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From shelf +‎ -ware.


shelfware (uncountable) (software)

  1. A piece of software that has never been used at all since its creation.
  2. A piece of software created for the sole purpose of being immediately shelved.
  3. Software purchased but not used.


  • 2006, Merrill R Chapman, In search of stupidity: over 20 years of high-tech marketing disasters, 2nd edition, Apress, pages 277–8:
    Purchasers of these software products soon began to derisively refer to them as shelfware. This unflattering designation arose from the fact that once a company bought one of these mega-sized, multi-module pieces of code and attempted to implement part of it, the expense, difficulty, and cost of doing so often led to the rest of the product being shoved on a shelf and buried.
  • 1994 Silver, L and Marin, I : "Software Use and Disuse: From Shelfware to Improved Software Utilization" in Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting Proceedings, Special Sessions, pp. 975-975(1)
    All too often, software that has been purchased is not used. A term has emerged to describe this phenomenon, "shelfware."