It would be great if we could decide which Stack Exchange site Emacs questions may go to. A recent Emacs site proposal was closed on the grounds that it was redundant. However since Emacs is both a programming platform (in Lisp) and an application (editor, mostly for code), there are chronic disputes over whether Emacs questions belong on Stack Overflow, Super User, Programmers.SE, or somewhere else.

For example, I'd like to post some Lisp code to help answer this question on Stack Overflow about Emacs keyboard layout, but it was moved to Programmers.SE and then closed for being off-topic. I suggest we implement this suggestion: until there is a dedicated Emacs site, all questions about Emacs (or other editor used primarily for coding) should be considered on-topic for Stack Overflow. Thank you.

For reference, the current distribution of Emacs tags:

Stack Overflow: 2,644
Super User:       341
TeX:               15
Server Fault:      14
Programmers:       10
  • I don't know if the question you linked to is a great example. Your keyboard layout preference seems awfully subjective to me, and I might have closed it as such if it hadn't been migrated. I'm on the fence, though. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? Feb 17, 2011 at 14:40
  • There are also 16 on Unix and Linux, although I agree with The Renamed Exception's answer Feb 17, 2011 at 16:07
  • As for the particular question, there are objective reasons why Emacs keybindings worked on the original keyboard they were designed for, and well-reasoned alternatives for use with modern QWERTYs. Feb 18, 2011 at 3:40
  • As an aside, I'll add that Vim is also suffering the same kind of issue with Q&As being split on SO, SU, ServerFault, AskUbuntu...
    – Xavier T.
    Feb 18, 2011 at 8:57
  • @Bill it is a subjective question, and should be closed as such, but I think the bigger question is about the fragmentation of Emacs questions. Pretty much the same question for visual-studio didn't get migrated. So why the double standard? vs question: stackoverflow.com/questions/3129085/… Aug 10, 2011 at 20:02
  • @Trey: The double standard exists because Visual Studio is clearly an IDE so it falls firmly into "tools commonly used by programmers," while some people can't seem to shake the idea the Emacs is just a text editor. Aug 10, 2011 at 20:12
  • @Bill Emacs being just a text editor aside, it is a tool commonly used by programmers... Aug 10, 2011 at 21:27

4 Answers 4


I vote Stack Overflow is the best place for them. From the FAQ:

What kind of questions can I ask here?

Stack Overflow is for professional and enthusiast programmers, people who write code because they love it. We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers …

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • matters that are unique to the programming profession

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

like emacs

I think Emacs falls into the bolded category above. No?

EDIT: To clarify, the FAQ also states:

What kind of questions should I not ask here?

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page. To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

So as Jeff Atwood said in comments below:

[...] using the tag emacs is not a magic wand that makes every question on topic, either

So I think that practical, answerable Emacs questions based on actual problems that you face are on topic at Stack Overflow.

  • Except for those Emacs questions that fall under "a specific programming problem", yes. Feb 17, 2011 at 19:10
  • 5
    It does but as the other two answers pointed out, using the tag emacs is not a magic wand that makes every question on topic, either Feb 17, 2011 at 19:15
  • @Jeff: yes, point taken. I guess what I meant was emacs questions should be treated like other questions. As Ninefingers said, they may be more suited to Programmers. But I think many certainly are on-topic for StackOverflow. I have edited to clarify this. Feb 17, 2011 at 19:37
  • @Jeff Well of course not, that's what the CW checkbox is for Feb 17, 2011 at 19:58

The fact that there are already 2644 emacs tagged questions on SO indicates to me that the community already agrees with you that SO is the place for emacs.

However, this particular question was definitely too subjective: it falls in the "what is your favorite foobar" or "what is the best foobar" bucket. Pulling a couple of recent emacs questions from SO: (paraphrased)

"How do I write an emacs function that uses the current date to create a file?" Emacs function to open file [current date].tex

"What does this 'Warning: cl package required at runtime' mean while compiling a module?" In Emacs, what does this error mean? "Warning: cl package required at runtime"

These are good examples of non-subjective questions regarding emacs as a programming platform and a programming application. Both questions generated good responses and weren't closed. The system appears to be working to me.


Notice the top three "Related" questions:

and also

We've been over various parts of this ground in earlier epochs. For the time being I'm going with "Whatever arguably reasonable site the poster chose."

Obviously there are some cases where a real preferences should appear. Detailed question about hacking elisp should go on Stack Overflow as they are programming questions. Questions about maintaining site wide, default initialization files across a heterogeneous user environments probably go on Server Fault.

But mostly I'm for letting the poster have their own way.


I think a specific site for Emacs would be the best solution, as Emacs is a complex subject. Sticking to the existing sites, Super User is the best match.

Emacs questions on Stack Overflow are a historical tolerance. Most of the questions are neither about programming Emacs nor about programming with Emacs. Accepting these questions on SO is bad for two reasons:

  • It's confusing. (SO is about programming. Oh, and about Emacs, and version control. But for a web browser, go to SU. What about other text editors? Configuring your OS is off-topic, even if that's an OS you use only for programming. etc.)
  • It dilutes the message about topic delimitation. The more exceptions you make, the harder it is to enforce the important points.

Unix SE has established a tradition of accepting questions about cross-platform applications, including Emacs. As things stand, I wouldn't redirect questions to SU (we never do this unless the question is off-topic) or SO (where we do occasionally redirect programming questions).

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