The Stack Exchange User Guide/Printable version
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The Home Page
To begin, open your browser and navigate to https://stackoverflow.com/.
The page contains quite a bit of information and can be a little overwhelming at first glance, so we'll begin by learning what each of the elements on the page is for individually.
The Top BarEdit
We will begin by examining the bar at the top of the screen:
On the left is a link to the StackExchange homepage. On the right is a set of links and the searchbox. The links present in the topbar provide access to other sites related to StackOverflow, the login page, and information about StackOverflow. When you are logged in, this page will also contain a link to your profile page.
The Question BarEdit
The question bar contains links to the various pages available on the site:
The questions page is the page displayed when you bring up the home page. The tags page consists of the most popular tags that questions are tagged with. The users page contains a list of users sorted by their reputation. The badges page contains a list of all badges that can be earned (except for tag badges). The unanswered page contains a list of all unanswered questions. Finally, the ask question link takes you to a page where you can ask a question on the site.
The Question ListEdit
The majority of the content on the page consists of the list of recent questions. The list is sorted by most recently modified questions. Here is an example question:
From the information visible here, we can see that the question was viewed 5 times, has 0 answers, and has 0 votes. It was asked by a user named "Darko Z" and was last modified 3 seconds ago. It has 3 tags: "asp.net", "iis7", and "iis-7.5". Clicking the title of the question will take you to the question's page.
The Stack Exchange Sites
Stack Exchange is organized into a number of smaller subsites, each focusing on a specific topic or field. The programming focused Stack Overflow is perhaps the best known of these sites, however there are a number of other Q&A sites on the platform including topics from sciences and the humanities.
Notable Stack Exchange sitesEdit
|https://stackexchange.com/||Stack Exchange||Overall site|
|https://superuser.com/ -||Super User||Power users|
|https://askubuntu.com/||Ask Ubuntu||Ubuntu Linux|
|https://physics.stackexchange.com/||Physics||Study of physics|
|https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/||World Building||Fictional world development|
|https://webapps.stackexchange.com/||Web Applications||Software for the world wide web|
|https://diy.stackexchange.com/||Home Improvement||Do it yourself upgrades for living quarters|
|https://gamedev.stackexchange.com/||Game Development||For creation of video games|
|https://tex.stackexchange.com/||TeX||For the typesetting software TeX and LaTeX|
|https://movies.stackexchange.com/||Movies & TV||For discussion of broadcast and film media|
|https://ai.stackexchange.com/||Artificial Intelligence||Study of AI|
|https://emacs.stackexchange.com/||Emacs||Discussion of the Emacs text editor|
|https://puzzling.stackexchange.com/||Puzzling||Discussion of puzzles|
|https://arduino.stackexchange.com/||Arduino||Discussion of the Arduino physical computing platform|
Asking a Question
Before asking a question, it is good etiquette to check to see if your question has been asked before.
Include as much relevant information about what your exact question is. This not only helps people better answer your question, it helps those that follow know if the answer to your question is also the answer to their question.
How Reputation Is Earned
Reputation on Stack Exchange sites is a quantified measure of a user's place in the community. In some instances reputation can be spent as a currency to enable certain actions.
Reputation is generally earned by asking useful questions and giving useful answers. Reputation is typically lost by doing the inverse.
What is 'meta'?
On the Stack Exchange sites each site has there very own 'meta' to report bugs, feature requests, support and site discussion and each question has to be tagged with one of those. The URL for each per-site child 'meta' is http://meta.sitename.stackexchange.com/ or as in the cases of Server Fault, http://meta.serverfault.com/ and Super User, http://meta.superuser.com/.
The 'meta' on http://meta.stackoverflow.com/ is a very special one as it is a network-wide 'meta'. It is used to report on bugs, feature requests, support and site discussion for sites within The Stack Exchange Network 2.0. (http://meta.stackoverflow.com/q/47634/)
1.0 sites bugs, feature requests, support questions must be via the website or webmaster and not though Stack Exchange.
All per-site child 'meta's' reputation is exactly the same as the main site, users can still vote and post answers but all votes will not change you 'meta' score. Please not that you reputation is cached from the main site for 24-48 hours.