Can I ask the pros and cons between 2 programs on SR? Example: I have used Open Office for the longest time for my free word processor. I am interested in trying LibreOffice. Why should I change? Why should I not change?

  • Trial question for this proposal: softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/263/…
    – Nicolas Raoul Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 6:12
  • This question is also on meta.hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2/140
    – Pacerier
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 3:11
  • Looking at the trial question, I think these types of questions were blocked not because of the questions but because of the answers. Obviously no one wants a list of unrelated advantages and disadvantages. But back then, tables weren't supported. Now that they are, as long as answers came in the shape of a table with the columns being the names of the compared softwares (and dropping points for anyone who answers without a table), with the table containing only noteworthy features, would you reconsider such questions?
    – LWC
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 8:42

8 Answers 8


No, this is not a valid question.

Why you should switch or not can only you decide. And if you seek a recommendation you need to be very specific what you need from that really big software solution and why you consider switching in the first place.

Do you have requirements your current software does not fulfill? Name them. Be specific.

  • 1
    Even if it's invalid, it should be valid.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 22:21
  • @einpoklum: If you disagree, please post a new answer, where you can detail your reasoning :-) Thanks!
    – Nicolas Raoul Mod
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 3:36

The problem with this type of question is commensurate on the number of possible differences. If program 1 is only marginally different than program 2, then the question isn't by definition too broad. If one could spend all day enumerating the differences between the two, then you do venture into the 'too broad' territory quickly when it comes to our format.

When questions are very narrowly scoped, this is less of a problem. Let's pretend that you're looking at two different word processing programs, and you really care about:

  • How grammar and spelling auto correction behave
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Storing and exploring previous versions of documents

Then you could ask a question not unlike any other on the site and say what you ultimately hope to get as far as experience using the software, identify the two things that you're considering and indicate that you'd be eager to hear from folks that have perhaps used both in recommendations. But, be open to possibilities that you hadn't considered as well.

After all, you never know when some clever person at Microsoft is going to dust off edlin and see that it has a comeback. (I kid, I kid, but you get the point).


After seeing this trial question: no.

The principle of this site is to have recommendation questions. There are two important parts to a recommendation: a user story (what task you want to accomplish), and a requirement list (what needs to be there, what should preferably be there).

X vs Y leads to answers that each tack on their user story (if they're well-written) and proceed to analyze what requirements can be met by each of X and Y. So the result (if the answers are good) is a collection of user stories, with no particular answer being more or less appropriate for the question.

If the question specifies a user story — as IntelliJ IDEA vs Eclipse vs NetBeans for "pure Java" development does, albeit in a very weak form, then it becomes closer to our core business. But I think that the preselection of two answers detracts from making a strong question. The user story is very weak and the feature list is by definition non-existent. This makes for a question that is too vague.

I think this could be turned into a good question by strengthening the user story and listing at least some requirements. Then, mention that X and Y both meet the core requirements, and that:

  1. You have some additional requirements and wonder which of X or Y comes closest to meeting them all.
  2. You're open to alternatives if someone thinks that Z is a better match than X and Y.

Given that, I'm unconvinced whether X and Y need to be mentioned at all. It looks like the question already contains more of the answer than it should.


Depends on whether we want to cover "Software Comparisons" as well. Sure, most of our questions contain that as parts ("I need a software for X. Already tried a and b, but because [...] I need something different", or "Alternative.TO", both naturally compare things). But that shouldn't be all it is about.

IMHO there should be a focus on the task behind it. And the options on how to do it. Taking the task out of the equation doesn't make much sense to me. Looks a bit like "too localized" (for those who remember it).


I don't agree with the answer by juergen d

People don't know what they want until they know what they can choose.

Look at this question: C++ IDE with rich features; code completion, refactoring, etc. In an amicable way, every question about IDE should start with this list of features: autocompletion, refactorings, etc. Answerers mention their own favourite tools and it's score mainly depend on popularity of the mentioned tools.

But such question is not very useful for someone really choosing C++ IDE. OK, didn't you know that all mainstream IDEs support syntax highlighing, VCS, refactorings? Furthermore, most people aren't ready to choose anything except 2-3 most popular options. For example, Visual Studio and Qt Qreator, if we are talking about C++ IDEs. Or LibreOffice and MS Office, if we are talking about desktop office suite for Windows.

Considering all of this, I think it would be great to approve questions like "Visual Studio vs Qt Qreator" or "MS Office vs LibreOffice vs OpenOffice in Windows". Answerers would list key differences between examined tools. Examples:

  • VS supports integration with MSSQL

  • Qt Qreator is better for cross-platform GUI programming, because ...

  • [answer 2 years later] Now Qt Qreator has brand new really cool feature X, but VS does not

It would be never too late to answer such question.

Most interesting or comprehensive answers are upvoted.

This question becomes a brilliant resource for those who google "visual studio vs qt qreator".

