As you may already know, mathematica.stackexchange is a wonderful site for asking questions and looking for information about Mathematica™.

However, it has a few characteristics that tend to confuse new (and sometimes not-so-new) users producing questions that are difficult to read and/or answer and diminishing the site's overall usefulness.
Many hints and software pieces have been posted on these sites over time explaining or solving individual issues that we may try to recap and summarize here.

This question is intended to be a link reference for users that composed non optimal posts instead of explaining the reasons and solutions each time.

Please help me to identify and/or explain those pieces of information that help and guide users to get the most from the site.

Suggestions for posting answers:

  • One topic per answer
  • Focus on
    • The most common mistakes people make when posting questions
    • The most useful ways to get a problem solved using the info already posted on the site
    • How can new users help on maintaining the site clean and useful
  • It's OK to include a brief explanation and a link to another already posted question or help page
  • Include a self explanatory title in h2 style
  • Include a link to your answer by editing the Index below (for quick reference)


  • 1
    Suggested topics: Image uploader, site's scripts, why don't use subscripts, why posting MWEs, When to use chat instead of asking a question, Hints for non English speakers, Why posting code and not TeX, Why formulating a clear question and explaining the code instead of posting code only, using the "pitfalls" question, using tags, how to use the site searching features, when to use Google intead ... Feb 21, 2015 at 19:21
  • I suggest that what you have put in your comment would be better as an update to the question itself.
    – m_goldberg
    Feb 24, 2015 at 0:59
  • I fear that the effort put into this project may be futile because I can see no way to lead the people who are causing the very real problem you are trying solve to this page.
    – m_goldberg
    Feb 24, 2015 at 1:02
  • @m_goldberg Why? you just post for example a standard comment like "your post is (some nice adjective). Please refer to (this link) to learn how to ask good questions here" Feb 24, 2015 at 1:04
  • Copying Code or Data from SE When In a Slider Box may be a worthy addition.
    – bbgodfrey
    Mar 13, 2015 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


Search the site before asking

The Mathematica StackExchange community work hard to keep the site clean and useful. That includes closing duplicate questions and eventually deleting them.

The StackExchange's site model includes some interesting search features that you should try before asking a question.

Sometimes you will get better results by using Google (or your engine of choice) and restricting the scope to our site. Extraterrestrial example.

Please try at least both search engines before asking.

If you find a question that appears to be related to the one you intend to ask look at the Linked and Related sidebars to the right of the question. These often reveal things the search engine may miss.

  • Re: "closing duplicate questions and eventually deleting them". I thought the consensus was that it is often useful to keep duplicates on our site, because they make it easier to find the originals. Of course deleting certain questions contributes to the site being cleaner, but still perhaps this should be rephrased? Feb 23, 2015 at 12:51
  • @JacobAkkerboom I know the consensus was that. However, the first graph posted here suggests that most closed questions end up being deleted. Perhaps I'm wrong, though. (Just in case I used the word "eventually" to convey my ignorance about the mechanism :) ) Feb 23, 2015 at 14:06
  • Fair enough :). There is nothing more convincing than a good graph :P. Feb 23, 2015 at 15:41
  • @JacobAkkerboom However there are 1600 dups not deleted as of now, so perhaps we aren't deleting them after all. I've pointed Mr.Wiz to this thread so he can comment. Feb 23, 2015 at 16:06
  • @Jacob and belisarius: currently (1) Duplicate Questions are not routinely deleted; they may occasionally be Merged when it does not require excessive reformulation of posts. Possibly Answers that are effectively copies that end up under the same Question as the result of a Merge may be deleted, especially if they are by the same author. Possibly duplicates that are so similar to existing questions (or poorly written) that I deem them unlikely to improve search results may be deleted.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Feb 23, 2015 at 17:26
  • (2) Closed questions that are not duplicates are deleted when they are one year old, give or take, unless I deem them to have lasting value. The potential capriciousness of "I deem them" is concerning but I know no better option. 10K+ members who can view deleted posts are able to (re)view these actions but not directly to vote against them. Flags or meta questions are appropriate if an action should be called into question.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Feb 23, 2015 at 17:28
  • (3) As always these policies themselves are open to community critique, and may change to the extent permitted by Stack Exchange.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Feb 23, 2015 at 17:31
  • @Mr.Wizard Thanks a lot for the clarification. I'll leave the "eventually" in place then. WRT your concern about your potestas on deleting questions, I am sure you fully understand that when we voted you as mod it was because we (10K+ and everyone else) are confident on your criteria. Feb 23, 2015 at 17:34
  • Thanks for the vote of confidence. :-) Regarding Closed questions my recommendation is: if the community does not want to see it deleted vote to reopen it.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Feb 23, 2015 at 17:38

Formatting your Question (or Answer!)

Good formatting is crucial for a better understanding of your ideas.

  1. On all StackExchange sites you can use Markdown formatting. There is a help button at the top right of the question/answer frame where you can find a description of the available options (red arrow on the image below) Mathematica graphics__________ You can press the Edit button under any question or answer to see how the author formatted the text therein.

  2. @halirutan's code formatting automation script buttons (marked in green in the image above) are very useful to simplify some usual editing tasks. Try them! (As noted in 1563, however, @halirutan's code cannot be used with Internet Explorer without installation of third-party software. The approaches in 1137 for copying code containing Unicode characters are a viable alternative.)

  3. A nice subset of LaTeX is supported on the site. Use Mathematica's TeXForm[] function to get your TeX code (or type it!) and enclose it into $....$ to get it interpreted or into $$...$$ to get it centered. BUT PLEASE always try to post code and not only formulas! Example: $\sin ^2(x)+\cos ^2(y)$ shows as Mathematica graphics

  • @bbgodfrey Thanks! Please feel free to edit these answers if you can improve them Mar 9, 2015 at 14:19
  • Thank you for the invitation. I have done so and then deleted my now obsolete comment.
    – bbgodfrey
    Mar 10, 2015 at 23:16

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