Consider this question: Gnucash: Keyboard shortcut to move to blank transaction?

Should it be on-topic, or off-topic? It relates to the technical usage of a piece of software, which isn't directly about personal finance ... however, the software in question is a financial management tool used by individuals to, um, manage their personal finances ;-)

We have some other questions about Microsoft Money, Quicken, Mint.com, etc. However, those questions, IIRC, are not directly about the technical usage. Should technical usage questions be permitted for such tools?

UPDATE: I've reopened the question based on support below. However:

  • Where do we draw the line on financial tool questions, if any? or,

  • Should we revisit this as we get more examples of tools questions to consider? We haven't seen so many of these that it is a big concern.

June 2016 edit from JoeTaxpayer -

This question is nearly 6 years old, before I became a Mod, and can use a refresh. Recently 3 questions were posted regarding Banktivity, PF software that I hadn't heard of. 3 questions from one member, over a single day.

I'm adding this here in response to Chris' question above "Should we revisit this as we get more examples..." These questions first came to my attention via flag, a member notifying the mods of these 3 question posted one after the other. I still don't know the popularity of this software, but in my opinion, this gave the appearance of spam, trying to promote the software itself. Chris' point that we haven't seen this as too big an issue is correct, 6 years and no new discussion. Still I think this is worth looking at again.

  • Related: meta.money.stackexchange.com/questions/9/… – Alex B Sep 9 '10 at 16:47
  • @JoeTaxpayer: What sort of "looking at again" did you have in mind? I still agree with some of the answers below that questions about personal finance software should be on topic. The occurrence of a few oddball questions about a relatively obscure program wouldn't change my mind on this matter. – BrenBarn Jul 3 '16 at 7:18
  • Does that mean that any and all apps are appropriate, no matter how obscure? It's now more than ten days, and the 3 questions have no response save for the self-answered one. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jul 3 '16 at 14:10

I think this should be on topic. Since it relates directly to how the person manages his/her finances using software. I can see the argument for it to be off topic but I think it is relevant.

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    As the author of the original question, I think it's on-topic. The speed with which I can enter data into Gnucash has a real impact on how well I can track my personal finances. – retracile Sep 9 '10 at 2:21
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    I'm in favor or re-opening this particular question. But to play devil's advocate, would questions about how to install gnu-cash be on-topic? – Alex B Sep 9 '10 at 16:01
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    @Alex: Once we're out of beta, if we could convince Jeff to allow questions to be punted to SuperUser, I'd think installation questions would go that route. But if migrating questions isn't allowed (or until it is allowed), then I think some overlap is desirable in that case since I would expect a lot of people will be thinking in terms of their goals (finances), as opposed to centering their thoughts around their methods (software) and will thus come here for help. – retracile Sep 10 '10 at 1:47
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    I think we shouldn't refuse questions about financial tools, though shortcut questions may be too narrow - it should be in the manual or on tool's support forum. But general advice on using tools efficiently, etc. - why not? – StasM Dec 14 '10 at 7:31

I would like to see questions about the use of budgeting software stay on-topic.

We have had quite a few questions about , , and , and recently we had our first question about . (I'd like to see more of those.) In addition to budgeting software, we've had questions related to , , , and other .

I think, in general, these questions can be quite useful, and more often than not, they are directly related to personal finance, and could be answered here in a way that might not be possible on a site like superuser. It is true that some of these questions could also be answered by the software developers themselves or on some type of support forum operated by the software company, but that should not stop us from also allowing these questions here. Our mission here is to provide a better place for personal finance questions and answers, and the use of software is a big part of personal finance.

I had never heard of Banktivity before these questions were asked, either; however, I'm not a Mac user, so I guess it makes sense that I wouldn't be familiar with it. I understand the thought that these might be considered spam by some; however, I didn't get that impression when I first read these three Banktivity questions. They were asking legitimate questions, and there was no promotional link to the software. They might not be the best questions this site has ever seen, but it doesn't hurt anyone to leave them open, and it may help other users of the software someday.

We have this page in our help section: Can I support my product on this site? On it, we explicitly invite product developers (presumably personal finance related software products) to come here and answer user questions about their product. It also outlines which types of software user questions are a good fit ("How do I accomplish this task?") and which are not ("When will the software add this feature?"). I think the guidelines on this page are very good, and I would say that all of the software questions I've seen here have been of the "good fit" kind.

Please note, however, that I am not advocating for true software recommendation questions, where people are asking for advice on which brand of software they should use. Those shopping-type questions are off-topic and primarily-opinion based, and the best of these questions belong on Software Recommendations. As an aside, it is very confusing for everyone when a question that is not asking for a product recommendation gets closed with the "Product or Service Recommendation" quick-close reason. That really needs to stop.

