I've had a question closed on SO for this, but I was wondering, is it an acceptable to ask for suggestions of toolkits or libraries if they have to do with computer science? i.e. They're software tools used to perform CS research.

For example, I was looking for a toolkit for manipulating finite automata. This question was closed on SO. Is the policy the same on CS.SE?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I want to say "offtopic" but I don't think we have a policy. I don't think it's ontopic because it's much the same as asking for, say, Quicksort implementations, and it asks for a user-ready tool (which is likely why SO shot it down). See this and this question. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 10:15
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    $\begingroup$ jmite I for one will upvote it. there are a lot of specialized tools for CS research & FSM libraries are a good example. think that a question collecting best/leading/main/popular FSM libraries would be a great resource, have looked for one myself [the question that is] in the past to no avail. although admittedly [dont really understand why] questions like that do seem to get shot down. $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 16:49

1 Answer 1


It would seem to me that such a question is not explicitly prohibited by the FAQ, the first two "don't ask" examples would be the most relevant to consider:

  1. "What's your favourite ...?" might apply; though you're not strictly asking that, just for pointers to what's available it seems that "what do you use" is very close to "what's your favourite".
  2. "I use ... for ... what do you use?" seems less of a problem.

In both cases though, I can imagine some might think your question close enough to consider closing.

On the other hand, the question is supported by the existence of the "mathematical software" tag. Rarely used, but it must be there for a reason. In a way, it's also the software equivalent of a reference request.

My personal opinion would be that it's a useful question to be answered for those interested in CS, as a "practitioner of computer science", I would like to know of tools specific to my work. I can also see Raphael's point, though I'm leaning the other way I can't give a clear-cut justification of its topicality.

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    $\begingroup$ Couldn't agree more. I think tool questions are on topic on CSTheory at least. I too would like to draw a line so that tool questions are OK, but not say Quicksort implementations. I don't know what this line could be exactly. But we should have a policy. $\endgroup$
    – Juho
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 0:13

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