Much questions include a requirement about pricing. For example, a program should be free or "no more than $50".

I understand that the price of a piece of software is relevant in deciding which product to choose. However, making the price a requirement in the question drastically limits the possible answers.

One issue might be that some software costs a bit more, but is well worth the money if you know the advantages. For example, I personally use the file comparison app Kaleidoscope (for Mac), which costs $70. If I didn't knew about this app and I'd post a question here asking for recommendations for diff apps, I would've set a much lower price limit (like $20 max, because it's pretty simple software). However, the fact that I knew how great this app works, made me decide to pay much more than I might've planned on before.

Furthermore prices in questions will make the answers less relevant for other people. Let's say someone asked for a program that's no more than $50. I'm looking for the same kind of software and I stumble upon the question, however, I'd be willing to pay $150 for such a program. Should I open a new question with the exact same requirements, but a different price? If so, that will lead to much duplicate questions and fragmented answers. If not, how could higher priced programs ever be recommended?

I think there are three possible approaches regarding price limits in questions:

  1. Price limits, as they are used now, are allowed.
  2. Hard price limits are not allowed, but we introduce soft limits/categories. Maybe something like "personal" and "business" pricing levels. Or something like "USD XX", "XXX", "X,XXX", and "XX,XXX" levels.
  3. Price limits are not allowed. Answers may contain recommendations for programs of all prices.

Also relevant: How should we handle software prices? about including prices in answers.

  • 1
    Would you place your vote into an answer? I'd upvote the question because I think its important, but I don't want to upvote your conclusion :) Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 23:36
  • @AngeloNeuschitzer Done!
    – Jonathan
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 23:57

3 Answers 3


A fixed price limit (why should it be in dollars?), is often rather arbitrary. If you are looking for less than 20$, you should not neglect tools for 25$, if it does all the tricks you need. And what about the price of a 19.99$ tool in two year, it will probably not fit the requirement anymore. However, I think there is a huge difference between as an requirement, and willing to pay some undefined amount of money, so I think that a distinction between gratis and non-gratis is fine.

For question the rules are clear, don't answer with tool that you need to pay for.

If you are willing to pay for software, you should clearly indicate that in the question. A hard limit would not make sense, of course you can give a guidline, but this can not be a hard limit. I cannot imagine that someone willing to pay $20, will be help by suggesting $5000 software, and I cannot imagine such a case would occur. When answering such a question, pricing should clearly be included (also if it is free this should be addressed), and, ideally, also information about a trial period should be included.

  • I agree with having a "free" requirement, but the rest of the time prices are effected by a lot of things outside of our control, including but not limited to sales, regional exchange rates, special offers... etc
    – Flyk
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 13:53
  • I have a hard time with a "fuzzy price" requirement, especially when somebody insists it be free (or worse, insists it be "open source" which AFAICT is code word for "Free"). Is a $5.00 product response a satisactory answer for "free"?
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 9:08
  • @IraBaxter I would say no.
    – Bernhard
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 13:11

In my opinion, fixed price requirements have more cons than pros. While the price limit might be relevant to the user asking the question, it makes the collection of answers much less useful for other users that are interested in a similar program as well. Depending on policy, this could also lead to much duplicate questions with different price limits (as explained in the question).

Therefore, I suggest to stick to three pricing levels, which may be used in questions:

  • Gratis, for free software.
  • Personal, for software priced at a level that's considered to be acceptable for personal use by the users answering the question. This could range from free apps to software like Aperture*, which used to cost $199 (before the release on the Mac App Store).
  • Professional, for software from zero to millions of dollars.

I suppose Gratis and Personal will be used for most questions and I'll focus on these in providing my argument for this setup.

From my own experience, I know that when searching for software, I often decide whether I'd like to pay for it or not. If I decide that paying for it is fine, I do not have a fixed price in mind.

See again the example from the question: "I personally use the file comparison app Kaleidoscope (for Mac), which costs $70. If I didn't knew about this app and I'd post a question here asking for recommendations for diff apps, I would've set a much lower price limit (like $20 max, because it's pretty simple software). However, the fact that I knew how great this app works, made me decide to pay much more than I might've planned on before [if I would've had to come up with a fixed price limit]."

This makes me believe that fixed price limits even have limited added value to the user asking the question. And as I already mentioned before and in the question, fixed price limits make questions/answers less useful for others.

Therefore, I believe that the most useful option would be to differentiate between free and non-free programs. And to prevent answers about $50,000 business programs, the non-free programs should be split in personal and professional levels.

*I think Aperture (at the old price of $199) is a good example of an app at the (unwritten) top limit of the personal level. While it's made for professional use, it's also a decent iPhoto-replacement for photo hobbyists, as iPhoto is too limited for them.

A follow-up question might be: May cheap paid programs be recommended when asking for free programs? (For example, may I recommend a $4.99 batch file rename program that's, in my opinion, way better than the free alternatives, if the question specifically asked for free software?)

Something else to think about, when considering my pricing levels: should one pricing level (personal?) be default if nothing is mentioned about price in the question?

  • Why introduce professional if you don't expect that it is used?
    – Bernhard
    Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 13:47
  • @Bernhard I expect it will be used in a fraction of the questions—I'd guess max 5–10%. Whether or not "professional" as a pricing level should be introduced, depends on whether or not questions about professional software are allowed here, in my opinion. But that'd be another discussion we could have here.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 15:16
  • Why replace objective (if malleable) criteria by completely subjective and even more malleable criteria? Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 21:47
  • @Gilles A fixed price might be rationally objective, but (as explained in my answers) has little value for the user asking the question, and even less value for others reading the question/answers. I think my subjective pricing levels are more useful to both the user asking the question and others reading the question/answers. So yes, my suggestion is less objective, but I do think it results in more useful answers.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 15:19
  • 2
    If we allow the OP to post a specific price limit of N$ and insist that answers meet that exact limit, we'll limit the utility of the answer. Other people that want more or less the same thing, but are willing to pay $N+1, won't see useful answers; we'd arguably end up with supply of questions with "price limit $N+1", $N+2, $N+3, ... and that would really be pointless. I think answers should simply post how they match technical requirements, and add a rough price categorization so that readers (including OP) can decide for themselves if the "price" is acceptable.
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 9:11

I vote for having prices in questions but more along the lines of factor #2 in your list.

I suggest the level to be:

  1. Gratis. No cost. (Does not exclude ads, unfortunately)
  2. Cheap. 70$ is not cheap. And if you are looking for cheap software you won't get the grand stuff.
  3. Moderate. Thats the "consumer level" of professional stuff. Like you get a good DSLR camera for 150$, or some good software for simple tasks for 70$.
  4. Professional. Sometimes that means "price is not an issue" because you are willing to spend a lot, but expect a lot as well.
  5. "The price is not an issue" I get a professional DSLR camera for 5.000$ but the "The price is not an issue" models are more in the 20.000$ range.

We maybe should have tags for this? is already there so we would need , , and . If we have tags for this we should rule that one of them is mandatory. Yeah, we will get some dups because of this but I think there wont be so much to it being a serious problem.

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