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I'm working on an academic article and need a phrase for a situation where something seems very good, but without the proper tools is useless. for example: Let's say you have Wikipedia with all it's knowledge but no search engine. so it is basically useless.

Thanks!

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    Welcome to EL&U. Could you tell us what words you've tried and why they are not sufficient? – rajah9 Feb 15 '17 at 13:32
  • A fool's errand, that can be called. – Lambie Feb 15 '17 at 15:10
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    You could say that it comes with a catch – Hank Feb 15 '17 at 15:56
  • are you just looking for the word "impractical"? – am21 Feb 15 '17 at 16:20
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    It's a mixed bag. – Hot Licks Feb 15 '17 at 19:57
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You might consider the expression "a curate's egg": kjʊərətsˈɛɡ/ nounBRITISH a thing that is partly good and partly bad

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curate's_egg "this book is a bit of a curate's egg"

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A diamond in the rough is anything of value that is not ready for its purpose, but with great potential. Similar to your request, such a diamond seems very good, but without the proper tools is useless.

Diamond in the rough: A person or thing with exceptional qualities or characteristics that cannot be seen from the surface.

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An idiomatic expression would be as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Someone or something that is of no practical use is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

usingenglish.com

While the definition sounds quite harsh, it can be used in situations whereby something seems like it would be obviously useful in a situation, but due to a glaring error it's not.

As per the example in the phrase itself, the problem is that you need to make some tea. At first glance, a teapot would be useful, as it is the proper vessel for brewing a good tea. However, as it is made of chocolate, it serves no use in actually making tea.

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