In 2011 there was a thread explaining that StackOverflow should only be used for VBA questions while everything else should be on SuperUser.

In 2012 there was another thread marked as a duplicate which says SU should be used for everything, and that SO is only for VBA and UDF (user-defined functions).

Yet here we are in 2013 and there is with over 1,500 questions (85 in the last month).

What makes things more confusing is that the excerpt says:

Microsoft Excel is a commercial spreadsheet application written and distributed by Microsoft for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. If your question is about programming Excel in VBA then also tag it . If it is about an Excel formula or worksheet function, then also tag it .

The wiki itself says:

Questions tagged with should be version-agnostic. More specific tags include and for scripting, and for formulas and for pivot tables. Questions about addins should also be tagged .

Not only is there confusion between the meta and the tags as to whether formulas are acceptable, the wiki itself has two different tags it is suggesting ( and ).

Am I missing something here? It would seem to make sense to put the various Excel questions on the same site to get a more coherent audience. Instead they seem to be split willy-nilly and there isn't much consistency. Can anyone explain what the heck is going on here and where excel questions really should belong?

  • In so far as this question is really asking why Excel formula questions are O.K. on SO, my answer is here: meta.stackexchange.com/a/76767/138056. But if we agree on that then having a tag for a particular kind of programming seems kind of obvious.
    – jtolle
    Dec 5, 2013 at 1:30

2 Answers 2


Since people like downvoting more than making counter-points, I'll make them myself.

StackOverflow has an tag because, like every other tag, it helps categorizing questions - putting them in "boxes" if you like.

StackExchange sites have this fantastic feature called "ignored tags", with which everyone that don't want to be bothered with and questions, can selectively ignore them (these posts will show up dimmed in the questions list).

Excel formulae are just an area where StackOverflow happens to overlap with SuperUser - yes, overlap (as in: neither site is a better place to ask than the other). And it's perfectly fine that way: if tomorrow morning every single and questions were migrated to SuperUser, the next day a whole new 100-some questions would be resurrecting the tags, and ironically SO is slightly more popular than SU with that tag.

And then there's all the already-argued points about an Excel formula being (or not) somewhat programming-related.

Bottom line, these tags exist because people ask questions and tag those questions with them, i.e. there's an undeniable demand for them.

  • Thanks for the explanation. Just to play Devil's Advocate, there is an undeniable demand for shopping questions and Gorilla vs. Shark questions, but that doesn't mean they are allowed. Should we be more aggressive moving these questions to SU and enforcing them?
    – jmac
    Dec 5, 2013 at 0:40
  • @jmac have you followed the search links? Excel questions created in the past 3 days - SU: 17, SO: 297. If anything, it would be much less of an effort to have them migrated the other way around! As for shopping-list and Gorilla-vs-Shark questions, both are explicitly defined as off-topic, and I bet in 50 years our grand-children will still be closing such questions. Dec 5, 2013 at 1:01
  • I agree, although I'll quibble some. SO and SU overlap as far as Excel formula questions go, but they're not interchangeable. Some Excel formula questions are firmly in the "programming" category. Some are more about how to use Excel and belong on SU. Some could get a useful but different answer in either place. (I gave an example here: meta.stackexchange.com/a/83771/138056)
    – jtolle
    Dec 5, 2013 at 1:17
  • BTW, I think the downvotes to your other answer are in response to your blanket assertion that "complex, nested worksheet functions" are "not code". Presumably as long as complex nested function calls aren't on a worksheet they're O.K. and not insulting to real programmers?
    – jtolle
    Dec 5, 2013 at 1:28
  • @retail, I know the numbers, but 'easy' isn't really the way to go about it, is it? We should edit the tags to explain what belongs where and to increase the probability people will find what they are looking for, and that it will serve as a resource to future users.
    – jmac
    Dec 5, 2013 at 2:09

I'm guessing the thought behind is that complex, nested worksheet functions can be semantically assimilable to code. My problem with it, is that, well, it's not code. I don't think it's ok to ask SO how to use Excel - because that's what it comes down to.

questions should be about concrete issues with automation and VBA; questions should be about things that should work in VB6 if you referenced the Excel object model (hmm never tried that), meaning it's a programming question.

questions should be about issues with the Excel object model; should be about issues with the Outlook object model: setting up a mailbox or sending an email through the Outlook UI belongs on SU, doing it through the object model with VBA belongs on SO.

Excel formulas have nothing to do with programming, to me entering a formula in an Excel worksheet is like sending an email with Outlook: it's merely using the software and there's SU for questions about that. The tag should be destroyed, or activate a macro (!) that auto-migrates the question to SU.

  • Rather than discussing what things should be, I want to understand how things are first. Whether or not formulas are code or not doesn't change the fact that splitting the excel user base in half doesn't make much sense if you want to help people who have excel questions...
    – jmac
    Aug 27, 2013 at 2:48
  • Totally agree, but I'm no guru here, that's actually a question I could have asked myself (+1 btw)! I think it's the community that defines what things are. So the more people agree on what should be, the more what should be, will be. Aug 27, 2013 at 2:52
  • Personally I think there should be a totally separate site just for MS Office, but that's a totally separate thing (look at forums like ozgrid or mrexcel dedicated solely to excel -- to be a better resource than those forums, it would be infinitely more effective to concentrate eyes and expertise). If vba is okay on superuser, I think 100% of the MS office questions should be moved there instead for that purpose. But I doubt that is a request that has a chance of ever happening.
    – jmac
    Aug 27, 2013 at 3:42
  • @downvoters - feel free to answer the question yourself!!! Oct 10, 2013 at 0:32
  • @retailcoder, From this answer I gave to a similar question: meta.stackexchange.com/a/76767/138056, "Excel formula questions on Stack Overflow are very often about the syntax and evaluation of expressions and the use of library functions. How are things like that not programming related?" Maybe a shorter way to say that is that Excel formulas are code.
    – jtolle
    Dec 4, 2013 at 22:52
  • @jtolle how about my other answer? Dec 5, 2013 at 0:19
  • css and html is not code either. An IF function in excel does have a very programming feel to it though
    – neelsg
    Jun 30, 2014 at 12:31

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