Recently, I noticed that this question about finding open files in Windows was closed as off-topic. I don't really understand why this question was considered off-topic, since it's about a command-line programming tool that can be used in shell scripting. Is this question really considered off-topic, or was it closed in error?

Also, I changed the question's title in order to better reflect what the question was really about. The question was originally asking how to find open files in Windows from the command line, but the title was originally asking for an equivalent of lsof in Windows.

I found this question to be rather useful and helpful, and I was quite surprised when I found out that the question had been closed, despite its relevance and usefulness.

  • 4
    lsof or ProcessExplorer are useful tools in general. I would not call them "programming tools".
    – madth3
    Apr 20, 2013 at 18:31
  • @madth3 Does that make the question off-topic on Stack Overflow? Apr 20, 2013 at 18:33
  • 6
    @AndersonGreen: Yes, it does. The question has absolutely nothing to do with programming. It's a question about programs on Windows in general. It would belong on Super User if it wasn't just a shopping question.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Apr 20, 2013 at 18:35
  • 1
    And before you ask whether or not we can move it there: nope, it's too old. (Besides it being a recommendation question).
    – Bart
    Apr 20, 2013 at 18:36
  • @animuson The question isn't just asking for software recommendations - it's asking how to accomplish a specific task on Windows, which hasn't yet been addressed by any other question on Stack Overflow. This makes it very useful, so it it seems a bit unfair to identify it as a "bad" question. (It isn't just asking for an equivalent to lsof on Windows - it's asking how to determine whether a file is open or not, and it answers the question perfectly). Apr 20, 2013 at 18:40
  • 2
    @AndersonGreen The main question is "Is there any equivalent utility to lsof?". That's certainly not a good question. (And yes, it's a recommendation question) But even if it were a great question, it's still not for SO. Whether or not it's useful to you doesn't matter here.
    – Bart
    Apr 20, 2013 at 18:42
  • @Bart: It could easily be rewritten into "How do I list which processes have which files open?" or something equivalent. That still wouldn't make it on-topic for SO, but it would no longer be a recommendation question, so it should be acceptable on Super User.
    – hammar
    Apr 20, 2013 at 20:58
  • @hammar Might be. I don't participate on SU, so I can't really say anything about that. It doesn't matter for this particular question though. It's not going to be migrated.
    – Bart
    Apr 20, 2013 at 21:00
  • Of course, if you want to ask about using APIs for accessing the kernel's open file list for the purpose of writing such a tool then you may have a Stack Overflow question. Apr 21, 2013 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


It is not a programming question. It is a question about a tool. And it is a shopping recommendation* question asking for another tool like it.

The closure was correct.

* Shopping recommendations are off-topic

  • Nonetheless, the question has earned 55 upvotes, which clearly indicates that it has been useful to the Stack Overflow community. Apr 20, 2013 at 18:24
  • It isn't just a shopping recommendation question - it's asking how to accomplish a specific task (specifically, how to find a list of currently open files in Windows). Apr 20, 2013 at 18:26
  • 6
    Apparent popularity does not mean the question is any more on-topic for the site.
    – Bart
    Apr 20, 2013 at 18:26
  • @Bart Should the question be deleted, then (despite how many upvotes it has gotten)? If it isn't on-topic on Stack Overflow, then would it be more on-topic elsewhere? Apr 20, 2013 at 18:27
  • 4
    No, not necessarily. It simply shouldn't be open, signalling that such questions should not (or at least no longer) be asked.
    – Bart
    Apr 20, 2013 at 18:27
  • Let's go shopping is a fine article about shopping recommendations. Final paragraph there: If I had to summarize our network in a single word, that word is “learning”. People come to our sites to learn about topics they are passionate about. As the old Chinese proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Every question and answer ultimately should be about teaching and learning — yes, even the shopping ones.
    – juergen d
    Apr 20, 2013 at 18:29
  • @Bart Would the question have been considered off-topic if it had been asking how to find open files on Windows, instead of simply asking for an alternative to another program? Apr 20, 2013 at 19:11
  • 1
    @AndersonGreen Given that this question doesn't seem to ask for a programmatic solution, but rather a tool solution, I'd say it would still be off-topic for SO. If the question had been on how to approach that using the Windows API rather than an equivalent Linux alternative, it might have been on-topic.
    – Bart
    Apr 20, 2013 at 19:12
  • 1
    @AndersonGreen: The question would be fine if asking for help with a piece of code finding open files on Windows.
    – juergen d
    Apr 20, 2013 at 19:13

You must log in to answer this question.

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