Sandbox for drafts of long, complex posts provides a place for people to work on a question or answer that might take a long time to compose.

I'm not clear on the reason for this, especially with the lack of privacy while one is making and correcting mistakes in a draft.

  • How is this sandbox method better than using the normal draft mechanism?
  • If it really is better, how is it better than creating and deleting a post, and then editing it?
  • $\begingroup$ The concern regarding privacy should not be big problem. I can't imagine a scenario where someone would consistently monitor sandbox to engage in some sort of plagiarism. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    Jul 3, 2021 at 0:52
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    $\begingroup$ Why is the lack of privacy a concern? Parks are not private either, but people still use them, and further they do not expect privacy in them. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ @CalvinKhor, for most people privacy doesn't matter. Some of us compose things in a non-linear fashion, a bit here, a bit there, some of the end, then some of the middle, and so on. And then we move bits from one place to another and rearrange things. Meanwhile we rewrite and rephrase. And then we fact check what we wrote from memory and discover some of it was wrong. And so on. I know I'd feel somewhat inhibited if I knew someone was looking over my shoulder during this process. ¶ But that's not the real issue (I compose in vim and paste into SE). $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ @ParamanandSingh, I didn't mean to make it sound like privacy was a big issue. (Spying on other people's activities is 99.9+% boring.) If you think it distracts too much, I can remove that part of the sentence. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ It's fine. You don't need to remove that part. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    Jul 3, 2021 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ One way that the sandbox is better then editing your own deleted post is that it is easily located, your own deleted posts cannot be found on your profile after 60 days and you have to save the link. (But other than that, your suggestion seem good to me) $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ By posts I mean question post. If you edit a delete answer, it still bumps the thread IIRC. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ @ArcticChar I will just add that it is not possible to edit a self-deleted question. (See: Why can I not edit a self-deleted question? This is also mentioned in the FAQ post: How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean? What are the criteria for deletion?) $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ @RayButterworth In fact, I have learned that the OP cannot edit self-deleted questions here: Would using deleted (“hidden”) questions on math.SE for personal use be considered misuse of the site? To some extent, what I asked about was a bit similar to your suggestion: I have learned about the problem with editing self-deleted questions here: Would using deleted (“hidden”) questions on math.SE for personal use be considered misuse of the site? $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Wow, that explains a lot. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 6:32
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    $\begingroup$ You ask, "Why is a sandbox needed?" That's clearly the wrong question. It's a bit like asking, "Why are Chinese restaurants needed?" Maybe you don't need a Chinese restaurant, maybe you would never go into one, but the existence of Chinese restaurants does you no harm, and other people do find them useful, so even if they're not needed, they do serve a purpose. Ditto, the sandbox. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson, I'm not objecting to it, I'm wondering why someone thought it necessary to create it in the first place. In particular, "How is this sandbox method better than using the normal draft mechanism?". $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know why someone thought it necessary to create chicken chow mein – I'm not even sure that anyone did find it necessary – but judging by how many people have availed themselves of it, it seems to have been a good idea. I will not be drawn on the question of whether chicken chow mein is better than the normal cheese enchiladas. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ I devised amd created the sandbox many years ago when I was a moderator. It was motivated in part by the actions of a user who was making a large number of edits to many of his posts - which was causing a lot of noise on the front page. The user was making frequent edits because his machine was unstable (often crashing) so he needed a convenient way to save drafts to the cloud. Back then Stackexchange had much fewer features so it served a pressing need. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ According to this comment I created it almost exactly 9 years ago. That thread has discussion of the frequent editing that was irritating many users (among other problematic actions). Some comments there and/or in the sandbox have been deleted (not by me)- which obscures the true history. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


You asked about sandbox compared to "using the normal draft mechanism". I hope I understand correctly that by this you mean that you mean feature of Stack Exchange software that if you start to write a question (or an answer) and you not submit it, you can find it in the same place again later. (This feature was announced here: Allow questions to be saved as drafts prior to posting. It is listed as 2010-10-01 in Recent feature changes to Stack Exchange.)

Some aspects of drafts on this site that can be considered disadvantages:

  • Drafts on the site are kept only for a limited time. (The announcement linked above says 7 days. Somebody might want to come back to the same post for a longer time.)
  • Drafts are not completely reliable. (Many users have mentioned that they lost their posts in this way.)
  • Draft is only visible to you, so it does not help if you wish to ask somebody for their input on a post you have prepared (but haven't yet posted).

As another option you suggested to make a post here on the site, delete it and edit that. Again, there are some limitations, but it is doable.

In any case, I can understand that some users might prefer have some other way to prepare a post than directly in the editor on the site. (And users who have been bitten by this in the past might be wary of relying on drafts.) Some users might use some other software instead on working directly on Stack Exchange. You can find such solutions discussed here: MathJax: better way to prepare a Math.StackExchange question?. (I have mentioned my own preferences on MathOverflow Meta: Is here something like blog service or just sand-box to store notes?) But some users might only have limited technical options or they might simply prefer the interface of the editor on Stack Exchange. You can see that there are users who use the sandbox quite often.

One other possible use of sandbox is if a user already posted a question or an answer and they want to do some extensive edits, which would lead to a lot of bumping of the same question. This is considered a problem, you can find these discussions on meta: How much (self) editing is too much? and Where is the fine line between using and misusing? You might notice that the sandbox was created around the same time as those discussions. I believe that the motivation to create the sandbox was (at least to some extent) exactly this issue. (Of course, the sandbox is still being bumped by those edits. However, bumping is limited to a single question on meta. Moreover, users can add to their ignored tags, if they wish to.)

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    $\begingroup$ In fact minimization of front-page bumping noise was the primary reason that I devised and created the sandbox 9 years ago - see this thread. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2021 at 18:02

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