For the sake of making an example that's easy to understand: If I were a Java w/ Spring developer using Eclipse, would the following question be acceptable?

What's an alternative to Eclipse for Java developers who use Spring Framework?

Or perhaps an example a bit more general...

What's an alternative to the stock Gmail app on Android phones?


4 Answers 4


I'd think that questions like this are very well suited for this community. though generally I think they would be better received if it contained some key pieces of information

  1. Why is the current software is not meeting your needs?
  2. Is there some features you would prefer any alternatives to have?
  • 3
    This seems good to me. I feel that as long as the OP makes it clear why he needs an alternative, it should be constructive.
    – dotVezz
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 19:52


This is not a good platform for just browsing for alternative software. Recommending a piece of software for a certain task is inherently different that suggesting alternatives to a known piece of software. I suggest that this site will work reasonably well for the former but very poorly for the latter.

The most obvious case is looking for "alternative to X on platform Y". The classic case of this has apparently already been asked:

iTunes alternative on Ubuntu

This is a really bad fit for this format because there is no specific problem to solve. This is a basic database lookup query, not a call for expertise. Worse, this question has no scope that would make the choice of a specific music player over another beyond the reasons everybody else used to pick a player. In short the best answer to this question is the most popular music manager apps for Linux. This not a question you need to pose to experts, it is a poll. As it turns out there is a site that does that pretty well. It's called –get this– alternativeTo!

Note it's results for alternatives to iTunes for Linux. Given the lack of criteria or problem to solve, this is all the answer that question calls for. It is a database query on possible alternatives sorted by popularity.

If this sort of question is to be allowed, this site will not add anything meaningful to the internet. Let's save our question space for problems that need solving and specific criteria that aren't immediately apparent without a little expertise in the field.

Disclaimer: I have no vested interest in AlternativeTo.net, I just think this format of question should be left to databases that are set up for this sort of cross referensing instead of hoisting it on the QnA format here.

  • I'm dropping in one year late but, while I have gotten a lot of use out of AlternativeTo over the years, it has serious weaknesses in many cases. For example, if I want a SIP client and have tried Jitsi but want an alternative, the relevant AlternativeTo page has a LOT of misleading results: alternativeto.net/software/sip-communicator
    – dotVezz
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 17:25

Take a look at Laying some ground rules for Software Recommendations.

What's the best IDE for Python?

This will be closed immediately, as it does not:

•Explain in detail what you hope to get out of an IDE in terms of features, license or cost

•List any applicable frameworks that you might be using, or other possible compatibility quirks with your workflow

•Indicate any that you had previously tried, and why you didn't like them

•Do anything else to encourage answers to be as specific as possible

•Obviously, 'best' without context is never going to work - in fact please try to just avoid the word in titles. If you ask about an IDE for Python on Linux that has (features), we're pretty certain people aren't going to recommend the worst.

What Python IDEs support Django?

This is a much better question, as you've really narrowed the possible answers with some additional criteria. If you can add more criteria in the question body, then you've got the makings of something that is useful, and very unlikely to receive a bunch of mostly link answers.

I would say that while your first example is on the edge, but could be a good candidate with improvement, your second example is too general and not a good fit at all.

  • 2
    Why the downvotes? Did you people even read the link or the exmaples?
    – user9
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 20:59
  • 7
    +1 Down votes without comments are completely useless at this stage.
    – OrhanC1
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 22:51
  • What's the best... I find generally a bad question in this context. One man's owl is another's nightinggale, right? What's the best for me, might be the, um, worst for you. Too subjective – though recommendations always have their subjective points.
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 0:41
  • @Izzy – "too subjective" is too subjective; it's just, like, your opinion. And what's so wrong about having a big 'list question' for all the Python IDEs and also any number of other questions for recommendations for Python IDEs with some number of other requirements? I don't understand why there needs to be a line – especially given that everyone's description of where the line is is impossible to easily determine by a large number of people in a consistent manner. And how the hell are people supposed to title their questions for these giant required requirement lists? Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 17:59
  • That's not the point. Which one of your "lists" or "selections" is "the best" then? Of course there's nothing wrong with multiple questions, as long as the requirements differ. That's even how it should be, IMHO. But the whole discussion about those words (as in "phrasing") is a bit pointless. I lost track on all the "best or not" questions here on Meta, but as I wrote somewhere: If phrasing is wrong, it can be re-phrased (edited). And nobody is likely to ask for "the worst" (or that would be closed for sure :)
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 19:01
  • First, ask a high-quality question, describing exactly what the software should do. The question should be high-quality and answerable as is.
  • Only after you have done this, feel free to mention that it could be considered as a alternative to SuperMechTools2000, as an additional note.

All readers should be able to understand the question without knowing SuperMechTools2000. Of course, if you are asking for mechanical engineering software you can expect readers to have mechanical engineering knowledge, that's OK, but do not expect that people know SuperMechTools2000. Describe your requirements in terms of mechanical engineering, not in terms of SuperMechTools2000.

That applies for the title:

  • Bad title: Alternative to SuperMechTools2000
  • Good title: Software to convert a DXF CAD file to a RS-274 extrusion plan (alternative to SuperMechTools2000)

... and the question body:

  • Bad question body: I need an alternative to SuperMechTools2000 with this extra feature added and that feature removed.
  • Good question body: I need software that does bla bla bla (insert full explanation here). Note: To paraphrase, it would be like SuperMechTools2000 with this extra feature added and that feature removed.
  • 1
    TL;DR: The crucial point is your question should fully describe what you need (all your requirements, not just the differences to "SuperMechTools2000"), as pointed out by our question completeness and question quality guides.
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 11:10

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