Shovelware is a derogatory computer jargon term that refers to software noted more for the quantity of what is included than for the quality or usefulness. The term is also used to refer to software that is ported from one computer platform or storage medium to another with little thought given to adapting it for use on the destination platform or medium, resulting in poor quality.
The metaphor implies that the creators showed little care for the original software, as if the new compilation or version had been indiscriminately created/ported with a shovel, without any care shown for the condition of the software on the newly created product.
Shovelware is often used to refer to conversions from one media format to another (also known as "porting"), in the manner floppy disc collections were aggregated onto CD-ROMs. Today there is potential for similar shovelware in converting PC websites into mobile websites with little thought to optimizing for the new platform.
Although poor-quality collections existed at least as far back as the BBS era, the term "shovelware" became commonly used in the early 1990s to describe early CD-ROMs such as collections of shareware or public domain software. The large capacity of CD-ROMs — equivalent to around 450-700 floppy disks, the former distribution method of choice — encouraged producers to fill them by including as much existing content as possible, often without regard to the quality of the material. Software reviewers, displeased with huge collections of inconsistent quality, dubbed this practice "shovelware".
The practice of shovelware has largely decreased due to the limited capacity of removable media in modern computers compared to the growing massive file sizes of newer software packages.
Often, operating systems such as Microsoft Windows bundled games with the optical media they were distributed on.
The term "shovelware" has more recently been used in a more general sense by video game reviewers to indicate any product of disappointingly low quality due to a lack of time and effort by the developers. Additionally, many adaptations of other works, especially films into video games, are often considered "shovelware" until proven otherwise, due to their general low quality as a result of attempting to capitalize quickly on popular properties and content.
Shovelware is often bundled with consumer oriented hardware such as printers and scanners. Manufacturers try to add value to what are sometimes commodity products by including software to do all manner of things, some only vaguely related to the function of the hardware. Included software is often a cut-down version of the full product. Sometimes it is not possible to install just the driver; the shovelware must be installed as well.
The term "shovelware" has been most recently applied to non-videogame mediums such as CD and DVD music box sets wherein poor-quality demo/outtake/previously-rejected song material and DVD footage is spread over several discs to pad out the set. Consumers are then charged top-dollar (in excesses of $100) for said filler material on box sets wherein quantity is substituted for quality.
shovelware /shuh'v*l-weir`/ n.
1. Extra software dumped onto a CD-ROM or tape to fill up the remaining space on the medium after the software distribution it's intended to carry, but not integrated with the distribution.
2. A slipshod compilation of software dumped onto a CD-ROM without much care for organization or even usability.
The term shovelware was originally used to describe software packages released for personal computers that tried to fit as many programs on the then new CD-ROM format, regardless of actually quality or usefulness of these programs. Modern examples can be seen in the budget PC software section of your local retail or electronics store with titles such as 100 Windows Games. Many shovelware packages consist of shareware and freeware.
Shovelware has also come to refer to individual games that were rushed to market without regard to quality.