Obviously, a question like "What is the best Linux distro" is just BAD in every way, but if it is a narrower question ( like "What is the best Linux distro for everyday use on my old G4 PowerBook" ), is it still OK?

In other words, is the word 'best' bad in itself, because it causes opinion based answers or flame, or should it just be avoided in broad questions?


6 Answers 6


The problem with terms like "best" is that they're meaningless on their own, kind of like meta tags.

What is best? Is what's best for you the same as what's best for me? The best Linux distro for someone who's always used Windows and is trying Linux for the first time probably isn't the same as the best Linux distro for someone who's worked with numerous computer environments and needs to set up a custom server.

"The best" is highly subjective. Even if there is an objective / scientific way to figure out what "the best" software, it may still not be appropriate because of its price (e.g. >5000 US$) or its hardware requirements (e.g. 128 GB RAM).

What you're really looking for is almost certainly software that does everything you want with the fewest possible downsides.

So, okay, we've established askers need to provide some context for their requests. Tell potential answerers about their experience, needs, environment or other information as appropriate. But once that information is present, why bother saying "best" at all? Is anyone looking for the third-best software package that will do what they want? I sincerely doubt it.

At best (ha, ha), "best" adds no value to a software recommendation request (or any question). At worst, it's a poor substitute for explaining what an asker actually needs.

  • 2
    +1 Best answer.
    – juergen d
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 21:08

We shouldn't disallow the word "best", but I would downvote any question that used it without elaborating.

"What is the best Linux distro for everyday use on my old G4 PowerBook" 

I don't know. What would make it better/best for you? Speed? Stability? Some arbitrary weighted average of said factors?

I wouldn't mind seeing "best" in a title, but if the question failed to explain in more detail what they mean by "best," then I'd say it's eligible for closing under "Unclear what you're asking," even if they provide context as in your example.

  • 5
    If you elaborate on what you need, you don't NEED the word "best".
    – DVK
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 1:56

I think it is acceptable. We're always looking for the best software anyway, so why not say it explicitly? This site is quite a bit different than the rest of the network. I would say that if a question here is acceptable without 'best', it's acceptable with 'best'.

And anyway, it's a whole lot better than saying "What is the most goodest Linux distro," which is what people will do if we disallow 'best'.


Yes, best is all bad.

A good question defines all the requirements. And a good answers mentions software that meets that requirement.

  • So you're saying we shouldn't say 'best' in the question? Isn't that ultimately what everyone asking here is after?
    – user46
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 18:25
  • 1
    1. Yes. 2.No, hopefully everyone is after the software that meets the requirements defined and not what another person thinks is just best.
    – juergen d
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 18:26
  • Best is best, the answer should contains reasons why something is the best! Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 18:30
  • Have a look here: meta.softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/363/…
    – Revious
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 22:46

I would avoid using "best" unless it can be objectively measured - examples of what I mean:

Good use of "best":

  • Q:Which is the best linux OS for installing in the smallest footprint possible?
  • A: X OS uses only 11.2 mb when installed, which is less than Y OS which needs 15.4 mb

bad use of "best":

  • Q: Which is the best linux OS for a person who wants to learn linux?
  • A: X is the best for a new person who wants to learn linux because it's similar to windows and thus easy to use.
  • A: Y is the best for a new person who wants to learn linux because it's not similar to windows and forces you to learn to do things the "linux way".

See how the in the bad example, both answers are valid, and it's impossible to choose one as "best" - this should be avoided. Best is subjective in this case and does not lead to a good answer - it would be better if the question was rephrased to allow a non-subjective answer.

  • 2
    The "good use" can also be written as "Linux OS with the smallest footprint possible". No need for "best". Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 12:17

General principle: "best" is appropriate only when the measure of quality can be reduced to a single number.

If it can't, the problem ends up being rock/paper/scissors comparison:

  • A > B > C, therefore A is best.
  • B > C > A, therefore B is best.
  • C > A > B, therefore C is best.

So in this case, only questions like "What is the best Linux distribution in terms of disk allocated to the system?", with a criterion that can be measured as a number, would be appropriate.

Note that multiple factors could be involved, but only if they can be combined into a single number, and the method of combination would be subjective and would have to be provided with the question.

D = disk required in Gbytes.
T = time required for full installation and update in hours.
S = system support in years.
N = D + T + S  or  = √(D² + T² + S³)  or  = whatever the questioner wants.
  • 2
    "...the problem ends up being rock/paper/scissors comparison..." I tend to think of it as a Rock Paper Lizard comparison, but perhaps that's just me. ;) Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 5:23

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