I am looking for software advice (or any resources that exist off-site) and don't want to ask a question like:

"What is the best racing game for iOS?"

"What is the best free alternative to Photoshop?"

Those sort of questions get down votes, all sorts of wrong answers and are likely to be closed unless there are quality details with pertinent information in the body of the questions.

  • Well edited and clearly stated requirements that are concise make these type of questions highly useful in general and worthy of good answers in specific.

What are some best guidelines to consider when editing or asking a question about getting a recommendation from the peers and experts that are here to answer questions?

1 Answer 1


Although there is a new site that exclusively handles software recommendations, we have been hosting good software recommendation questions since the beginning of Ask Different in August 2010.

Here is an adaptation of an excellent thread from the Software Recommendation site on how to ask a high-quality question here.

  • Great software recommendation questions are typically narrowly scoped
  • Do not to ask for "wikipedia" lists of everything that does X
  • Try to focus on clearly documenting the specific tasks you need to accomplish along with your constraints (be they time or money or OS version related)

1. Straight to the point, succinct title

Don't use words like 'best' or 'good' - just tell us what you want. We're not going to recommend the worst, or bad software. For example, a great title could be
What [editor/utility/program/plugin] does [task] in [manner]?

2. Describe your task

This is mandatory - Tell us in clear words what you're doing, or intend to do with what we recommend. If you're bulk re-sizing a bunch of pictures while converting them to another format, or looking for a game to waste time in chunks of 15 minutes - let us know that in specific detail focused on the practical tasks you need to solve.

3. Describe what you have, if anything, and what you don't like about it

This can sometimes be optional, but let us know what you've got or what you've tried and didn't like, and why they don't work. Let us know if you looked at something and decided it wasn't for you. Note - adding the why allows for great answers that may recommend the product you dismissed by explaining a feature or use case you may have overlooked.

4. Give us an enumerated list of constraints, in order of importance

Every recommendation question probably needs this list. Tell us the features or operating constraints a good fit would meet, ordered from must-have to nice-to-have. An example:

  1. Must run on MacBook Pro (Mid 2013) with 10.8 (and not 10.9)
  2. Must be available outside the Mac App Store
  3. Must be code signed or on a specific App Store
  4. Ideally takes less than 20MB of initial download
  5. Big plus if it does not offer / need in-app-purchase

Note: Price is generally a poor requirement. Limiting the question to free or less than $x does two very bad things. First, it limits the help to others without all of your constraints as budgets change based on how important the task is to each person. Secondly, prices change (and your budget changes over time) and the cost at basecamp on mount everest or a deserted island doesn't typically match the price for London or Chicago for instance. Thirdly, once you have creceived several good software suggestions that meet some or all of the requirements - everyone can easily price out options and select an answer that's best for them at the moment they buy.

5. Wrap up your question, if it needs wrapping up.

If your post is long, get rid of all question marks except for one and have a clear single question as the last sentence punctuated with ?

You can probably skip this most of the time if you want, but this is a place to put anything supplemental.

Your goal in editing and showing your research is to avoid the 10 common comments “why can’t you use the native way to do this?” “Why is the workaround not workable?” “Did you Google anything?” “Did you RTFM?” by documenting you have RTFM (ideally quoting it or the section you applied) helps your question help you the most and also help the most people that need the same solution.

That's everything someone needs in order to give you a great recommendation. We may not be able to meet all of your requirements, but since you've listed them in the order of importance, we'll be able to recommend something that gets the most important job done. By thinking about asking a great question, you will be helping many other people as well as the potential pool of people that will step up to make an answer to your question.


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