  • IIRC - When YNAB first came up, the question was voted down as spam, and I came to its defense, as I had met the creator of the product, and vouched for its legitimacy. Are you suggesting that any financial software use questions should be allowed except those that are clearly spam? (And yes, I messed up using the "Product or Service Recommendation". I think I admitted that in the comments to the question I closed). I will, of course, abide by member consensus, but in my opinion, questions for branded software belong at that company site. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jun 22 '16 at 12:55
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    Your participation is great, when are you going to offer to be a mod? – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jun 22 '16 at 12:56
  • @JoeTaxpayer Yes, in my opinion, questions about the use of any personal financial software would be allowed except for clear spam. I find them interesting, they are very useful to the people using the software, and I don't think we will be overrun with them. Questions about software not used by many will quickly fall of the front page and be forgotten until someone comes along with an answer. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Jun 22 '16 at 14:28
  • @JoeTaxpayer I just ran across this help page for the first time today: Can I support my product on this site? I've added a paragraph about it in my answer. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Jun 26 '16 at 20:13
  • Got it Ben, fair enough. I was leaning the other way, but as a mod, I'll respect the consensus of the members. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jun 26 '16 at 20:16

I say questions of a technical nature, like this one about keyboard shortcuts in Gnucash, are off-topic and better suited to their own support forums.

Questions that relate to accounting, tracking value, managing financial matters with a particular software package, like this question about how to track the value of gold & silver in Quicken, are just fine.

To me the differentiator is simple: is the question about a financial matter or is it just about (using) the software?

  • I think differently. The question is does it relate to education about personal finance or achieving personal finance goals or not. For example, there was an older question about protocols used by mint or quicken. Answering that question won't help someone achieve their personal finance goals or answer personal finance questions. Learning how to use financial tools better does help someone learn about personal finance and achieve their personal finance goals. – Alex B Sep 9 '10 at 15:59
  • @alex A fair point. However, as you ask: are questions about installing financial software on-topic then? Afterall, you cannot track your finances with financial software if is not installed. Learning how to use financial tools better To me, learning the shortcut keys is simply learning how to use software. – George Marian Sep 9 '10 at 16:43
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    There's one reason why I do think questions like these are good for the community: They'll bring in more like-minded users via Google searches for such how-to information for the financial tool. Drawn in by a simple tool question, but finding a treasure-trove of other practical financial information. Think of the tool questions as part of a marketing plan, perhaps? ;-) As long as we're not swamped by them. – Chris W. Rea Sep 10 '10 at 11:41
  • @chris I agree with the marketing angle. My concern is the type of user such simple questions attract. Let's not forget that we want high quality questions to attract professionals and experienced amateurs. At least if it brings people in via Google, they are people that use a search engine. – George Marian Sep 10 '10 at 14:57

I'm on the fence on this particular question. Leaning toward keeping it open.

But in general I'd rather see questions closed by quorum of votes rather than a unilateral decision by a single moderator.

5 votes to close isn't that high a bar when something clearly doesn't belong. And there's generally a chance for some amount of discussion.

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    But in general I'd rather see questions closed by quorum of votes rather than a unilateral decision by a single moderator. To me, this was a open-and-shut case. Is this site intended to be a support forum for financial software? Also, closing a question is not the end of the world. As far as I know, we have not deleted any questions yet. Feel free to place your vote to reopen the question if you feel it is of value. – George Marian Sep 9 '10 at 3:32
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    @George Marian: "To me, this was a open-and-shut case." This is my point: to you it was clear cut, but to others there seems to be room to allow it. FWIW, I've voted to reopen. I think I saw your name next to a few closed truly spammy posts -- thanks! I'm just hoping that questions that could be considered at the edge of on-topic are left for voters to close. I've seen a couple that were clearly off topic that got five votes to close pretty quickly. – bstpierre Sep 9 '10 at 11:48
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    I'm just hoping that questions that could be considered at the edge of on-topic are left for voters to close. I agree. However, I must reiterate that to me this did not seem like an edge case. Simply put, just because it is a question about financial software, doesn't mean that it is financial in nature. The OP makes a good point regarding the speed of entry impacting his ability to track his finances. Something I had not considered. Regardless, one's ability to print from financial software can also have an impact and I don't believe that would be an appropriate question here. – George Marian Sep 9 '10 at 14:57
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    @George Marian: It sounds like we agree on the principle, just not where the "edge" belongs. I'd ask you to expand your definition of the edge a bit further and let the community decide what is in and what is out -- vote-to-close instead of moderator-close. – bstpierre Sep 9 '10 at 17:28
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    With a lack of consensus on edge, I'll pledge to only close very obvious spam, and not the kind of questions we are discussing here. i.e. agreeing to let community "vote-to-close instead of moderator-close." This is a time I miss my simple 'vote'. Although I can still offer a plain DV. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jun 22 '16 at 13:40

My own feeling is that if the question is a general one of how to organize data -- something where the principles are potentially useful even to folks who don't use that particular product -- it's worth keeping. If it's specific to the quirks of a particular program I'm less convinced; there are better places to ask those.

  • The Banktivity questions I cited seem completely software centric, so I think we agree. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jun 26 '16 at 12:47

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