a solution can be achieved using it, ever an acceptable answer without containing an actual solution?
If the question is a wink and a nod circumvention of a request for a software list (thinly disguised as a "How do I solve XYZ" question), are software list answers acceptable or must they include a solution to the question asked?
Does the "not an answer" flag include solutionless answers?