Often I find my self turning to Stack Overflow when I have no idea at all.

I'll use a question I have now as an example and walk you through my thought process.

When you open a file from inside a program a window turns up allowing you to browse the files on you computer. I want to include that in my program but I don't know what is called.

I search Google but get no usable results because I do not know the right keyword to use so I think to ask on Stack Overflow what it is. Because I'm asking for a question I think I might as well try to get as much information about it as I can but them I feel guilty about not doing any research on it to begin with.

So I end up with a 3 part question like

  1. What is it called when the windows opens when you open a file?

  2. How can I implement this?

  3. How hard is this? Is it something I should try to find a plug-in for rather than build from scratch?

I don't really like the way this question looks and I have had poor results with this style of question before.

How can I ask this kind of question in the best way to maximise the quality of answers?

  • 4
    Not an answer, but you're looking for a "open file dialog" or something similarly named depending on your GUI framework.
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 12:55
  • Also not an answer, but I think part of the problem is that you need to increase your GoogleFu. I just did a search the way I might phrase it if I really had no idea what it was called. The keywords I put into google were: in windows when you click "open file" what is the name of the thing that pops up that lets you select which file to open. The very top result for this was a reference to "Open File dialogue box", which is exactly what you want. (But I don't really know exactly why these keywords would be my first choice or exactly why I wouldn't phrase it the way you did...)
    – Ben Lee
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


How best to ask a question that is really multiple related questions

You don't, split it up.

1) what is it called when the windows opens when you open a file

That's, in theory, a valid question. Though, you should not expect upvotes for that. And as pointed out by Mat, you could ask in the chat instead.

2) how can I implement this

Same here.

3) how hard is this ? is it something I should try to find a plug in for rather than build from scratch

That's a question we can't answer, it depends totally on the technology you use, the goals you have and possible limitations.

I don't really like the way this question looks and I have had poor results with this style of question before.

I can totally understand that. The thing with that question is, that there's one answer to all three questions: Look it up in the documentation of your framework/language/platform.

I fear it's a bad example, but I see where you're coming from. So to help you a little bit, the thing with Stack Overflow is that if there are a ton of questions on it which could be solved if people would simply look into the manual. My highest upvoted answer on SO is a prime example of that (no, I'm not proud of that anymore). The problem is, because there are so many of these questions, it's hard to distinguish between people who are just lazy and people who really tried, but couldn't figure it out. The Community treats both the same way because of that.

  • 3
    I was about to make a similar-ish answer. For 1/, maybe a quick jump into chat to get the right vocabulary would be better than asking on SO. With the right search terms, 2/ is a non-event - google has it all, and SO can be used as a backup when actual implementation attempts fail. (Totally agree on 3/.)
    – Mat
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 13:36
  • @Mat: I always forget about chat, and that it has more relaxed rules. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 13:38

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