  • 2
    I downvoted. In that case ask for Office software, and list specific requirements. You will get the comparison automatically, where the best one is most upvted (ideally)
    – Bernhard
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:09
  • 1
    @Bernhard I will get two simple answers: "MS Office meets your requirements" and "LibreOffice meets your requirements". See the question about C++ IDE I referred, exactly the same situation.
    – leventov
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:13
  • 1
    No, answers should contain more details than only that. A good answer also focusses on these requirements.
    – Bernhard
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:15
  • @Bernhard OK, tell about that guys from that C++ question. They simply posted their own favourive IDEs, with a few words to break minimum answer length filter.
    – leventov
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:18
  • In my opinion, these answer can be significantly approved indeed. Only, I am afraid that little people on this site will take that effort.
    – Bernhard
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:20
  • @Bernhard don't understand you
    – leventov
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:30
  • I mean that people will just post their favorite software, and do not take time to write an extensive explanation.
    – Bernhard
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:39
  • @Bernhard even worse that people don't have appropriate expertise to answer. For example, I can't answer my own question about Java IDE, because I haven't used NetBeans at all and have very little and outdated experience in Eclipse.
    – leventov
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:43
  • See meta.softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/86/…
    – Bernhard
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:59
  • @Bernhard I fully agree. The problem is questions like "Best tool?" don't encourage people to describe special features, they encourage to make "Software Lists". softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/6/…
    – leventov
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 8:04

(On @NicolasRaoul 's request, I'm posting my comment as an answer:)

I believe that "tool X vs tool Y" questions should be accepted, even though right now they aren't. My reasoning:

  • When you want to ask "What tool should I use for task ABC?", you often do enough preliminary research to narrow it down to a few options, and a comparison is what you need answered in order to complete an answer to a valid question. It would be artificial to force you to ask the question you no longer have.
  • More "meat" for the website, in terms of attracting users capable of answering such questions, who might also answer other, straight-up-recommendation questions.
  • No other place on SE to ask this, nor a good alternative venue outside SE (AFAIK anyway).
  • Answers to such questions can always refer to a third tool which settles the dilemma differently - further blurring the difference from straight-up-recommendation questions.
  • Other SE sites tend to exhibit some flexibility regarding the margins of their area of scope for questions.
  • There can be guidelines in place for these questions, e.g. "focus on the task, not just on the tools", like @Izzy suggests - instead of just banning them outright.

Yes, this is a valid question, as long as it allows people to describe the benefits and, possibly, drawbacks of each solution (or just one) in an answer, as long as the final decision lies with the questioner (who should be told that they have to judge by themselves and that the answers are just guidelines and point out features or things like that).


There is a very strong difference between deciding that this kind of answer could be better formulate and pretending we can close this kind of answers.

I vote for the first one. Stop intimidating users. Ask them to reformulate, closing the question is of no use.

  • So, is that a valid question in your eyes or no? Your Answer doesn't answer the question. Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 12:29
  • @AngeloNeuschitzer: yes, of course. I think we should have a VERY strong reason to close one question on a section whose title's ethimology means "opinion based". Instead we could suggest to change the form. But we should be FLEXIBLE. A strong mental rigidity is also the base of every mental disorder. Which means a bit amount of flexibility is always welcome.
    – Revious
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 13:20
  • @AngeloNeuschitzer: before voting for closing an answer we should think: "why I want to close that question?". Psychologian calls this process "descending arrow". Going deep to the reason we want to do something. It's always based on our subjective convinctions. We should analize that convinctions and see if they are valid or not. And ONLY AFTER this process making guidelines.
    – Revious
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 13:21
  • I disagree. Having strict rules and applying them is a good approach. The Flexibility should be to allow new users to fix the problems of their Questions. And we need Flexibility if we see that our rules don't match the need, because then we have to change them and again apply the new rules throughly. Also we need this rules BEFORE there comes the opening of this site not AFTER we thought about it for too long. Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 13:27
  • @AngeloNeuschitzer: yes, I agree. I'm speaking of how we should make the rules. Ps: have you read the article? Otherwise you could be speaking of topics without knowing what studious says about that? It's just like speaking of best practice without reading any books on them..
    – Revious
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 13:48
  • I haven't (and won't) read the article. I build communities in the RL since some years, I have some very good understanding about how that works from practice, not books. There are two (major) ways of learning: looking at what others have said before (which may or may not be right) or doing it yourself. I prefer the latter. I can see how SE works, I spend serious time on mSO to learn how THIS community works. I have no need to read any external article about it and don't care how OTHER communities work. Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 13:55
  • It's not about our community works. It's about our mind works. I strongly believe that everyone can achieve great goal in IT even without a degree. But not without reading what other people said before us. The experience can lead you to some important goal. But you are narcisistic if you really believa you could practice as a medic without sudying medicine. Understanding people is quite simple for psychologist. Making people accept their limit is the hard stuff.. read, document yourself or accept your "ignorance" on the matter (don't take as an offence). With experience or not you can improve.
    – Revious
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 14:51
  • I'm not offended. And I disagree its all about if and how our community works, this is why there is meta. This is why I am here, talking to you. I don't need to be a psychologist to know how to maintain a community. (i.E. all the people on mSO, of whom maybe one or two is a psychologist; they do a great work.) I'm sorry but I feel (and the votes on your comments suggest that I'm not alone with this) that you have a wrong picture about this community and how it works. Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:08
  • @AngeloNeuschitzer: I appreciate a lot your community. But it seems just a bit presumptuous saying you don't have time to look 5 minutes on wikipedia or my link what's the meaning of dicotomic and then loosing many minutes here speaking with me for defending yourself from the things I accuse you. Are you able to go deep into the real reason because you don't want to read that document? I think the reason is really simple. You have taken it personally. We have a great opinion of ourself and it seems to you that reading even only some rows of that document is just like letting me "win"..
    – Revious
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:36
  • let us continue this discussion in chat Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .